Author Topic: Weekend in Panama  (Read 1733 times)

Offline ponash123

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Weekend in Panama
« on: February 07, 2022, 05:10:21 PM »
Panama is a great destination and worked perfectly for us for an extended weekend. It's close by, beautiful, warm weather, and plenty of great Kosher food. As an added bonus, hotels and ubers are significantly cheaper than they are in the US. Go Kosher Panama website is a great resource overall for food, activities and everything you'll need, including discount codes for excursions. 

Weather: it was extremely hot, about 90 degrees and humid. 

Friday

We took a flight late Thursday night and landed in Panama City at about 5:00 AM. We took an uber for the 20 minute ride to our hotel. 
We chose the Hilton Panama because of its beautiful ocean views and its proximity to Chabad and the shuls. (Incidentally we also, by complete mistake and coincidence, landed up going on Yeshiva week, so the hotels, and more importantly, the double rooms, in many hotels were already booked up by the time we checked). 

The Hilton is a beautiful hotel and we were very happy with our choice. One point to be aware of is that most hotels are skyscrapers and you may run into Shabbos issues. The Hilton's rooms only start on the 16th floor, so there are definitely things to iron out, ask YLOR first. They are very aware of Shabbos though and work with you with great service.

View from hotel:





Our rooms weren't ready yet when we got to the hotel, so we stored our luggage, lounged around a bit, had coffee, changed, and then headed out. We went to Jeffrey's Bakery for breakfast, where we enjoyed a delicious meal.

We then took an uber to the Canal (about 20 minutes from the city) only to find out that the last boat of the morning had already left and the next one wouldn't be for a couple of hours.
The museum and imax there are closed (corona) so there wasn't really anything for us to do. No worries, ubers are so cheap there, we had no qualms about calling our driver right back and heading to the hotel.When we got back our rooms were ready so we were able to go up and settle in a bit and rest (we'd been up all night). After some time, we headed back to the Canal and got there just in time. 

We went to the Miraflores Locks which is the closest to Panama City and the busiest. I was expecting to be bored with a bit of interest, but it was actually quite fascinating! The whole process of loading the ships into the lock, closing the iron gates, and floating it to meet the level of the canal is super slow. But somehow you canít help becoming transfixed. We watched 2 ships go through the process, one of them average size, and one so massive it was holding 5,000 cars. It's an amazing sight to see such a tremendous ship travel through the tight canal and slowly sink down as the water level lowers. 

We spent some time there and then headed back down. You have to walk through the museum to get down, but it's closed due to COVID and you're not allowed to even look at the displays (unclear why). 















We headed back to the hotel, where we spent some time relaxing at the pool and getting ready for Shabbos. 

We took an uber to Chabad, where we had an enjoyable meal. Like I mentioned, it was Yeshiva Week so there were A LOT more frum people than usual but everyone made it work.After the meal, we walked back with another family that was staying in the Hilton.One point to keep in mind- Google Maps listed the Hilton (and many other hotels) as over a half hour walk from Chabad. They also give really convoluted walking directions. In reality, it was under 15 minutes and was really simple. 

Shabbos:

Shabbos morning we walked to the Beth El shul, an ashkenazic community shul which hosts a Shabbos Day meal. We enjoyed the davening followed by a kiddush and meal. We then walked back to our hotel and enjoyed a relaxing afternoon in the sun. 

Motzei Shabbos we went out to Blame Kiki, a super cool dramatic, club-like Italian Kosher restaurant which is literally next door to the hotel. They had a live DJ, entertainment, just an overall really fun party-like atmosphere, and the food is delicious!







Sunday:

We woke up early Sunday morning and got picked up for our outing by Barefoot Panama. We then drove to a dock at Lake Gatun where we picked up a boat and headed out.It was really interesting to be on the Panama Canal (all man made) and sail next to the gigantic ships that have just passed through the Canal. 

We then headed towards the little islands that house the monkeys we wanted to visit. We were able to see 3 different types of monkeys, Howler Monkeys, Capuchins, and Tamarins. The Tamarin and Capuchin monkeys actually came onto our boat and ate out of our hands, which was really exciting.
The Howlers are shy but we were able to see them hanging in the trees and hear them howling at each other. 














We then sailed up the Chagres River and visited the Indian Village of the Waounan Tribe, an indigenous group of people that live semi-nomadic lives. They have traditional clothing they wear (loincloths, barefoot etc) and ink on their faces and bodies (called Jagua), in an effort to revive their culture and attract tourism to generate income. They live off the land, though the children are now required to go to regular school, so wear the regular uniforms when going and have standard school supplies. 

They performed a few dances for us as a welcome with an older man playing instruments on the side. They then had a woman give us a presentation on their history, with the opportunity for us to ask any questions we had.We spent some time with them, bought some of their wares, some people got the Jagua done, and overall really really enjoyed this fascinating experience.



















We sailed back to where the van was parked and were then dropped off at our hotel. We headed straight out to Kava for lunch, a really nice milchig cafe with delicious food.




After lunch, we decided to explore Casco Viejo, or the Old Town. This is a historical and charming area with colorful colonial houses, old churches, vibrant plazas, and vendors selling all sorts of items.
The streets are full of character and merge into a small peninsula that juts into the Pacific. The view is impressive as you can gaze across the water at the modern skyline, which is a big contrast from the old houses and streets you are standing on. 

We watched sunset over the water, which was beautiful and then headed back. We left as it was getting dark, but it seemed to be picking up and I believe there is a lively nightlife there. 











That night for dinner we went to Aria, a really nice meat restaurant where we greatly enjoyed.


Monday:

We had a relaxed morning and then headed down the block to Coffee Bean for a late breakfast. Afterwards, we strolled around town for a bit and took some photos of this epic sign that we passed. 

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We then hopped in an uber and headed to the Amador Causeway, a long stretch of land that sticks out into the ocean and connects the Causeway Islands. There is a promenade with magnificent views of the city, the ocean, and the ships waiting to enter the canal. It's a great place to stroll, spend some relaxing time, or do some activities.

We headed straight to Burke's Bikes, which is a huge bike rental store that has a ton of options. We rented some bikes and mopeds and spent the next hour or so in the glorious weather biking along the boardwalk. 

When our time was up, we returned the bikes, sat and enjoyed some ice cream in the sun, and then headed back to our hotel.







Back at the Hilton, we washed up and finished packing out. We stopped in Pita Plus to pick up dinner to go (delicious!) and then headed back to the airport for our flight home.
All in all, a wonderfully quick easy getaway that I'd highly recommend, particularly to those that don't want to shlep food.

Offline mlight

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Re: Weekend in Panama
« Reply #1 on: February 07, 2022, 08:02:55 PM »
Thanks for this. What did you do regarding testing for reentry to the US?

Offline ponash123

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Re: Weekend in Panama
« Reply #2 on: February 08, 2022, 11:50:03 AM »
Thanks for this. What did you do regarding testing for reentry to the US?

Most of us did not need to test because we are recently recovered.
One of us did test, the Hilton arranged and sent someone to us.

Offline sam28

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Re: Weekend in Panama
« Reply #3 on: February 08, 2022, 10:40:19 PM »
Nice Tr thanks for the write up.

Offline ponash123

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Re: Weekend in Panama
« Reply #4 on: February 09, 2022, 10:12:57 AM »
Nice Tr thanks for the write up.

Thanks!

Offline BP16

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Re: Weekend in Panama
« Reply #5 on: February 09, 2022, 02:24:44 PM »
Thanks!
How well are the restaurants priced? 

Offline ponash123

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Re: Weekend in Panama
« Reply #6 on: February 09, 2022, 03:57:10 PM »
How well are the restaurants priced?

Pretty average, not super cheap