Author Topic: Panama TR- a Hidden Family Gem (w/AWESOME restaurants)!  (Read 49022 times)

Offline Denverite

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Re: Panama TR- a Hidden Family Gem (w/AWESOME restaurants)!
« Reply #40 on: May 09, 2017, 06:09:10 PM »
Great start!

What are the prices of kosher items? Are they more expensive then normal?

I just realized that I never responded to you guys.  The price of food is comparable or cheaper than in the US (although I guess kosher food is expensive in Denver so I might now have the proper perspective).  For example, a pizza was $16, probably more expensive that some places but cheaper than Denver.  A nice steak in a restaurant was $25.  A fancy order of sushi $8-10.  The difference is literally none of the places we went to were "heimishe" restaurants.  :P

They would be considered very high end in the US, with awesome decor, service, etc. so when comparing apples to apples of fancy restaurants in the US it is significantly cheaper.

Offline Denverite

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Re: Panama TR- a Hidden Family Gem (w/AWESOME restaurants)!
« Reply #41 on: May 09, 2017, 06:53:28 PM »
Awesome start, can't wait for the rest. If you don't mind me asking, what was the price range of the room? (You don't need to tell me an exact price).
Did you guys go to San blas?

I did post that our suite was about $220.  We want to go back next summer and I think since I'm not gotta gonna use points I might book an awesome condo in the Trump Tower from AirBnB.  I won't earn points for the stay but can buy their GCs from Staples on my Ink and at least get 5ppd.

We did NOT go to San Blas  but I so wish we did and now that we know our kids are up to it, it's on our list for a return.  If you want to enjoy San Blas and don't want to stay over night (I think we actually would spend one night if we went, now that I know all of the details) you have to leave at about 5AM.  It is a long drive over bumpy, windy roads into an indigenous area.  It is impassable at night so they close it and you must leave from the area at least an hour before sunset (think candle lighting time) which is why you need to leave so early if you want to get to spend any time at the beach.  There are tons of uninhabited islands and they are happy to take to your own private island for swimming and relaxing. 

Good friends did this day trip with 5 kids (youngest was age 6) and said it was the best part of the whole trip and wished they stayed overnight.  San Blas is the area where you can get over-water bungalows for cheap.  The views and water honestly look the same as the Maldives and Tahiti, just without the infrastructure and fancy accommodations.  You definitely need to go with a guide because of the roads and needing to have pre-set arrangements with the indigenous people and boat drivers.

We used http://www.therealpanamatours.com/ for all our tours.  The owner's name is Sorhay (she's in my pictures) and multiple of our friends from Denver used her to go to San Blas and she is so amazing and now also familiar with so many things about Kashrut and a number of the kosher establishments.  All our tours started later and my kids ate at home but for my friends, she would swing by one of the bakeries (called Jeffrey's) on the way out before they started their day so they could pick up a nice breakfast and coffee and at the end of our tours she would ask us which restaurant we wanted to be dropped at for a late lunch or dinner (they stay open very late in Panama since in the Latin culture they often eat dinner at 9pm).  If you want her e-mail or What's App, PM and I'll be happy to provide her info.  She is extremely professional and I can't recommend her highly enough.  Also, because we were a large number of people, her private tours were cheaper than paying for a big company on an impersonal bus and she offered a really well thought out, curated experience.  So even though I didn't go to San Blas yet, I hope that was helpful! 


Offline saw50st8

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Re: Panama TR- a Hidden Family Gem (w/AWESOME restaurants)!
« Reply #42 on: May 10, 2017, 09:20:21 AM »
Do you know if all the Coffee Bean and Tea Leafs are under hashgacha or only the location you went to? there seem to be a few in Panama City.  I'm mapping out all the kosher places for my trip next week.

Offline Denverite

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Re: Panama TR- a Hidden Family Gem (w/AWESOME restaurants)!
« Reply #43 on: May 10, 2017, 09:31:26 AM »
Do you know if all the Coffee Bean and Tea Leafs are under hashgacha or only the location you went to? there seem to be a few in Panama City.  I'm mapping out all the kosher places for my trip next week.

I'm pretty sure they all are, even the airport.  Also the Sephardic VAAD there is very strict and unlike some of Coffee Beans I've seen in the US that just have teudah on the wall, all their sandwhiches, salads, etc have the tape and hecsher on each items.  All the restaurants did that for takeout or delivery.  The tape wouldn't just be on the bag but also on each item inside.  Also there is a nice Pinkberry yogurt right near the Coffee Bean on Avenida Balboa.

Offline saw50st8

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Re: Panama TR- a Hidden Family Gem (w/AWESOME restaurants)!
« Reply #44 on: May 10, 2017, 09:32:16 AM »
I'm pretty sure they all are, even the airport.  Also the Sephardic VAAD there is very strict and unlike some of Coffee Beans I've seen in the US that just have teudah on the wall, all their sandwhiches, salads, etc have the tape and hecsher on each items.  All the restaurants did that for takeout or delivery.  The tape wouldn't just be on the bag but also on each item inside.  Also there is a nice Pinkberry yogurt right near the Coffee Bean on Avenida Balboa.

Thanks!

Offline Denverite

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Re: Panama TR- a Hidden Family Gem (w/AWESOME restaurants)!
« Reply #45 on: May 10, 2017, 12:04:03 PM »
Here are a few more pics of that day.  They do a nice presentation showing their native songs and dance, explaining how they live.  Others got a fresh lunch of fish from the river and plantains but for us they had a nice fruit plate prepared.  They survive off of the local food, money from tour groups and selling their amazing hand woven baskets and wares so we bought some to take home.  They showed each different fruit or vegetable they used for each dye to get all the colors they used in the designs and my children really loved that.  The kids were excited to show us their school (the only concrete building) and explained they have a Panamanian teacher who comes and sleeps there Mon-Fri.













and that was the end of a truly lovely day so we headed out:



We had an easy drive back where my kids munched a bunch of snacks because they were hungry and then they slept.  We were back in Panama city about 3PM and Sorhay dropped us at Hilel Sport and Grill (the menu is available below) were we had awesome burgers (THIS is what I'm talking about convenience, since we could have such an awesome adventure and get dropped off afterward at beautiful kosher restaurant)!

https://www.facebook.com/Hilel-Sport-Grill-PTY-767719389993809/

Next installment will be lazy day on Thurday and then visiting the canal and Monkey Island on Friday!
« Last Edit: May 10, 2017, 04:16:38 PM by AsherO »

Offline ethana

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Re: Panama TR- a Hidden Family Gem (w/AWESOME restaurants)!
« Reply #46 on: May 10, 2017, 04:25:13 PM »
reminds me of my honeymoon to panama! great country especially san blas

Offline Something Fishy

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Re: Panama TR- a Hidden Family Gem (w/AWESOME restaurants)!
« Reply #47 on: May 10, 2017, 04:37:07 PM »
Seriously fantastic report. I imagine Panama will pick up steam around these parts now for family vacationers.
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Offline Denverite

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Re: Panama TR- a Hidden Family Gem (w/AWESOME restaurants)!
« Reply #48 on: May 10, 2017, 07:30:04 PM »
reminds me of my honeymoon to panama! great country especially san blas

Yes, SUCH an awesome country, can't wait to go back.

Seriously fantastic report. I imagine Panama will pick up steam around these parts now for family vacationers.

Thanks, that means a lot to me and I do hope that lots of frum families see that a vacation here is just as easy as Florida, Phoenix or Cancun and can be way cheaper and more fun!  :)

Offline Yuey

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Re: Panama TR- a Hidden Family Gem (w/AWESOME restaurants)!
« Reply #49 on: May 10, 2017, 11:22:53 PM »
Great TR! Thanks for sharing.

Offline Mountain Man

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Re: Panama TR- a Hidden Family Gem (w/AWESOME restaurants)!
« Reply #50 on: May 17, 2017, 05:35:46 PM »
I had gotten so excited when you talked about Panama and there were all these advertisements about Southwest's new route from Denver to Panama City. Turns out the Panama City that Southwest flies to is in Florida so I guess I can't use the companion pass for this  :'(.
Quote from: JTZ link=topic=10531.msg1695873
If you never had to eat crow then you lived one boring life.

Offline Denverite

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Re: Panama TR- a Hidden Family Gem (w/AWESOME restaurants)!
« Reply #51 on: May 18, 2017, 11:51:00 AM »
I had gotten so excited when you talked about Panama and there were all these advertisements about Southwest's new route from Denver to Panama City. Turns out the Panama City that Southwest flies to is in Florida so I guess I can't use the companion pass for this  :'(.

ah Mountain Man, all I can say is LOL, no Southwest is not flying directly from Denver (or anywhere) to Panama (maybe you were driving a little too close to the MMJ places and got some secondhand vapors while you heard the ads)!  ;D 

Seriously though, I told you (and figured I would share with others) you can use your companion pass to get you elsewhere really close.  Take it to Cancun and then 10k (or 20k J) Star Alliance each way direct on Copa from there (plus you'll get to vacay in both).  Or take SW to San Jose, Costa Rica and it's a whopping $80 for the one hour flight on to PTY (I know you and you're not gonna wanna spend a dime so fine use Chase Reserve or 10k points for that too).  :P Seriously, just book it because I know you're also sitting on Marriot Certs...I already did all the work for you and I know your DW will be really happy with you, the killer hotel and all the restaurants.   :)


Offline Denverite

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Re: Panama TR- a Hidden Family Gem (w/AWESOME restaurants)!
« Reply #52 on: May 18, 2017, 01:28:54 PM »
Ok since the last post got me back in here, I'll add a little bit more today. 

Thursday we just had a lazy day and we actually spent the morning looking at one of the Jewish schools.  We're very interested in the Jewish community for a number of reasons and we also have a friend that had a job possibility at one of the schools so we went to check it out for all those reasons.  I have to say, that I was BLOWN AWAY

The school was so amazing and the things they offer the kids puts American day schools to shame.  One of the schools also TOTALLY teaches in English (one school won't take a child after 2nd grade that can't read and write in English) because they want their children to be able to go on to higher education in the US and Israel.  They have 4 Orthodox day schools there plus a boys' Yeshiva, girls Bais Yaacov HS AND a girls BY type college program (for a community of 12,000 total Jews, can you imagine??).  ...gotta love Sephardim and how they try to keep their WHOLE kehilla involved, even if someone is not so outwardly observant.

To compare, we have 90k Jews in Denver and two orthodox elementary schools, a modern co-ed highschool, BY and Yeshiva, all probably adding up to the kids in one of their day schools.  For someone that has an internet based business or other job, Panama could be an amazing place to live (they also will give residency to all Americans).  Tuition is about the same (a little less than the US), oh and also tuition includes all their meals and snacks at the schools and a live in housekeeper/nanny costs about $600 a month...umm, call me sold, I wanna move!  :P  Seriously, I've looked into a lot of things about living there so if you guys have any questions about schools or other stuff feel free to ask.

Since our school tour took up the whole morning and I obviously didn't take pictures there (but I wish I did because the campus was so gorgeous), I'm just gonna put a few city and food pics for the day.

After the tour we took an Uber over to La Spezia, dairy Italian place.  On the way we passed through a lot of the city and you can see all the Ritzy malls feel all the energy of it being a financial hub.  We passed a super high-end mall and also their famous Corkscrew building (apparently exactly the same as the one in Dubai but Panama's one doesn't spin...lol).

I did NOT take these two pictures below (I have some I took but my family is mugging for the camera in all of them). ;)






Here is the main mall:



La Spezia is literally around the corner from the Sortis (Marriott brand) hotel and the Kava restaurant inside.  They are all in the Obarrio district.  It is the financial and business hub of the city and where the Jews actually used to live. There are still active synagogues and minyanim there although most of the community has moved the couple miles over to Paitilla and Punta Pacifica to live the new buildings with huge apartments, Shabbat elevators and lots of other amenities.

DH and I agreed that La Spezia offered one of the best thin crust, brick oven pizzas I've had in my life (and that's saying alot since we didn't always keep fully kosher)!  Also, unlike all the other places that were uber-modern and trendy (which is awesome), this restaurant is in an older building with a beautiful courtyard that really gave you a vibe of being in a Latin Hacienda or courtyard of an old building in Europe.  As is a common theme my family is in most of our food pics but we had amazing pizza, great salads, and a killer pasta with Pesto. This was one of the only places that I don't think they had a menu in English but the waiter was helpful and I'd hope people can figure out a basic menu.  :P

We got a great salad (one pizza is in the background) and you can see their brick oven:




Most restaurants in Panama don't have actual websites but Facebook pages so here is the one for La Spezia:
https://www.facebook.com/La-Spezia-Pizzeria-306501802711500/


After lunch, we walked back over to the Sortis hotel and Kava because I wanted to see how close it really was (it was a two minute walk) and I figured it would be easier for an Uber to find us at the hotel (the old buildings in Panama City literally don't have numbers and people just use cross streets to figure location out).  You can see Kava is such a cool place to hang out and it's also got a great vibe, with a whole bar menu and hookahs if you're not running around like me with a bunch of kids!  8)




After lunch we took a quick $3 uber back to the Hilton and hung out at the pool.  Then obviously my kids were hungry again...can any other parent relate? So right after swimming we walked the block over to the complex that has the Coffee Bean and inside is a Pinkberry Yogurt with a teudah and everything is under hasgacha.  You can see the teudah in the background along with the menu of smoothies, parfaits, etc.  I believe they even have some parve sorbets for people that keep CY but would eat parve there.



Then we headed back home.  My husband had a business meeting that evening that he got ready for and I just hung out with the kids.  Obviously, in an hour or two my kids were hungry AGAIN so we headed out to get some dinner.  We went to Pita Plus (meat restaurant).  It's actually the only restaurant we went to twice because my kids begged to go back.  It's not super fancy but they have a solid meat menu with Israeli, Sephardic, Panamanian and even Chinese food. I had let my one son get a steak there because it was so reasonably priced and the other one said the chicken tenders were the best he'd ever had so they convinced me to go back.  It's actually in the same little complex in Paitilla that has four kosher restaurants: Prime grill for meat, Pita Pan which is an awesome family, dairy pizza place and bakery (we ate there earlier in the week and picked up bread for Shabbat that same evening) and a parve fish and sushi place called Metsuyan.  The first time we Ubered there but since I knew my way, we just walked this time. 

That tells you how safe I felt that I walked alone with my kids the mile to dinner.  Here is a picture of my Sancochio soup (my friend who had been the month before told me I HAD to order it) which was a really good chicken soup with Yucca (similar to potato).



You can see the Pita Plus menu here:
https://www.facebook.com/pitapluspty/

After dinner it was fully dark, my kids were tired and since I was carrying bags of bread and food and wouldn't really be able to hold my youngest's hand on the walk, I decided not to walk back (but I would have felt totally safe walking) and we "splurged" for another $3 Uber. I hope you can see how compact all the locations and neighborhoods in Panama City are and how convenient vacationing here is with kids and not worrying about food or driving.  We headed back home to the Hilton after another happy day!   

Next Installment: The Canal and Monkey Island on Friday!




« Last Edit: May 18, 2017, 01:51:21 PM by Denverite »

Offline Something Fishy

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Re: Panama TR- a Hidden Family Gem (w/AWESOME restaurants)!
« Reply #53 on: May 18, 2017, 01:40:17 PM »
Totally agree on your assessment of Pita Plus - the food was absolutely fantastic, yet simple. The best burger I ever had was there.

I'll be in the region next month and I'm actually considering booking TGU-PTY-GUA-EWR over TGU-GUA-EWR just so I can take my wife to Pita Plus.
Check out my site for epic kosher adventures: Kosher Horizons

Offline Denverite

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Re: Panama TR- a Hidden Family Gem (w/AWESOME restaurants)!
« Reply #54 on: May 18, 2017, 02:00:11 PM »
Totally agree on your assessment of Pita Plus - the food was absolutely fantastic, yet simple. The best burger I ever had was there.

I'll be in the region next month and I'm actually considering booking TGU-PTY-GUA-EWR over TGU-GUA-EWR just so I can take my wife to Pita Plus.

LOL...TOTALLY worth the stopover!  ;D

Where did you stay last time you were there and where do you think you might stay this time?  I loved the Hilton but I might try somewhere else when we go back.  Any suggestions?  We're planning a longer, extended trip next summer.  I'll probably do one week at the Sortis on a Marriott cert and then an AirBnb in either Punta Pacifica or Paitilla to really be in the Jewish areas where most of the community lives.  A couple people have mentioned Trump towers as good for Shabbos in Punta Pacifica, and the building and amenities look insane but I didn't know if it's also walk-able to all the restaurants and markets Paitilla.  I may give up some of the over-the-top amenities there and get a normal apartment with a pool in Paitilla.  Any thoughts?

Offline Something Fishy

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Re: Panama TR- a Hidden Family Gem (w/AWESOME restaurants)!
« Reply #55 on: May 18, 2017, 02:13:43 PM »
Last time was a 10-hour layover and this time will be under 4, so I can't really add anything useful regarding hotels.
Check out my site for epic kosher adventures: Kosher Horizons

Offline ethana

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Re: Panama TR- a Hidden Family Gem (w/AWESOME restaurants)!
« Reply #56 on: May 18, 2017, 05:52:46 PM »
We rented an AirBnb in Paitilla. Was 5 minute walk to shul. Non-Jewish owner even left us a bottle of kosher wine.

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Re: Panama TR- a Hidden Family Gem (w/AWESOME restaurants)!
« Reply #57 on: May 18, 2017, 11:33:26 PM »
We rented an AirBnb in Paitilla. Was 5 minute walk to shul. Non-Jewish owner even left us a bottle of kosher wine.

Awesome!  Do you have a link?

Offline johnshek

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Re: Panama TR- a Hidden Family Gem (w/AWESOME restaurants)!
« Reply #58 on: May 19, 2017, 01:14:21 AM »
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?

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Re: Panama TR- a Hidden Family Gem (w/AWESOME restaurants)!
« Reply #59 on: May 19, 2017, 11:15:28 AM »
Really a great TR, reading and wishing I was there right now!