Panama City is a metropolitan melting pot of the East and West, making it a central hub for international business. With the city celebrating its 500th year this year with an $800 million expansion of Tocumen International Airport, there’s even more reason to convene where the Pacific meets the Atlantic.
The new terminal at Tocumen Airport isn’t the only innovation propelling Panama City's growth. In recent years, it has welcomed Central America’s only metro rapid transit system, making it easier for locals and tourists to move about the bustling city. Stops continue to expand each year. In 2016, the Panama Canal—an account of human ingenuity—inaugurated larger lock chambers to allow the canal to transport bigger cargo ships, doubling its capacity. Looking to the future, the city plans to open a new convention center and cruise port on the south side of the city by the end of 2019.
> Panama Canal
The canal is the main reason the city is what it is today, making it a must-see for meeting attendees and incentive travelers. Miraflores Visitors Center gives guests a bird’s-eye view of the Panama Canal from multiple viewing platforms. Arrive early in the morning to watch boats channel through the locks and to walk through a museum to learn about the canal’s tragedies and triumphs.
> Rainforest Boat Tour
Travel 45 minutes outside Panama City to board an expedition boat in Gamboa where the Chagres River meets the Panama Canal. Along the way, the boat will pass large cargo ships crossing the canal while visitors spot crocodiles, monkeys, toucans and a variety of other native species along the banks of the rainforest.
> Walking Tour of Casco Viejo
The charming neighborhood of Casco Viejo dates back to 1673 settlers. Dubbed the old quarter, it's Panama’s most charismatic neighborhood. During walking tours, guides take groups along winding streets lined with colorful Spanish colonial architecture that's home to hotels, restaurants and plazas that embody the vibrant community.
> El Valle de Anton
Take a day trip to El Valle, a town located two hours outside Panama City that's situated in a volcanic crater high in the mountains. There’s no shortage of activities, including hot springs, waterfall and zip line tours, butterfly sanctuaries, markets and a zoo.
> Embera Village Tour
Venture back in time to visit the Embera indigenous tribe in the Panamanian rainforest. The journey begins with a canoe trip to the Embera village where attendees are greeted by tribal members before taking a tour to learn about their culture and lifestyle.
The Santa Maria Hotel & Golf Resort is a luxurious urban oasis that opened last February and is situated within an exclusive Panamanian neighborhood—minutes from the capital’s city center and Tocumen Airport—making it ideal for discerning business travelers. As Marriott’s first Luxury Collection Hotel in the country, it features a mix of Panamanian design accents weaved throughout the hotel’s contemporary luxuries, such as Guna Yala-inspired mola blankets on each bed and handmade Embera tribal baskets decorating the lobby. Beyond decor, the hotel’s spa features ancestral spa treatments, and there are three chef-driven restaurants—including Mestizo serving elevated Panamanian cuisine—a coffee shop, and 8,000 square feet of sunlit meeting and event space.
For groups that want to unwind from the hustle of the capital, The Buenaventura Golf & Beach Resort (a Marriott Autograph Collection Hotel) is an all-in-one location to convene. Situated along the Pacific coast of Panama, two hours outside the capital, the resort is a sprawling Spanish colonial-designed retreat with nine restaurants, six oceanfront pools, a new sports club, a wildlife center, 9,600 square feet of event space and a championship Nicklaus Design 18-hole, 72-par golf course. Group activities are the resort’s bread and butter. So whether attendees are looking to partake in cultural workshops led by local tribe artisans, a mixology and ceviche teambuilding class, a golf clinic, a local craft beer tasting or a sports field day, the resort can make it happen.