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means "the place of abundant fish"
but people like to say that everything is
found in abundance here. And it's true, as
visitors will quickly discover for themselves.
You'll find an abundance of wildlife in Panama's
many national parks, an abundance of white
sand beaches, hundreds of islands, more banks
and shops than you would have dreamed possible,
the Panama Canal, and , of course, a fantastic
quantity of fresh seafood, including fish.
the land bridge connecting North and South
America, Panama is home to an amazing
diversity of wildlife. Almost 1 ,000
birds are known to reside, or migrate through,
Panama. At the famed Pipeline Road, a Mecca
for birders, records are routinely set in
the Audubon Society's Christmas bird count.
Panama is home to 220 species of mammals (including
six species of wild cats), 354 reptiles and
amphibians, 1 ,500 species of diurnal butterflies
and a thousand species of orchids. In the
warm waters of both oceans, the snorkeling
and diving are unexcelled. Naturally, many
visitors come to take advantage of Panama's
abundant ecotourism opportunities.
is also the place of abundant beaches, which
are found along the country's thou- sand miles
of coastline, and on the hundreds of islands
just off-shore. Many of these beaches are
totally undeveloped and are ideal for those
seeking solitude on their own private strip
of sand. At others, there are excellent hotels,
restaurants and facilities for enjoying your
favorite water sports and even golf .
be fascinated by the Panama Canal, the eighth
wonder of the world, where visitors
can watch, from comfortable bal- conies, as
cruise ships and freighters pass through the
locks. Panama has a fine collection of museums,
dedicated to the building of the Canal, to
the colonial Spanish era and entire span of
the country's history, to archaeology and
to marine and terrestrial ecology. There are
a number of historic areas, such as the ruins
of the colonial capitol, the charming, French-style
sector of Panama City called Casco Viejo,
and the Spanish fortresses and custom house
in Portobelo, all of which have been declared
World Cultural Patrimony by the United Nations.
cosmopolitan Panama City, you'll find about 120 banks
and innumerable shops selling local crafts and a selection
of the finest goods from around the world, all at
unbelievably low prices. Virtually every major manufacturer
in the world is represented in the Colon Free Zone.
Panama you'll discover an abundance of fine restaurants,
hotels, convention facilities and nightclubs. And,
last but not least, you'll find an abundance of
smiles, from Panama's friendly, helpful people,
who are eager to ensure that you enjoy your stay
here. Welcome to Panama, the crossroads of the world,
the home of the Panama Canal and the country of
is how Panama City Welcomes the New Year Every Year.
your vacation in the "country of abundance",
Panama city will serve as your center of operations.
International flights from Europe and the
Americas land at the Tocumen Airport and local
flights to San Blas, Bocas del Toro, the Pearl
Islands and Darien leave from Marcus Gelabert
Airpot. In Panama City, you can rent a car
to explore the country interior along the
Pan-American Highway, charter fishing boats
or embark on a cruise out to the Pacific islands.
The central hub for tours going anywhere in
the country, Panama City is also a fascinating
tourist destination in itself. The cosmopolitan
city offers Spanish colonial ruins, excellent
museums, beautiful parks, a breathtaking skyline
and an immense infrastructure of hotel, restaurant,
convention nd banking facilities. At the Miraflores
and Pedro Miguel Locks, visitors can spend
hours watching cruise ships and freighters
moving through the Panama Canal.
visitors will be surprised by Panama City's
skyline of towering skyscrapers,
which can be seen from far out in the Pacific
Ocean. A bustling center of finance and trade,
the city is home to about 120 banks and features
innumerable shops filled with the world's
finest merchandise. Thanks to low import duties
and large volume, prices in Panama City's
shops are almost unbelievably low. Two famous
shopping districts are the Via España
and the Avenida Central, 20 blocks of non-stop
shopping. The city, long accustomed to accommodating
international palates, offers a tremendous
variety of business in its many fine restaurants.
accommodations are excellent, ranging
from internationally recognized names to smaller,
boutique inns. Many hotels offer light gambling
in casinos and the city is famed for its lively
nightlife of discotheques and shows. Panama
City is also well equipped to handle all types
of conferences and conventions. In the heart
of the city and facing the ocean is the beautiful
Convention Center, with 3,200 square meters
of exhibit space and meeting facilities for
up to 5,000 people. The Center's theater sponsors
a fide variety of cultural events.
Panama (Panamá "La Vieja")
two miles from the center of Panama City are
found the ruins of the first capital, known
as Old Panama or Panama
La Vieja, founded in 1519. Fragments
of walls and arches stand in an open park,
recalling the splendor of the Spaniard's first
settlement on the Pacific Ocean. From here,
expeditions were mounted to conquer the Inca
Empire of South America. All of the wealth
from Peru, Chile and California flowed to
Spain through Old Panama.
Not surprisingly, the enormous quantities
of gold attracted pirates like sharks to Panama's
waters. When Henry Morgan looted the city
in 1671, Panama's governor ordered the powder
magazine burned and the whole city went up
in flames. The capital was moved two miles
to the west, and present-day Panama City was
founded in 1673. The most impressive structures
remaining are the cathedral, with a massive
bell-tower, and the Bishop's House. In front
of the ruins, alongside the ocean, is an artisan's
market, full of native crafts, and a small
restaurant with a fine view out to a bay where
Spanish galleons and pirate ships once lifted
known as Colonial panama, Casco
Viejo is the historic center
of today's capital. It is a quiet, charming
district of narrow streets overlooked by the
flower bedecked balconies of two and three-story
houses. At its tip lies French Park, a monument
to the French builders who began the Panama
Canal, and the lovely French Embassy. On the
walkway around the monument, visitors have
a fine view of the Amador Causeway and Bridge
of the Americas, and of Panama City's skyscraper
skyline to the east. A plaque on the walkway
commemorates the firing of canon shots to
drive away a Colombian warship and consolidate
Panama's independence from Colombia in 1903.
To one side of the monument is an old Spanish structure
called Las Bovedas now used as an art gallery and
French restaurant. Some excellent museums are found
in the Casco Viejo, including the Canal
Museum, which traces Panama's history as the
route connecting Atlantic and Pacific from pre-Hispanic
to modern times. Next door is the Museum of National
History and the old cathedral, with gleaming spires
inlaid with mother-of-pearl.
Nearby is a small museum dedicated to religious
art, found in the old Santo Domingo monastery, where
visitors will also see the famous Flat Arch, which
reportedly helped convince engineers that Panama
was earth quake-proof.
At the San Jose Cathedral a few blocks away is the
beautiful Gold Altar, intricately carved of wood
and gilded with gold. Another beautiful building
in the Casco Viejo is the Presidential
House, which can be toured on Sundays.
to provide a calm harbor for ships entering
Canal, the Amador Causeway
ex- tends from the mainland to connect four
small islands offshore. A palm lined road
runs the length of the causeway, with benches
and a path for bicycling and jogging along
side. The offices of the Smithsonian
Tropical Research Institute are found
here, as well as the Marine Exhibition Center,
open in the afternoons from Tuesday to Friday
and from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturdays and
At the center, there are educational films
and exhibits of coral, seashells, starfish
and sea urchins where, unlike other museums,
touching is encouraged! Six aquariums arranged
at children height feature marine life from
the Caribbean and Pacific and one tank is
filled with gigantic lobsters. A telescope
has been set up for viewing ships anchored
offshore, with charts that are useful in identifying
types of boats.
Panama, your ecotour can actually begin right
on the outskirts the city, where there is
a large tropical forest reserve called Parque
Metropolitano. Along the five trails of
this convenient park can be seen a diversity
of tropical wildlife, including toucans, parakeets,
orioles, trogons, sloths, agoutis and Titi
monkeys. There is also a collection of native
orchids, some of which will be blooming at
any time of the year. Plant species are identified
by plaques along the self- guided trails.
Visitors can also arrange a guided tour with
a ranger at the visitor's center.
about a thousand miles of Caribbean and Pacific
coastline, and hundreds of picturesque islands,
Panama is a beach lover's paradise. The combination
of white sand, crystalline, tropical water and some
fine accommodations attract thousands of vacationers
from all over the world. You'll find facilities
for your favorite recreational activities close
at hand. Whether your penchant is snorkeling, diving,
fishing, windsurfing or golfing, a vacation on Panama's
beaches is guaranteed to meet your highest expectations
for tropical fun. Here are a few of the beaches
you'll be able to choose from.
fifth-Iargest of the Pearl Islands, which
were discovered by Balboa in 1514, Contadora
is located in the Pacific Ocean about 50 miles
from Panama City. Here, in the 220 islands
of the Pearl Island group, the Spaniards found
the famed, 31-carat pearl known as "La
Peregrina" that was given to the Queen
of Spain. Contadora Island features fine hotels,
restaurants, a dive shop, a 9-hole golf course
and oven a duty-free store. Among its 13 beaches,
there is one where you can sunbathe au natural
if you like. You can take excursions to nearby
islands, most of which are uninhabited, and
find your own private beach for sunbathing
and picnicing. Just across the way is Pacheca
Island, roosting spot for magnificent frigate
birds and an excellent spot for bird watching.
& PACIFIC MAINLAND
the mainland, to the west of Panama City,
stretch miles of inviting beaches: Punta
Chame, Gorgona, Coronado, San Carlos, El
Palmar, Playa Blanca, Costa Blanca and Farallon,
to name but a few. The best developed of
these is Coronado, about an hour's drive
from the city. A fine, 18-hole golf course
combined with first-rate hotel accommodations
and a white-sand beach guarantee the perfect
tropical golf vacation. The golf course
sponsors a number of international tournaments
lovely island, popularly known as the "Island
of Flowers," can be reached in an hour
by boat from Panama City. A popular spot for
a day trip or overnight stay, Taboga offers
fine beaches, restaurants and hotel accommodations.
Popular activities on the island include sunbathing,
diving, snorkeling, windsurfing, or just strolling
along the flower-festooned paths and enjoying
the slow pace of island life.
Taboga Island has played an important part
in Panama's history. The first Spanish settlement
was founded there in 1524, and Pizarro's expedition
to Peru depart- ed from the island in 1526.
Pirates Francis Drake and Henry Morgan have
stopped over in its sheltered cove. A hotel
industry grew up during the California gold
rush, and then the island hosted a hospital
during the building of the Panama Canal. An
American naval base was built on Taboga during
WWII, and visitors today can explore an artillery
bunker on the island's summit, while enjoying
a breath- taking view of the Panama City skyline
in the distance. The far side of the island
is a protected refuge, where tens of thousands
of brown pelicans nest every year.
in most of Central America the majority of the
population is Catholic, but all other denominations
are represented and respected throughout the
1st New Years Day
Jan. 9th Martyrs Day
Feb. 28th Tuesday of Carnaval
March/April (date changes) Easter Friday
May 1st Workers Day
act. 12th Columbus Day
Nov: 3rd Separation from Colombia
Nov: 10th First Cry of Independence
Nov: 2Bth Independence from Spain
Dec. Bth Mothers Day
Dec. 25th Christmas Day
All major credit cards are accepted throughout
the country and in most of the tourist areas.
The official currency is the Balboa and is equivalent
to one US dollar. US dollars are widely accepted
everywhere in Panama.
A valid passport is needed to enter. The requirement
for visas to enter Panama has been waived for
many countries. It is best to check with a Panamanian
consulate before traveling. A tourist card is
sometimes needed to enter and can be bought at
the airline counter or before entering immigration.
If you are going to overstay your allotted time
extend your visa or tourist card with immigration.
Heavy fines are levied for late exiting.
Panama is a democratically elected Republic
and elections are held every four years.
Panama is in the Eastern time zone and does
not observe daylight savings time.
A tip of 10 to 15% is common in Panama. Some
restaurants include the tip in the bill so check
with management before tipping.
Most banks are open Monday thru Friday from
8:00 a.m. to 1 :00 p.m. or 3:00 p.m. There
are a few that are open on Saturday.
Panama lies very close to the equator and
enjoys a tropical climate. Temperatures
vary between 80-90 Fahrenheit (25-30 celsius).
Humidity is very high. Panama I two seasons.
The dry season la from January to mid-April
and rainy season from mid-April December.
Bring light-weight clothing. A wide- brimmed
hat and sunglasses are important if you
are hiking or at the coast. Dress for business
is formal so bring your suit -lightweight
if you have one.
Telecommunications are first-class and direct-dial
service to anywhere in the world is available.
Fax, telex, internet and other telecommunication
services are available.
A US$20 departure tax is charged when you
exit the country.
Panama has some of the most modern and best-equipped
hospitals in Central America.
Panama has 110 volt and 60 cycles service.
Spanish is the official language but English
is spoken in most of the larger cities
and tourist areas.
The population is a variation of many
different cultures; 62% mes- tizo, 14%
African descent, 10% Spanish descent,
5% mulatto and 5% Indian.
Panama consists of three different landscape
areas. The lowlands (below 2,300 ft.), make
up over 85 percent of the country's territory,
the temperate lands (2,300 to 4,900ft.)
and the highlands at elevations higher than
4,900 feet above sea level. There are more
than 1 ,600 islands within the territorial
area of Panama. Over 500 rivers run through
the country and more than half of Panama
is still forested.