Posted June 16th, 2010, 12:21 AM
Hi Kim, I was on the Tahiti to Panama repostioning this spring and we anchored off of Balboa and were landed in Balboa, which is a small (tiny) dock, mostly for private yachts it looked like, close to Panama City. Not sure if they will do the same this time or not. Seems there was some word that there was not room to dock, but don't recall any details.
I stayed in Radisson downtown, it was fine, and took a city tour one day which I booked at the hotel (included Casca Viejo <old town>, Miraflores Locks, downtown, Balboa <oddly enough> and all the areas in between. The best thing we did, arranged by Walt of the blog fame, was to take an Embara Indian village tour, down river in dugout canoe, etc, great fun and very interesting. You can find links and reviews on various sites, we used Garceth of Natura Tours?? and he was great.
There are small hotels in Balboa, or at least one, right by the dock and several restaurants, and there is an area close by that has guest houses and B&Bs which many passengers used, or you can be in the middle of crazy noisy Panama City, which is maybe 20-30 min from Balboa, and very visable from Balboa as well. I was aiming for the hotel spa and pool, hence the downtown location, but the closer guesthouses were highly spoken of.
I found the downtown Panama hotels to be fairly much the same, look out for construction notes, etc. when checking the sites,, it is a city that seems to be building like crazy. Even on the 3rd floor pool level the freeway noise was very loud (lots of raised freeways through the city). Eveyone was nice, I enjoyed my stay, and barely touched the surface! Enjoy, Gail