Our vacation in Panama started with a 5-day stay at a resort on the Pacific side. Our goal was mostly to relax and enjoy the beach before embarking on a Caribbean cruise followed by a 2-day stay in Panama City, which proved to be an ideal location for going to see the famous Panama Canal. This 48-mile (77 km) long canal enables ships to save time and money by cutting through Panama instead of having to get around South America. We are told that ships have to pay in cash, and it can be in the hundreds of thousands of dollars to get through the canal. But imagine the fuel costs and delays involved of going around instead.
Panama City’s Old Town is quite charming with its colonial architecture, plazas and churches. It has a Spanish feel to it and is certainly worth a visit. The remnants of the old European settlements are interesting to see. There is a lot of history. This city has much to offer its visitors but a note of caution; certain areas are best avoided especially at night for safety reasons.
The wildlife in Panama is quite diverse and some species are endemic to this country. Getting close to these creatures was interesting for us so during our stay we took a tour to a wildlife sanctuary in the Valle de Antón. Here we saw a multitude of mammals, birds, reptiles and amphibians including the endangered Golden frog. The lush scenery of the valley only added to our enjoyment. On our way back we stopped at the Valle de Antón market where fresh produce and handicrafts were available for purchase. It was a good place to buy some snacks for the drive back as well as souvenirs.
Tip: The winding road through the mountains to the valley can be problematic for those who tend to suffer from motion sickness, bringing along some motion sickness medication can be useful but check with your doctor first.
Getting from the Pacific to the Atlantic side by car took only an hour or so. There are many ways to cross including buses, trains, planes, and even taking a cruise through the Panama canal which would take more time but would also be an interesting way to see this man made marvel. Since our cruise was departing from Puerto Colón we had to get there by roadway before embarking on what was to be our liveliest cruise ever! The majority of the passengers were from Latin America, Spanish was the official language on board and having a good time was in order. People were dancing everywhere, it was so much fun!