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Panama…What you need to know!

Panama…What you need to know!

The Panamanian Crest

The Panamanian Crest

Panama is the most southern country in Central America, bordering Costa Rica on its North and Colombia on its South.  Panama is most known in the US for the Panama Canal and Panama Jack Hat which by the way was actually made in Ecuador.  Many believe Panama is an island but it is not. You can actually drive to Panama.  (A 2899 mile drive from San Antonio, TX.)  Panama City is the Capital of the Country and the Resorts are about 2- 2.5 hours outside of Panama City.

The Capital of Panama
Panama City, Panama at Night!

Panama City, Panama at Night!

Panama City has a population of 1.5 million in the metropolitan area.  The City is framed by the Pacific Ocean and the man-made Panama Canal. Panama City is very modern with more skyscrapers than large American Cities such as Miami or Dallas. The city was founded by Pedro Arias Dávila a Spanish conquistador.   In the capital, Panama City, modern skyscrapers, casinos, and nightclubs contrast with colonial buildings in the Casco Viejo district and the rainforest of Natural Metropolitan Park.

The Panama Canal, a famous feat of human engineering, cuts through its center, linking the Atlantic and Pacific oceans to create an essential shipping route.  The US Dollar is the official currency but the national currency is called the Balboa. Panama gets almost no hurricanes because it is located south of the hurricane alley. Panama has the lowest population in Central America.  Elevation runs from 0 m at the Pacific Ocean to 3,475 m on top of Volcan de Chiriqui.

Fast Facts
Downtown Panama City, Panama

Downtown Panama City, Panama

Panama has a population of just over 3,300,000, making it approximately the 131st most populated country in the world. In 1907, its population was about 318,000 when it was the 122nd most populated country.  Panama is a democratic republic.  Elections are held every five years to elect the country’s President and Vice President. The last election was held in May 2014.

Government & History
The Balboa, Panamanian dollar!

The Balboa, Panamanian dollar!

Panama achieved independence on November 3rd, 1903.   It had been a colony of Spain until 1821.  Then joined the Republic of Gran Colombia for 9 years and in 1830 formed the Neuva Granada (New Granada).  It later became the Granadine Confederation in 1858, the United States of Columbia in 1863, and then the Republic of Colombia in 1886.  All before gaining its independence.  Today, Panama is a democratic republic.  Previously the country had a dictator, Manuel Noriega, who was deposed in 1989.  Panama elected its first female President in 1999 as Mireya Moscoso.

Panama Canal
The Panama Canal

The Panama Canal

The Canal was built in 9 years between 1903–1914.  American and British leaders and businessmen wanted to ship goods quickly and cheaply between the Atlantic and Pacific coasts.  Before the Panama Canal ships had to travel all the way around South America.  The Panama Canal was built by the US Army Corps of Engineers.  Many people died during the construction of the Canal.  Between 13,000 and 14,000 ships use the canal every year.  The canal is being expanded to handle today’s mega-ships.  Panama assumed full control of the Panama Canal in 1999, previously the U.S. troops controlled it.

The canal allows shippers of commercial goods (anything from toys to automobiles) to save time and money, which, generally speaking, means lower consumer prices for you and me.  Prior to the completion of the canal, a ship sailing between ports in New York and San Francisco had to sail all the way around South America. Before the Panama Canal, the trip was 12,000 miles and it took approximately 67 days.  The completion of the canal eliminated about 8,000 miles.  A complete crossing of the Panama Canal takes between eight and 10 hours.

Famous People
Rod Carew Stadium

Rod Carew Stadium in Panama

The late Senator John McCain was born in Panama, in the Canal Zone that was, at the time considered U.S. Territory.  Other famous Panamanians include Boxing great Roberto Duran.  Baseball Hall of Fame’s Rod Carew, and New York Yankee Mariano Rivera.  Current Fox News Commentator Juan Williams is also from Panama.  Williams has also written for the Washington Post, The New York Times, and The Wall Street Journal.

Life in Panama
Playa Blanca Beach

Playa Blanca Beach

Panama is considered one of the best places for retirees.  It has a low cost of living and beaches on both the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans.  Did you know that Panama was the first Latin American country to adopt the U.S. currency as its own?  Baseball is the most popular sport in the country. Boxing and soccer are also among the favorites.

My Experience in Panama
Nikki at the beach with Bill on a horse!

Nikki at the beach with Bill on a horse!

No Smoking in Public in Panama!

No Smoking in Public in Panama!

I have been to Panama multiple times.  We have traveled to Panama by Cruise Ship and have flown by plane.  I have enjoyed myself each time.  I have an old classmate who wants to retire in Panama.  He is the one that got me to take a real close look at Panama.  The weather is tropical and no hurricanes made it appealing.  Panama has beautiful beaches, a low cost of living,  a modern airport and an up to the date transportation system.  The people in Panama are nice and friendly.  The country doesn’t allow smoking in public. I would encourage everyone to visit.  We stayed in Playa Blanca. We have visited Royal Decameron and Playa Blanca Beach & Lagoon. Did you know that Panama is the only major city in the world with a Rainforest?  Nikki and I did the Rainforest Tour and it was worth the price of admission! Imagine Washington DC with a rainforest. How cool would that be?

A Beautiful Toucan Bird in Panama!

A Beautiful Toucan Bird in Panama!

Panama is the most southern country in Central America.  If it is not on your “to do” list then add it. See the Panama Canal the 7th Wonder of the Modern World.  Go visit the rare Black Sand Beaches on the South coast along the Pacific Ocean.  Tour the only rainforest located in a major city.  Visit Panama!

 

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Bill Collins

Bill Collins is a former Army Officer turned veteran traveler. I have traveled to 28 different Countries mainly concentrated in the Central & Latin America and have spent the last 16 years exploring the Caribbean Islands.

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