Church of San Jose in Casco Viejo

church of san jose golden altarThe Church of San Jose in Casco Viejo, or La Inglesia de San Jose, is one of the most prominent points of interest in the old city. It is home to the famous Golden Altar. The outside of the building will almost make you think that you are in the wrong place, as its exterior is not nearly as ornate as its Golden Altar inside.

The Golden Altar is actually made of carved wood that was overlaid with gold flake. The Altar de Oro was originally inside a church in Panama La Vieja. Legend has it that when the English pirate Henry Morgan attacked the city, the Jesuit priests in the Order of St. Augustine painted the Golden Altar black to hide the gold from the pirates. Morgan sacked and burned Panama La Vieja and the Order of St. Augustine moved the altar to the new church in Casco Viejo, its present day location. Inside the bell tower is where you’ll find the altar. Also, side altars, also made of hand carved wood and covered with gold flake, are located all about in the church.

Stained glass covers the windows and one in particular, Saint Rita of Cascia, who is the Patron Saint of Lost Causes, is often a glass that is photographed. Tourists are allowed to visit the church and snap photos of the altar, but please be respectful and wear appropriate clothing. If Mass is being celebrated during your visit, please refrain from disrupting mass. You may take photos, but not during the church service.

A short walk from Casco Viejo's Church of San Jose is Magnolia Inn, a well-appointed, luxury boutique hotel and hostel in Panama City, Panama. In addition to being one of the best reviewed hotels and hostels in Casco Viejo by Trip Advisor, Booking.com and Hostel Word, Magnolia Inn is conveniently located near a variety of attractions. In Panama City, these include:

In Casco Viejo, these include:

Jungle Day Tours

panama jungle toursGatun Lake is the site of several local guide companies that operate to take tourists on Jungle Day Tours throughout the rain forests surrounding the Panama Canal and Gatun Lake region. Gatun Lake is one of the world’s most famous lakes, as it was the largest in the world for quite a long time. The lake essentially made the Panama Canal possible, as its waters support the operation of the locks.

From the shores of the lake, Jungle Day Tours embark and lead visitors on a voyage of discovery. Visitors can enjoy looking at the ancient sailing routes that have been used for centuries all around the isthmus, long before the creation of the Panama Canal. You’ll also likely see huge ocean ships that are in transit.

Jungle Day tours are best for those that wish to see an abundance of wildlife. You’ll have the chance to snap photos of exotic Panamanian birds, monkeys, sloths, iguanas and even crocodiles. Some even allow kayak rentals and swimming in some areas. Fishing is always a popular Jungle Day tour activity, as Peacock Bass are abundant in Gatun Lake, although they are not considered a fish native to our region of Panama (they were introduced accidentally by a businessman vacationing in Casco Viejo).

Let the tropical rainforest awaken your soul and enjoy Panama Jungle Day tours. Think of having a delicious, native style lunch with an abundance of local refreshments awaiting you while you are on your tour. Sip a cool drink and lounge in a nearby hammock while you wait on the boats to bring you back to Casco Viejo and Magnolia Inn.

Magnolia Inn in Casco Viejo is a well-appointed, luxury boutique hotel and hostel in Panama City, Panama. In addition to being one of the best reviewed hotels and hostels in Casco Viejo by Trip Advisor, Booking.com and Hostel Word, Magnolia Inn is conveniently located near a variety of attractions. In Panama City, these include:

In Casco Viejo, these include:

Amador Causeway

amador causewaySometime’s called Panama’s Playground, the Amador Causeway, or La Calzada De Amador in Spanish, is a long stretch of road that leads people to Frank Gehry’s Biodiversity Museum, or the Biomuseo, and that connects the Causeway Islands. The Causeway Islands, or Islas Calzada de Amador, are 4 tiny islands in the Pacific Ocean near the entrance to the Panama Canal. They are linked to the mainland via the Amador Causeway, a 6 km one lane road, which was constructed from rock from the Culebra Cut, extracted during the construction of the Panama Canal. Alongside the road is a bicycle and jogging route for bikers and joggers.

The purpose of this filling was to stop the currents from the Bay of Panama and avoid sedimentation at the entrance of the Canal.

The Amador Causeway essentially leads to the jungles and rain forests that surround the Panama Canal. It has gained some notoriety as being the location of Manual Antonia Norega’s private clubhouse back during the height of his cocaine smuggling days in the 1980s. The home has since been destroyed.

The Amador Causeway is located very near Magnolia Inn in Casco Viejo, a well-appointed, luxury boutique hotel and hostel in Panama City, Panama. In addition to being one of the best reviewed hotels and hostels in Casco Viejo by Trip Advisor, Booking.com and Hostel Word, Magnolia Inn is conveniently located near a variety of attractions. In Panama City, these include:

In Casco Viejo, these include:

Avenida Balboa

avenida balboa panamaThe largest upscale area within Panama City is the strip that runs some 3.5 km along the Pacific Ocean. It is where some of the city’s highest end real estate is located and where more development is slated. It is named for Vasco Núñez de Balboa who was a Spanish explorer, governor, and conquistador.

Known for being one of the most costly (per kilometer) roads in the world, the avenue is a major financial district for Panama and the rest of Central America. It is home to several tall building and points of interest including: Bisca Financial Center, The Arts Tower, Rivage, YOOPanama, Torre Waters and Torre Megapolis. The skyline at night is particularly beautiful as it is illuminated with the lights from these tall buildings.

Avenida Balboa intersects with Corredor Sur and sees some 75,000 vehicles per day. It was completely renovated and remodeled in 2009 and it’s expansion made it a focal point in Panama City. It features a wonderful Oceanside walking pathway along the avenue as well as several shopping villages, stores, and restaurants. People love to rent bikes and bike along the avenue’s bike lane as well. There are several street vendors as well offering great local fare.

The Bay of Panama City can be seen from all along the avenue creating one of the best photographs in the area. Visit this metropolitan center of Central America.

Casco Viejo, located at the end of Avenida Balboa, is the home of Magnolia Inn in Casco Viejo, a well-appointed, luxury boutique hotel and hostel in Panama City, Panama. In addition to being one of the best reviewed hotels and hostels in Casco Viejo by Trip Advisor, Booking.com and Hostel Word, Magnolia Inn is conveniently located near a variety of attractions. In Panama City, these include:

In Casco Viejo, these include:

Monkey Island Panama

monkey island panama toursMonkey Island Panama is home to several species of monkeys that are native to our region of Central America and there are several tour companies that offer Monkey Island tours that operate all around Gatun Lake and the Panama Canal.

Visitors can get a chance to feed the wild monkeys of Monkey Island Panama. The area is home to these species of monkeys: the Mantled Howler Monkey, the White-Faced Capuchin Monkey, Geoffroy’s Tamarin Monkey, and the Lemurine Owl Monkey. These tours take you in and around the waters that surround the rainforest found all along the canal. Here’s a little bit about Monkey Island and the different species that you can see.

Mantled Howler Monkey:
Visitors can go on tours of Monkey Island and see these adorable monkeys that live in groups of females with a few males. It communicates with other members of its group by creating a very loud sound that can be heard across some 5 kilometers. It is considered the loudest animal in our country’s rich animal diversity. Mantled Howler monkeys eat mostly trees from the tops of trees, as well as native fruits, nuts and flowers. They live anywhere from 15 to 20 years.

White-Faced Capuchin Monkey:
Also called the White-Throated Capuchin, these monkeys live in groups of 20 males and females and are very intelligent. They live in the Gatun lake region and are easily seen trying to use tree branches as a tool to knock food that is located just out of its reach. They live about 50 years.

Geoffroy’s Tamarin Monkey:
This small monkey lives in Panama and Colombia and its black and white with a red-brown nape. It has a white triangle shaped patch on its mask at the front of its head. It is the smallest species of monkey that you will see on most of the Monkey Island tours. They love the tropical rainforest’s dense moist canopy. The baby monkeys are born in the spring between April and June and newborns look a lot different than their parents. They are beige with white and black fur all over their bodies and tail. The entire family supports the new monkey baby care including the sibling monkeys. The Geoffroy’s Tamarin Monkey has a lifespan of 13 years.

Lemurine Owl Monkey:
These grey bellied night monkeys sleep during the daytime and come out to eat when dark sets in. They eat fruit, insects and nectar from fruit trees as well as sometimes small birds. They are a small monkey native to Panama. An interesting fact is that they are a monogamous monkey, and the couple usually has only one infant per year. The mother is in charge of the nursing and the father takes on the other responsibilities of raising the newborn.

Magnolia Inn in Casco Viejo is a well-appointed, luxury boutique hotel and hostel in Panama City, Panama. In addition to being one of the best reviewed hotels and hostels in Casco Viejo by Trip Advisor, Booking.com and Hostel Word, Magnolia Inn is conveniently located near a variety of attractions. In Panama City, these include:

In Casco Viejo, these include:

Gatun Lake

gatun lake toursAt the time of its construction in 1913, Gatun Lake was the largest man-made lake in the world. It was created by the damming of the Chagres River, and a crucial part of the creation of the Panama Canal as its waters operate the Panama Canal locks each time a ship passes through. It also provides the integral community amenity of drinking water to Panama City and Colon. It spans some 470 square kilometers (or 180 square miles) and is an important tropical ecological zone in the Atlantic Forest Corridor. Ecotourism is a huge activity here due to the sportfishing for non-native Peacock Bass.

Known for its preservation and beauty, Gatun Lake is surrounded by impenetrable rainforest areas, creating a barrier for the areas surrounding Panama Canal. Today, they are some of the last remaining untouched regions of in the world where native animal and plant species can flourish unscathed.

The lake is home to the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute, operated on Barro Colorado Island, the largest island in Gatun Lake. Some of the most crucial groundbreaking scientific and biological research discoveries have occurred on Barro Colorado Island.

One of the most popular Gatun Lake Tours is for fishing. Peacock Bass love the waters of Gatun Lake, and was first accidentally introduced to Gatun Lake by a local businessman in the late 60’s. They are called Sargento and are not a native fish of Panama. They originate from the Amazon and Rio Negro River basins in South America and were brought to the lake accidentally. Today, they are a huge game fish that Gatun Lake tours operate to allow visitors to catch.

Whether in Panama to go after a sizeable Peacock Bass or just to relax, check out Magnolia Inn in Casco Viejo, a well-appointed, luxury boutique hotel and hostel in Panama City, Panama. In addition to being one of the best reviewed hotels and hostels in Casco Viejo by Trip Advisor, Booking.com and Hostel Word, Magnolia Inn is conveniently located near a variety of attractions. In Panama City, these include:

In Casco Viejo, these include:

The Panama Canal

the panama canalThe Panama Canal is a 48-mile wide ship canal that connects the Atlantic with the Pacific. It cuts across the Isthmus of Panama and played a large, important role in assisting world trade and making the United States a world leader and power. It impacted the economy of not only the United States but several small Central American countries that neighbor Panama, as well as the country of Panama as well. The canal enabled ships to pass through the America’s without having to brave the long trip around Cape Horn, the southernmost tip of South America.

It opened for the first time on August 15, 1913 after taking some 10 years to complete. The 1904 construction project which created the Panama Canal was not the first attempt at constructing a connector between the two Americas. The French saw a need for the canal and began work back in 1881 but abandoned the project after workers died and engineering the canal proved to be nearly impossible (at the time).

The United States set up the Isthmian Canal Commission (ICC) to oversee the construction. The commission reported directly to then secretary of war William Howard Taft. Taft was put in charge of overseeing the commission and making sure that the construction was efficient and free of the issues that the French experienced some decades earlier. President Theodore Roosevelt created the Panama Canal Project and appointed John Findley Wallace as its chief engineer. Engineers and workers handling the project had to first put in place the infrastructure needed to house the thousands of workers that would be working on the project. They saw a great need for sanitation first, a mistake that the French had overlooked. They put in place numerous measures to cut down on the spread of mosquito-borne diseases such as Yellow Fever and Malaria through a series of sanitation measures. In fact, mosquito-borne diseases were nearly eliminated during this time of construction.

The construction of the canal was completed in 1914, 401 years after Panama was first crossed by Vasco Núñez de Balboa. The United States spent almost $375,000,000 (roughly equivalent to $8,600,000,000 now) to finish the project. This was by far the largest American engineering project to date. The canal was formally opened on August 15, 1914, with the passage of the cargo ship SS Ancon.

When in Casco Viejo, be sure to check out the Panama Canal Museum. The Canal Museum is filled with planning materials and interesting artifacts from the construction. Photos, site plans and much more are on display. If in Casco Viejo, check out Magnolia Inn, a beautifully reconstructed French colonial mansion, which features a 16-room hotel and hostel with 6 dorm rooms. In addition to being one of the best reviewed hotels and hostels in Casco Viejo by Trip Advisor, Booking.com and Hostel Word, Magnolia Inn is conveniently located near a variety of attractions. In Panama City, these include:

In Casco Viejo, these include:

Plaza Bolivar

You’ll likely spend some time sightseeing in Panama City and walking around Plaza Bolivar, a lovely plaza located inside Casco Viejo. It is also called the Plaza de San Francisco, as it is home of one of the largest and most ornate churches in Casco Viejo, Iglesia San Francisco de Asis .

Plaza Bolivar is filled with several restaurants and the monument statue of Simon Bolivar, the Venezuelan military leader and South American hero, who was instrumental in leading revolutions against the Spanish empire. It gets very little road traffic making it the perfect locale for cafes and eateries outfitted with large umbrellas on their patios for outside dining. The Iglesia San Francisco de Asis features one of the tallest structures in the plaza, with its towering bell tower.

Located at Avenida B between Calle 3 & Calle 4, the plaza is filled with 19th century architecture, old cathedrals and is one of the most beautiful areas within Casco Viejo, close to Hotel Magnolia.

Magnolia Inn in Casco Viejo is a well-appointed, luxury boutique hotel and hostel in Panama City, Panama. In addition to being one of the best reviewed hotels and hostels in Casco Viejo by Trip Advisor, Booking.com and Hostel Word, Magnolia Inn is conveniently located near a variety of attractions. In Panama City, these include:

In Casco Viejo, these include:

Bridge of the Americas

bridge of the americas panamaThe Bridge of the Americas, or the Puente de las Americas, or as it was originally called, the Thatcher Ferry Bridge, is an enormous road bridge located in Panama City, which spans the entrance to the Panama Canal / Pacific Ocean.

This magnificent structure was completed in 1962 and was the only NON-SWINGING (oh my goodness just thinking of a swinging road bridge makes us anxious) that connects North and South America until 2004 when the Centennial Bridge was completed.

It is located at Balboa, just near Panama City, and was built by the United States at a cost of 20 million U.S. dollars. It is a key part of the Pan-American highway, and has played a large role in world trade as road traffic through the canal increased. It carried some 9,500 vehicles per day during its beginning and by 2004 that figure had expanded to 35,000 vehicles per day. At that point, planning officials realized there was a great need for another bridge, and Centennial Bridge was constructed to alleviate some of the bottlenecking that was occurring with traffic going over the Bridge of the Americas.

Much like other projects of the Panama Canal construction, the bridge has seen its fair share of protests and dramatic political discourse over the decades. It was to be named the Thatcher Ferry Bridge, after the original ferry that crossed the canal near where the bridge was constructed. The ferry itself, was named for Maurice H. Thatcher, a former member of the canal commission, who had called for legislation to create the ferry. Thatcher was able to cut the tape at the opening of the bridge, however, the name was very unpopular with the government officials in Panama, who preferred the name, “Bridge of the Americas”. The Panamanian officials won the debate and the name was debated by their National Assembly in 1962, just 10 days after the bridge opened. It remained legally named the Thatcher Ferry Bridge until Panamanian control took over in 1979. Postage stamps were even issued showing the engineering marvel with the name, “Thatcher Ferry Bridge”. What’s more peculiar, is Thatcher Ferry Bridge stamps have become even more rare and sought after by stamp collectors because of their known error on one sheet where the bridge is visibly missing – oops!

One can spot Casco Viejo from the Bridge of the Americas, especially on a clear, sunny day. Located within Casco is Magnolia Inn in Casco Viejo, a well-appointed, luxury boutique hotel and hostel in Panama City, Panama. In addition to being one of the best reviewed hotels and hostels in Casco Viejo by Trip Advisor, Booking.com and Hostel Word, Magnolia Inn is conveniently located near a variety of attractions. In Panama City, these include:

In Casco Viejo, these include:

National Theatre of Panama

hotels in panama city panamaEl Teatro Nacional or the National Theatre of Panama, inaugurated in 1908, sits on the site of a monastery that dates back to the 1700’s. The theater was designed by Italian architect Genaro Ruggieri, with a style of Italian operetta theater, and opened on October 1, 1908. At the turn of the 20th century, when it opened, it had a luxurious aura and was a destination for Latin American celebrities and governmental elite. It fell into disrepair for some years and at one point in its history was rented out as a movie house.

It saw 2 separate restoration projects, one of the 1970’s and one in the early 2000’s and in 2004 it reopened to visitors. The Neo Baroque architecture alone is worth stopping by for a visit, however you can now take in a show as you could in its heyday. The ceiling features frescoe paintings by Robert Lewis, a well known Panamanian artist.

It is located at Avenida B between Calle 3 & Calle 4, next to the church of San Francisco, and the Plaza Bolivar. It is a part of a cross-shaped building. The other part of the building is the National Palace. Call +507 262-3525 for more details on shows and visiting the National Theatre of Panama. There are multi level boxes available as seating options during shows. Call to find out about on-going performances.

The National Theatre is located walking distance from Magnolia Inn, a luxury boutique hotel and hostel in Panama City, Panama. In addition to being one of the best reviewed hotels and hostels in Casco Viejo by Trip Advisor, Booking.com and Hostel Word, Magnolia Inn is conveniently located near a variety of attractions. In Panama City, these include:

In Casco Viejo, these include: