Last updated: 05:00 AM ET, Thu June 04 2015

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    5 Things You Must Do in Panama City, Panama

    5 Things You Must Do in Panama City, Panama

    Photo courtesy of Thinkstock. All other photos via Flickr.

    Panama City surprises many first-time visitors with its sleekness and modernity. But this five-centuries-old capital city is more than the great nightlife, international businesses, and world-class dining venues attracting tourists from around the globe.

    To put it simply, Panama City is a place of contrasts. Between the glittering skyscrapers that tower above the water, the lush rainforest within the city limits, and the historic pastel-colored buildings that dot the old town, you’ll find there is plenty to see and discover on any trip to Panama City. Here are a few of the highlights:

    Visit The Panama Canal

    The Panama Canal

    The Panama Canal is an engineering marvel that has been facilitating trade between the Atlantic and the Pacific for 100 years. To fully understand the history, technology and natural environment surrounding the feat, a visit to the Panama Canal is an absolute must.

    The Miraflores Locks are a great way to experience the canal, and easily accessible from Panama City. The Visitor Center at Miraflores is modern and informative; a complete tour will only take a few hours.

    For $15, you get access to a short documentary about the building of the canal, a four-floor museum with interactive exhibits, and great views of the vessels passing through the lock system. Typically the boats pass between 10 a.m.-12 p.m. and 2 p.m.-4 p.m., but call ahead to confirm—seeing the locks in action is the highlight of the experience.

    Cycle The Amador Causeway


    Built using rocks that were excavated while constructing the Panama Canal, the Amador Causeway links four islands together. The six kilometers of walking and bike paths are a picture-perfect place to enjoy stunning views of the Panama City skyline. Here you can also find excellent restaurants and duty-free shopping, all while being surrounded by the water.

    Explore Casco Viejo

    Flat Arch Building Casco Viejo

    Our favorite place to stay and explore in Panama City is the old neighborhood of Casco Viejo. Just a decade ago, this section of the city would have been off-limits, but now gentrification, restoration and UNESCO World Heritage Status have turned the historic old neighborhood into one of Panama City’s hippest places to be.

    Perhaps the most mesmerizing aspect of Casco Viejo is the juxtaposition of old and new. The guarded Presidential Palace lies next to old and crumbling pastel-colored buildings. The National Theater sits adjacent to wild and overgrown stone ruins. Restored art galleries flank makeshift scaffolding. It’s this confluence of pretty and gritty that continues to make Casco Viejo one of the most attractive colonial neighborhoods in all of Central America.

    Enjoy The View At Ancon Hill

    View of Panama Canal from top of Cerro Ancon

    For the best views of Panama City, don’t miss a visit to the 654-foot high Ancon Hill. Ask a taxi to drop you off as far as they can, and then enjoy the remaining 30-minute hike up to the top. Along the way, you’ll pass dense jungle and rainforest—keep an eye out for sloths and toucans in the trees! Once at the top of the hill, you’ll have a bird’s eye view of Casco Viejo, the Panama Canal, the Pacific Ocean and, of course, the Panama City skyline.

    Hike The Metropolitan National Park

    Panama City is one of the only places in the world where a rainforest is located right within the city limits. And though The Metropolitan National Park might not be as dense and animal-packed as some of the other national parks you’ll find in Panama, it’s a tranquil escape just moments from the pulsating energy of downtown.

    A small entrance fee will grant you access to easy hiking paths and trails where you’ll have the opportunity to sight sloths, toucans, monkeys and exotic insects. Arrive early to avoid the crowds and the heat, as well as to maximize your animal sighting potential.

    Of course, no visit to Panama City is complete without a night out on the town! There are plenty of clubs and fine dining experiences throughout downtown Panama City that are sure to keep you entertained until the wee hours of the morning.

    Have you been to Panama City? What were your highlights?

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A Cruising Couple A Cruising Couple's Column

A Cruising Couple Dan and Casey are the two lovebirds, world travelers and adventurers extraordinaire behind the popular travel blog A Cruising Couple - adventure travel with a dash of class. Their stories and photographs feature that special place where experiential and stylish travel meet. Find out how you can spend less money, live more adventurously and travel more luxuriously on their blog,
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