During last holiday season, we took a short trip to Panama City to renew our visas. We enjoyed relaxing at the Best Western Zen Hotel and enjoying local restaurants around nearby. But we were also on a budget, so we didn’t splurge too much. All in all, we still had a great time and got an interesting perspective of the city.
Tourist visas in Costa Rica only last 90 days, so if you are staying longer than that you have to essentially “exit” and re-enter the country to get it renewed. We took this opportunity to visit the nearby country of Panama and took a quick vacation in Panama City. We’ve been really enjoying our time here in Costa Rica, doing fun things like going on this snorkeling tour in Playas del Coco with Sea Bird Sailing Excursions. But it was nice to get a change of pace too.
The airfare was cheap and we got to take a trip in one of the small planes that flies nationally. There’s seating for about 12 or 13 people, basically no aisle and no place to move. All baggage must be checked. The maximum flight is about 55 minutes long, so it’s really not that bad to sit through. We then took a larger plane when flying from Costa Rica’s capital in San Jose to Panama City.
The food, we tried something different every night!
It was very different to be in a large city again, but the accommodations were nice and the food was AMAZING.The first night we were there, I had to get Chinese food because I had not had Chinese food since moving. I knew we were only taking a very short trip to Panama City, so I had to make it worth it! We stuffed our faces with potstickers, fried rice and chow mein at a restaurant near our hotel.
The next night we went to a restaurant called El Trapiche. This restaurant had a bar open until 1AM every night and tons of atmosphere! The food was simply amazing. Each of the entrée plates came with a side salad, cup of rice, and a cooked plantain. These side dishes weren’t just thrown on there though, they were carefully developed and full of flavor! Even the rice, which looked very plain, had a ton of seasoning that made it delicious. I had stuffed pork loin and it was incredible. We had some authentic margaritas while we were there and the whole experience was very enjoyable.
The following day, we ventured to an upscale Japanese restaurant called Tsugoi. It was a very upscale place with beautiful decor. We almost felt out of place in our vacation garb, it was so nice. We ordered two and a half rolls and a ceviche appetizer. It was some of the best ceviche we’ve ever had. Now, we always love sushi but this sushi was very high quality in freshness and combination of flavors. Not to mention the size of the pieces! Large pieces of fish and avocado were used so that the roll pieces themselves were rather large. Needless to say, we left the restaurant with very full and very happy bellies.
The hotel, where we spent most of our time on our short trip to Panama City.
Even the food at our hotel was delicious. We stayed at the Best Western Plus Zen Hotel. We ordered some nachos at the rooftop bar after taking a dip in the infinity pool, it felt like a luxurious experience and the food was very good. There was free breakfast at the hotel, and it was seriously the best complimentary hotel breakfast I’ve ever had. Served in their beautiful restaurant, every morning there were different fruits, breads, ham, cheese, eggs, oatmeal, and other hot items that changed each day such as black beans, veggie roll ups, and chicken. Of course, there were also various juices, teas, and coffee.
The atmosphere of the hotel was right on the money: zen. The entire building was immaculately clean and there were running water features in the lobby. Our room was quaint but cozy and the bathroom was nice and large. It was a great deal for an affordable room. Even though this was just a short trip to Panama City, we did not mind spending most of our time soaking up the best of what this hotel had to offer. It made our vacation a relaxing and rejuvenating experience. We highly recommend staying at the Best Western Plus Zen Hotel if you ever happen to be making your own short trip to Panama City!