A land radiating with life, perfectly imperfect, and full of authenticity. Where Northern and Southern worlds connect, old and new worlds coexist, and cosmopolitan landscapes live in harmony with wild, untamed rainforests.
A country for those who seek beyond expectations, that dares you to see more. Taste more. Connect more. Feel more. A place for those who long more stimulation, connection and transformation. Panama is not the destination, but the journey to discover more of what truly matters.
Make more lasting memories through an explosion of inspiration and purpose. And let the spirit of Panama unlock a sense of belonging.
History and Culture
Panama connects the world, and not only because it’s the bridge between North and South America. For centuries Panama has been a crossroads for humanity and a meeting point for peoples, goods and ideas. Settled thousands of years ago by ancient civilizations, the land that has become modern-day Panama boasts a rich mosaic of cultural diversity where indigenous roots meet African heritage and Spanish influence. It is also a place that many travelers have passed through for hundreds of years.
A visit to Panama will not only expose you to some of the oldest colonial relics in this part of the world—including the oldest Spanish fort and the first European settlement in the Pacific—but, you’ll also get the chance to see the burial grounds of an ancient civilization that once lived in the area at the ongoing excavation site, known as El Caño Archaeological Park.
Aside from the rich history of the land, Panama is home to 7 different thriving indigenous communities, two of which—the Guna and the Emberá—can easily be visited by tourists eager to learn more about their well-preserved traditions and unique cosmogenic views. Visitors can explore Panama’s Congo culture in places like Portobelo, as well as the unique gastronomy of Panama’s Afro-Caribbean community. In the central provinces of Los Santos and Herrera, you’ll get to learn about the traditional folklore and Panamanian customs including the pollera, cutarras and diablicos.
The climate of Panama is characterized as tropical maritime. This means that the majority of the country experiences prolonged periods of high temperatures (between 85 – 95 °F (29 – 35 ° C) during the dry season, and high levels of humidity during the rainy season. Between May and November, Panama can be quite cloudy, and while this offers some respite from the heat, it can also mean greater levels of moisture in the air, particularly in low-lying regions. As such, the most comfortable time to visit Panama is at the height of the dry season between December and April.
Panama City has been a UNESCO Creative City in Gastronomy since 2017, and for good reason. Foodie or not, you’ll want to experience the uniquely Panamanian cuisine, comprising flavors, dishes and ingredients from Panama’s African, Spanish and Native influences. For some of the best restaurants in the city, head to UNESCO World Heritage site, Casco Antiguo. This is where the country’s traditions collide to give you the best of Panamanian cuisine made by world-class chefs.
While you’re in town, make sure to try the Ceviche. This classic seafood dish is made of raw fish cured in citrus juices and spiced with chili peppers. For something hardier, ask for the Ropa Vieja—a spiced beef dish, or the traditional Panamanian soup known as Sancocho. Breakfast in Panama usually means eggs, meat, tortilla, fruit, and coffee, but if you want something sweeter, get some Hojaldras—a kind of fried bread sprinkled with powdered sugar. For snacks and side dishes you can’t go wrong with Yuca Frita (yuca fries) or the delicious twice-fried plantains, known as Patacones. And of course, plan to enjoy plenty of delicious seafood and tropical fruit while visiting Panama.
The unit of currency in Panama is the Panamanian balboa, but the U. S. Dollar is accepted at a 1:1 ratio. Balboa coins are sized similarly to their U.S. counterparts, and travelers will have no trouble identifying their value. Travelers with pounds or euros may exchange money at Banco Nacional, which has branches in the airport and across the nation. To save time, you may want to convert your money before arriving in Panama. Additionally, most businesses accept credit cards – Visa and Mastercard are widely accepted.
In Panama, tipping is not compulsory, but is good etiquette and supplements the low wages of the employee. If you’re happy with your service, leaving a 10% gratuity is standard. If you are thrilled with your service, you are welcome to leave more.
Public transport in Panama mainly relies on buses (Metro & Metrobus) and taxis. There is just one train line, which goes from Panama City to Colón. A viable alternative is Uber. It works the same way and costs a little less than taxis.
The Panamanian education system is divided into three stages: basic, secondary, and tertiary. Basic education covers students ages four to 15 and is split into three levels: pre-school, primary, and secondary. Pre-school consists of two years for four- to five-year-old children. The primary level is a duration of six years and is aimed at students between the ages of six to twelve. Secondary, or middle school covers students between the ages of 15 and 18 and operates on a bachelor’s system whereby students can choose from two areas of study: academic or technical/vocational.
Area: 106.2 mi²
Population Density: 7,656 residents per square mile
GDP Per Capita: US $26,822