44 Facts About Panama
I’d like to share with you some facts about Panama that you can keep in mind while you travel, meet the locals, and see places.
Knowing about the place you will travel to is of great value to you. This may help you see places and people with more understanding and context. You’ll appreciate even what seemed to you as irrelevant or small things around this new place you’re in.
Panama is located in Central America and is an isthmus (meaning a strip of land in between two oceans and that connects two larger pieces of land on its either side) of North and South America, gaining its alias “the crossroads of Americas”. It is right in between the Pacific and the Atlantic Oceans.
The word Panama traditionally means “abundance of fish”.
Their official currency is the United States Dollar. Their local currency is Panamanian Balboa which is just equivalent to USD.
Panamanians’ language is Spanish but they are excellent English-speakers, in fact, 14% of their population are native English speakers.
Panama is known as a great place for retirement especially in the town Boquete. Watch the retired life of expats here.
Panama’s economy is flourishing and one reflection of this is its low unemployment rate of 6.10% as of June 2019.
The population is only over 3 million.
While Panama City is adapting to modernization and westernization, there are parts of the country that still holds practices, lifestyle, and traditions from centuries back such as in their indigenous tribes. Three of them being the largest of all tribes, the Ngöbe-Buglé, Emberá-Wounaan, and Guna Yala. The total population of these tribes contributes 5-8% of the Panamanian population.
Panamanian History Facts
Freedom from colonization is relatively new for Panamanians and this impacts their cuisine. You would find a great selection of great food in Panama but they don’t really have an identified cuisine, just influences of others and so they have an ongoing search establishing their own at an early stage. In fact, one of the most famous restaurants, Donde Jose, aims just at that, to have the impression of an identified Panamanian cuisine.
The country is the first Spanish colony in the Pacific.
The Republic of Panama celebrates its Independence Day on November 3. The people were released from the colonization of Colombia in 1903.
Panama’s old town, Casco Viejo is included in the UNESCO World Heritage List. The place’s old architecture is well-preserved portraying a combination of the French, Spanish and American colonization.
Panama For Tourists
Panama is a tropical country, so you could say that it’s always summer there. They have the short dry season which stretches from January to May and the prolonged rainy season from May to January.
If you’re coming from the U.S.A., flights to Panama are the cheapest in all of Latin America.
The biggest population of tourists that come to Panama is Americans.
Traveling to areas east of the Panama Canal may require yellow fever vaccination as per CDC recommendation. The places here are rainforests and local tribes where you may contract the disease because of prevalent mosquitoes.
Uber is significantly cheaper than taking a taxi.
Facts About The Panama Canal
Panama Canal took nearly 35 years to be constructed to the cost of approximately 5,600 lives.
The Panama Canal’s construction is considered being the largest “earth-moving” project in human history and it was completed in 1914.
The second largest “earth-moving” project in the world is the expansion of the Panama Canal which came to completion in 2016.
30% of Panama’s economy depends on the Panama Canal.
Panama Canal is known to be a famous man-made shortcut that offers the convenience of traveling just 10 hours from the Pacific to the Atlantic Ocean instead of going around South America that could take 8,000 miles worth 2 weeks of travel. Watch the feature video of the Panama Canal expansion.
Panama was included in the 2019 Gallup Global Emotions Report’s Top Five Countries with the highest positive experience as reported by BBC, confirming that Panamanians are generally happy people.
The longest highway in the world called the Pan-American Highway stretches up to 19,000 miles from Alaska to Panama.
Panama has the largest rainforest in the Western Hemisphere outside the Amazon basin.
Panama City is the only capital to a country in the world with a rainforest within its vicinity.
Panama holds a staggering world record of 976 bird species in the rainforest located just 30 minutes away from Panama City.
The most expensive coffee in the world known as the Geisha coffee is found in Panama. Costing $9 per cup, it can reach up to $68 a cup when sold in Dubai. It is harvested from the Hacienda la Esmeralda plantation in the town of Boquete, Panama.
A coffee shop in San Francisco by the name of Klatch Coffee brews the award-winning coffee bean from Panama and sells it for $75 per cup of coffee. There are only 100 lbs of this coffee variety in the world and this coffee had purchased 10 lbs and keeps them safe in a vault. Watch the feature for this story here.
The drinking age in Panama is 18 years old.
Sancocho de Gallina is Panama’s national dish.
Being abundant with seafood, Panama is known to serve the best ceviches.
Surfing in Panama
Surrounded by major oceans, Panama also offers great surfing spots particularly in Santa Catalina, Playa Venao, Playa Cambutal, Playa El Palmar, Playa Paunch and other beaches with surfable waves.
Gary Saavedra who historically holds the greatest surfing reputation in Panama holds the world record of surfing for 3 hours and 55 minutes in a 41.3-mile wave created by a powerboat.
Facts About The Biomuseo
Biomuseo is a narrative in an art form of the origins and significance of Panama being an isthmus and its location. Check out more about the museum here.
Panama’s famous Biomuseo is built by an equally, if not more, famous architect Frank Gehry. It is only work in Latin America. His works include The Disney Concert Hall and The Guggenheim Museum Bilbao.
Famous People From Panama
The Fast and the Furious actress Jordana Brewster started her acting career in New York, Jordana Brewster but she is actually born in Panama City, Panama.
The late Senator John McCain whom we know for being the first sitting senator to host Saturday Night Live is a Panama-born, specifically in Canal Zone, Panama.
Panama holds one Miss Universe title to Justine Pasek. She won in 2002 originally as 1st runner-up after the dethronement of Miss Russia to the Miss Universe Crown. She helped establish the first HIV/AIDS prevention center in Panama.
Another beauty royalty from Panama is Miss International 1998, Lia Victoria Borrero. In 1996, she was crowned Señorita Panamá and competed in Miss Universe in 1997, only garnering a spot in Top 6. She, later on, joined the next year in the Miss International pageant and won the title.
Wildlife in Panama
Aside from the people and the sights, Panama is also home to exotic creatures both in the land and in the sea. One of them is the West Indian Manatee that lives in Lake Gatun (Panama Canal).
Another wildlife is the largest rodent, Capybaras found along the shore of Chagres River.
Bradypus Sloths are also easily found on a wildlife tour in Panama.
This is more of a fun trivia than fact but I will include this famous palindrome phrase that includes the name of Panama:
“: A MAN A PLAN A CANAL PANAMA” when it’s read backward from the last letter to the beginning, the phrase would still read the same.
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