The business hub of Central America, Panama City sits on the eastern side of the Panama Canal. The canal is the dominating factor, the city and country's largest moneymaker. A long line of huge ships can be seen in the Pacific Ocean waiting for their signal to start moving along the impressive waterway. The city itself is divided into three zones: Panama Viejo (the ruins of the former city), Panama Central (all business) and Casco Viejo (the wonderful colonial Old Quarter), each of which provides meeting planners with a variety of Panama event venues from which to choose.
Tocumen International Airport (PTY) is one of the busiest in all of Central and South America. Approximately 15 miles east of the city center, it receives flights from American (Miami and Dallas/Fort Worth), Continental (Newark and Houston), Delta (Atlanta) and Spirit (Fort Lauderdale); Copa Airlines is its largest provider, with flights servicing Chicago, Los Angeles, Miami, New York City (JFK), Orlando, Toronto and Washington-Dulles. Albrook "Marcos A. Gelabert" International Airport serves domestic airports, as well as Costa Rica's capital, San Jose.
The largest of Panama City's convention venues is called ATLAPA and has room for 10,500 persons. Along a Pacific Ocean beach, it has 35,000 square feet of exhibition space for up to 5,000 persons, as well as the impressive El Teatro Anayansi, which has 2,806 seats.
Hotel venues in Panama City befit the city's international status. Choices in Panama Central include the 389-room Panama Marriott, with 16,390 square feet of meeting space; 361-room Sheraton Panama Hotel & Convention Center, with 5,800 square feet of meeting space (next door to ATLAPA); 240-room Radisson Decapolis Panama City, with meeting space for up to 300 persons, and 185-room InterContinental Miramar Panama, with eight meeting rooms and space for 2,500 persons in a grand ballroom. Increasingly there are being built resort hotels just outside the city, either along the Pacific coast or the canal. Two fantastic choices, right outside Panama City are in the Playa Bonita area, which is located 20 minutes outside of Panama City. These are the $100-million, 611-room Westin Playa Bonita Panama, which debuted in 2012 with almost 65,000 square feet of meeting and event space; and the 303-room InterContinental Playa Bonita Resort & Spa, with 20,000 square feet of meeting space. Numerous new hotels are being planned for both the city and its environs, including Waldorf=Astoria and Trump properties.
Events are best held in Casco Viejo, where the grandness of Colonial Panama City can best be experienced. Venues include Los del Patio, which has a gallery, a cafe, a patio with second cafe and art workshops and can host dinners for up to 200 persons; the Panama Canal Museum, otherwise known as the Museo del Canal Interoceanico de Panama, an 1875 building (originally a hotel) that today has a Grand Vestibule for 230 persons, and the Teatro Anita Villalaz, which has 250 seats and is in the particularly attractive Plaza de Francia section of Casco Viejo that leads to a shaded walkway with Pacific Ocean and Panama Central views, the Paseo General Esteban Huertas. In the city's Ancon district, close to Casco Viejo, is the Museum of Contemporary Art (Museo de Arte Contemporaneo), the country's only private museum, which has various gallery spaces that double as dining rooms. In Panama Central is the less historical, but exciting nonetheless, the excitement coming from being in the heartbeat of this business city, Panama City World Trade Center, which has various meeting rooms for rent.
Again, when dining (apart from hotel restaurants), go to Casco Viejo, since no other spot in Panama Central will make your guests say "wow!" more often. Choices include Restaurant Las Bovedas, which is part of the city's sea wall and gets its names from the Spanish word for "dungeons"; art-filled Rene Cafe, with space for private dinners of up to 30 persons and a set but delicious menu; Manolo Caracol, with a chef-owner originally hailing from Andalucia in Spain, and Casa Blanca, in the wonderful, small Plaza Bolivar area of Casco Viejo (the independence of Panama from Colombia was assured by cannon shots from this square) and with a streetside patio. Along the Amador Causeway, where the Smithsonian has research laboratories, is Cafe Barko, with sushi and seafood and Panamanian dishes, as well as ocean views.
All average costs based on U.S. Government Per Diem rates as published by the U.S. General Services Administration.
Tocumen International Airport (PTY)
Approximate taxi fare: 25 PAB
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