Archive for the ‘Children’ Category

IDB loan to assist Panamanian students

IDB loan will assist Panamanian children

Inter-American Development Bank News Release
June 7, 2012 – News Release

IDB loan for US$70 million to benefit more than 38,000 Panamanian students

The Inter-American Development Bank approved a loan for $70 million to provide innovative educational infrastructure to 47 communities in Panama that will benefit more than 38,000 students. The goal is to expand educational opportunities and encourage students in marginal and indigenous areas to complete basic education.

More than a third of Panamanians between the ages of 13 and 17 do not attend school. Coverage levels are especially low for the groups targeted by the program. For example, in the Ngäbe-Buglé and Guna Yala indigenous administrative regions, only 43 percent of youths attend secondary school.

The IDB financing will be used to expand and equip 20 primary schools to include grades seven to nine and construct two model schools that will have innovative facilities and will employ a new pedagogical and educational management approach. These investments are expected to result in the matriculation of 10,000 new students from preschool through secondary school.

In addition, the program will providing 47 schools with classrooms designed to facilitate learning. The basic curriculum will be updated to prepare students for the challenges of the 21st century, and training and support will be extended to staff and faculty in school management, pedagogy, and curriculum content.

Only 62 percent of Panamanian schools have drinking water in Panama, compared with 77 percent for the Latin America and the Caribbean as a whole. Half have adequate sanitation, compared with 65 percent for the region

Studies indicate that the quality of a school’s physical environment directly affects both the motivation and behavior of teachers as well as learning, discipline, and attention levels of the students.

Schools benefiting from the program are located poor areas with high dropout rates in the provinces of Panamá, Coclé, Colón, Chiriquí, Los Santos, and the indigenous administrative areas of Ngäbe-Buglé and Guna Yala.

The financing was extended for a 25-year term with a grace period of four years and a variable interest rate based on LIBOR. Counterpart funding totals $10 million.

New release thanks to IDB website: http://www.iadb.org/en/news/news-releases/2012-06-07/panama-will-improve-school-infrastructure,10017.html


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Nature in Panama, Traveling with Kids

Nature in Panama, Traveling with Kids


We live in Panama with a child, therefore I often get questions from readers coming to visit Panama on vacation, and even expats living in Panama about what to do with their kids on vacation. Here are my suggestions for both the younger set and teens; some great ideas for adults as well.


Panama offers a new world and a wealth of natural, fun, experiences–and what an education for both the kids and the adults (but don´t tell them that part). From the engineering man-made wonder of the Panama Canal to an abundance of nature´s treasures. Many destinations are within a couple of hours from the bustling capital city, so there is no shortage of excursions and activities. Panama was key in the history and development of Latin America and took center stage as the location for numerous pirate vs. conquistador battles, as well as the land route for transfer of Spanish treasure from the Pacific coast bound for Spain.


WALK CASCO VIEJO: The most historic neighborhood in Panama City, many elegant buildings are now being restored. It is a World Heritage site. Around and within the old Union Club in Casco Viejo, check out where the latest James Bond movie (Quantum of Solace) was filmed, showing in theaters November 2008. After touring savor some of the best ice creams in Panama from GrandClement. French owned and run, wonderfully unique and traditional flavours! Location: Central Avenue and 4th street. Not in the mood for ice cream, try a traditional Panamanian Raspado near the boardwalk (grated ice with flavorings). Or taste both! Note: The wonderful museum in Casco Viejo is very nice for the adults but not too interesting for most children.
PANAMA VIEJO: Visit the site of the first Panama City, its interesting ruins, museum and go souvenir shopping at their Artisans handicraft market. A World Heritage Site.
SMITHSONIAN INSTITUTE MARINE EXHIBITIONS CENTER (Centro de Exhibiciones Marinas): On Isla Naos, connected to Panama City by the Amador Causeway. The center has a museum with marine exhibits, two aquariums, and a nature trail through a small forest harboring sloths and iguanas. Open Tuesday to Friday 1 pm to 5 pm, Saturday and Sunday 10 am to 5 pm. Nearby is the future site of the long awaited Museum of Biodiversity (2010).
RENT BIKES ON AMADOR CAUSEWAY: While you are out by Amador Causeway enjoy bike riding with your family. Rentals available from several locations where you can rent all types of cycles, from basic 5 speed bikes to lowriders to bicycles for 2 or 3, to pedal driven carts with a roof… From $2 per hour.
PARQUE OMAR: Once a private golf course, now the city´s largest park. Walk or jog around the some 5 km of paths shaded by large tropical trees. Parque Omar also has a simple gym, playground, tennis court, swimming pool, basketball court, soccer field, baseball field, outdoor halls, and a library. Various sports clubs meet there offering American Football and soccer, plus it offers a number of public events during the year. Located on Via Porras near the city center in San Fransisco. NOTE: Most city neighborhood parks have playgrounds.
PARQUE METROPOLITANO: A 655-acre wilderness park within the limits of Panama City. Offering trails, more than 250 species of birds and 40 types of mammals, it is also the site of a tropical research center. The visitors’ center is open 8 am to 4 pm daily.
ANCON HILL: The hill is a steep 654-foot hike but the reward is spectacular Panama City views; it is one of the most recognizable landmarks in the area with its giant Panamanian flag flying atop. When Henry Morgan sacked Panama City, his scouts used Ancon Hill to spy on the Spaniards.
It was under U.S. jurisdiction as part of the Panama Canal Zone for much of the 20th Century, and was never developed like most of the city. It is possible to see sloths, coatimundi, armadillos, Geoffroy’s Tamarins or deer on Ancon Hill which is now protected. It takes about 45 minutes, by foot, to reach the top from the parking area in Quarry Heights. Along the path you can see numerous species of vegetation and birds, including large number of orchids.
BOWLING: Enjoy bowling with a view at Sky Bowling, serving food and drinks by Bennigans on Avenida Balboa (in the Extreme Planet Building) or Bowling at Allbrook Mall.
EXPLORA PANAMA: A fun, science related, hands on, indoor learning experience for kids. http://www.explorapanama.org/ Tel: 230-3066 Area: Condado del Rey.
SHOPPING: An all time favorite, while MultiPlaza is a fabulous Mall with numerous high end and mid range shops you can also check out the more economical Allbrook Mall.
MOVIES: Although Hollywood movies offered in Panama arrive a bit later than North America it is a fun and inexpensive way to spend the evening. Price for a child and one adult is about $6 (not including the popcorn which will put you back the same or more). Many places offer kids animated movies in English only once a day if at all, so ask beforehand. There are plenty of cinemas in Panama, check the papers or ask at your hotel. Our favorite in the city is Extreme Planet, there are also cinemas at all the malls.
FRUIT AND VEGETABLE MARKETS: Check out tropical varieties of fruit and vegetables. Delicious and very economical. The market on the way to Casco Viejo is new. Located a couple of buildings from the fish market on Avenida Balboa. There is another older, large wholesale market but it is located in a rough area so we cannot recommend it for visitors.
LEARN SPANISH: Short-term, half days, and intensive Spanish-language courses are offered by a number of Spanish language schools in Panama City and also several locations in rural areas. Homestay programs are also available.


THE PANAMA CANAL: and its Museum at Miraflores Locks. The Museum is quite child friendly and the big ships are impressive to watch as they travel through the locks. About a 30 minute taxi ride from downtown Panama City.
TRAIN RIDE ALONG THE CANAL TO THE COLON: http://www.panarail.com Prearrange a bus or Taxi to take you back by road or first on a tour to historic Portobelo Town on the Caribbean.
BOAT TRIP ON THE PANAMA CANAL: Take a day trip on the Panama Canal by boat. See my “Activities” page in this blog.
TABOGA ISLAND: take the scenic ferry ride along the Pacific entrance to the Panama Canal from Amador to Taboga (under 1 hour) for a few days to relax; spend the days at the beach and overnight at B&B Cerrito Tropical (oceanview beside the rainforest) – other activities that can be organized at Cerrito include fishing with a local from Taboga (reserve excursions in advance please), take a boat ride around the island to see the Brown Pelican Reserve, go snorkeling on a wreck, hand painted manicure and pedicure designs, hiking on trails that pirates and conquistadors used, practice Spanish with a tutor (advance notice required) and swimming at Playa Honda (which has very little current and nice for building sandcastles and beachcombing).
MONKEY ISLAND AT GAMBOA RAINFOREST: spend a couple of hours in a boat around protected islands beside the Panama Canal teeming with wildlife and monkeys that come to the boat for snacks.
RAINFOREST EXPERIENCE: The Panama Rainforest Discovery Center; http://www.pipelineroad.org/index.php?lang=en
SUMMIT BOTANICAL GARDENS AND ZOO: About 20 minutes from Panama City, six miles (10 km) past the Miraflores Locks. The gardens contain 15,000 plant species and nature trails. The zoo’s main attraction is the compound housing Panama´s national bird, the Harpy Eagle (endangered). Hours are 8 am to 4 pm on week days and 8 am to 6 pm on weekends.
PARQUE AQUATICO, AVALON RESORT: Water Park, 30-40 minutes from Panama City on the way to Colon in Las Cumbres. Open 2 days a week Saturday and Sunday only. $8.50 pp. (507) 268-4499
PARQUE SOBERANIA: This large park borders the Panama Canal and has several hiking trails through the rainforest, including the 11-mile Camino del Oleoducto (Pipeline Road), which attracts bird-watchers from around the world.
ISLA BARRO COLORADO: Barro Colorado Island in the middle of Gatún Lake was formed when areas were flooded during the building of the Panama Canal. The island is home to numerous plants and animals and is used as an outdoor laboratory by Smithsonian tropical research scientists. Barro Colorado can be visited on small-group tours given by the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute. Tel: 507-227-6021/6022 in Panama City for information.
CANOPY RIDE AND HORSEBACK RIDES IN EL VALLE: The mountain town just 77 miles (124 km) from Panama City El Valle is famous for its Sunday market, gardens, nature walks, and pre-Columbian petroglyphs. The Canopy Ride takes adventurers on an exciting experience through the rainforest canopy. The Canopy Adventure is in El Valle near Chorro el Macho, a 195-foot-high (60 m) waterfall. http://adventure.panamabirding.com/#top, horseback riding can be found on the town streets, just ask when you arrive for directions. El Valle also has a small zoo and botanical garden with an amazing bird collection. Near the zoo there is a small family run serpentarium.
ISLA GRANDE EXCURSION: Located on the Caribbean Coast, 1-2 nights is perfect. Try Bananas Resort for a family get away. They offer a bus service from the city as well. We recommend that you take the bus because the drive is difficult on bad roads.
PORTOBELO: An interesting historical day trip from Panama City to the Caribbean coast. Visit the market that was center of trade in the America’s has been restored and there is and its small museum. There is also a visitor’s center in the town and a small artisan market.The Portobelo church has the black Christ statue. Lots of ruins and cannons and a beautiful harbor. You can rent pangas from there to take you out to private beaches and there are also, a couple of nearby dive places. A very, very quiet town.
FORT SAN LORENZO: Visit this historic fort on the Caribbbean side: http://www.sanlorenzo.org.pa/
SAN BLAS ISLANDS: Kuna indigenous people experience; 1-2 nights recommended. Archipelago of about 350 islands off Panama’s Caribbean coast. The San Blas Islands are home to the Kuna Indians, a unique indigenous people who retain many of their ancient traditions. The islands can be reached on a short airplane ride from Panama City.
EMBERA INDIGENOUS PEOPLE: Visit the Embera peoples´ village for the day. Boat ride up the river, swimming at a waterfall, hand painted tattoos (temporary), visit their village and learn about their traditions.
ISLA COIBA: Take a trip to Isla Coiba, one of Panama´s best underwater areas for diving or snorkeling, spot sharks, turtles, rays, numerous species of beautiful tropical fish. It is quite far from Panama City so allow several days for the excursion. Isla Coiba was once the site for a large prison and there is simple accommodation available, as well on the coast in the nearby towns you can find several offerings.
VOLCAN AND BOQUETE: Mountainous areas offering a complete ranges of options as well such as touring a coffee plantation or hiking in the mountains or river rafting on the Chiriquí River.
WILDLIFE RESCUE CENTER PARADISE GARDENS: BOQUETE. Enclosures for birds and animals set in 4 acres of beautiful landscaped gardens. Visitors have the opportunity to interact with some animals, especially monkeys. They also have kinkajous, several big cats, lots of parrots etc. etc. They concentrate on rehabilitation of animals with a view to returning them to the wild. Open every day except Monday from 10 am to 4 pm. Admission is by a donation of $5 per adult. Children, no charge but they must be accompanied by an adult. Tel: 6615 6618, email; junglefotos@yahoo.com
SURFING: El Palmar in San Carlos (rentals available as well as lessons from a couple of locations): http://www.elpalmarsurf.com/?gclid=CMKX-snBuZUCFQukHgod2FJBQg, http://www.nomadsurfers.com/English/Panama/panama_sancarlos.htm
FISHING: Panama offers some of the best deep sea fishing in the world. A number of deep sea fishing companies offer tours out of the city plus there are several others along the Pacific Coast. If you don´t want to spend a lot, buy inexpensive rods at Do It Center or Abernathy (there are other locations in Panama City as well which sell gear) and head out to Amador Causeway where there is a public fishing pier. Or head for Taboga Island and fish off the pier or beach. There are also several small operators offering fresh water fishing in Lake Gatun, near Gamboa.
PACIFIC BEACHES: Dozens of idyllic white sand beaches line the Pacific Coast. Be very careful when swimming. There are very few lifeguards in Panama and currents can be strong, on both the Pacific and Caribbean sides. The drop offs on the Pacific side can be quite steep.

OTHER ACTIVITIES: Panama has 1800 miles (2850 km) of Caribbean and Pacific coastlines, there are numerous outdoor activities possible. Panama offers thousands of islands and coral reefs and 12 national parks. Many activities can be done independently, contacting a local guide or tour operator may make arrangements simpler. But some guides and operators will not work with businesses who will not pay them commission.
Suggestions for additional activities include: Swimming, Snorkeling, Scuba Diving, Surfing and Windsurfing, Hiking, Horseback Riding, Sea Kayaking, Bird Watching, River Rafting, Cycling, Deep-Sea Fishing, Golf.

Carnival: The biggest event of the year in Panama is Carnival, celebrated during the four days leading up to Ash Wednesday. Music, costumes, dancing, and a large parade in Panama City all form part of the festivities. Many visitors escape the craziness and head for the interior or Taboga Island. All main villages and towns have their own celebrations but much more subdued than the city.
Semana Santa (Easter Holy Week): An important time for religious processions and events. Taboga Island has its own walking processions and event at the second oldest church in the western hemisphere.
Black Christ Ceremony: On October 21, thousands of religious pilgrims descend upon Portobelo for the Black Christ ceremony.
Boquete Fair: There is a 10-day flower and coffee fair (Feria de las Flores y del Café) in Boquete every January.
November Holidays: November is a month full of National Independence Holidays and parades, if you are traveling during November be sure to check your dates and what holiday is happening.
December: The month of December often has a Santa Claus parade for the kids which is quite nice, and many large companies put up gorgeous lighted displays for the holidays. Malls will often have a Santa as well as special events. December 8th is Mother´s Day in Panama, restaurants can be very busy. Christmas is a family time in Panama , traditional turkey can be found in major hotel restaurants and a few independent restaurants. New Years Eve offers numerous events which change annually. On Taboga there are family groups and couples coming to the island to enjoy the holidays at the beach on a toned down scale. There are some fireworks and fisherman set off noisy “tuna bombs” to scare away the evil spirits.
Jewish Holidays: Although Panama is mainly a Christian country there are many Jewish Panamanians who own businesses. Jewish holidays are celebrated and on the major holidays some businesses and offices may be closed.

GETTING AROUND: Panama has good roads and a well-developed intercity/regional bus system. However, Panama City’s public transportation is poor and often unsafe. We cannot recommend it for visitors traveling to Panama City. Taxis are inexpensive and the best way to get around town, for under $5 you can get almost anywhere in the city and outskirts. Ask your concierge how much should you pay and they will give you an idea. All the major rental car agencies operate in Panama City. There are a number of small airlines offering numerous flights to outlying areas from Allbrook Airport.

WEATHER: Located only nine degrees north of the equator, Panama has a tropical climate with a green and a dry season. The tourist season is year-round. The dry season, from December through April is the most comfortable time to visit is the busiest. Panamanian school children have their summer holidays during those months. The green season is also nice and the temperature can be cooler because of the cloud cover, expect some afternoon rain and humidity during the green season. The islands offshore experience a slightly different climate for example Taboga Island where we receive less rain than the mainland during every season and often have cooling sea breezes.
Temperatures in Panama City rarely go below 75º F (25º C) and highs can exceed 90º F (32 ºC). Mountain towns such as El Valle and Boquete are considerably cooler than lowland areas. Panama’s Caribbean coast receives much more rain than its Pacific side. Panama lies below the main path of hurricanes.

HEALTH AND SAFETY: Panama is a relatively healthy and safe country to travel in. However, malaria, dengue fever, hepatitis A, rabies, and yellow fever do present some risk for visitors. Discuss vaccinations with your doctor before leaving home. Tap water is potable in Panama City. Drink bottled water outside the capital. If you or the kids get sick during your stay, don´t hesitate to go to one of the major clinics. Medical services are very reasonable here and excellent. The pharmacies will also be quite helpful and a number of medications are available for sale over the counter. Bring any medicines you or your kids are accustomed to because some familiar brands cannot be found here.

Panama has created a special tourism police force to help protect visitors. Rural areas are generally safe, but there are several areas within Panama City which you should be cautious of: robberies have occurred in the Casco Viejo and Panama Viejo areas of Panama City. The entire Chorrillo area of Panama City should be completely avoided. The port city of Colón (1 hour from Panama City on the Caribbean coast) is dangerous for tourists (except for the Zona Libre).
TIP: Look for a taxi driver who is recommended by your hotel or someone you know, ask him what he will charge by the hour and have him stay with you for the day (about $10 per hour). It can be well worth it, especially if you are in Casco Viejo where there are few taxis to be found.

Use common sense and do not travel or walk alone wearing a lot of jewelery, large expensive bags, obvious cameras and electronics (cell phone and Ipods). When in public areas keep purses on your knee or over your shoulder. Jeans and pants with pockets are the favorite street wear in Panama.

PACK YOUR DAY BAG: travel everyday with sunscreen, mosquito spray, hats, packable rainjacket and bottled water. If you will be spending a lot of time in the water at beaches, pack a small bottle of vinegar; it is often helpful with jellyfish stings. In even in the smallest Chinese minimarket you can find snacks, but maybe add some granola bars to your day bag so you are not dependent on street food.
KEEPING KIDS ENTERTAINED: Things in Panama tend to move slower so include something to do for today´s kids who are used to being entertained all the time–it really depends on the age but a general list for ages 5 and up could start with: inexpensive digital camera, binoculars, sketch pad or journal with colored pencils, deck of cards, Spanish beginners dictionary and so on.
An excellent suggestion just came in, in fact my son´s teacher in Japan once asked him to write a story about Panama and keep a journal. Contact your children´s teachers before you leave to find out if there is anything they will be studying that would have a connection with your destination, for example: rainforest, biodiversity, animals, climate, oceans, indigenous people, Caribbean slave history, Spanish history, pirates and so on.

City sidewalks are not well maintained and mostly have no stroller/handicapped, so travel with the most portable stroller you have or opt for a baby carrier.

Panamanians love kids and most hotels can arrange to have one of their staff to babysit, and some exclusive hotels have Nannies.

If you have any questions or ideas to be added to this article please feel free to add a comment at the bottom of this article. For more information on Taboga Island, please visit my other website: www.cerritotropicalpanama.com, or contact me at info@cerritotropicalpanama.com

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Dr. Marco Antonio Belizaire
Sports and Family Chiropractor

Dr. Belizaire

Dr. Belizaire

Dr. Belizaire was recommended to me by several of our readers who are his patients. He has visited Panama one week out of every month to see patients since the year 2000, his fees are $35.00 for the initial consultation, evaluation and adjustment, plus the report of findings. After that if he treats patients anywhere from 3-5 times during the week that he is in Panama it is $45.00 dollars per person, or $20.00 per one adjustment. He also offer family plans where a family of 2 will pay $75.00 for the weeks adjustments 3-5 times.

Information is listed below for both addresses, in Atlanta as well as in Panama and his cell number for Panama is listed also, as most people contact him on his cell if their Spanish is limited and cannot communicate with the receptionist who is provided by the hospital. His office is located in Centro Medico Bella Vista located in Avenida Peru and 39th street, suite # 108, next to Hotel Costa Inn.

His schedule normally is Monday, Wednesday, and Fridays from 9-1 AM and 3-7 PM, Tuesday 10-1 AM and 3-7 PM, Thursday 1-7 PM and Saturday 9:30-1:00 PM. He has special hours for adjusting and hours for New Patients and report of findings because he spends time with the new patients educating them about chiropractic, its benefits as it related to health and gives them a list of Do’s and Don’ts because it is very important to him that the patient follows the recommendations outside the office because that will determine the success of the care they render. Dr. Belizaire states that he offers “a partnership in health and well-being”. At times the above schedule becomes altered but he always does his best to accommodate.

Dr. Belizaire´s services are primarily chiropractic, full spine, extremities adjusting; he uses the drop peace table as well for those that needed it, and the activator technique. Because of his Olympic background, he does a lot of work with athletes for injury prevention and peak performance. He treats patients of all ages. Some patients visit mainly for pain management, others for stress relief, injury treatment or health maintenance and prevention.

The doctors´s next trip to Panama will be this week from July 6.

Dr. Marco Antonio Belizaire
Sports and Family Chiropractor

Georgia: AGAPE Chiropractic and Wellness Center, Inc.
1246 B Concord Road Suite 100
Smyrna, GA 30080
Tel: 770-434-5707
Panama: AGAPE Chiropractic Center/Panama
Centro Medico Bella Vista
Avenida Peru y Calle 39 #108
Tel: 011-507-227-3444/011-507-6639-0635
Email: DrMarcoDC@gmail.com

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decameron resort view

We live in Panama, work and play on a tropical island… so many people might think… why would we want to vacation at Decameron Resort Panama? Good question.


Since we had family coming on a one week Decameron package to visit from Canada with Westjet on a package, it seemed the simplest option, and offered us something different. We had stayed at the nearby Playa Blanca Resort with them a couple of years back which was a very nice time, a lovely medium sized all inclusive resort, but still we felt it lacked the Panama experience. It is so interesting for visitors to Panama Resorts to leave the grounds to see what the country has to offer. Unless of course the main intention is to completely relax sitting on the beach and at poolside.

From reports we had heard about Decameron, we did not have our hopes up. After an easy drive of about 1.5 hours from the city we arrived. On arrival directions were a little confusing, parking very limited, and check in, it was not up to international par. We were sent away from reception to a large hall with about one hundred other new guests, and a number system. Things started to look up. Although the system seemed antiquated in the beginning, it worked efficiently. At the table where we were checked in we asked about the number of rooms… over 1000 they told us. It is a huge resort catering to both the Latin and the North American markets. A management nightmare.

After struggling to find parking, we headed off to our room and were surprised to have a lovely, clean ocean view room (among some 999 others). Beds and pillows were comfortable, rooms had television, hot water, and were well maintained. My cousin mentioned his room was noisy, but ours was not. Our rate was good; we were fortunate because we received the weekday residents rate of $53 per person per night, all inclusive. That is a fair deal. At certain times of year the price can be lower.

buffet restaurant at Decameron

We tried to book a restaurant for the first night but they were all full, so we ate at the buffet which was fine. Some of the offerings were great, some were mediocre. That is what we expected, so were not disappointed. In our 3 days we learned to head to the buffet early rather than late for fresh food and energetic service from the personnel. The open air evening restaurant was nice, service good, employees well trained.

buffet restaurant at Decameron2

Because this is green season, we think that the resort was not full. Given that, we never want to visit when it is full! Lots of guests, and plenty of action, if that is what you are looking for. Luckily the weather was lovely in the mornings and by mid afternoon it clouded over and rained heavily. It was time for a siesta!

Decameron has a beautiful enormous beach front property to share with the other 2000 or more people who may be there at the same time. I possibly seem a little sarcastic, but the truth is with the exception of the main activities pool, there was plenty of space and surprisingly well maintained. They must work all night to keep the resort and beaches clean.

beach bar at decameron

Activities were fun, and the liquor was overflowing from every corner of the resort (about 11 bars), and there were an abundance of restaurants. They have a golf course nearby but we didn´t make it even to the driving range, we were so busy hanging out at the pool and beach!

Both my husband and I enjoyed massages. He in the spa and I on the beach. The masseuses were well trained and prices reasonable. ($30 for 30 minutes) We tried to book horseback riding but it seems necessary to reserve the day before.

beach massage at decameron

Among the negatives were staff training in F&B seemed somewhat lacking, front desk service was mediocre, from time to time attitude could be improved. Still, our overall impression was good, and at times we were amazed how the resort can operate as well as it does considering the size. We will go back, and as soon as we arrive book everything for our stay so as not to be disappointed.

Our family stayed at Decameron in Fallaron for several days, then stopped in the city and later to our Cerrito Tropical Bed & Breakfast on Taboga Island. They had been to Isla Taboga before and really loved it; now they are planning a new vacation including time on Taboga and probably Isla Grande. The 2 oceans tour!

Now some people love the resort experience. I still have a bit of trouble with it even though I really had a chance to kick back. I love to get to know a country and enjoy the local experience. In any big resort that is difficult. If you do opt for any resort experience, try to get out to experience the beauty of Panama either on a tour, or by renting a car. Panama has so much to offer outside the walls of any of its resorts.

As a side note: one of our friends who were staying at Decameron from Canada… their son had an accident; the family was very happy with the way Decameron handled it and arranged to have the young man taken to the hospital where they were quite pleased with the doctor, the hospital and the price. From what they said, Decameron seems very well organized to handle mishaps.

For more information contact the Hotel Royal Decameron:

Panama City Office: 507-214-3535
Toll Free: 800-2111
Resort: 507-993-2255

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shopping panama One of my favorite pass times is hunting for bargains. Especially now that we live in Panama. Shopping opportunities abound if you are willing to take your time. I have shopped for everything here from construction materials to fashion. At one time purchasing was my career choice, I was a “Buyer”; now I not only save money but enjoy the challenge of bargaining in another language and culture.

Sometimes just finding the particular store you are looking for is a huge challenge on its own. The best research source besides your friends in Panama, is the Yellow Pages, even if you don´t read Spanish you can browse. They have an online version for Panama too.

Although driving in Panama City is a hassle, and can be quite difficult if you are not extremely patient, I prefer it to taxis now. Most large shops and malls have parking with security. But taxis are so reasonable it is also a good option. Taxis within the city center are under $2 but impossible to get during rush hour or rain. What I have often done was hire a taxi by the hour ($8-$10) once I have found one I liked, and have them stay with me – more expensive, but a lot more convenient.

For the best shopping market and electronics deals in one place Allbrook Mall has it all; located out of the city beside the country´s bus terminal and Allbrook regional Airport. They used to be a lower end mall but recently have opened up a new section devoted to fashionistas with money. They also have a skating rink, bowling, restaurants, movie theatres, supermarket, and about 300 shops and department stores. A taxi to the mall from downtown can be as low as $3, and I have paid as much as $7 during a rainy Friday rush hour. Check out B&B for some great fashion bargains (designer jeans for $12, tropical blouses for $10), and Dorions, as well as the sales offered. Saks can have some terrific buys if you take the time to browse the racks. Electronics, there you can bargain. I took a client once to AudioFoto and PanaFoto where I asked for 2 quotes on appliances and air conditioners; eventually we saved close to $1000.

The other malls include Los Pueblos: low end but you can find good bargains, out of the city on the way to Tocumen Airport (allow half a day for that adventure), MultiCentro: a mishmash of stores but several gems such as Aliss with 2 locations (department store with some furniture), Conway (department store with furniture and household items), and of course MultiPlaza, a high end mall to shop in and be seen in. Most of the malls have a supermarket, my personal favorite is Riba Smith. Although it is almost never the cheapest, it has a great selection and is conveniently located in MultiPlaza Mall.

One of my favorite department stores for high end fashion is Felix Maduro. They often have several racks of moderately priced fashion clothing, and several times a year they have sales. Kids love their toy department which has one of the best selections in the country. If you get a Felix Card you will accumulate points to use for even more shopping!

So whether you are living here in Panama or just visiting, shopping is one activity not to be missed, just allow plenty of time.

Don´t forget the most important tip I can leave you with, “Be Patient” .

Bargain Hunting Tips: Use what you can to bargain: In some stores you can ask for a discount, and you may get it if the manager is around, especially if you are buying several items. If you are a pensioner, that can sometimes be used as a bargaining tool. If you have a major construction project going on, i.e.: a renovation, use it. Once a year in June/July B&B has a huge sale and discounts their discounted merchandise even further, you can save as much as 80% off. Aliss has regular sales on the entire store, as does Saks, watch the papers for dates (or ask one of the sales people to let you know for a tip$).

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Gourmet Pizza

Gourmet Pizza has been known in Panama over the past couple of years as an easy-going trendy, neighborhood pizza joint with consistently good, thin crust pizza, with fresh and unique toppings such as feta cheese or asparagus. Recently they have expanded their menu and added pastas. On offer are five types of pasta with your choice of four different sauces so that you can mix and match to your taste: Alfredo, Matrichana, Carbonera, and Bolognese; pasta ranges from $6.26. I tested the Matrichana with Tortellini last night and it was very tasty, brimming with vegetables and bacon to give it well rounded smoky flavor.

We often enjoy the savory antipasta appetizer $6, classic Greek salad with loads of feta cheese and black olives served with piping hot pita bread, 5.00.

Among our favorite pizzas are the Primavera (vegetarian with fresh asparagus) which is topped with fresh al dente vegetables; Greek feta cheese and black olives combine to create a uniquely flavored pizza, Hawaiian sweet pineapple and thinly sliced ham plus traditional Pepperoni and Cheese are old standbys, rich melt in your mouth Four Cheese pizza, all available plus many more choices in 3 sizes; priced from $5.75 (10”) to $19.00 (16”). For those watching their calorie counts they offer light pizza, and for those who are not, dessert pizzas such as honey and cinnamon or chocolaty nutella.

They also have a full bar with a simple wine list and if you don´t want to hang out they have take out and home delivery too.

When it is full the noise levels can be high but we love the pizza so much we can tune it out.
Located on Avenida Balboa next to Arrocha Pharmacy on the edge of Paitilla, and across from MultiCentro Mall. Within walking distance from the Plaza Paitilla Hotel, Decapolis Hotel, Sheraton Four Points hotels.
Tel:215-1000, www.goumetpizzapanama.com, Open 11 am till 12am.

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The Pacific Queen in the Panama Canal Locks
The Pacific Queen in the Panama Canal Locks

Just had a meeting at Panama Marine Adventures. They operate one of the companies which take visitors through the Panama Canal on day trips. A half day transit takes about 5 hours and there is a bilingual guide to explain the sites and nature as the boat sails through the locks and Canal; included as well is a simple lunch with soft drinks.

The trip looks very interesting. A friend of mine went recently and loved the day, she said it was extremely relaxing with beautiful views from within the Canal (she did the Full Transit). As I have not had time to do it in the 4 years we have been here, I will go and check it out myself very soon.

The tours head out from Amador Causeway and depending on the day, either leaves from the dock at Amador or returns to the dock there. If returning in the afternoon to Amador by boat (Saturdays) they will take you by air conditioned bus to Gamboa in the morning where you board your ship. Schedules right now are Saturdays only, but during the high season they run three days, from Thursday through Saturday.

Half Panama Canal transit:
$115 adults; $65 children 3-12
Full Panama Canal transit: $165 adults; $75 children 3-12 (Full Transit takes about 12 hours)

For more information: please contact me, by commenting here in my blog or sending me an email directly: info@cerritotropicalpanama.com

Their contact info: 226-8917 270-4288 www.pmatours.com

Note, combining this with a Taboga Island trip: The tours both start and end near the dock we use to go to Taboga Island, so if our guests/visitors are coming over to Cerrito Tropical on a Saturday, and are interested in doing something additional during their holiday they could do the half transit in the morning and catch the ferry to Taboga once they return. Schedule works perfectly. The Saturday ferry for Taboga is at 4 pm.

Incidentally: Panama Marine Adventures, the same company as the Canal Tours with the Pacific Queen, also have a beautiful luxury cruiser for rent which sleeps 24 that they have just started to charter by the week in all inclusive packages.

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