An itinerary for Panama to maximize your vacation!

Gina West, one of Apple Vacations’ Regional Sales Managers, recently returned from Panama. We were able to get her first impressions and now here is a sample itinerary that’s she suggests when visiting Panama:

First stop, Panama City… it’s actually two cities in one.  The historic area of “old” Panama City is experiencing a renaissance. The ornate architecture of decade old buildings are being painstakingly restored to their original condition.  Old Panama City is invitingly charming and yet eclectic with small boutiques, shops, restaurants, coffee shops, and gathering squares.  While it’s still a work in progress, witnessing its rebirth leaves visitors with a strong desire to return again and again.

The newer part of Panama City is home to over 80 world banks, many corporate headquarters and hotels. Dozens of skyscrapers have gone up just in the past 10 years! The city is host to countless corporate conventions in the dozens of trendy, chic sky-scraping hotels.  Currently the 80-story Trump Ocean Club Hotel is the tallest building in Panama City with magnificent views of the new skyline as well as old Panama and the ships in the distance waiting their turn to enter the Panama Canal. A visit or stay in Panama City is a must.  There’s so much to see and do, great restaurants to visit, quiet or upbeat bars and lounges. Stay in one of the hotels in the newer part of Panama City for two nights but be sure to visit both areas during your stay.

Next, head to the Gamboa Rainforest Resort and the second lock of the Panama Canal is just a short 30 minute drive southeast of Panama City. The tranquil and serene Gamboa Rainforest Resort is located minutes from the Miraflores Lock (the second lock of the three that make up the Panama Canal). The All-Inclusive Gamboa Rainforest Resort, not yet 10 years old, possesses a casual elegance and charm that you feel the moment you arrive.  The panoramic view of the river and mountains gives this resort the look and feel of a spa retreat. Guests of the Gamboa Rainforest Resort unwind and relax as the pace is much slower than the pulse and energy of Panama City.  Treat yourself to this experience. The Gamboa Tarpen Club at the Panama Canal is connected to the Gamboa Rainforest Resort. Be sure to take the water tour into the canal which takes guests into the canal waterway and its surrounding tiny islands teeming with wildlife. This was my favorite part of my week in Panama. The tour guides on these small 10 passenger vessels are excellent and able to spot various species of wildlife that inhabit this area. Spending a few days at Gamboa Rainforest while in Panama is an absolute must.

Finally to complete your stay, plan on spending your last few nights at one of the beach resorts in Panama. There is a beach resort to fit every desire and budget. The Westin Playa Bonita is just 45 minutes southwest of Panama City. As you drive further south, the beaches of Panama get even better. From the understated luxury and elegance of the Panama Marriott Hotel to the charm and energy of the family friendly All Inclusive Royal Decameron, there are many great beach resort in Panama. Spending the last few days of your visit to Panama relaxing at the beach!   

There is so much to see and do in Panama, but the good news is it can be done in a week with a little planning. In fact, Apple Vacations offers a 7 night package that incorporates a little bit of each part of Panama. Spend some time with your travel agent to make sure your Panama vacation is the best fit for you. 

 I didn’t expect to fall in love with Panama as much as I did, but I did. Besides the diversity of what Panama offers, there was an intangible element of the Panama experience that I couldn’t quite put into words. I consulted Wikipedia and I found that intangible element. According to Wikipedia, in “a 2012 poll, it was reported that Panama City was the city with the happiest people in the world” – So there you have it! Perhaps the most compelling reason to visit Panama. 

Add Panama to your bucket list and visit the city with the happiest people in the world!

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Drive to Playa Blanca

Breezes Playa Blanca

Breezes Playa Blanca

The drive to Playa Blanca was approximately 1 and ½ hours on great highway through scenic areas. It went quickly and was very enjoyable. I checked into Breezes and strolled the property. First impression of the Playa Blanca area — This is definitely what Apple Vacationers are used to when looking for a “sun” destination.  The beach itself is on par with the likes of Riviera Nayarit. The sand is lighter but the color of water is a darker blue as most Pacific beaches tend to be. They do have occasional rip currents and most beaches have lifeguards. Interesting note — because of the way the land curves you can actually see the sun rise over the water on the Pacific coast in this area. The hotel appeared full and was active with families. The first children I’d seen at any hotel in several days! I had dinner at the a la carte Japanese restaurant called Munason. It consisted of the typical tapenyaki/sushi fare. The restaurant tries to seat clients into English and Spanish speaking tables because they seat ten. Food was ok, service excellent.

Breezes Playa Blanca

Breezes Playa Blanca

The hotel is a higher standard than some of the other Breezes properties I have visited.  It is shaped like a U and is compact and easy to maneuver. The open-air lobby is at the top of an incline and offers sweeping views of the pools and beach below. The rooms are spacious and were well appointed with flat screen TVs, iPod docking stations and stocked mini bars. The décor is bright and tropical. The entire hotel itself feels very light and airy. There are 2 a la carte restaurants in addition to the buffet and snack bar (Japanese and Italian). I spoke with clients staying at the resort and most commented on the good service level. There is a kids club and teen center and the hotel appears very active. Good for families and young people. The pool is 3 tiered and houses a large Jacuzzi near the snack bar at the beach. They serve hamburgers, hot dogs, nachos etc.  There is a swim up pool bar.  As I mentioned before the beach is long and quite beautiful.

Royal Decameron

Royal Decameron

I also visited the Royal Decameron which is all-inclusive. This property is so large all guest should receive a map and flare gun upon check in!  It is built parallel to the beach so you are never too far from the water. Also, each section has its own pool, snack bar and restaurants nearby — so you don’t have far to walk for a drink or to grab a bite to eat. They often tend to put families in one section, couples in another etc. The entire resort is built on a fairly steep incline, so those booking an ocean view room should keep in mind that they will have an uphill walk consisting of a lot of stairs back to their room. This is definitely a full service hotel and the type of resort our clients are used to as far as amenities go i.e. 10 restaurants 9 pools, 11 bars, a casino, a spa, shops etc. The rooms themselves are moderate and locally decorated with a Panamanian flair. Nice spa facility. The disco is open air and located at the end of the property to keep the noise away from the rooms. The beach is long and wide and the sand in this area appears very white. The hotel offers a lot of palapas and tented chairs for shade on the beach.  There is a convention center on property. This hotel also has a section of independently owned vacation villas located on a golf course across the street. The 18-hole course is well maintained and designed by Randall Thomson. This would be a great group hotel option and suitable for families, singles and couples.