Kevin Mackinnon reviews some tourism opportunities in Panama
The inaugural Ironman 70.3 Panama event is slated for February 12, 2012 and promises to be another exciting addition to the Ironman 70.3 calendar. One of the things that makes this event so unique is the opportunity to incorporate a vacation in one of the world’s most popular tourism spots along with your race.
Panama is world-renowned as the home of the Eighth Wonder of the Modern World, the Panama Canal, so you can’t make a trip to the race without ensuring you’ve carved out some time to check that out. (OK, you’ll be swimming at the entrance to the canal on race day, but get down to the locks at some point – it’s worth the trip!)
That’s just one of so many things that you’ll want to try and do during your trip to the event, though. In no particular order, here are a few suggestions:
1) Check out the old city of Panama: The historic district of Panama, known as Casco Viejo, was designated as a World Heritage Site in 2003. Just walking around the old city gives you a wonderful sense of the rich history of the area. The National Institute of Culture Building is right across from the French Embassy and is worth a quick visit and another must-see is the Cathedral and plaza. There are also some great restaurants, bars and plazas you can enjoy, too. This is something that can be easily taken in during the days leading up to the race, too – it’s a short drive from the race hotels.
2) Enjoy the race site: In addition to the race expo, the Amador Causeway is also becoming a popular tourist destination. The Museum of Biodiversity, designed by Frank Gehry, is under construction right now but will hopefully be open by February. The Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute has a small museum close to the race site, too.
3) Spend time at the beach: There are literally hundreds of white, sandy beaches in Panama. The closest to the race site are at one of the first turnarounds on the bike – Playa Bonita. From all those beaches the options are endless – boating tours, fishing, scuba diving, snorkeling … suffice it to say there’s a reason Panama has become so popular as a tourist and retirement destination.
4) Check out the new part of Panama! The modern area of the city has many high-rise buildings and even more under construction. There is an abundance of shopping opportunities, too, for those who are interested, including two huge malls (Multiplaza and Multicentro) and an abundance of night-life and restaurants.
5) Eco-Tourism: Since the country is basically a land bridge between North and South America, Panama offers a huge variety of wildlife, plants and trees. More than 25 percent of Panama is protected in natural reserves and parks that our home to almost 1,000 bird species, 220 mammals, 240 reptiles and over 10,000 species of plants. Panama has hundreds of kilometers of protected reef, too, offering some spectacular opportunities to check out marine life. One post-race option would be to spend some time at Bocas del Toro, an island where marine turtles nest and lay their eggs. Another great trip would be to take in Contadora Island, which is a short flight from Panama City. Other trips into the jungle offer some fun activities like zip-line canopy tours.
The only problem with heading to Panama next February to compete at Ironman 70.3 Panama? You won’t be able to get all this done in one trip, so you’re going to want to go back.
For more information on Ironman 70.3 Panama, click here.
You can reach Kevin Mackinnon at email@example.com