Help a Reader Travel: Panama

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Welcome to another post of helping a reader travel!

This weekly post is to help readers get a ton of travel advice from thousand of Deals We Like blog readers. Thus far, we’ve been able to help other readers travel to a slew of domestic and international destinations. Check out recent destinations and comment on suggestions here.

So this weeks travel destination includes Panama. I received the following email from reader Jordyn.

“I am traveling to Panama in a few months and I haven’t seen any of the bloggers cover this country. I have points to use so I was wondering if anyone has staying at any of the Starwood, Marriott, or Hilton properties and, if so, would you recommend? I am also very open to non-chain hotels that are not too expensive. I am okaying roughing it, but if I can use points for luxury that would be ideal. Also, I’m really looking to do some outdoorsy activities, so any recommendations in things to do and companies to use would be great. My itinerary is not yet set, so any recommendations on what to do with a week there (cities to stay in, things to do, restaurants, etc.) would be much appreciated. Thanks in advance.”

If you’ve ever been to Panama, let’s help out reader Jordyn and I am sure many other interested readers by commenting below!

Also, if you have any upcoming travel where you need some help, feel free to email me at to be a featured “Help a Reader Travel” Monday special. Thanks!

The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.


  1. I literally got home from Panama last night.

    I did a one-day jungle tour from Panama city which I really enjoyed:

    If you want to spend a few days doing nothing but relaxing on beautiful beaches, snorkeling, and eating delicious seafood, consider heading to the San Blas Islands for a few days.

    And of course you can’t go to Panama without visiting the Panama canal. I recommend the Miraflores locks. You can watch the ships navigate through the locks, and there is a good museum about the canal there as well.

  2. Took a last minute, random trip to Panama City last Thanksgiving. Stayed at the Intercontinental properties. Downtown was in a great location, resort was nice (beaches aren’t the best). One night, stayed at the Holiday Inn Panama Canal with cool morning view of ships lining up for the Canal (amazing service as it is a hospitality school)

    If wandering around needing a driver or a guide, I highly suggest Edwing. Speaks fluent English, French and Spanish.

    He picked us up from the airport, took us shopping, helped obtain a local SIM card. On our way from the mall to the hotel, took us on a detour to see some sites that we otherwise would have missed.

  3. My boyfriend and I are also headed to Panama in November. We are staying at the Courtyard Marriott (was able to PM to Travel Pony so our nightly rate is around 80/night) and in Hilton for 5,000 pts on our very short night before we depart! I also am looking forward to others responses to help plan out our activities somemore!

  4. I am in Panama right now. Panama City is experiencing a hotel room overcapacity situation, with really good deals going around, so I would not use points for stays here.

    Either of the 3 chains you mention have around 5 hotels in the city. About a week ago, the Panama Hilton opened its newest property right at the waterfront, so it’s worth considering as well.

    One tip, locals swear by it’s the local version of Groupon, and there are deals on hotels posted on a daily basis, so I would check it out as well.

    Outside of the city, it basically depends on the time of the year you’ll be visiting. From now until December, it’s the rainy season so probably going up the highlands may not be a good idea, nor heading to some beach areas either. Couple of places to consider that are relatively close to Panama City are San Blas Islands, Portobelo/Isla Grande on the Caribbean, Playa Blanca on the Pacific.

    Farther afield, Bocas del Toro or Boquete highlands are great spots; and Coiba Island if you’re into diving.

  5. We recently stayed at the Marriott there. It was only about 20,000 points/night and the hotel was really nice. Huge room, good service. The concierge arranged a tour and driver to the airport at very reasonable cost. Avoid regular taxi drivers.

  6. We just got back from Panama after spending 9 days traveling around this Central American country. We followed a popular itinerary: Panama City to Boquete to Bocas Del Toro and back to Panama City. We used a combination of Copa Airlines, Air Panama, and ground transport to connect all these dots. Both airlines were efficient, clean, and had friendly staff. Here some notes from the trip:

    For activities like hiking, rafting, zip lines, and horseback riding, the mountainous area surrounding the small town of Boquete, Panama is a pleasant launching spot. Located next to the imposing Volcan Baru, you can easily arrange tours at the many tour operators in and around town. Tours prices are reasonable but not dirt cheap like often found in Nicaragua. Coming from heat and humidity of Florida, I really enjoyed the cool, fresh mountain air. In fact, many expats have taken up residence in the hills around Boquete for that exact reason. Coffee plantations are found everywhere here and they serve up some amazing beans. After sipping some of this amazing brew, I was blown away that I hadn’t heard more about Panamanian coffee. One of the bigger hikes in the area, the Quetzal Trail, takes you on a journey through the Central American wilderness. It’s critical to have a guide who can safely show you the amazing sites along this 7 hour hike. Easier trails are available including a very pleasant one at the coffee plantation called Finca Lerida. If you’re a bird watcher, you’ll be thrilled with a sky filled with the zipping, chirping forms of avian species. After a strenuous day of exploring, you’ll be glad to know that the quality of dining in Boquete ranges from good to excellent. We ate at a place called George’s with big servings of seafood fresh from the ocean and wonderfully prepared. Prices were excellent.

    Bocas del Toro on the Caribbean coast is 3 hours away from Boquete but is a world away in climate and energy levels. While Boquete is tranquil, Bocas has more of a party vibe but that can easily be avoided if you prefer. Bocas del Toro is a series of islands comprising an archipeligo extending from the Panama mainland out to the sea. This water world offers all the usual delights including secluded beaches, pounding surf, sailing, snorkeling, and diving. I really enjoyed my days here and wish I had a little extra more time to explore the outer islands.

    Panama City is also surprisingly good for nature lovers as several large nature parks are located around the city. A brand new Frank Gehry Bio Museum that celebrates nature in it’s awesome diversity and power is going through a soft opening. It’s seated on the Pacific Ocean that leads in to the Panama Canal.

    Panama City: Magnolia Inn in Casco Viejo. This place doubles as a hostel and a hotel. The hostel area is on the lower floor with hotel rooms occupying the top level. I like the energy of a hostel but really crave the seclusion of a hotel room with a private bath. We stayed in room 3C which I imagine offers one of the best hotel views in Panama City. Windows on three walls afford a sweeping view of the soaring city skyline, historic architecture in the old city, and the Pacific ocean leading in to the Panama Canal.

    Boquete: Palo Alto Hotel. Located in a cooler, mountainous region of Panama, the Palo Alto offers a wonderful view of Volcan Baru and the surrounding hills. A river runs right next to the property and a second small stream cuts through the hotel gardens; you can hear gently running water from almost anywhere on the property. That peaceful sounds combined with the beautiful garden flowers and darting hummingbirds made for a tranquil experience. I really felt my batteries recharge here.

    Bocas del Toro: Koko Resort. A two minute taxi drive from the hustle of Bocas Town, the Koko offers some refuge from the party vibe of the main town. It features 6 cabins on stilts over Saigon Bay. In the distance, the mountains of central Panama rise over the water. Views don’t get much better than this. While labeled a resort, you are not at all isolated from the local people and culture. In fact, you must walk through the local neighborhood to reach the cabins. For people who want to experience the local culture, this is a plus. But since Bocas town is mostly third world, this will be off putting for people looking for a glossy, isolated travel experience. I would recommend Koko to open-minded, young-at-heart travelers who are looking for a beautiful, peaceful location

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