The health benefits of walking are well known. Walking helps you prevent and manage conditions such as heart disease, high blood pressure, and type 2 diabetes. It is also a wonderfully low-pressure way to control weight. And because walking strengthens bones and muscles, it can also decrease your risk of osteoporosis and arthritis. Given these benefits, the U.S. Surgeon General recommends at least thirty minutes of activity – such as a brisk walk – every day.
If you live in Panama City, you may be asking yourself: where can I possibly go to take a walk? True, the city, like all urban areas, has its share of busy streets and sidewalks. But the great thing about Panama City is that it actually has many accessible places to walk, get some exercise, and get away from the urban hustle and bustle. These are just a few of the best places to go for a walk in the city:
Amador Causeway – This area offers fresh ocean breezes and sweeping views of the Panama Canal, the Bridge of the Americas, the historic Casco Viejo, and the Panama City skyline. The causeway connects the four small islands of Naos, Culebra, Perico, and Flamenco to the mainland, and since it was turned over to the Republic of Panama in 1999, it has become a popular place for walkers, joggers, cyclists, and skaters especially in the morning and afternoon hours. At the far end of the 2-km palm-tree lined causeway you will find a marina, shopping center, and a number of restaurants and bars – a nice break to look forward to on your walk out! On the opposite end of Amador, in the area around the Museum of Biodiversity (the distinctive building, designed by renown architect Frank Gehry, is impossible to miss), grassy fields and mango trees offer respite from the sun and heat. Drive (there is plenty of parking), or take a taxi.
Cinta Costera – The main part of the Cinta Costera runs next to the bay along Avenida Balboa, between the Mercado de Mariscos (the Fish Market) and Paitilla. This linear park, lined with palm trees, playgrounds, shaded areas, fountains, and benches facing the ocean view, is another popular walking route. Right at the midpoint, near the Yacht Club and the Miramar towers, is a park with a monument to Vasco Nuñez de Balboa, who in 1501 became the first European to encounter the Pacific Ocean. The monument includes a steel sculpture of the Spanish conquistador gazing out at the Pacific, and was offered as a gift to the Panamanian people in 1924 by Spain’s King Alfonso XIII. A second extension of the park, called the Cinta Costera II, has been completed past the Fish Market and into the Casco Viejo, and a third section is being built around the Casco Viejo, which will include viewing platforms and more walking opportunities. The Cinta Costera is easily accessible by foot, bus, and taxi. There are also parking lots on the boulevard.
Ancon Hill– This residential area is located on a large hill just northeast of Balboa and only fifteen minutes from downtown Panama. Ancon is easily recognizable by its Panamanian flag fluttering at the top of the hill, which can be reached by a pleasant, winding road surrounded by greenery. From the top, the 654-foot hill offers unparalleled views of the Canal and the City. Like the Causeway, Ancon was used by the U.S. military during the time it controlled the Canal, and access was restricted. Because of this history, Ancon remains an island of forest in an otherwise urban area. Besides admiring the lovely homes along the way, on your walk you can also see orchids, parrots, agoutis, monkeys, sloths, and deer.
Parque Omar – Named for the former Panamanian leader Omar Torrijos, this park remains a quiet refuge in the midst of the busy city. It offers shaded walkways, playgrounds, tennis courts, a baseball diamond, and plenty of open spaces for kids to run around or play soccer. There is also beautiful free-standing art on the park’s premises, stages for musical events, and a very nice swimming pool in the back area. Grab a snack or raspado (flavored ice) from one of the food vendors, or enjoy a newspaper at the National Library, also located inside the park. Parque Omar is located in the San Francisco neighborhood, on via Porras, and is only a few blocks from the Multiplaza shopping center. It is easily accessible by bus, taxi, or private vehicle.
Shopping Malls – There are days when the sun is too hot or the rain just won’t stop. Thank goodness for Panama’s shopping centers, where you can get a little window shopping or people-watching done while you exercise. Locals are not shy about donning their sneakers and sweatpants while cruising the air-conditioned aisles, and you shouldn’t be, either. For those days where you would rather exercise indoors, the Albrook, Multiplaza, and Multicentro shopping centers are an excellent choice.
These are some of the best places in Panama City to walk, popular because they are easily accessible, convenient, beautiful and safe. From the air-conditioned comfort of shopping malls to the salty ocean breeze of Amador, there is something for every day and mood. With so many options, there’s no excuse not to stay healthy and fit. What’s your favorite walking spot?