By: Juan Abelardo Carles
Photos: Javier Pinzón y Cortesía Mibus y Alcaldía de Panamá
You’ve just arrived in Panama City: you go through immigration, pick up your bags from the luggage carousel, pass customs, and head outside where the country’s tropical climate overwhelms you with its warm, humid embrace. You could leave the terminal the usual way, but we suggest you accept the warm tropical caress and walk about half a mile northward along a covered walkway to the “Aeropuerto I” bus stop to begin the first phase of your tour.
1. From Tocumen International Airport to Metromall – Los Pueblos Mall
The two shopping malls are a study in contrasts: Los Pueblos is one of the oldest in the city, and the many everyday shops always have great sales. Metromall is newer and slicker, with more branded shops and franchises (although you’ll still find good sales). www.metromallonline.com, Los Pueblos Panamá (on Facebook).
2. From Metromall – Los Pueblos to the Old Panama Visitor Center
The extensive circuit of the ruins of old Panama City, the first European settlement on the Pacific coast of the Americas, lies some 6 miles from the Old Quarter of today’s Panama City; the suburbs of the new city have engulfed the site of the old town. Old Panama is one of the city’s principal tourist attractions, as it reveals a moment frozen in time, a snapshot of life during the beginnings of the Spanish Empire in the Americas. The site is open to visitors from Tuesday to Sunday (8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.). The circuit inside the complex is about a mile long and can easily be covered in two hours. For further information, visit
3. From Old Panama to Multiplaza
Multiplaza, one of the city’s most exclusive malls, boasts 320 businesses. It is located near the skyscrapers of the city’s banking center, right in the heart of the business district. Here you can combine shopping with dining in high-end restaurants, and round out the day with a refreshing beverage at one of the Las Terrazas bars or restaurants. If you want to lodge near Multiplaza, the Courtyard by Marriott is right next door.
4. From Multiplaza to Multicentro
This is one of the city’s first air-conditioned malls. Despite its gigantic size, it is designed to human scale and features stores with varied merchandise for all budgets. There are exits to Avenida Balboa and the Coastal Beltway and it can be accessed from the wealthy neighborhoods of Marbella and Paitilla. It is also connected to the Hard Rock Hotel Panamá Megápolis and Radisson Decápolis.
5.From Multicentro to the Seafood Market
The Seafood Market is one of the most picturesque places in the city. Aside from its offerings of fresh seafood, the market has many stalls selling fresh ceviche and other dishes; boats heading for various islands in the Gulf of Panama depart from the pier. It is likewise a gateway to the city’s colonial Old Quarter, since Metrobús vehicles cannot enter the old part of the city. The Old Quarter is compact and can be traversed on foot or in the experimental electric mini-buses operated by the Panama City municipal government.
6. From the Seafood Market to the Old Quarter
As we noted, the Seafood Market lets you access the Old Quarter on foot, but if you don’t want to tire yourself out, you can also use the experimental buses introduced by the Panama City municipal government. The bus route passes the National Theater, Las Bóvedas, and the San Francisco and La Merced churches, among other significant monuments in the area. Once back at the “5 de Mayo” Station, walk to the Marañón pay zone and proceed to Bahía A (Bay A) to board any bus on the “S440 Albrook” route. Get off at the “Abastos-I” stop, cross the pedestrian bridge, and walk up Calle Arnoldo Walter and then Calle William Gorgas towards the Instituto Oncológico Nacional (National Cancer Institute) and the Corte Suprema de Justicia (Supreme Court).
7. From Mt. Ancón to the Miraflores Visitor Center
The route runs past two military installations from the era of U.S. administration (Albrook and Clayton); today, the facilities have been converted for civilian use. The museum at the Miraflores Visitor Center summarizes the most important historical aspects of the Panama Canal and its effects on the country; there are also observation platforms from which you can watch the ships pass through the Miraflores locks.
8. From the Miraflores Visitor Center to Summit Municipal Park and Albrook Mall
Established in 1923, the Summit Garden is the oldest botanical garden in the city. It spreads over more than 600 acres, with 135 acres of gardens and a small, 300-animal zoo; the garden features a laboratory dedicated to breeding and conserving the harpy eagle. The Albrook Mall is considered the largest mall in the city (and one of the biggest in Latin America), with more than 700 shops for all budgets: www.albrookmall.com. Summit Municipal Park has a presence on both Facebook and Twitter.
9. Albrook Terminal to Tocumen International Airport
What about the metro?
Those of you already familiar with the first metro in Central America might be wondering about this. Even though the Panama City metro is intended to be the backbone of the city’s transportation system, it is still in the initial stages and does not yet have the reach of the Metrobús lines. The first phase of Line 2 of the Metro, which will reach the Tocumen Airport, will begin partial and temporary service in the second half of January 2019, during World Youth Day celebrations, but the line will not actually open until May. Furthermore, the contract for the branch line that will link the airport to the metro has only recently been adjudicated. In any case, Metrobús stops and routes are close to or connected to all metro stations: www.elmetrodepanama.com
Would you like to see more of Panama City?
If you have the MiBus Maps Panamá app down pat and you’re feeling very Panamanian as you buzz around the city on the Metrobús, we suggest you take your exploratory forays to the next level. The Panamá 500 app was developed for the 500th anniversary of the city’s founding on August 15 of this year. The app suggests 500 must-visit sites where you can take pictures, upload the photos to the app, and earn points that can be redeemed for prizes. Whether you can compite or not, this is nonetheless a fun and challenging way to see more of Panama City by stepping off the beaten track.