Panama

Panama

Etymology

There are several theories about the origin of the name “Panama”. Some believe that the country was named after a commonly found species of tree (Sterculia apetala, the Panama tree). Others believe that the first settlers arrived in Panama in August, when butterflies abound, and that the name means “many butterflies” in an indigenous language. The best-known version is that a fishing village and its nearby beach bore the name “Panamá”, which meant “an abundance of fish”. Captain Antonio Tello de Guzmán, while exploring the Pacific side in 1515, stopped in the small indigenous fishing town. In 1517 Don Gaspar De Espinosa, a Spanish lieutenant, decided to settle a post there. In 1519 Pedrarias Dávila decided to establish the Empire’s Pacific city in this site. The new settlement replaced Santa María La Antigua del Darién, which had lost its function within the Crown’s global plan after the beginning of the Spanish exploitation of the riches in the Pacific. Blending all of the above together, Panamanians believe in general that the word Panama means “abundance of fish, trees and butterflies”. This is the official definition given in social studies textbooks approved by the Ministry of Education in Panama. However, others believe the word Panama comes from the Kuna word “bannaba” which means “distant” or “far away”. [wikipedia]

Places to Meet People

Places to Meet People

Ciudadanos por un Clima Vivible ~CCL Panamá – We are Citizens for a Living Climate, the Panamanian chapter of Citizens’ Climate Lobby. CCL is an international organization where we create political will for a stable climate, by empowering individuals to make great strides in the exercise of their political and personal power. [meetup]

Creating Value – Agregando Valor – An activity per week: walking, movies, dining, travel, volleyball, football, baseball. Seminars or workshops: kitchen, finance, fitness, health, groups Conversational English – Spanish. [meetup]

Panama Grupo de Experiencias Espirituales – We live in times of unprecedented interest in spirituality. Spiritual experiences are no longer the exclusive domain of religious leaders, saints and mystics. These experiences are part of everyday life for millions of people. [meetup]

How to Find a Date

How to Find a Date

Badoo.com – A massive worldwide online dating site launched in 2006, Badoo is an OK option for Panama. On face value, if you do a search of let’s say, women between 25 and 35 years old, you will turn up a lot of women in your search results. The problem with Badoo though is that you will have to weed through a lot of low quality profiles in order to locate real people. The quality is just not as good as you will find on Latin American Cupid although the selection is a lot larger. Because of my issues with the quality of profiles on Badoo, I would not focus on it as a starting point for my dating search. [visa hunter]

Latin American Cupid – Panama appears to be up there with the Dominican Republic and Colombia in terms of sheer numbers of Latin American Cupid members. Latin American Cupid would be my main focal point for my dating search. A simple search of women 21-35 who live in Panama will turn up more than 1000 legit profiles. The selection of women and men on this site is not near what you will find at the site I mention below, but for what you lack in numbers, you more than make up for in terms of quality. I’m also a big fan of the site’s interface and identity verification tool. [visa hunter]

Walking Tours

Walking Tours

Barefoot Panama – We pick you up at your hotel around 8am (depending on the location of your hotel). Most days we start with  Cerro Ancon and the Canal Zone, before heading off to the Miraflores Locks to watch the ships transit. Enjoy the viewing platforms, learn more about the canal at the museum and watch a short film about the canal’s history. [barefoot panama]

Kudu Travel – Panama– the name is synonymous with the Canal, but there is far more to this Central American country than the century-old link between the Pacific and the Caribbean. A bridge between continents, the isthmus has an exceptionally rich ecological diversity, with one third of its territory as protected areas of tropical rainforests, mountains, cloud forests, offshore islands and coral reefs – perfect for exploring gently on foot to observe monkeys, sloths, anteaters, parrots, toucans, hummingbirds, turtles and exuberant tropical flowers. [kudu travel]

Free Things to Do

Free Things to Do

Browse old and new Panama City – Spread out along a wide bay, Panama City is a curiously appealing blend of colonial Spain and cosmopolitan modernity, well worth a couple of days’ exploration. The historic old town is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, its narrow cobblestone streets lined with elegantly faded colonial buildings, whereas the new areas of the city are full of gleaming skyscrapers housing multinational corporations. [world travel guide]

Climb Baru Volcano – Straddling the border with Costa Rica, the dormant Baru Volcano is a superb setting for a day’s hiking or horseback ride, with the added potential excitement of spotting a quetzal, one of Central America’s most iconic birds. Reaching 3,475m (11,400ft), it is located in beautiful Chiriquí Province, near the popular resort town of Boquete and the mountain resort, Cerro Punta. [world travel guide]

Cruise the Panama Canal – A cruise along the Panama Canal is a once-in-a-lifetime experience. You can do a partial trip or go from Colon all the way to Panama City. The scenery en route is beautiful and the mechanics of the canal fascinating. Also recommended is the Panama Canal Museum in the capital’s Casco Viejo, which details the canal’s spectacular engineering and its human and environmental cost. [world travel guide]

Get a taste of luxury in the rainforest – If you like your jungle experience to come with luxurious trappings, visit the Gamboa Tropical Rainforest Reserve. Less than an hour from Panama City between the Chagres River and the Panama Canal, the reserve is home to a wealth of tropical wildlife, but also has a five-star resort, and tree-top eco-lodge. [world travel guide]

Go diving and snorkelling – Apart from its stunning Caribbean location, the Bocas del Toro archipelago is one of Panama’s top diving and snorkelling locations. You’ll be amazed by the variety of marine life on offer here, but other diving hotspots include the Isla Grande, near Portobelo, where dive centres run excursions to the best reefs, and the San Blás Islands, off the northeast coast. [world travel guide]

Hike around Barro Colorado – Take a day trip from Panama City to the island of Barro Colorado in Gatun Lake, a vast manmade stretch of water created during construction of the Panama Canal. The island is a biological reserve and reputed to be one of the world’s leading natural tropical laboratories; you can hike around the island in a few hours, spotting wildlife such as monkeys, anteaters and birds. [world travel guide]

Join the carnival in Las Tablas – Capital of the Los Santos province of Panama, Las Tablas plays host to several bustling fiestas throughout the year, including one of the country’s best Carnival celebrations. The Las Tablas Carnival involves two factions, each with a parade and its own festivities, trying to outdo the other. You don’t have to take sides, just join in with both groups. [world travel guide]

Roam the wilderness of Darién National Park – The sparsely populated wilderness of the Darién Gap is one of Central America’s most inaccessible regions. Nevertheless, you can explore trails in the Darién National Park, which contains sandy beaches, rocky coasts, mangroves, swamps and tropical rainforest. The park is also home to two Choco Indian tribes, as well as one of the world’s greatest concentrations of bird species. [world travel guide]

See Panama City’s historic highlights – Panama City’s Casco Viejo is its old quarter; highlights are the Plaza de Francia, the Paseo de las Bóvedas, San José Church, with its magnificent golden Baroque altar, and the Santo Domingo Church, next to which is the Museum of Colonial Religious Art. The most impressive building in Panama City, however, is the President’s Palace, an opulent 17th-century mansion overlooking the bay. [world travel guide]

Swing through the tree canopy – Embark on a tree canopy adventure in the El Níspero Botanical Gardens, in central Panama’s Anton Valley. Hoick yourself into a harness, climb up to the treetops and then swing from one platform to another like Tarzan on a day-trip. Get up among the birds and enjoy the greenery from their perspective. [world travel guide]

Take the panga to Taboga – Escape the noise and traffic of Panama City and hop on the ferry to the island of Taboga, with its fine beaches and clean sea air. The best way to get there is by local water taxi, known as a panga. A longer trip by launch is necessary to get to the Pearl Islands, which are visited mainly by sea-anglers and whale-watchers. [world travel guide]

Tour Panama Viejo, sacked by pirates – Take an excursion to the ruins of Panama Viejo, including the square tower of the old cathedral, in the capital’s western suburbs. This is the original Panama City, sacked in 1671 by celebrated Welsh buccaneer Henry Morgan, who helped undermine Spanish control of their colonies. Clamber around the crumbling walls, which also contain a museum and an excellent handicrafts market. [world travel guide]

Try Panama’s big Atlantic surf – Along with Venado and Rio Mar in the Pacific and Isla Grande, Bluf and Careneros in the Atlantic, Santa Catalina is known as a prime surfer’s spot in Panama. Waves can reach 4.5m (15ft), and you can find good surfing almost all year round. Panama is just beginning to be discovered as a surfer’s paradise, so get down there before the crowds come. [world travel guide]

Visit the Kuna of the San Blas Islands – One of Panama’s most popular adventures is to the San Blas Islands, home of the Kuna, considered the most autonomous indigenous people of Latin America. The inhabitants live a traditional agriculture and fishing-based life, supported by tourism. The colourfully dressed women produce equally vivid mola embroideries for sale to visitors. You can stay here in rustic lodges, snorkel off the beach, and tour the local villages. [world travel guide]

Witness Chiriquí’s log-throwing contest – Visit this western coastal province to see some of the country’s most spectacular scenery, with volcanic highlands, waterfalls, and rivers, as well as banana and coffee plantations. Chiriquí is also host to Las Balserias, a Ngöbé-Bugle Indian celebration featuring a contest in which the young men toss balsa logs at one another; those who emerge unscathed may choose their partners. [world travel guide]

Festivals

Festivals

Carnival – Every year on the four days leading up to Ash Wednesday, the Panama Carnival takes place. Though not an official holiday, it is the most celebrated Panamanian festival, and if you have the chance to experience it, you’ll take away a lifetime of memories. The Panama Carnival, has been celebrated since the early part of the 1900’s, and though it officially runs the course of four days, festivities are known to start before that. While Panama City is one of the best places to experience this fun-filled holiday,there are many towns in the interior of the country to enjoy this festival. Las Tablas is ones of the best places to experience the Panamanian Carnival, due largely in part to the inter-town rivalry. [visit panama]

Fair of The Sea – Bocas Del Toro’s Feria del Mar, or Fair of the Sea, began as a festival to celebrate the fishermen, boatmen and the sea. Over the last 50 years the Feria has evolved into a four day event that draws thousands of people to the archipelago each September. With the perfect mix of sun, sand, thrill rides, sports and local arts and crafts, people from all around Panama join thousands of tourists from neighboring countries to enjoy this incredible event. A vacation to Bocas during Feria will never be forgotten! [visit panama]

National Holidays – During November we celebrate a month of national festivities. Throughout the month and all around the country, the flag and patriotic symbols are on display There are three days of great historical importance for Panama in November: the 3rd, 10th and 28th of November. The celebrations these days are due to the separation of Panama from Colombia, the first “cry” of independence and the independence from Spain, respectively. On the 3rd of November, 1903, Panama was founded as a Republic after its separation from Colombia. [visit panama]

Pollera Festival – The National Festival of the Pollera was created in the 1960’s with the purpose of highlighting and promoting knowledge about the correct use of the Pollera, the Panamanian national costume, and to give recognition to the skill and work of the artisans involved its manufacture. It takes place in the city of Las Tablas, capital of the province of Los Santos, during the festitivies honoring its patron saint, Santa Librada, in the month of July. [visit panama]

Public Transit

Public Transit

By bus – There are two kinds of buses in Panama. The ones you find on the highway, and “city buses”. The highway buses are constantly making journeys from terminals in Panama city to different destinations along the Pan American Highway, and back to the terminal. They’re pretty frequent, and the buses will pick you up or drop you off at any point along their route, and most of them are air conditioned. The roughly linear shape of the country makes it ideal for a bus system, so ideal in fact that you don’t really need to rent a car to get around most areas. [wikitravel]

By car – Panama is in the south of Central America and can easily be discovered independently. The road system of Panama is in very good condition (for Central and South American standards). You can rent a car and drive it around the country if you are an excellent defensive driver. While traveling by car you can discover attractions which are hardly or even not to reach by public transportation. [wikitravel]

By taxi – If your destination actually happens to lie far off the bus route, or if you just want to be lazy, taxis are also a decent way to get around in Panama. Taxi rates within Panama City are set by a zone system. However, the zone rates are complicated and fares are typically negotiated, depending on location, time of day and how well you know the city and can speak Spanish. Most short taxi rides range from $1.25 to $2.50. Going across town should be about $5, but it is often more if you fail to negotiate a price before getting into the taxi. [wikitravel]

Professional Groups & Events

Professional Groups & Events

Oracle Apex Panamá – Group dedicated to all Developers of Oracle Technologies APEX and Web. Its purpose is to provide support in the form of knowledge to all interested in learning about this great development tool, Oracle APEX. [meetup]

Oracle Users Group Panama Meetup – The Oracle Users Group in Panama, a non-profit entity, seeks to promote through seminars, workshops and meetings the best use of Oracle technologies such as JAVA, Mysql and Oracle Development Tools. [meetup]

Panamá Real Estate – If you are looking to start a career in real estate in Panama and want to join a great team, then you are in the right place at the right time. [meetup]

Panama Startup Founder 101 – Are you looking to start your own company? Are you trying to make the transition from an employee to an entrepreneur? [meetup]

Language Exchange

Language Exchange

Living and Working in Panama – Are you an expat working and living in Panama? Or are you preparing to move soon to Panama City, Balboa or any other of the Panamanian international hotspots? Expat life in Panama has much to offer and provides a great intercultural experience – from discovering the countryside like the Río Chagres and Gatun Lake, learning how Panamanian people celebrate Dia de los Martires, up to tasting Panama’s favorite dishes such as sancocho. [internations]

Making Friends – Hi Expats and people who like to hang out with expats! Looking to make friends? Wanna be a part of a community here in Panama? Well, let’s meet! [meetup]

LGBT Groups

LGBT Groups

PFLAG Panama City – PFLAG (P-flag), Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays, is the nation’s foremost family-based organization committed to the civil rights of the LGBTQIA community. PFLAG is a tax-exempt, nonprofit organization that is not affiliated with any political or religious institution. One mother supported her gay son in a NYC pride in March of 1972, and her courage sparked this community-based organization to develop into a worldwide support network. [pflag-pc]

Resources

Resources

Places in Panama

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