Panama wasn’t on the top of my To-Go list, but a sudden offer to go to a country I’ve never been to before was obviously not going to get turned down! Aloft in Panama City was nice enough to host me for a few days, and even set up tours so I could see all that their beloved city has to offer!
The lounge area of Aloft Panama City
My initial stereotypical thoughts on Panama were; there are jungles I can zip-line through, and there’s the Panama Canal. I also thought it was going to be like the other third world countries I’ve been to in Central America, which are very beautiful, but tend to lack many of the luxuries I take for granted in the U.S.
However my short but action-packed trip turned out to be extremely interesting! I did so many different things that it made it a perk that Panama was so diverse! I felt like I was back in the old town of Havana at one point, and then in the dazzling lights of luxury hotel skyscrapers like in Las Vegas moments later!
Check out these 5 perks of Panama that will take you on a highly versatile journey through quite the historical country!
1. Take a Jungle Boat Tour of the Panama Canal
All I wanted to do was go see some damn monkeys in a jungle, and possibly swing from some trees. Well, I got to see monkeys, but it was from the seat of a speed boat I took on a tour of the Panama Canal through Gamboa Rainforest Resort for $35.
Our boat driver guy was NOT afraid to go fast!
Our tour guide was great, and the boat driver boy was not afraid to gun the engine and fly across the otherwise calm waters, but we weren’t allowed out onto the small patches of jungle islands…but for obvious reasons. The other animals we got to see on the tour were crocodiles and snakes. No thank you.
Our tour guide could make monkey noises that would call them down from the trees!
Otherwise it was a pretty cool little tour that satisfied my jungle-obsession in a safely scenic way. We even saved a baby iguana who was covered in oil from the construction of the new Panama Canal. That’s none of my business tho.
2. Watch a Boat Go Through the Panama Canal
Notice the water on the left is really low — when a boat needs to go through, the middle area must leverage the entire water level so the boat can be lowered like an escalator.
This did not seem fun to do at all when I was first told to go do it, but when you see an entire, massive, man-made canal level out water so that an 8 million pound cargo ship can pass through a continent…it’s pretty impressive.
It took over an hour for the water to level out and the boat to get pulled through, so I took a time lapse video so you don’t have to wait like I did
I would love to meet the person who was like, “We should just chop the continents in half so that boats don’t have to go all the way around South America.” Good idea. High-five to you.
Although it took forever to build, and many people died, the three locks (gates) are vital to the world’s imports and exports, and they are even working on building an even bigger one now whose gates will be the size of four football fields!
3. Be Charmed By Cosco Vieja
VIew from the rooftop bar of Tantolo in Cosco Vieja
Like Havana Vieja, this is an area of Panama City where there are many buildings with breathtaking architecture from the early 1900’s. Also like Havana Vieja, Cosco Vieja‘s buildings are either renovated, in the process of renovation, or completely decrepit.
There are tons of little restaurants, shops, cafes, and even hotels, plus little souvenir markets in the middle of the town square. Tantalo is a great restaurant/bar that has a rooftop area that overlooks Cosco Vieja and the skyline of the skyscrapers in downtown Panama City.
4. Explore Ruins in Panama Vieja
I think I’m sitting in an ancient person’s house in Panama Vieja
This area is even older than Cosco Vieja….as in like hundreds of years older. It’s where the first settlers ever lived, and you can still see the stones that constructed the town’s many structures.
Seeing things that old really makes you wonder what life was like way back then, and fortunately there are many displays that explain the history, and show a re-creation of what experts think the town looked like in the 1400’s.
A rendition of what historians believe Panama Vieja looked like in the 1400’s
5. Feel Fancy in Panama City
The sky bar and infinity pool at the Trump Panama City
I was definitely a little shocked and confused when I saw the extravagant glass skyscrapers of some of the most famous hotels in the world in Panama City. Not only did the big names surprise me, but the architecture of the striking buildings was like something you’d see in Las Vegas or Bangkok!
Aloft is one of the newer hotels, and boasts a chic, futuristic theme, from neon mood-lighting, to house music playing in the hotel bar. It also has this funky pool area with an infinity pool, and an über modern lounge area complete with retro furniture and electric blue pool table.
I also went up to the pool area of the Trump hotel, which had a stunning view of the city that reflected on the glassy edge of the sky-high infinity pool.
Alyssa is a full time solo adventure traveler who turned her love for traveling and writing into a self-made career as a travel blogger and social media influencer. She's been to 70 countries and 6 continents so far, as well as all 7 New World Wonders, and 7 Wonders of Nature. Alyssa believes she has mastered the art of chasing waterfalls, traveling solo, packing light, wine drinking, and making budget-traveling look good. Curious to know how she started this career? Check out the About section above!