Panama nightlife: The top spots to party in the land of the canal
It's hardly a secret that the Panamanians love to party. Fueled by their Spanish passion and imbued with the exotic beats of the Caribbean, the folk of this Central American gem love to get out there and boogie the night away. They hit cocktail bars and surf shacks, they guzzle fruity concoctions in the bustling dives of Panama City and even join backpackers in the rustic venues of towns like David City and Bocas del Toro.
It’s a Spanish fiesta in the Casco Viejo
It's between the elegant Spanish mansions and historic colonial builds of the Casco Viejo district that Panama City's liveliest nightlife scene is to be found. Forever shapeshifting into something new, the line-up of bars here is truly eclectic. They all fringe the narrow lanes and cobbled streets, and spill out onto the corners in a medley of colourful cantinas and hidden salsa dives. You'll hear Latin beats and Carib reggaetón blaring from crackling radio shacks, and be invited to sample salt-rimmed margaritas and fruity sours at the bar.
You could start the evening with a bout of locally-brewed craft ales at the underground Onplog bar. This retro medley of old cassette tapes and vinyl records rarely fails to evoke a classic vibe. The upcycled interiors add to the charm, while the music policy in the adjoining club – the Pool Deck - is a mashup of EDM, electro, and cheese. (Canine lovers should watch out for the regular BYODN – bring your own dog night!).
Other great establishments for letting loose in the Casco Viejo include the panoramic rooftop of Tantalo – perfect for sipping cocktails atop the church spires and Baroque frontispieces – and acclaimed Habana Panama – one of the top Cuban folk come salsa bars in the city. Oh, and there's always the local pub crawl in this area, if you fancy mingling with other travellers as you sip beers and Pisco sours.
It’s all about mixing with the locals in David City
Most people think of small town David City as just a transport hub on the highways between Panama City and the capital of San Jose in Costa Rica. However, thanks to oodles of foreign investments and a booming agricultural industry, the epicenter of Chiriqui Province is slowly but surely becoming something of a livelier place to stopover.
The nightlife really all revolves around the Parque de Cervantes in the heart of the city. This bustling plaza of babbling fountains and whitewashed church towers is home to countless little cantinas. These are hubbub of locals, many of whom live and work in the local farms. And after a dousing of the region's potent Carta Vieja rum, you can rest assured that the conversation and chats will flow!
So-called El Hangar club is one of the most popular in David. Here, locals drive up and park their cars, grab booze from the bar (we can only hope that the drivers don't partake!) and blare their own music from sound systems. It's an interesting twist on the conventional club, and makes for some seriously eclectic listening as the evening wears on.
Salt-sprayed beach shacks and post-surf beers on Bocas Del Toro
Bocas Del Toro is the much-loved beachside paradise on LBW's appropriately-named Bocas Breeze itinerary. What’s more, the sparkling archipelago of golden sands and palm-backed beaches is one of the top places to party in Panama. From salt-washed beach shacks in the eponymous capital of the province, to secluded little seafood restaurants turned bars on the outer isles, there are plenty of places that are just perfect for unwinding with a cold one after a day of sunbathing and snorkeling between the sands and the Caribbean Sea.
The main action after dark centers on the biggest island of the archipelago: Isla Colon. This is where the famous pub crawls of Bocas (a real highlight of the LBW trip) and most of the seaside bars and clubs can be found. You simply can't go wrong if you wander north from Bocas del Toro town and up along the coast to Bluff Beach – there are surfer shacks and cocktail joints the whole of the way. The island of Carenero across the waters from Bocas proper is also worth the boat taxi, and has some laid-back places to let loose in.
Some venues are worthy of a special mention. Let's start with the uber-popular Aqua Lounge. This bar spills out onto a series of timber boardwalks and jetties over the crystal-clear waters of the Carib Sea (hence the water-themed name). It's popular in the day as well as the night, and serves up a menu of Italian pizzas and American burgers. In the evenings (expect Saturdays and Wednesdays to be the most packed), there are generous happy hours from 5pm onwards, along with pub quiz events, ladies' nights, and pool parties aplenty. Be prepared: Aqua can get pretty darn raucous in the evenings, which is – of course – why we love it so much!
Meanwhile, the in-house club at Selinas Hostel beats to thumping EDM and electro, its wide decks and breezy dance floors offering up great views over Isla Carenero in the distance. Then there are the quirky themed parties and wild ladies' nights of La Iguana on Main Street. Reggae and dub are the genres of choice there, and free drink games are guaranteed to get the party flowing. Finally comes the salsa and rumba of Barco Hundido – an uber-welcoming shack of a cocktail bar in the heart of Bocas town.
Are you a veteran of Bocas del Toro or a lover of all things Panama City? Can you remember any of those wild party nights you've had in this Central American gem? If so, we'd love to hear all about them in the comments below! Alternatively, perhaps you think it's time you got booking and exploring this tropical gem yourself, sampling Panama nightlife as you go? Why not check out LBW's offering of Panama tours!
You can find more information on all of our tours HERE!