In college, the most frequently asked question is "where are you from?" When I would tell people I'm from Panama, they immediately assumed I meant Panama City, Florida. As I clarified, saying I was actually talking about Panama in Central America, they'd all go "oh, that's so cool!" and most of them proceeded to ask a bunch of questions, making me realize they were not familiar at all with my country. It's a shame, honestly, how very few people in America know about Panama and all that it has to offer.
So, I decided to make a list of reasons why Panama is the perfect vacation spot.
The currency is the same as in the US.
Panama is one of the few countries in the world where the US Dollar legally circulates. So, no need to worry about exchanging currency before your trip; all of your bills and coins are accepted.
It has an enjoyable tropical climate.
In this country, there's no such thing as the four seasons you're used to. In fact, Panamanians only experience two: summer, which runs from January through April, and rainy season, extending from May to December. But even then, Panama has a warm climate all year long, which makes it lovely to visit any time.
There's a ton of beautiful beaches.
If you don't recall from your high school geography class, let me remind you that Panama is an isthmus, meaning it has water on both sides. Towards the south, it borders with the Pacific Ocean, where you'll find plenty of beaches known for their surf spots, hotels, and resorts. Furthermore, up north, Panama borders with the Caribbean Sea and there are literally hundreds of paradisiacal islands with crystal clear waters that are perfect for snorkeling.
And mountain towns and valleys too!
In Panama, you get the best of both worlds (cue Hannah Montana). If you're in for some sweater weather and unique, adventurous activities, you can travel to Boquete, where you'll be among breathtaking mountain ranges and experience chillier weather. There, you'll have the opportunity to go hiking, zip lining and cross some hanging bridges; go river rafting, chase waterfalls, or relax in some hot springs; and trail around horseback riding and even do some coffee tours at different plantations.
The nightlife is like no other.
Panamanians love to party and enjoy themselves, so in the capital city, there's always something to do at night. The most popular place to go out in Panama City is called Casco Viejo, a small historic district, which over the years has become the hippest spot in the city. It's like the epicenter of parties. There are fine restaurants, breweries, nightclubs, pubs, and rooftop bars everywhere. Oh, and did I mention, the legal drinking age in Panama is 18? #Clutch.
It's a foodie capital.
Just like its culture, Panama's cuisine is an exquisite fusion. Some of the most popular dishes are sancocho (a chicken stew with an assortment of vegetables) and arroz con pollo (rice with chicken). Moreover, a lot of traditional Panamanian foods are fried. For example, there's hojaldres (fried dough), patacones (fried plantains) and carimañolas (yuca fritter stuffed with beef), so don't even think of dieting over here. And, again, since it is surrounded by water, seafood in Panama is fresh and also very prevalent on menus- like ceviche!
And also a fashion hub.
Panama is one of the best shopping destinations in Central America. Whether you're looking for luxurious items or inexpensive and cute clothing, the malls in Panama City got you covered. There are more than 10 shopping malls, including the largest mall in Central America, Albrook Mall. A lot of the American and European stores you're familiar with, you'll find them here as well.
The coffee is bomb.
If you're like me, a coffeeholic, you'll be the happiest in Panama. Wherever you go, you're bound to have a high-quality cup of coffee. Panama grows some of the best coffee in the world, so please don't stop by Starbucks if you visit. Give local coffee shops a try; I promise you'll be blown away.
The Panama Canal, 'nuff said.
This you should know (I really hope you do). Panama is home to one of the world's greatest engineering marvels, the Panama Canal. It's an 80 km waterway that cuts thru the isthmus, connecting the Atlantic and the Pacific Ocean. You can experience the Panama Canal by visiting the Miraflores Locks, which is the visitor center that has a museum, a restaurant and a deck for watching the ships pass through the locks. This is a definite must if you plan on visiting the country.