Written by Kathy Green, managing editor
It’s January and most of the U.S. is in a deep freeze. What better time to plan a trip to somewhere warm! How about Panama? I was there recently as a guest of the new Hard Rock Hotel Panama Megapolis. The temperature was perfect (it’s always around 80 degrees) and their eco-tourism is growing. There are lots of daily flights, which makes it an easy, sunny destination for a break from the cold.
Before this trip, my only association with Panama was the canal, but I discovered there is a lot to do there. My travel buddies and I drove for about 2 hours outside of Panama City to the Anton Valley—a rich rainforest that is a volcano crater. We hiked into this beautiful park and then zip-lined over a tremendous waterfall called Charro el Macho. I had never tried ziplining before, and soaring through the lush canopy was truly a special experience.
After ziplining, it unfortunately started to pour, but that didn't stop us from ATVing around the hillsides of the valley. Even in the rain, we had a great time.
We also discovered the Soberania National Park, just 20 minutes outside of Panama City. A rainforest this rich with wildlife so close to civilization is a true find. When we entered the park, the guide told us we’d possibly see monkeys, kinkajous and an abundance of birds and plant-life. Soberania delivered on beauty and rainforest magic—just as we started off on our three-hour hike, we found a sloth high up in a tree relaxing in the sun.
An added perk from Soberania? Driving right by the Panama Canal to get there and back from Panama City. So even though we didn’t have time to take a tour, we did stop and take pictures of ships going through the locks.
So if you like to party as much as you like to hike, the perfect place to stay in Panama City is the new Hard Rock Hotel Panama Megapolis. It’s located right near the harbor and attached to a large shopping mall filled with stores such as Diesel and Nike (shopping and partying—what’s not to like?!). I stayed in a beautiful suite with a great view of the skyline and ships lined up to go through the canal. With no time for a pedicure before leaving New York City, hitting up the spa (at a reasonable price) was the perfect prep for the Hard Rock night scene.
The hotel is full of incredible rock n’ roll memorabilia and it has the greatest room service offer—you can get a Fender electric guitar or personal DJ box delivered so you can be a rock legend in your very own room. It is a party-hardy place with great restaurants (we ate in two of them–Soy and Tauro and the food was first-rate), bars (the roof bar has awesome views of the city) and a happening club called BLING—THE place to be seen in Panama City (Justin Bieber was hanging out there a couple of nights with his entourage). The DJ was exceptional, and my friends and I had a blast dancing into the wee hours of the morning. Calorie burning, right?
But if hiking isn't your thing, and you're not quite into the party scene, there are plenty of other things to satisfy your thirst for adventure in Panama. Try a visit to the Old City, bike along the Amador causeway or go to one of the great beaches on either the Caribbean or Pacific coasts. Plus one essential perk: a Panama vacation can be reasonably priced. And we know that's the real reason to start booking your next vacation.
Photos courtesy of Jim Raycroft