Once you’ve traveled to several different countries, especially those within the same region, they start to blend together. For example, when I traveled throughout Southeast Asia, it seemed every country had the same temples and statues. This is why every country I go, I’ve tried to find 5 unique places or things that make that country stand out from the rest. This list is solely based on my experience and may not cover certain well-known traditions or tourist sites.
Panama Canal- The Panama Canal is one of the most important landmarks in the world when it comes to commercial trade. Since the Panamanian government took control of the canal from the United States on December 31st, 1999, it has developed into a symbol of national pride. Thousands of commercial vessels pass through the canal on an annual basis as they look to cross from the Pacific Ocean to the Atlantic Ocean (and vice versa). The canal is composed of three “locks” or gates which control the passage of vessels. The Miraflores lock is located about 35 minutes outside of Panama City and is specifically designed for tourism. The $20 USD (non-resident) fee will allow you to access the four-story museum, 15-minute informational video, and the opportunity to see the canal up close. If you time your visit right, you may even get to see a ship pass through it.
Concurrent Currency- The official currency of Panama is the Balboa, but the US Dollar is also widely used. While I have been in countries where the US dollar is common along with the local currency, Panama is the first where the local currency is equal to the US Dollar and can be used interchangeably. This makes for a unique situation to where you can get both currencies back in a transaction. This is important to remember, especially if you are accustom to traveling to places where the U.S. Dollar is significantly stronger than the local currency.
Volcan Baru- Located about 15 km outside of Boquete, atop the volcanos 3400-meter peak sits the highest point in Panama. As you can see from my experience (here) the volcano is not to be taken lightly and can provide a physical test even to those boasting peak physical fitness. However, should you make it to the top, you can see as far as both the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans (on a clear day). The hike adds up to about 17 miles (mostly up hill) and should take about 9-10 hours walking a “leisurely” pace. Many people that I met started the hike at midnight so that they could get to the top at sunrise.
Las Escobas de Venao- Officially called Playa Venado, however the letter “d” has unofficially been dropped from the name, so it is commonly known as Playa Venao by the locals. It is located on Panama’s Pacific coast about 45 km south of the town of Pedasi. While it is very hard to get to by conventional public transportation (took me 6 buses from Boquete), it is worth the commute as the pristine beaches are nearly void of tourists, many who go to the more well-known Las Bocas de Toro. The town itself can be isolated and daily public transportation is few and far between. While there is no ATM in Playa Venao, most restaurants and shops do accept credit cards
Panama City- Panama City earns this spot as it is the only modern “high-rise” capital in Central America and the Caribbean. Fueled by the commerce brought by the Panama Canal, multimillion-dollar condos and towering headquarters for the world’s biggest firms adorn the cities’ skyline. Even more impressive was the cities’ ability to host millions of people from around the world who flew in for both the World Youth Fair and visit from the Catholic Pope. It’s basically New York City with Los Angeles weather year around. Along with its skyscrapers are shopping malls filled with American fast food restaurants (i.e. Subway, Taco Bell, Ruby Tuesday) and stores (i.e. UnderArmour, Nike), harbors with million-dollar yachts, and several getaway islands right off the coast of the city