Dragging My Best Friend to Panama

Dragging My Best Friend to Panama

After years of tireless begging I’ve finally convinced Daniel to travel with me. Our running joke is that he always has an excuse to avoid joining my trips, but thanks to an insanely low airfare I was able to trick him into spending 8 days jaunting across Panama. Sucker.

Daniel in White

So white.

I can’t wait to see how my fair-skinned friend fairs just a couple degrees north of the equator. 50 SPF is his “normal” in Chicago so this should be hilarious, or at the very least, awful.

We’re starting off with 2 nights in El Valle for a little hiking and cooler temps. This is a special treat for Danny before we begin broiling him in tropical Bocas del Toro.




Bocas del Toro, Panama

We’ll be spending 4 days there with snorkeling and yoga the only hard plans on the books. Once we’ve ingested as much Bocas as our bodies will allow we’ll class it up in Panama City. We’re staying at the American Trade Hotel for a dash of luxury to help us end on a high note. I am a bed & breakfast backpacker at heart but I love well-designed boutique hotels. I stretched the budget by keeping our accommodations simple in the first two destinations.

American Trade 2

American Trade Hotel, Panama City

We’ll touch down the morning and dig in to what I imagine will be a delicious brunch. Later in the evening we’ll join a food tour that begins at our hotel and ends at Tantalo, the best rooftop bar in Casco Viejo. Assuming that we don’t fall off the roof after a few cuba libres, we’ll spend the next day taking in what we can of Panama City.

One of the major goals is to avoid sunburn. My April trip to Costa
Rica left me much crispier than I was expecting.  I thought that since I was in the cloud forest I wouldn’t have to worry about the sun, but horseback riding on the uncovered dirt roads of Santa Elena on a bright, sunny day showed me otherwise. My arms peeled for a week.

I have a history of acquiring accidental sunburns, which is another way of saying that I am an idiot who rarely learns a lesson.

I’m excited to see the differences between Panama and Costa Rica. They have similar landscapes and microclimates. Much like in Costa Rica, you can visit high elevation cloud forests, beaches, and rainforests in Panama. The biggest differences are the capitals; Panama City is much larger with skyrises, views of the water, and the Panama Canal. San Jose is an understated city, more pronounced in its spread than its height.

San Jose CR

Relatively level San Jose, Costa Rica

San Jose’s Chinatown is a generous 2 blocks; Panama City has a financial district, shopping, great dining, waterfront walkways, a smooth transit system, and quite enough to see to keep you there for a few days.


Tantalo rooftop bar, Panama

Is there anything in El Valle, Bocas del Toro, or Panama City that are absolute not to miss? Let us know!

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