By Hillary Latos
Like any strategic free trading port city, Panama City embodies the flashy displays of new money wealth with the glitz and glamour of shimmering skylines, fancy cars and a renowned nightlife of developed international metropolis sister cities like Dubai, Hong Kong and Singapore. However, there is much more that this country offers than just the Canal and hats. There is a rich history that dates back to the 16th century when it rose to power under Spanish rule, with a vast rain forest just outside this multi- faceted country.
As you drive in from the airport, Panama City resembles the Miami skyline with skyscrapers rising from the water and a non stop Latin American energy and nightlife. But adjacent to the city is the picturesque Casco Viejo delineated by an imposing fort with UNESCO preserved Spanish colonial style buildings surrounding formal grassy plazas and impromptu markets. Unlike other “old towns” that have fallen to gentrification and overdevelopment only to find itself housing fast food chains and cheap souvenir stores, Panama City’s old town still retains its charm and authentic character and houses the city’s cultural center with art galleries, unique boutiques and trendy bars and restaurants filling the restored buildings and meandering streets. One of the city’s hotspots is the boho chic Tantalo, a multi level boutique hotel, tapas restaurant and roof bar that overlooks the cosmopolitan skyline of the new city.
Just 90 miles outside of the city is Anton Valley, a picturesque village located in an extinct volcano crater which is a weekend getaway for many wealthy Panama City locals. Tap into your adventurous side and become one with nature through an adrenaline induced zipline tour through the rainforest where you’ll sail at high speeds past exotic birds and flora and get close to a majestic waterfall. Spend the day hiking through the rainforest and along the waterfall trails. Or take an ATV ride through the mountains and windy rugged terrain.
A must see attraction is the Panama Canal Museum that is a fascinating in depth look at the history, hardships, and determination that created this groundbreaking feat that forever changed the trading platforms of the Western world connecting Asia to Europe. One of the exhibits even simulates the control center of a ship passing through the canal. Watch the boats passing through the locks on the outdoor rooftop or buffet restaurant that overlooks the action below.
A perfect spot to explore Panama City is the action packed Hard Rock Hotel Panama Megapolis that truly embodies the spirit of a city that never sleeps with a Latin American Vegas flair. Housing the city’s hottest nightlife scene, Bits is a gorgeous outdoor Rooftop lounge located on the 62 floor with unsurpassed 360 views of the skyline making you feel like you’re on top of the world. Grab a potent mojito at the bar or one on one of their plush couches and admire the scene.
For those ready to party all night long, the ultra chic Bling was inspired by the most famous nightclubs in the world where the action lasts until sunrise. Filled with pretty young things, models, and celebrities, once you’ve made the cut to sail past the crowds, this is the bottle service type of nightclub with a VIP and a VVIP area. A striking white décor sets the stage for sensory overload with leather banquettes, crystal chandeliers, go go dancers, and a thumping lit dance floor.
The Float pool and Bar is a tropical oasis featuring an infinity pool with dramatic views of the city which melds “pool” and “party”, but also a great spot for families, couples, and singles. If you’re looking to recharge and relax visit the full service Rock Spa with a variety of invigorating massages, facials, and other indulgent spa treatments.
If you are craving pan Asian cuisine, Soy offers an exotic Latin Asian fusion menu in an airy atmosphere with creative sushi rolls and innovative takes on classic Asian and Latin classics like tuna tartare tacos and fresh ceviche, paired with a specialty sake cocktails, this is a great place to start the night.
For steak lovers, Tauro can satisfy those carnivorous cravings with classic signature steakhouse favorites with a French twist. The dramatic décor is awash in a rich palette of deep red with larger than life photos of music icons adorning the walls.
After living the high life in Panama, retreat to the calming Zen like rooms that resemble a cool bachelor pad complete with a wet bar and modern furnishings against floor to ceiling windows offering unencumbered views over the city and canal bay. Adding to the comforts of home, an oversized bathroom and plush comfortable beds ensure a rejuvenating stay. As everything in the Hard Rock Hotel revolves around music, you can set the mood a download different playlists available through the Sound of Your Stay program, borrow an electric Fender guitar, or test your hand at DJing by using the same professional DJ mixing programs on one of their iPads loaded with thousands of tunes for a one of a kind experience.
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