Great New Upscale Holiday Inn in the City of Knowledge, Clayton, former American Canal Zone: Just attended the inauguration of this new hotel- it is a beauty with a contemporary design that blends in with the traditional Zone architecture and amazing birds-eye views of the Panama Canal and the rainforest. The guest rooms are as nice as many a 5 star hotel. With all the business coming related to the Canal expansion, this 128 room hotel is perfectly located and a much needed given the current shortage of Panama City hotels. This Holiday Inn is also home to Central America first hotel school.
Wow- Central America’s First Hotel School- something our burgeoning industry really needed- the facilties are state-of-the art and the international and national staff are first rate. A Panamanian can now for less the $3000.00 a year tuition get training in the major hotel skills from cooking to management and upon graduation is just about guaranteed a job. I was fascinated with the cooking class salon- it looked like the set of a a Cooking Channel show.
Congratulations to Herman Bern and his Bern Hotels group for once again perfect timing and hotel- architectural delight.
Two weeks ago I took a diving trip to Pedasi. It was my first time diving in Pedasi and I had heard that diving in the Pacific was different from the
We only went down to about 40 feet and there were so many different kinds of fish that I quickly lost count. There were giant silver mackerels and some in our group saw monster groupers up to three feet long! One person even spotted a mantaray. At one point during our second dive of the day I suddenly found myself surrounded in a circling school of hundreds of silver fish. I was so swept away that I almost lost my diving buddy, until I looked up and saw them trying to sneak into my spot without scaring the circling fish away. We spotted dozens of rock fish hiding in the corals and in the sand. There were little patches of coral with their own little micro-garden with unique small orange and pink fish, dozens of giant parrot fish and even the occasional blowfish putting along. It is said that
I highly recommend this trip to diving enthusiasts. You can drive to Pedasi, just make sure you have good directions as it is easy to get lost in the towns in between, such as Chitre, where the roads can be a little bit confusing. The people there are very helpful though and will help you find the main road. Once you get to Pedasi, there are several small hotels and restaurants to eat at- the pizza at Tiestos is pretty good, get the medium instead of the large which is a little doughy, unless you like that. You can rent equipment from Pedasi Diving and Fishing and they will take care of everything from the transportation to the beach, to the boat to Isla Iguana, and even provide lunch, all for a package deal of under $90, which includes two tanks.
See if you can spot the Rockfish.
In April I did a “personal planning retreat” and then a meeting of the Board of the American Chamber of Commerce in the beautiful mountain valley town of El Valle, two hours from Panama City. El Valle is my favorite place to retreat from the maddening crowd of the city. For starters, I can truly get away from it all in a place of great beauty and tranqulity, without taking a plane or a long road trip.
In recent years El Valle has developed a hotel and services infrastructure to satisfy the discriminating. But let’s start with the magic of the place itself- what unusual, gorgeous mountain views, the friendly peaceful folk, the both quaint and palatial lovely homes and gardens and the fun handicrafts market. One of the best places to enjoy a world-class view is from a table on the terrace of the upscale restaurant Casa de Lourdes looking right up at The Gaital- world-class is the only way to describe that view. The adjacent Los Mandarinos Hotel, now in the capable management hands of Ann from France, has the right accommodations for some real R & R including a Spa and outdoor jacuzzi with those same mountain views.
For birders and nature lovers, Canopy Lodge is the place. You don’t have to take a long walk to see birds - you will see many on the grounds of the Lodge and the decor, setting and dining are a delight. Mandarinos and Canopy Lodge just got chosen by Fodors as top El Valle hotels.
For dining we also also recommend Pinochio’s Pizza- their “4 cheese pizza” is a family favorite.
This comment by an American woman living in Panama was posted on an expat yahoo chat group this morning. “It says it all”
“I’ve just returned from a week in the US–Philadelphia (which was absolutely gorgeous with everything in bloom, Hillary and Obama, and dozens of museums, concerts, operas, gallery, shows, etc.). Altho I had a wonderful time in the States, I am SO happy to be back home in Panama City!
I came here without expectations and with no intention of buying (or selling) real estate. I rent a lovely apartment in a great area. I’m used to the noise and pollution and the lack of customer service. (Having mentioned that, I went to Union Fenosa today to pay a friend’s electric bill. He’s in the US and this month no bill was under his condo door. It took me 5 minutes, even with my sophomore Spanish, to take care of everything. So customer service can be good….) I can’t begin to describe my US “sticker shock” on this last trip– my first dinner, a small chicken Caesar salad and a beer in a nice (but not fancy) restaurant in downtown Philly was $18. All my “real” dinners, with wine, a main course and salad, were at least $35, but usually closer to $50. (I’ve finally learned not to say, “Do you know what this would have cost in Panama?!”, because the inevitable response is, “Get over it. You’re not in Panama now!”) I have spent $50 on dinner here but that’s extremely rare and usually a very special occasion. Usually dinner out is well under $20.
I originally came here JUST to learn Spanish. I’ve come back for the past 3 winters because, after just 2 weeks in town, I had (and still have) an incredible circle of friends, which continues to grow. I have never lived anywhere (and I’ve lived all over the US) where it’s as easy to make friends as here.
I could not justify having a cleaning person come in even monthly when I lived in Seattle. As I recall that cost more than $160. In Panama I have a wonderful maid who often brings me little presents (and gave me a beautiful shirt for my birthday). I pay her $35 every 2 weeks. My dental cleaning in the US was $165; in Panama it was $35…as are most doctors’ office visits. Lab tests that would have cost $200 in the US cost $30 in Panama.
I’m a former attorney and I haven’t had to use a lawyer in Panama. I don’t trust the legal system in the US and I don’t trust it here. It certainly appears that the system here is even more corrupt than in some US states. However, my goal is to avoid both systems as much as possible. Ditto with contractors and bankers. And that may be partly why my life here has been so incredibly good.
I walk all over el Cangrejo, Punta Paitilla, and Punta Pacifica, day and night, and never have had a single problem. I shop (alone) on Ave. Central, ride the diable rojos and take taxis everywhere. My biggest problem is the occasional taxista who thinks I should have a Panamanian boyfriend. In contrast, I was instructed very carefully where it was safe…and unsafe…to walk in Philadelphia. And 3 blocks from my hotel was about as far as I could safely venture out alone at night.
I wanted to present the “other side” of the negative coin that seems to be circulating about Panama lately….I really like it here and wouldn’t even consider moving back to the US!
Retreatslive is presenting Raw Panama Adventure Retreats, starting April 20th and going on till May 18th.
The Retreat will be taking place in Costa Esmeralda, next to Coronado and only an hour from Panama City. It will be featuring three gourmet raw food meals daily, personal growth classes and workshops, raw food preparation classes, daily yoga and guided meditation, optional spa and massage treatments, and accommodations.
Each week there will be three Adventure Trips to various locations in Panama including hiking to nearby waterfalls in the jungle, visiting the mudbaths and hotsprings formed by an ancient volcano in El Valle, touring local craft markets and private local beaches, private tours of local organic farms and nurseries, touring of the Panama Canal and Archeological Museum in Panama City.
You can sign up at their website for anywhere from a weekend to all four weeks. Visit Retreatslive.com. Click here to complete the registration form. Spaces are filling up fast so it is advisable to book early. (more…)