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Get Outdoors in Panama

The Canal, but Easy
Get Outdoors in Panama
Dream beaches, jungles, parks, virgin archipelagoes…. If Panama’s biodiversity merits a full museum, it also merits our in-person appreciation. Even urban pleasures can be enjoyed from shady terraces and exuberant gardens.
By Roberto Quintero, AFAR Local Expert
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    The Canal, but Easy
    The Canal, but Easy
    The first thing on any visitor’s agenda upon arrival is a visit to Panama’s iconic canal. Give yourself time to understand how it actually works and how it was constructed, then take in its spectacular sunsets, and finish up the exploration with a delicious dinner at Atlantic & Pacific Co.
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    The Casco Viejo
    The Casco Viejo
    One of Panama’s greatest pleasures is to wander the Casco Viejo, where the city was re-founded in 1763 following a pirate attack that left a previous settlement in ruins. Today the quarter is home to dazzling architecture, lots of history, and the highly recommended Canal Museum. When night falls, there are bars and great terraces for sipping something cool and enjoying vistas from on high: Casco Viejo by night has charms of its own.
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    History Lessons
    History Lessons
    Panamá la Vieja is not just a marvelous city park, it’s also the site where the original Panama City stood until the buccaneer Henry Morgan and his men reduced it to rubble. Look around: Historic beauty, albeit crumbling, is apparent in the old church’s bell tower and other structures still standing. You’ll also get a glimpse of some major history by climbing Cerro Ancón, where Old Glory once waved (the hill was under U.S. jurisdiction from 1903 to 1977). Gorgeous Casco Viejo views served absolutely free.
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    Unspoiled Beaches—and We Mean It
    Unspoiled Beaches—and We Mean It
    When it comes to Eden-like beaches, few can compare to those on the Guna Yala archipelago. But be forewarned: This paradise is natural, deserted, and mostly undeveloped. Creature-comfort lovers should switch to plan B since you won’t find resort spas and serviced beach loungers on these blissfully empty strands.
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    Alfresco Dining on Rooftops and Terraces
    Alfresco Dining on Rooftops and Terraces
    Nights are the best part of the day here in Panama’s tropical climate and are enjoyed to their fullest. To witness (and partake in) this practice, head out in the evening for some open-air revelry in Casco Viejo by night, at the Multiplaza Terraces or Isla Flamenco, the small island that lies at the end of the Calzada de Amador.
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    Beach and Bosk, Within City Limits
    Beach and Bosk, Within City Limits
    Nature-loving Panamanians have plenty to be thankful for, and much of the tropical world is right at their doorstep. At the amazing Parque Natural Metropolitano, find not only inspiring views and wildlife sightings (monkeys! sloths! iguanas!), but also one of the planet’s rare dry tropical forests, where deciduous trees lose their leaves during the dry season. For a sunny day, spend an afternoon on the breathtaking white-sand beaches on nearby Taboga Island.