Panama’s making headlines—as an under-the-radar eco-playground with jungly interiors, pristine beaches and a steamy party-primed capital. All true. And indeed that capital,Panama City, is welcoming her guests with a handsome profile of glass skyscrapers that catch the sun along Panama Bay, offering as well a UNESCO Heritage Site in its colonialCasco Viejo quarter, a delicious restaurant scene, lively nightlife and casino action, and the only rainforest in the world within city limits. Top draw is the Panama Canal, being widened to accommodate larger vessels. And right in the canal watershed is Soberania National Park, the start of a whole new great outdoors of rainforest and cloud forests that stretches to the highlands of Chiriqui province: all places to listen for howler monkeys, meet a sloth, and update one’s bird list on foot, by kayak or canoe. And by the sea, with some 1,000 miles of coastline, Panama has no shortage of fine beaches. Pacific sands start almost at Panama City at Playa Bonita and Playa Blanca, while after a short flight from the capital, you’re scuba diving or snorkeling off beaches that fringe the islands of the Bocas del Toro and San Blas archipelagos. (visitpanama.com)
What’s New in Panama
✘ On Oct. 1, Copa Airlines will add a fifth daily flight to its nonstop schedule between Miami and Panama City; Copa is also the newest member of the Star Alliance.
✘ To the boom-in-luxury hotel list add the Waldorf Astoria’s first entry into Latin America—gleaming and golden, The Panamera, located in Panama City’s Calle Uruguay quarter, will offer 130 rooms and suites. Dining venues include the Brasserie Brillo and the Ginger Sushi Bar, plus Bungalo Terrace and Pool bar with sunset views. (waldorfastoria3.hilton.com)
✘ Another big and classy new hotel entry in Panama City is the Hard Rock Hotel Panama Megapolis, with 1,499 rooms, including 769 suites. In addition to the existing Hard Rock Cafe in the attached Multicentro Mall, the hotel has eight food and beverage outlets, including an indoor/outdoor bar and club on the 62nd floor offering breakfast/lunch/dinner buffet and grand views. Other features: a grand infinity pool and 7,800-sq. ft. Rock Spa. (hardrockhotels.com)
✘ Attention all golfers: the 109-room Bristol Buenaventura, the most luxurious resort on the Pacific coast, officially opened its 18-hole Jack Nicklaus course, adding golf to its horseback riding, fishing and snorkeling activities.
✘ In Panama City, Bristol Panama’s just-opened 25-story tower has 111 rooms and suites. (thebristol.com)