Clarion Victoria Hotel and Suites Panama
Calle D, El Cangrejo
Panama City, 0
Phone: (507) 395 9000
Fax: (507) 395 9001
Magnificently defining the northern border of Panama City, the Parque Natural Metropolitano sprawls over 265 hectares (655 acres) of thick forest and incredible biodiversity. It is a valued research site for Smithsonian Institute and other organizations, and is unique in the Americas as a protected tropical forest within the city limits of a major urban area. Over 40 species of mammals, 200 species of plants, hundreds of birds, and special treats like blue Morpho butterflies are supported by this nature reserve, and much of this vibrant life is visible from the cleared paths. A total of five trails wind through the trees, where most visitors embark on hikes taking between 30 minutes and two-hours, round-trip. The city maintains a Visitor Center with maps, exhibits, and a small bookstore, which opens Monday-Friday 8a-4p and Saturday 8a-1p. With a 24-hour advance reservation and at least three people, guided tours conducted in English are available.
Tourists, especially those traveling with the whole family, are delighted by the charming attraction at Mi Pueblito. Conveniently right at the foot of Cerro Ancón, visitors learn about three regional traditions of Panama by walking through life-sized replicas of rural villages in the style of each culture. The diversity of Panama is represented with examples from Bocas del Toro, the Peninsula de Azuerzo, and the Darién. These idealized pueblitos are a great educational resource in the city and are accompanied by a smattering of restaurants and handicraft shops housed in Spanish colonial-style architecture. On Friday and Saturday nights, performances from folk dances to live music start up at 6p.
The construction of the Panama Canal demanded a whole lot more than just digging a really long trench—the engineering required manipulation of an entire geographical system. To calm the ocean waves around the Pacific entrance to the Canal, workers constructed a collosal breakwater that reaches two kilometers out to sea and connects three islands along the way. After construction in the early 20th century, Fort Grant was established here in 1913, and the area was militarized and fortified by the United States during the World Wars. It was entirely off-limits to Panamanians until 1999, when the zone was finally officially returned to Panama. A road and sidewalk running along the top of this breakwater are the thoroughfares of the Amador Causeway, a great stretch of road for walking, jogging, biking, and most especially for the phenomenal views over the Bay of Panama to the city beyond. Because of the heat on the unshaded road, daytime activity is mostly confined to a few restaurants that make the most of the panorama, sightings of boats and brown pelicans, and a swimming pool or two. As the evening cools, a bevy of restaurants that double as nightlife spots open on each of the three islands that make up the Calzada. To get here, bikes and rollerblades are available at the entrance from land, or hop in a taxi.
The ultimate in modern facilities and expert service is served daily at the Flamenco Yacht Club, an international marina offering a comfortable berth and fabulous access to the restaurants and bars of the Calzada de Amador. The marina welcomes yachts of all sizes and descriptions to the docks, with a total of 191 slips for boats up to 200 feet and a dry dock for cleaning and repairs. Meanwhile, boatmen of all sizes and descriptions enjoy the Clubhouse with its restaurant, nautical equipment shop, game room, laundry, convenience store, showers, and 24-hour security.
The Calzada de Amador can be an educational place to visit, in case you need another excuse to spend a day in the neighborhood. Scientists and researchers at the Centro de Exhibiciones Marinas Smithsonian have created a museum of ecosystems, and informative signage in English and Spanish makes it easy to take a self-guided tour through examples of four different environments. Beside the concise experience of beach, mangrove forest, rocky coast, and tropical forest ecosystems, spyglasses to watch ships on the Canal are available at the lookout on the end of the point, and aquarium tanks hold marine wildlife. Children will be delighted with the opportunity to see tropical fish, sea turtles, starfish, and sea cucumbers up close, and even touch some of these critters.
The spectacular results of a program that was established in 1923 to bring tropical plants from around the world to be Panama can be witnessed at the Summit Botanical Gardens & Zoo, 250 hectares of a gardener's wildest dreams inside the Parque Nacional Soberanía. In line with the general intention to promote environmental awareness and education, over 15,000 plant species are represented and clearly-marked paths guide visitors to marvel at them and the animals in the small zoo, originally established to help GIs identify the creatures they would come across while on assignments in the jungle. Tapirs, jaguars, and a harpy eagle compound are endlessly fascinating attractions. Several enclosures in the Botanical Gardens imitate rainforest habitats from throughout Panama, and the grounds also hold a small restaurant, playground and recreational areas for children, an auditorium & video room, and a breeding center where around 95 of the 242 species are shown to the public.
This 48,000-acre rainforest reserve is truly a spectacular place, brimming with both native and migrant birds—over 500 species have been spotted on just the Pipeline Road trail!—and mammals including jaguars, ocelots, howler and capuchin monkeys, anteaters, coatis, and agouti. Tourists are often thrilled to see toucans and leafcutter ants, and the incredible flora playing host to all these animals includes kapok trees, strangler figs, and liana vines. Perhaps most remarkable, though, is that this wilderness is only 25 kilometers (about 15 miles) northwest of ultra-urban Panama City, running along the eastern edge of the Canal, and has only been a national park since the land was handed over to the Panamanian government in 1999. The Ranger Station is located on Carretera Gamboa, where visitors can pay the entrance fee, with a discount for students.