Panama: a fascinating little country with a whole lot going for it

Panama: a fascinating little country with a whole lot going for it
View of Panama City from Casco Viejo

I didn’t know what to expect heading out to Panama on vacation last week. Of course, I knew of the Panama Canal. And I knew I needed to be very careful to pick flights to Panama City, Panama and not Panama City, Florida (that would have been catastrophic – can you imagine getting a week off from work only to end up in Panama City, Florida? I’m way too old for that). But beyond that, I didn't know much, which, at least to the hubby and me, seemed like a good enough reason to go to Panama. That and it was one of the few places the hubby and I had enough Sky Miles to go to for free.

Turns out, Panama is fascinating. Panama City’s sky cape is reminiscent of Miami, and construction and redevelopment permeates throughout the City. The country’s GDP is growing at one of the highest rates in the world, while the Panama Canal – currently undergoing a major expansion – brings in a couple of billion each year. And outside of the City (and what made us truly fall in love with the country) is a host of natural wonder: beautiful rainforest, abundant wildlife, lush and remote islands, and mountains I am told are exquisite (we unfortunately did not make it there on this trip).

I was also completely enamored by the Panamanian people. We all know that the United States is a melting pot (or a tossed salad, similar idea). Well, so, too, is Panama, and it is a beautiful spectrum of indigenous, black, white, Asian, and everything in between. There’s also a common theme running throughout: Panamanian pride. I was shocked by how often those I met genuinely wanted to teach me about Panama, whether it was the Canal, U.S.-Panamanian history (which, embarrassingly, they knew much more about than me), the little island where they were born, or the bathroom habits of a sloth.

And it is not just those born in Panama who love it. There is a sizable number of ex-pats from around the world (Panama actually encourages immigration) who now also call Panama home. They are running their own B&Bs, like the wonderful Garden of Eden where we stayed on Isla Solarte, operating environmentally friendly and educational chocolate farms, like La Loma Jungle Lodge and Chocolate Farm on Isla Bastimentos, or just living life to its fullest, enjoying a country replete with varied, natural beauty.

Back dock (and view from our room) at the Garden of Eden

Of course, I haven’t even mentioned the food. Or some of the incredible design and decor I saw while down there. I’ll be back with more from our Panama trip, just as soon as I unpack, jump back into the grind, and get my pictures in order!

In the meantime, for those planning on a trip to Panama (highly recommended), I suggest William Friar’s Moon series guidebook, which you can get here. The hubby and I turned to it often, and it never let us down!

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