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Seven Gay Wonders of the World 2018: Panama City

by Mark Chesnut
EDGE Media Network Contributor
Friday Dec 29, 2017

EDGE returns with our fourth annual "Seven Gay Wonders of the World" - our yearly where-to-go-next guide for all those with serious wanderlust. For 2018, we've ditched calorie-counting and workouts for pure indulgence.

As if the recently expanded Panama Canal weren't enough to attract gay globetrotters, Panama City is carving out a role as Central America's most futuristic metropolis, with soaring skyscrapers, bubbly gay nightlife and a variety of firsts that set it apart.

This Latin boomtown is also an enticing place to savor diverse culinary creativity that spans the globe from Latin America to Europe and Asia.

Hotel Heaven

Posh hotels with excellent culinary offerings are among the reasons to indulge in Panama City. It's the only destination in Central or South America with a Waldorf Astoria (where you can dig into kobe beef carpaccio and chicken adobo at BRIO Brasserie, helmed by sexy chef Joshua Moran), and in February 2018 the W Panama debuts.

In the historic Casco Viejo district, the newest hotel and culinary hotspot is the Central Hotel, where the sophisticated steakhouse 9 Reinas serves up beef and handmade pasta with Argentinian flair.

Tasty Excursions

No first-time visit to Panama is complete without a stop at the Panama Canal, which doubled its capacity in 2016. You can admire the view while sampling Panamanian cuisine at two locations: the Miraflores Visitor Center and the Agua Clara Visitor Center, both of which have on-site restaurants that serve local specialties like sea bass filet and patacones (traditional Panamanian fried plantains).

The easiest way to visit attractions outside of the city is on a tour from LGBT-owned EcoCircuitos. Foodies, meanwhile, can sign up for a "Taste of Panama City" tour with Barefoot Panama.

But whether or not you have a guide, it's still easy to combine cuisine and culture. At the futuristic BioMuseo, an eye-catching biodiversity museum (and the first work in Latin America by star architect Frank Gehry), you can learn about the region's ecological history before refueling at a café that offers a scenic view of Panama Canal's Pacific entrance.

Next, head the Casco Viejo, where landmark architecture and picturesque streets provide a lovely backdrop for small museums and trendy shops. The restaurants here are among the city's best; top picks include the appropriately named Dining Room, at the American Trade Hotel, and Tántalo a stylish tapas restaurant, bar and boutique hotel where the Panamanian empanadas and cocktails are especially tasty. Just outside of the Casco, the grittily authentic Mercado del Marisco (Fish Market) is ideal for freshly caught seafood.

Going Gay in Panama City

LGBTQ life in Panama City is vibrant but scattered around the metropolis. One of the newest venues, Envy, is the city's only gay nightspot that opens early for the after-work crowd. The dance club section, open on weekends, packs in revelers with live DJs, drag performances and sexy go-go boys. A similar vibe -- but cheaper cover prices -- draws crowds at XS.

For a more stylish -- albeit not exclusively gay -- night out, head again to the Casco Viejo for creative cocktails and cuisine. Among the trendiest venues is Casa Casco, where every floor offers a different experience. Do sushi and sake on one level and tapas and wine on another before heading to the rooftop, where you can toast while enjoying the ocean breeze.


Panama City isn't San Francisco, to be sure. But several events provide extra reasons to go.

The Marcha de Orgullo LGBTIO (LGBTI Pride March) takes place in late June or early July, along the waterfront Cinta Costera park.

The Panama Jazz Festival, which takes place in January, is the premier event for the city's lively music scene.

The pre-Lenten festival called Carnival is a big deal in Panama; the best place to experience it is in the town of Las Tablas.


  • , 2018-01-01 22:59:19

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