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Views of Panama

Sunset in Panamá

By Juan Abelardo Carles
Photos : Javier A. Pinzón

In Panama, there is no such thing as a boring sky. From May to November, dark, water-soaked clouds swirl and pirouette in prelude to tropical thunderstorms. From December to April, however, it’s a different show: the western side of the celestial vault explodes in flames as the sun makes its triumphant exit at the end of the day. This is due to multiple climatic factors: the Intertropical Convergence Belt moves southward, creating a less rainy climate, and the atmosphere contains more microscopic dust. Add to this the micro-particles of Saharan sand that reach the Caribbean after especially strong desert storms, and we have the perfect recipe for the some of the world’s most multicolored, bright, and dynamic sunsets.

Sunsets can, naturally, be observed from many places, but if you’re visiting Panama, you can make them part of your tourist experience by choosing a spot with some added value. The Isthmus of Panama breaks with the north-south axis of the rest of the continent; here the sun doesn’t set over the sea, as in many of the neighboring countries, but this doesn’t mean the show is any less impressive. Panorama of the Americas recommends several locations in the Panamanian capital (or near it) where you can accompany this celestial pageant with a beer or enjoy it while resting on the beach, taking a walk, or as a preamble to a night on the town.

Amador, or meditations on life accompanied by beer and ceviche

Between 1904 and 1913 the long Amador Causeway was built —using debris from the Panama Canal excavations— to protect the canal entrance from waves and hostile fleets. It ceased to fulfill its military role decades ago and is now newly renovated and one of the city’s largest recreational areas. The jewel in this crown is the multicolored and multidimensional Biomuseo, which opened in 2014 to tell the story of how the emergence of the Isthmus of Panama affected life on the planet.

We suggest you arrive at the museum mid-afternoon to drink in the history of this small tract of land that helped create new ocean ecosystems, led to biological exchanges between North and South America, and, amazingly, managed to set a group of African hominids, millions of years ago, on the path to humanity as we now know it. Somewhere between four and five o’clock in the afternoon, you’ll leave the museum so amazed that a 3 to 3.5-mile walk along the Causeway will be just what you need to assimilate everything you’ve just seen.

To the west, you’ll see vessels leaving the Interoceanic Canal, silhouetted against the setting sun, breaking through the sparkling waters into which seabirds dive, chasing their final prey before night falls. Before your eyes is the crossroads of a land bridge, made by nature, and a water bridge, made by man, each acting as a barrier to the other. Meditate on this while strolling alongside hundreds of Panamanians who take advantage of this time of day to exercise or simply stop to relax in front of the soothing view. A frosty beer and some spicy ceviche may help to organize your thoughts.

Sunset, paddleboard, and parking in Veracruz

If contemplation is not really your thing, we suggest a tour of the beaches around Veracruz, a town about five miles southwest of the Panamanian capital that gradually became home to many Panamanian employees of the U.S. military facilities nearby. The locals set up stalls to sell beer and snacks to the soldiers who came to hang out on the beach. Many of these stalls evolved into full-fledged restaurants specializing in seafood and exotic cocktails.

Recently, the Veracruz area, and especially Venado beach, has become a favorite of standup paddleboarders, who, depending on the tides, paddle out at dawn or, more to the point in our case, sunset. Our second recommendation, therefore, is to visit one of the paddleboard shops in the area (Waa Panama, Veri Veri, and Sup Republic, for example), rent some equipment, and paddle out into the setting sun. The nearby hotels also offer classes to their guests.

In Casco Viejo, the sun goes down and romance heats up

If any single mindset has historically been associated with the sunset, it is being in love. What about adding even more zest to this recipe by framing the romantic twilight with rooftops, steeples, colonial lanterns, candles, and a couple of glasses of wine? That’s exactly what you’ll find in Panama City’s Casco Viejo neighborhood, our third recommendation. You can choose to capture the heart of your beloved from a number of places in the area, but if you’re looking for a spectacular sunset, we suggest one of the fashionable rooftops: Casa Casco, Salvaje, StorX Sky Lounge (in Casa Antigua), Tántalo, and La Azotea are among the most popular, but you can perform your own search.

We suggest that you reserve a table for 5:30 pm, so that the sun kisses the horizon at the precise moment when you kiss your companion. The recommended places are famous for their cuisine, wine lists, cocktails, and musical mixes. You can extend the magic after dinner if you walk down and amble slowly through the cobbled streets of the Casco.

Euphoria in the heights of contemporary Panama

Panama City is the current skyscraper capital of Latin America and, although certain of its neighbors have from time to time temporarily robbed it of its claim to the region’s tallest building, none can boast the same density. Only three of the fifteen tallest buildings in the region are not located in Panama City. Close to 400 buildings in the city are over 330 feet high and 12 are higher than 650 feet.

And two of these towering buildings offer the chance to party on high, from sunset to sunrise. Bits Rooftop Lounge, on the 62nd floor of the Hard Rock Hotel, has cocktails, snacks, and a 360-degree panoramic view of the entire city and its surroundings. Enjoy reggaeton, salsa, or electronic music played by a resident or guest DJ, while gazing out on the lights of the neighboring towers and the vehicles below.

Panaviera Restaurant, Poolbar & Ocean Sun Casino offers a slightly different experience, although just as fun. Located on the 66th floor of the former Trump Tower, the complex includes all the attractions of a casino, but enhances them with live music and dance groups, resident and guest DJs, a restaurant, and a bar with an infinity pool that seems to meld with the surrounding urban landscape. Both places are privy to a unique performance: at sunset, a kind of milky mist rises over the city as the lights begin to twinkle, creating a brief mirage that you may miss, perhaps, because you’re already dancing.

Panaviera Restaurant, Poolbar & Ocean Sun Casino offers a slightly different experience, although just as fun. Located on the 66th floor of the former Trump Tower, the complex includes all the attractions of a casino, but enhances them with live music and dance groups, resident and guest DJs, a restaurant, and a bar with an infinity pool that seems to meld with the surrounding urban landscape. Both places are privy to a unique performance: at sunset, a kind of milky mist rises over the city as the lights begin to twinkle, creating a brief mirage that you may miss, perhaps, because you’re already dancing.