Celebrating the senses in Panama City, Panama

Celebrating the senses in Panama City, Panama

Adoration 4 Adventure’s recommendations for celebrating the senses in Panama City, Panama.

When was the last time that you truly spoiled all your senses?

Often when choosing a holiday destination and hotel, we think about what we are going to see and what the hotel itself looks like. But what about your other four senses? Don’t they deserve a great holiday too?

When deciding where to stay in Panama City, Darrell and I wanted to go all out. After all, it was the last stop of our eventful 9 week backpacking trip of Central America!

After a quick online browsing session, I had my heart set on staying at the Tantalo. A restaurant, roof top bar and hotel, Tantalo is not only visually appealing with its unique and artistic decor but also boosted a program to stimulate guests’ other senses.

And did it live up to the hype? You bet!

Planning a trip to Central America? Check out our posts on BelizeGuatemalaHondurasEl SalvadorNicaragua, Costa Rica and Panama.

Tantalo Hotel

This hotel is cooler than I could ever dream of being. Like the perfect cocktail, Tantalo has all the right ingredients to create a trendy and fun place to sleep, eat, drink and hang out in Panama City. Even if you don’t end up staying in one of their colorful rooms, you should definitely stop in to enjoy the restaurant, roof top bar and city views.

Tantalo Hotel, Panama City, Panama

Located in the historic area of Casco Viejo, Tantalo is a three story colonial building transformed into a modern attraction. The area is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and has enough to keep you busy for days. The charming streets are full of monuments, churches, restaurants and cafes. Almost every corner and plaza is “Instagram-worthy” and will have you cooing over its beauty (okay maybe that’s just me!).

After having traveled for so long, I was starting to worry that I had travel fatigue. It felt like I no longer appreciated the opportunity to play tourist. Well Casco Viejo changed that for me! Each day I was thrilled to head out with a map in hand, winding up each and every street to tick off all the attractions in the area. Tantalo provides a map upon check in and it has all the information you need to explore the area. Our favorite stop was at the Coca-Cola cafe, one of the oldest diners in Panama City and was visited by Che Guevara.

Casco Viejo, Panama City, Panama

Tantalo Kitchen

If this artwork doesn’t tempt you to wander in, then the smell of the food definitely will. The Tantalo Kitchen is situated street-level and serves breakfast, lunch, dinner and cocktails. Darrell and I had our breakfast here each day. The breakfast menu is very reasonably priced with dishes starting from USD $4. On our first morning, we both had the Omelet Calle which comes with toast and potatoes. Savored along with our coffee choices of an Americano and Soy Latte, we were in heaven. We loved the Omelet Calle so much that we had it two days in a row – it’s that good! Consider your taste buds and nose appeased.

Tantalo Kitchen - Ground Floor Restaurant

Tantalo Rooftop

Looking for a place to relax with a drink after your big day of sightseeing? Come by the Tantalo rooftop for the drinks and stay for the city views and fun atmosphere. The bar has a range of signature cocktails with food service available here too. We stayed at Tantalo on a Monday and Tuesday night in June (which is considered the off season) and can attest to the fact that the rooftop bar was still pumping up until midnight. On the weekends the bar is open to the early hours, with the possibility of a little salsa and live music. A treat for the ears.

Tantalo Kitchen - Rooftop Bar

Tropi Exotica

All the rooms at Tantalo are individually created so you can choose the space that suits your personality. I am a pretty outgoing and confident person therefore was thrilled to be staying in a room that was equally as bold and vibrant in decor. The Tropi Extotica room was designed by artist “Yanneth Albornoz” and features a large Bengal Tiger mural next to the bed.

Tantalo Kitchen - Tropi Exotica Bed

Each room includes a well stocked mini bar, safe, luggage rack, hair dryer, iron and iron board (which I appreciated as my dress has become all wrinkled during our transit). The room we stayed in was a Grande, which comes with a luxurious king sized bed and soft linen. It feels so good on your skin that you will be looking forward to bed time!

Other amenities for Grande rooms include bluetooth speakers and a private terrace overlooking the beautiful Casco Viejo. Our walk-in shower was the most unique I have experienced while staying in a hotel. The floor was raised above the bathroom tiles with floating bamboo slates. It is such a nice feeling not to have water pooling at your feet or be standing on cold tiles. A luxurious experience for your sense of touch.

Tantalo Kitchen - Sitting Area

Panama Canal

A trip to Panama City would not be complete without a visit to the Panama Canal. If you are a little rusty on your history – don’t worry! There is a three story, interactive museum waiting inside to catch you up with the past century of events. In fact the Panama Canal recently celebrated its 100th year in 2014 and just two days before we visited, opened a new expansion.

Ships pass through the Panama Canal, working their way through a series of three “locks” to get from the Atlantic to the Pacific side (or vice versa). There are usually over 35 ships per day so it is highly likely that you will see at least one during your visit. Unlucky for us, we happened to arrive on a day where there were no ships scheduled that afternoon.

Once we arrived back at the Tantalo and told the concierge, César that we had not seen a ship pass through, he contacted the Panama Canal to find out their ship schedule for the next day. Sure enough, Darrell went back and was able to see not just one, but three ships passing through the lock. Thanks to the help of the Tantalo staff, Darrell could achieve his dream of seeing this incredible sight.

Panama Canal, Panama City

Getting to Casco Viejo, Panama

Panama City is an international hub with a modern airport, serviced by most major airlines. To get to and from the airport to Casco Viejo, you could take a taxi or travel by public transport. The closest bus station is within walking distance and connects with the railway stop of Albrook Station. From there, you can take the train to 5 de Mayo Station and walk 15-20 minutes to the Tantalo hotel.

We traveled to Panama City from Isla Colon, Bocas del Toro via an overnight bus. The bus left around 6pm from Almirante, on the mainland next to the islands of Bocas. You can travel to the station from Isla Colon by boat and then taxi. The overnight bus is advertised to arrive in Panama City at around 5am, however ours pulled into the station at 2am. I have also heard similar stories from people who caught the bus from Boquete. If you do decide to travel to Panama City by bus, make sure to keep this in mind and organize an extra nights’ accommodation if required.

Taxis are lined up at the front of Albrook bus station or you can travel metro train to Casco Viejo.

Tantalo, Panama City

Tantalo is a boutique hotel, rooftop bar and kitchen located in Panama City. Guests can choose from ten individually designed rooms. For details and pricing, check out Hotel.

Location: Calle 8 Este con Avenida B, Casco Viejo, Panama

Website: http://tantalohotel.com/

Tantalo Kitchen - Ground Floor Bar

Adoration 4 Adventure were complimentary guests of Tantalo, however our opinions are our own and will always remain unbiased in order to provide the best recommendations to our readers.

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Adoration 4 Adventure’s recommendations for celebrating the senses in Panama City. A trip to indulge the sense of sight, smell, sound, taste and touch.

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Itinerary: Bocas del Toro, Panama (3 days)

Itinerary: Bocas del Toro, Panama (3 days)

Adoration 4 Adventure’s 3 day itinerary for Bocas del Toro, Panama by A4A guest writer, Darrell Whaley.

Just south of the Costa Rican border, on the Caribbean side of Panama, sits a piece of paradise. The province of Bocas del Toro consist of multiple islands and is considered Panama’s top destination. Here you can experience everything from wildlife, beautiful beaches, snorkeling, surfing, and so much more.

On our recent trip through Central America, Chantell and I heard so much about Bocas del Toro from other travelers we came across. Bocas soon was included to our list of places to visit along the way. Although Bocas del Toro has enough to keep you busy for weeks, we elected to stay 4 full days. One of the days we were there, we were rained out, which happens in the rainy season. Because of this, our recommended itinerary is for three days of serene beaches, relaxation, and sloths!

Planning a trip to Central America? Check out our posts on BelizeGuatemalaHondurasEl SalvadorNicaragua, Costa Rica and Panama.

Day 1: Isla Colon

Bocas Town is a perfect hub to explore the area. Set on the southern tip of Isla Colon, the main town of the islands host numerous hotels, bars, and restaurants serving cuisine from around the world. From here it is possible to rent bikes to roam around the island, take a shuttle to one of the many beaches, or a boat taxi to a nearby island.

Starfish Beach (Playa Estrella)

Playa Estrella, known as Starfish Beach, is one of the many beaches on Isla Colon. Easily accessible by local bus or shuttle (we chose the shuttle because it was leaving quicker) to Playa Boca del Drago, it is a 30 minute ride away from Bocas Town. Upon reaching Boca del Drago, walk along the path next to the water and reach the unique Starfish Beach within 20 minutes.

In the banks of the water, not 15 feet from the shore, you will be able to see starfish living in their natural habitat. The clear water makes it possible to see starfish of every color while wading through the ocean. Seeing as these creatures are in their natural habitat, they should be only viewed and not touched. There are many signs posted that do say not to touch the starfish, yet people ignore these signs and endanger the marine life this beach has been named for. If you see this happening, feel free to remind the guests (either in Spanish or English).

It is possible to spend the entire day at Playa Estrella. Lined up and down the beach are restaurants with some offering beach side service including beach chairs with umbrellas. There are also options without any fee, with open space on the sand to lie a towel on and enjoy the view.

Walking to Starfish Beach

Day 2: Tour from Bocas Town

There are multiple tours leaving daily from Bocas Town, each including their own unique destinations. By taking some time to look at all the options that were available, we found the perfect one for us. One of Chantell’s dreams was to see a sloth in the wild, so this was the starting point for us. Luckily, there is a place called Sloth Island nearby Isla Colon and it was included in part of a tour. We ended up finding a tour including Dolphin Bay, Sloth Island, Hollywood Beach, snorkeling at Crawl Cay, and Cayos Zapatilla.

Our first stop at Dolphin Bay began with an up close experience with a number of dolphins. After a short time all of the dolphins left except a mother and her calf, who seemed to be curious about the boats. They both often swam right up next to the boat and even chased us a bit when we were leaving.

Dolphins in Dolphin Bay

Next we cruised through Hollywood Beach. Here you can lean over the side of the boat and see starfish everywhere! Although a brief site to visit, the ocean looked like glass and the view was incredible. On-wards we went to Sloth Island, in hopes of seeing at least one of these rare creatures. Lucky for us, we saw five different sloths. They are truly unique creatures and it is only possible to see them in this area of the world. Since this was the main reason we went on the tour, we were definitely excited.

Sloth Napping

Once our boat visit around Sloth Island was over, we made our way to Crawl Cay. Snorkeling in Crawl Cay is a good experience to see the local fish and coral life, but don’t expect it to be as brightly colored as the reefs to the north near Honduras and Belize. Snorkeling here can be a bit of a challenge, as fins are not typically allowed due to the shallow waters. The force from kicking with fins could damage the fragile ecosystem of Crawl Cay, so make sure to be cautious when moving around.

Our final stop for the day was Cayos Zapatilla. This small island has one of the most beautiful beaches in the entire region and is the perfect stop off for a packed lunch and afternoon swim. The tour stopped here for nearly two hours giving plenty of time to explore or just relax.

Cayo Zapatilla

Day 3: Isla Colon

For our last day in Bocas Del Toro, we wanted to go to the east side of Isla Colon. That morning, we hired bikes from a local shop and rode out towards Playa Bluff. Around eight kilometers from Bocas Town, Playa Bluff is known for its intense waves. However there are some days where the water isn’t too strong to swim out in, which we were lucky to have experienced.

Bluff Beach is seven kilometers of beautiful golden sand facing towards the Atlantic Ocean with nothing in its way. At first we had the entire beach to ourselves at Playa Bluff, which was extremely peaceful. Even with the arrival of a family of three within view far down the beach, we still felt rather secluded here. It’s perfectly possible to make a day of Bluff Beach by bringing along food and drinks by bike or even on the shuttle van from downtown.

Playa Bluff

Sun Havens Apartments and Suites

During our stay in Bocas Town, we stayed at the pleasant Sun Havens Apartments and Suites. Just a short walk away from the docks and main streets, Sun Havens is perfectly situated close to everything, yet far enough away to have a peaceful nights rest. There are multiple options for room sizes, accommodating as little as two people or as large as six.

Sun Havens Bedroom

Our apartment at Sun Havens included many amenities uncommon to the island, such as high speed WiFi and hot water. It also included air conditioning, a large flat screen TV with cable, and a full kitchen which we took advantage of to save on some money. Daily cleaning is available for a nominal fee.

Sun Havens Kitchen Area

Tomaso, the owner of Sun Havens, was such a hospitable host and a fountain of knowledge on the entire area. He always had the best suggestions on where to go, what to see, and even where to eat. When we first arrived, it had been a long journey with us setting off from San Jose, Costa Rica. Tomaso was waiting for our arrival and quickly showed us to our room to rest up after our long day. Even after we rested a little, he made us a “welcome smoothie” filled with fresh fruits from around the island. It was a perfect introduction to our stay in Bocas and a welcome refresher after a hot day. Tomaso always went out of his way to make sure we had a worry free and amazing stay.

Location: Sun Havens Apartments and Suites, Calle 6a y Avenida Norte, Bocas del Toro, Panama

Website: http://www.sunhavens-bocas.com/

Sun Havens

Budget breakdown: Bocas del Toro

All costs are quoted for two people and in the local currency (USD). See below for the average daily spend per person including currency conversion to AUD. We always try to find and negotiate the best prices to share with our readers. If you know of a better deal, tell us about it in the comments below.

Accommodation: Sun Havens Apartments and Suites offers multiple room choices for different group sizes. For the full list of accommodations and current prices, please refer to Apartments and Suites.

Food: We purchased groceries and bottled water from local supermarkets. For a couple of meals, we ate out at local restaurants and bakeries, and we had one nicer meal with friends we made on our tour. ($86.41 USD)

Activities: Bocas del Toro Tour ($60 USD).

Transport: Water taxi to Bocas Town from the mainland ($10 USD). Bike Rental ($9 USD). Roundtrip shuttle to Bocas del Drago ($10 USD).

Average daily spend: $29.24 USD each ($39.05 AUD as of July 20, 2016) excluding accommodation.

Playa Bluff South End

Adoration 4 Adventure were complimentary guests of Sun Havens Apartments and Suites. Our opinions are our own and will always remain unbiased in order to provide the best recommendations to our readers.

Pin it for the next adventure!

Adoration 4 Adventure’s 3 day itinerary for Bocas del Toro, Panama. Including island hoping, sloth sightings, dolphin encounters and serene beaches.

Have you visited Bocas del Toro or planning to anytime soon? Tell us about it below!

And if you liked the post – share it with your friends on social media.