One of the most beautiful long weekends I’ve spent abroad was discovering the old town of Panama: Casco Viejo, a UNESCO World Heritage site. A colorful city buzzing with vibrant energy eager to share it’s culture, cuisine, and warm hospitality with it’s guests.
How To get there
I flew into Tocumen International Airport (PYT), an easy and beautiful 30min drive from historic Casco Viejo.
When to Visit
The best times to visit are from December to April. I traveled in October and while the weather was overcast, the temperature was delightful.
What to pack
Linen textures, ruffled hems, saturated hues, and voluminous sleeves – take cues from current latin designers and inspiration from the city’s old world charm. Mix and match tailored pants with loose linen tops that double as poolside cover ups. Bring show stopping evening wear – think color, asymmetry, and exaggerated hemlines. Stay covered in sunscreen during the day, but add a swipe of red lipstick for the evening for the perfect pop of color.
*tap on images to shop*
Where to stay
Nestled perfectly within the historic city is The American Trade Hotel, in an iconic 1917 restored colonial building cleverly renovated to capture the essence of Panamanian elegance and modern day luxury.
While the interiors of the guest rooms of this boutique hotel are charming and thoughtfully designed, the stunning rooftop views from the balconies are the real “wow” moment. Gather with your friends in the cozy library, spill out into the guest courtyard for afternoon coffee, or head up to the rooftop pool to catch some sunshine and soak up the breathtaking views of Casco Viejo.
A PANAMAnian SUNDAY BRUNCH
Sunday’s at the hotel bring a menu filled with classic dishes and latin twists on traditional brunch favorites, wander down and sip on locally grown coffee while trying out Panama’s local cuisine and experience the thriving food scene in an elegant, tropical setting.
DANILO’s JAZZ CLUB
Found within the American Trade Hotel, pass through this secret garden entrance to transport yourself back to the 1920’s. Dress for the occasion and dance the night away to live jazz from local artists in this intimate setting just steps away from your hotel room.
EXPLORE CASCO VIEJO
Wander the historic cobblestone streets, with Spanish colonial style architecture dating back to 1673 and saturated in bright colors featuring patios overflowing with fresh flowers and hanging plants. Every corner turned is a delightful new discovery – pop into local stores, tour landmarks, and chat with the locals to get the best advice on where to shop, dine, and find the best coffee.
Shop for Wounaan and Embera Baskets, traditionally woven by the indigenous tribes of the Darien Rainforest, and Kuna Molas, handwoven textiles from the Kuna Indian tribe both available at the Galeria de Arte Indigena. Of course, Panama hats, although made in Ecuador, are not to be missed and can be found at El Palacio Del Sombrero.
Panama has a world of biodiversity and modern marvels to explore outside of Casco Viejo. Admire the Panama Canal, explore the rainforest, bathe in waterfalls, or coordinate your stay to experience the festivities of Carnaval. My time was limited, these were the two journeys outside of the old town that I experienced during my stay.
The Biomuseo designed by renowned architect Frank Gehry is only a 15min drive outside of Casco Viejo. Take the afternoon to do a self-guided tour through the museum, and be sure to also explore the outdoor spaces to fully appreciate the unique, colorful architecture of the building.
SAN BLAS ISLANDS
The San Blas Islands are dotted along the northern coast of Panama in the Caribbean Sea. Home to the local indigenous population of the Kuna Indians, respectfully visit as they welcome you onto their islands, open their homes to you into their way of life, and share their iconic traditional hand woven textiles: Kuna Molas.
I dipped my toes into the culture and essence of Panama, and it left me wanting more! From the music, to the history, to the friendly, inspirational people I met, Casco Viejo felt like a meeting place for curious travelers, creatives, and entrepreneurs to intersect.
When will you plan your next visit?