Panama, known as the crossroads of the Americas, is a country rich with both cultural and ecological diversity. From the world's most pristine, remote islands to fertile regions rich for coffee growing, Panama is quickly outgrowing its former status as the home of the Panama Canal. Click through to find six reasons why you should visit Panama in 2016.
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American Trade Hotel in Casco Viejo, Panama
Located in the heart of Casco Viejo, Panama, American Trade Hotel & Hall is a leading force behind revitalization efforts of one of Panama's most culturally vibrant cities. Founded in the 1600s, Casco Viejo was once the hub of life in the country, but due to political turmoil in the 1960s and 1970s, the city was all but abandoned by industry. Casco Viejo quickly became a haven for local gangs and drug lords, and by the 2000s, it was one of the most crime-ridden, vicious places in all of Panama.
But today, Casco Viejo is one of the most desired locations in Panama, with much of this success owed to Ace Hotel Group's Atelier Ace and Coservatorio, the later of which purchased the historic American Trade building in 2007. The two entities collaborated to officially open American Trade Hotel & Hall in fall of 2013, putting affordable housing within the district at the forefront, creating an ecosystem for social, cultural and commercial interests to flourish. Part of this effort is through the hotel's work with a local organization called Esperanza that employs former gang members as tour guides, leading travelers through the now-safe Casco Viejo, but providing an in-depth history on the neighborhood, how much it's changed, and what the community hopes it to become in the future.
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The Dining Room at American Trade Hotel in Casco Viejo, Panama
The American Trade Hotel & Hall is a hub for both travelers and local creatives, with inviting interior spaces making the perfect location for ideas to flourish. Another area in which the hotel excels is in its culinary offerings, with The Dining Room being the most popular and visually pleasing of them all, perfect for an Instagram capture. The menu is full of the best fresh, local ingredients Panama has to offer.
Cocktails are served at The Dining Room, the Lobby Café and Bar, and the property's own on-site jazz club, Danilo's Jazz Bar. For afternoon treats, stop by Cafe Unido for a freshly baked pastry and espresso.
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The road to the San Blas Islands includes a drive through a winding forest and series of choppy boat rides, but the journey couldn't be more worth the work, as the islands are some of the most pristine in all the world. There are 365 islands in total, with each being inhabited by a local family from the Kuna Indian tribe.
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Finca Lerida Coffee Estate & Boutique Hotel
Just a short flight from Panamá City is the cool, crisp town of Boquete, where Panama's best coffee blends are produced. Equal parts picturesque and relaxing, Finca Lerida Coffee Estate & Boutique Hotel is serenity found. With hammocks lining each of the guest room patios, it's easy to stay in a constant state of slumber, but there's much to explore at this mountain-top oasis.Continue to 5 of 6 below.
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Panama's Coffee Growing Highlands
Finca Lerida Coffee Estate & Boutique Hotel has its own coffee plantation, where local guide Cesár Caballero takes guests through the fields, detailing the property's unique coffee process and local blends.
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Discover Panama's Emberá Village
Emberá Quera, located two hours from Panamá City, is a fascinating look into the country's indigenous culture, one spread predominantly throughout both Panama and Colombia. Only accessible by a local's canoe, Emberá is composed of many villages, each with a unique dynamic. Water is important for the culture, as the majority of communities are based along the Chucunaque, Sambu and Tuira Rivers. Housing is usually elevated, with each home rising eight feet from the ground and consisting of a thatched-roof made from palm fronds.