Casco Viejo, also known as San Felipe by locals is the historic district in Panama City. The city was established around 1673 after the destruction of the original city of Panama in 1671. With it’s great central location, it makes traveling between cities and surrounding countries very accessible. You’ll find yourself wondering and getting lost within the streets of this charming and historic city. Casco Viejo is a great place to start your travels in Panama.
Casco Viejo offers a variety of accommodation options for any traveler budget; from boutique hotels to charming hostels. If you enjoy meeting new travelers, sipping cocktails with live music at the bar, and free pancakes with delicious Panamanian coffee, I would highly recommend staying at Luna’s Castle. Luna’s is a vibrant hostel in the heart of Casco Viejo that offers a lot for travelers on a budget. You can rent one of the hostel’s bikes to explore the city, play ping-pong with other travelers in the lobby, or read a good book on the terrace overlooking the city. Dorm beds will set you back 13-14 PAB ($13.00-$14.00 USD) and private rooms are 34-48 PAB ($34.00-$48.00 USD).
Traditional Panamanian meals typically include meat, rice and beans with locally grown fruits and vegetables such as yucca or plantains. Sancocho, empanadas, tamales and carimanola are great traditional meals that can be found across the country. Plantains make great snacks and are grown throughout Central America and are served either baked or fried. Throughout the city you’ll find tasteful upscale restaurants, vibrant bars and delicious street food. If you’re craving fresh handmade ceviche or seafood platters stroll to the Mercado de Mariscos. This fish market is popular with locals and travelers that want fresh caught fish and seafood. Like any restaurant, go where the locals go!
Sabor de Sonia la Chiricana
Mojitos Sin Mojitos
One of the best ways to explore Casco Viejo is by walking! The streets in this city are fairly narrow as are the sidewalks. It is a great way to experience the historical sites and shop for trinkets along the Esteban Huertas Promenade. I highly recommend renting bikes and ride along the Amador Causeway while taking in the view!
The easiest and most convenient way to get around Panama City is by public transit. With fares between 0.25-1.25 PAB ($0.25-$1.25 USD) Metro Bus is a cost effective way to explore the city and get to/from the Tocumen International Airport. Albrook Bus Terminal is the main bus station in Panama City. Albrook is also the largest shopping mall in Central America with over 700 stores and 3 food court. Being that the mall is so large, it can be difficult finding the right terminal. I recommend getting to the bus station early so you have time to purchase your tickets, find your terminal and peruse the shops.
The Bus Schedule is a great resource for planning your travels between cities or countries throughout Central America. Enter which cities you are traveling between, departure dates and desired time and it will provide information with the transportation company, type of bus, and estimated time of arrival.
Like any city, taxis are almost always going to be the most expensive transit option, but will get you to your destination in a timely manner. Always negotiate the fare before getting into the vehicle! As a tourist, some drivers will try to charge a ridiculously high fare and get the most money they can get from you. If you have good haggling skills, you can reduce your fare by almost half the asking price. If you do not come to an agreement, you can always find another taxi.
Points of Interest
National Institute of Culture
Esteban Huertas Promenade
Mercado de Mariscos
History Museum of Panama
Iglesia Santo Domingo the Flat Arch
Las Bovedas Monument
Iglesia San Jose
La Lglesia de La Merced
Bridge of the Americas
Miraflores Locks – Panama Canal
The best time to visit the Miraflores Locks are early in the morning or late in the afternoon! Cargo ships typically pass through the locks at these times and it’s a great way to observe the locks in action.
Metropolitan National Park
When To Go
High season is December through March and you can expect the best and driest weather during these months. Low season is April through November and you can expect occasional rain showers. Panama is a great destination to travel year round.