Turbo-charged espresso shots pulled with raw sugar known as Cubanos fuel the sensory experience that is Panama. The empanadas here come in a variety of textures and fillings, much like the country itself, a multifarious landscape of nature and urbanity.
Panama City is a jungle-sea-side metropolis dotted with sky scrapers and lush color. Its marina fills with vibrant dhows that meander alongside winding highways evoking an Abu-Dhabi corniche cruise. If you’ve never experienced Latin America, Panama is a great place to start.
Casco Viejo suggests an antique district, however reality showcases a harmonious blend of the historic and modern. Stilted architecture and old catholic churches merge with local street art, exhibiting personality that is brashly latin.
Exploding with local color, the old neighborhood is home to families and foreign consulates alike. The scene is frilled with restaurants, bars, and ice cream parlors. Any space left over often turns to prime real estate for a makeshift soccer field for children to play in.
Reminiscent of The French Quarter, a restoration project underway alludes to a Casco Viejo that will up the ante on the capital city’s cultural persona.
Ditch the highly recommended fine dining establishments and relish in local and simple Panamanian eats. The most memorable ceviche consumed to date was at Mercado del Marisco.
A three dollar cab fare from Casco De Viejo, this diminutive strip packs the succulent punch of Panama’s freshest seafood. The young, old, rich, and poor, flock to the market as fisherman prepare fresh catches of the day in a variety of ceviche styles. Some on dates, some nonchalantly, but quickly parking their luxury vehicles in front of the kiosks, a grab-and-go sort of arrangement, as if the mercado were a drive-through or gas station. Most prized is the langosta macerated with raw, finely diced white onion, copious amounts of lime, and cilantro. Locked on the tongue of my brain, it was served in a styrofoam cup with soda crackers and a coldly-fashioned Balboa. Here, life is delicious, unhurried, and affordable.
The ladies of Panama’s Indian tribe make quite the fashion statement with their intrepid clash of pattern and color. Much like the handicrafts they sell to tourists, the Kuna women exhibit a visual profusion of pattern and vividness on their bodies. Colorful and diminutive beads arranged in asymmetric patterns around their caramel calves conjure designer collections inspired by the ethnic.
Pipa is delicious, refreshing, and unapologetically cliche of island impression: young green coconut slotted to outfit a straw, pricelessly paired with a Panama hat. Rayban’s optional.
Jigsaw cracks in a coconut shell’s creamy foundation unlock a canvas paved with a starchy, buttery-crunch. Daintily fragrant, the same coconut oils waft throughout the Comarca de Kuna Yala (San Blas Islands) and their varying degrees of blue salt water. It perfumes their rice, seafood, and skin. At the helm of cuisine and expedition was Yuri, courtesy of San Blas Sailing, our designated captain and cook for four days in the Caribbean waters.