Panama – particularly the capital, Panama City – is one of the best shopping destinations in Central America. Whether you're seeking inexpensive clothing or luxury items, a wealth of Panama shopping malls have you covered. Local handicrafts aren't as plentiful as in Central America's Mayan regions, but there are still a number of distinctly Panama souvenirs (Panama hat, anyone?) and Panama foods perfect for bringing back home.
While the official Panamanian currency is the Panama balboa, the official paper currency is the United States Dollar, which makes shopping in Panama super easy. Typically, you'll only see balboas in coin currency.
Bocas del Toro
Held the first and third Saturday of each month in Bocas Town's Central Park, the Bocas Farmers, and Cultural Market is a great place to purchase Panama food, produce, and handicrafts from the island's residents.
Boquete is an extremely popular retirement destination for ex-pats, and its weekly Tuesday market at the Boquete Community Players Event Center unites retirees, Panamanian locals, and travelers for all kinds of Panama shopping.
If you're seeking Panama souvenirs and handicrafts, the Mercado Nacional de Artesanías in Panama Viejó is your best bet in Panama city. Located behind the city's anthropological museum, the outdoor Mercado de Buhonerías y Artesanías is another great artisan market for Panama handicrafts.
Panama Shopping Malls
The shopping malls in Panama City are truly world-class.
Multiplaza Mall, Panama City
Pta Paitilla Ed Torre del Mar, 8-B. The ultra-hip Multiplaza Mall in Panama City boasts 280 businesses, including department stores, cinemas and more than 47 restaurants and cafes.
Albrook Mall, Panama City
Located beside the Panama City bus terminal. Panama City's Albrook Mall is huge, and the best spot for travelers seeking a host of shops with low prices.
Multicentral Mall, Panama City
Av. Balboa, Punta Paitilla. The four-story Multicentral Mall in Panama City is another upscale mall, mostly catering toward Panamanians and tourists in search of international designer goods. There is a Hard Rock Café onsite.
The Avenida Central Pedestrian Mall, Panama City
Between Plaza Santa Ana and Plaza Cinco de Mayo. Located next to Casco Viejo in old Panama, the Avenida Central Pedestrian Mall is a six-block stretch of shops and cafes selling inexpensive (read: dirt-cheap) goods, often imported designer knockoffs and so forth. It gets a bit sketchy at night, but during the day it's a lively place to shop with Panama City locals.
What to Buy in Panama
While the Panama shopping experience can seem quite upmarket, prices are usually much better than they are in North America or Europe, sometimes even for imported goods. Panama City can be a great place to load up on inexpensive clothes or shoes. Panama is also famous for its coffee – you'll definitely want to bring some home, whether from a coffee plantation tour, or one of Panama's large supermarkets.
When it comes to Panama souvenirs, the famous Panama hat is a must-buy. Panama hats are actually Ecuadorian in origin, but they were popularized in Panama during the construction of the Panama Canal. As for Panama handicrafts, you'll find a number of gorgeous items made by the country's indigenous people, such as textiles, carved wooden art, and paintings. Notably, the Kuna people in Panama's Kuna Yala region craft beautiful molas: blouses intricately woven with colorful depictions of animals and other things.
Panama Shopping Tips
Feel free to bargain in the markets, but not in stores with set prices. For food items to bring home like coffee and chocolate, check the supermarkets (especially in Boquete and Panama City). Prices are much lower than in touristy shops.