Author Topic: Panama TR- a Hidden Family Gem (w/AWESOME restaurants)!  (Read 11012 times)

Offline Denverite

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Re: Panama TR- a Hidden Family Gem (w/AWESOME restaurants)!
« Reply #60 on: May 22, 2017, 03:03:56 PM »
Wow. I don't think I even have to go anymore. Feel like I've done it already. Solid stuff.
You mentioned CY in the ice cream place, what about in all the dairy restaurants?

LOL and thanks but you still gotta go if only for the food!  Aside from like Coffee Bean, Pinkberry, Krispy Kreme and places like that, most of their dairy restaurants are CY and the ones that did have some things that weren't CY have them noted on the menu.  I think the only dairy place we went to that wasn't totally CY was Kava (although I could be wrong) and it was because they had some crepes with dulce de leche and nutella and stuff like that (those crepes were insanely good BTW).  ;D

Really a great TR, reading and wishing I was there right now!

Thanks!

Offline rediplus

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Re: Panama TR- a Hidden Family Gem (w/AWESOME restaurants)!
« Reply #61 on: May 22, 2017, 06:57:52 PM »
so if I were planning this with 5 kids between 12 and 4, what would be the food expense approximately ?
is it worth it to rent a car instead of uber everywhere ?
can I really go with out bringing any food ?
waiting for the Shabbos installment.

Offline Denverite

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Re: Panama TR- a Hidden Family Gem (w/AWESOME restaurants)!
« Reply #62 on: May 22, 2017, 08:01:45 PM »
so if I were planning this with 5 kids between 12 and 4, what would be the food expense approximately ?
is it worth it to rent a car instead of uber everywhere ?
can I really go with out bringing any food ?
waiting for the Shabbos installment.

Absolutely you can go without bringing any food.  If you wanna bring special stuff your kids like to snack (we take beef Jerky on trips because it's so compact and our kids like it) or something like that, maybe.  Also if you wanna bring one pot just to feel better that's fine (I did and I think I did use it once Motzei Shabbos to make noodles because it was late and I was tired to go out or wait for delivery).  We did order extra at restaurants and use our microwave and paper and plastic to heat up leftovers a lot.

I would plan to spend whatever you would spend let's say on a trip to Miami or Phoenix.  The food costs about the same.  We spent a good bit because we only have two places in Denver, love meat and enjoy eating out, so often went out twice a day.  Our friends with 5 kids who came the month before, got fresh pastries and bread daily at the bakery, ate peanut butter sandwhiches and cheap local fruit while they were out on adventures and mostly ate at dairy restaurants in the evening, where they could order a couple pizzas and pasta family style, w/no drinks where it was way cheaper.  They spent less than us on food but still also didn't cook anything. I think you could get by on less than $100 a day if you planned like my friends did but you'd have to watch your expenditures. We had two less kids and spent more than that.

I personally would not rent a car there unless maybe you are staying in Playa Bonita but even then Uber is less than $10 each way to kosher restaurants.  I have no idea how much rentals are there so you gotta do that cheshbon.  I also wouldn't rent a car in NY, SF or Jerusalem though so maybe others who have rented cars and thought it was worth it (I know people have and discussed it on the Panama Master Thread) can chime in here.  You're gonna have to pay for tours for what we did, or ziplining, going to the San Blas, etc. and they provide transportation, so I'm not sure you need it.  If you aren't gonna really do those tours but want to drive to beaches, Colon, coffee plantations or stuff in the mountains or rainforests, then it might be worth it.  I'd say it really depends on how adventurous you are and how many organized activities you want to do or how much you want to try to do on your own.

Offline rediplus

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Re: Panama TR- a Hidden Family Gem (w/AWESOME restaurants)!
« Reply #63 on: May 23, 2017, 08:29:59 AM »
thanks for info. good stuff

Offline saw50st8

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Re: Panama TR- a Hidden Family Gem (w/AWESOME restaurants)!
« Reply #64 on: May 25, 2017, 01:16:09 PM »
Interesting perspective about the schools. I just came back from Panama and one of the Americans I spoke to was complaining about the quality of schools :-) (and that it cost $15,000/kid but salaries aren't as high as in the US!)

Thanks for all your information. It was helpful for the trip.

Rediplus, drivers in Panama City are pretty crazy. Unless you think driving in NYC is for chumps, you might want to reconsider. Stop signs are suggestions. Lane changing is constant and no one cares who is where. Driving outside of the city isn't as bad.

Offline Denverite

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Re: Panama TR- a Hidden Family Gem (w/AWESOME restaurants)!
« Reply #65 on: May 25, 2017, 01:28:50 PM »
Interesting perspective about the schools. I just came back from Panama and one of the Americans I spoke to was complaining about the quality of schools :-) (and that it cost $15,000/kid but salaries aren't as high as in the US!)

Thanks for all your information. It was helpful for the trip.

Rediplus, drivers in Panama City are pretty crazy. Unless you think driving in NYC is for chumps, you might want to reconsider. Stop signs are suggestions. Lane changing is constant and no one cares who is where. Driving outside of the city isn't as bad.

That is funny about the schools but they are probably comparing to free public school and for us 15k is normal (or cheap) for a frum school (especially HS) and they offer the students SO many more educational options and activities!  ;D

+1 Drivers are very aggressive and insane, parking is difficult and Uber is so cheap, I don't think I'd personally rent a car even for a long term stay.

Where did you end up going and staying?  Anything you definitely recommend doing if we go back?

Offline saw50st8

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Re: Panama TR- a Hidden Family Gem (w/AWESOME restaurants)!
« Reply #66 on: May 25, 2017, 02:00:49 PM »
That is funny about the schools but they are probably comparing to free public school and for us 15k is normal (or cheap) for a frum school (especially HS) and they offer the students SO many more educational options and activities!  ;D

+1 Drivers are very aggressive and insane, parking is difficult and Uber is so cheap, I don't think I'd personally rent a car even for a long term stay.

Where did you end up going and staying?  Anything you definitely recommend doing if we go back?

We stayed at the Marriott. It was on point savers so 5 nights was 40,000 points. The hotel was very nice but the area was not great and a decent walk to restaurants. It wasn't bad (like 20 minutes) but annoying enough.  We also used a 1 night anniversary cert and 1 night "regular" points.

We loved taking a boat ride through the Panama Canal.  It was absolutely the highlight of our trip (and really the reason we went to Panama!).

We also did Monkey Island, which was amazing. The monkeys come to the boat to eat.

We went to El Valle and that was great. It has a cool zoo of animals in the region, we went on a hike up a mountain (not for little kids! It was really steep).  They have thermal pools with mud masks (not a must). We missed hiking to the square trees and I so want to do that!

We took a tour of San Lorenzo fort and Soberenia National Park and hiked the rainforest. We saw a ton of animals. That was really fun but not a "must see."

We did an overnight in San Blas Islands. It's like pure paradise with amenities to boot (meaning, the light bulb in our room was considered luxury LOL). I'm not sure I would bring little kids along, though you totally could. We snorkeled and swam and toured deserted islands and saw star fish.

We toured Casco Viejo / San Felipe and that was kind of eh. The colonial buildings are pretty cool but the tour was unnecessary.

I would also skip Prime Grill - the entrees were pretty gross there.

Offline Denverite

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Re: Panama TR- a Hidden Family Gem (w/AWESOME restaurants)!
« Reply #67 on: May 29, 2017, 06:27:31 PM »
We stayed at the Marriott. It was on point savers so 5 nights was 40,000 points. The hotel was very nice but the area was not great and a decent walk to restaurants. It wasn't bad (like 20 minutes) but annoying enough.  We also used a 1 night anniversary cert and 1 night "regular" points.

We loved taking a boat ride through the Panama Canal.  It was absolutely the highlight of our trip (and really the reason we went to Panama!).

We also did Monkey Island, which was amazing. The monkeys come to the boat to eat.

We went to El Valle and that was great. It has a cool zoo of animals in the region, we went on a hike up a mountain (not for little kids! It was really steep).  They have thermal pools with mud masks (not a must). We missed hiking to the square trees and I so want to do that!

We took a tour of San Lorenzo fort and Soberenia National Park and hiked the rainforest. We saw a ton of animals. That was really fun but not a "must see."

We did an overnight in San Blas Islands. It's like pure paradise with amenities to boot (meaning, the light bulb in our room was considered luxury LOL). I'm not sure I would bring little kids along, though you totally could. We snorkeled and swam and toured deserted islands and saw star fish.

We toured Casco Viejo / San Felipe and that was kind of eh. The colonial buildings are pretty cool but the tour was unnecessary.

I would also skip Prime Grill - the entrees were pretty gross there.

Sounds awesome! We actually considered almost each of these activities and some of them are on our list for next time.  :)

Offline ethana

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Re: Panama TR- a Hidden Family Gem (w/AWESOME restaurants)!
« Reply #68 on: May 29, 2017, 09:13:01 PM »
ziplining in el valle was great!

Offline Denverite

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Re: Panama TR- a Hidden Family Gem (w/AWESOME restaurants)!
« Reply #69 on: June 05, 2017, 11:23:18 AM »
ziplining in el valle was great!

Our friends did that and said it was super fun.  On our list for next time.  Did you get eaten by bugs though?  My friends said that mosquitoes didn't bother them the whole time (like us, I literally didn't have one bit) but on that ziplining trip, for whatever reason about the location or something they all got tons of bites, even with using repellent.

Offline ethana

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Re: Panama TR- a Hidden Family Gem (w/AWESOME restaurants)!
« Reply #70 on: June 05, 2017, 11:53:00 AM »
hmm don't recall the bugs being an issue

Offline Denverite

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Re: Panama TR- a Hidden Family Gem (w/AWESOME restaurants)!
« Reply #71 on: June 05, 2017, 12:34:41 PM »
hmm don't recall the bugs being an issue

I didn't encounter any on my whole trip so it could be they just had a bad day and it's good to hear since I do want to do that on the next trip.  What tour did you go with?

Offline ethana

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Re: Panama TR- a Hidden Family Gem (w/AWESOME restaurants)!
« Reply #72 on: June 05, 2017, 12:41:42 PM »
we actually rented a car and drove ourselves from panama city. we stopped at the market, then were directed to ziplining and did the zoo after that. The only tour we took was through Barefoot Panama. We also found a driver who took us to San blas for the day.

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Re: Panama TR- a Hidden Family Gem (w/AWESOME restaurants)!
« Reply #73 on: June 05, 2017, 01:42:58 PM »
Friday trip to Miraflores Locks, the Canal and Monkey Island!

Our tour guide picked us up at around 9AM.  On our way out we stopped at the same market we had on other days.  It was just called the Chinese Market because the owners are Chinese Panamanians.  My kids thought it was so cool how many "native" Chinese are there.  Our tour guide explained that just like Jews and others came in the 1800's many Chinese also came to build the railroad and trade.  This market only had fruit and we made sure to pick up lots of snacks not only for us but also the monkeys!

Our tour guide getting our fruit for the day, with the Chinese store owner:



First stop was Miraflores locks with are truly stunning.  It was the only place all week we saw packed with foreigners (from the cruise ships) but you can see why it is can't miss.  The engineering is astounding, how they move these HUGE ships up and down basically with elevators of water.





This is when the lock is full of water.  You can't really see because I snapped the picture to late but off in the distance is a huge container ship that they had raised up the equivalent of many stories to travel through the canal:



And you should know which kids are mine since they wear Broncos clothing everywhere (I thought it was a cute look with a Panama hat)!  ;D  The one picture inside is in the attached 3 story visitor center, below is a model of the control room.  The center was packed but it was REALLY cool.  They show every aspect of how the canal and trade through it work.  They also have a simulator where my kids got to pilot a boat through the canal and see how hard it is to do...they crashed, unfortunately.  :P






After visiting the locks (I'd say it's 1-2 hours max, including the movie in the visitor center) we headed out on the canal!

This first ship was heading East from Japan (while we were going West), our guide said carrying approx. four THOUSAND cars.  You can see the tugboat pushing it.









Then some huge container ships:







Soon we got to an island that had lots of howler monkeys.  They are these teeny little black monkeys but when they yell they seriously sound like a 400 pound gorilla chasing you in the jungle and if I heard them yelling I would run VERY fast!

They are kind of hard to see so high up in the trees but the black shadow in the middle of these pictures is a howler monkey:






We hung out there a little bit and then headed out to the other islands with the other monkeys.  Forgive me if I mess up any animal species but I think these are the white-headed capuchin:



They'll come right up to the boat and eat out of your hand but my kids (and me...lol) were a little nervous so we put some fruit on the front of the boat and they come grab it jump back in the trees. It was so AWESOME!




As we were driving among the islands and then on the way back we saw these cool ducks that can basically walk on the water and reeds because of their special webbing in their feet.



We also saw a baby crocodile in the water (search hard to find him in the middle of the picture where the hand is pointing) :)



On the way back we saw lots more cool ships that everyone enjoyed:




When we got back to the van it was about 2PM so I checked by trusted Kosher PTY app to see what was still open.  Our friends had raved about Aroma Gourmet and we had actually gotten sushi delivery from them via the app, the first night at the hotel, so decided to actually try out their restaurant again.  They didn't close until an hour before Shabbat and our guide dropped us there around 3PM.  The decor and food is great and we all enjoyed the pizza, salads and sushi after another great day!





We then Ubered back to the Hilton for me to arrange our food (which had all been purchased the day before) and shower and generally get ready for Shabbat and services at the Shevet Achim shul...more details about Shabbat to come in the next installment!




Offline Denverite

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Re: Panama TR- a Hidden Family Gem (w/AWESOME restaurants)!
« Reply #74 on: June 05, 2017, 02:26:12 PM »
we actually rented a car and drove ourselves from panama city. we stopped at the market, then were directed to ziplining and did the zoo after that. The only tour we took was through Barefoot Panama. We also found a driver who took us to San blas for the day.

Cool.  How did you find the driver to San Blas and how much did he charge for both of you for the day? Also how much was the ziplining without transportation?