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- 07 Mar 2021, 3 nights
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Bordered on one side by the impressive man-made Panama Canal and lush national parks, it's no surprise that Panama City is an ideal base for nature lovers. However, this capital has lots to offer city explorers too – from the historic cobbled centre dotted with theatres and churches to its towering skyscrapers. It's also a coastal city, with white sandy beaches and idyllic coves a short ferry trip away.
You'll find Panama City hostels housed in old French and Spanish colonial mansions, with high ceilings and original sweeping wooden staircases. In the morning, take your free breakfast out onto the terrace to watch the streets wake up before you go out for the day. There are modern hostels in Panama City too, decorated in industrial-chic style with sleek co-working spaces and cosy common areas. To be surrounded by nature, choose a hostel with a tropical garden – some even have swimming pools flanked by palm trees.
Panama City has two main historic neighbourhoods: Panamá Viejo and Casco Viejo, both of which are UNESCO world heritage sites. While the first is mostly 400-year-old ruins (with a well-preserved observation tower you can climb), the second has colonial architecture, the café-bordered Plaza Simón Bolívar and a Baroque-style cathedral. For the energetic, contemporary side of Panama City, stroll down the shop-lined Avenida Central. This will lead you towards Calle de Uruguay: the business district, which is also home to a bustling bar and nightlife scene.
When you're not lapping up the charm of the old quarter, there are plenty of other activities to try in Panama City. Head just 15 minutes inland from the downtown area and you'll find the Metropolitan Natural Park: a 573-acre wilderness filled with tropical birds. You might even see howler monkeys and sloths, and some of the hiking trails have dramatic views over Panama City. To hit the beach, take a 20-minute ferry to Taboga Island where you can swim in crystal clear waters.
Tocumen International Airport is only 35km from Panama City centre, which translates to a 20-minute bus ride. Once you've picked up a pre-paid Metrobus card from the airport, keep this for the rest of your stay – the same card is used on both the city's bus and metro systems. However, many travellers prefer to see the sights from a bicycle, which can be hired from either your hostel or centres on the Amador Causeway.
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