if you go

Panama uses U.S. dollars but people call them Balboas.

Where to stay

The Canal House in Casco Viejo has three suites with king- or queen-size beds, free use of cellphones and a common area for breakfasts and cocktails (from $210 to $350 a night; canalhousepanama.com).

Nearby, the Magnolia Inn has more affordable rooms, some with views of downtown Panama City (from $100 to $150 a night; magnoliapanama.com).

The Bristol, in the financial district, has 129 rooms and suites with local artwork (from $208 to $400 a night; thebristol.com).

The Hard Rock Megapolis has 850 modern-style rooms with 500 more opening soon. Expect a Vegas-style experience with lots of music, high-dollar cocktails and glitz (from $149 to $279; hrhpanamamegapolis.com).

Where to eat

Maito, new Panamanian cuisine, Coco del Mar area (maitopanama.com).

La Posta, contemporary cuisine, Calle Uruguay area (lapostapanama.com).

Luna, contemporary cuisine, financial district (no website).

Las Clementinas, new Panamanian cuisine, Casco Viejo (lasclementinas.com).

Tantalo, international cuisine, Casco Viejo (tantalohotel.com).

Fish market, seafood, near entrance to Casco Viejo. Numerous types of ceviche in plastic foam cups for about $2 (no website).

DiabloRosso, cafe, Casco Viejo (diablorosso.com).

Granclement, Artisanal ice cream, Casco Viejo (granclement.com).