Bienvenido to the chic, pastel-painted old quarter of Panama City, Casco Viejo, a destination you likely won’t want to leave.
While shooting a music video in downtown Panama city, my crew and I escaped for a few hours to this dreamy part of town to explore some coffee shops, rooftop bars and my new favorite hotel. A cross between Spanish and French influences, Casco feels worlds apart from the Miami-like city, with peaceful cobblestone streets made for walking and a colonial charm reminiscent of Old Havana and New Orleans.
This is how I spent a day in Casco, photos included.
The doors of this 1917 building were reopened in 2013 as a 50-room hotel, decorated with vintage-inspired furniture but stocked with every luxury the modern-day traveler needs. Fight the midday heat sipping mojito’s on the rooftop pool or devouring the curried sea bass ceviche in the gorgeous dining hall.
Daytime Activity: Just Walk
Roam the streets and find local galleries, cute gift shops full of handmade goods, and delicious coffee. We stopped in at Casa Sucre for Iced Bailey’s lattes and free wifi. They serve only Panamanian coffee from the Boquete region.
Sea Bass and Balboa’s (local beer) were served for lunch at Paula Nani’s on a covered terrace overlooking the entrance to the canal. We made the mistake of eating at noon on a Friday. Nothing opened for lunch until 1pm.
We also strolled to the end of Calle 5A, the perfect lookout point to watch ships as they enter the canal.
Rooftop bars are all the rage in Panama with warm weather year-round. After asking a handful of different locals, they all steered us toward CasaCasco for dinner and drinks on the roof of the four-story restaurant/music venue/bar. This romantic perch was perfect to people watch as the Casco square started to wake up beneath us around 10pm.
Panama Quick Tips
Currency: 1 Balboa= 1 USD, however USD is also the official currency. Most credit cards accept, Amex is some places
Language: Spanish, but many locals speak english
Transportation: Taxis and Uber are SO cheap. We got around town for less than $6 every trip. While requesting UberX, you are also given the option of hiring an english speaking driver.
Travel Documents: Only a passport, no Visa required for US citizens
You can drink the tap water :)