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BioMuseo in Panama City

If you have driven in or out of Panama City on the Bridge of the Americas you are likely to see a bright  building with a multicolored, asymmetrical roof. This unique and iconic building is none other than the BioMuseo in Amador.

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The construction of the building began in 2004 and was designed by Canadian architect Frank Gehry. Gehry’s wife is Panamanian and he wanted to donate the design to the people of Panama. The building’s design is meant to tell the story of the formation of the isthmus and how it connected two continents and the influence that this had on biodiversity. There are several ongoing projects that will continue to add to Gehry’s design and is expected to be completed in 2020.

The museum has eight permanent galleries that focus Panama’s diversity. These galleries include the creation and geology of Panama, the biology of Panama, the interaction between humans and animals in Panama, and the impact that the land formation of Panama had on the Pacific Ocean and Caribbean Sea.

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All of the exhibits are in Spanish and English; the staff is also bilingual. An audio tour is available and is available in three languages: Spanish, French, and English. This museum provides an array of knowledge for children and adults. Although all children are different, this writer believes that the exhibits may be best suited for children 10 years of age and older. All eight exhibits take approximately 90 minutes.

A cafe with indoor and outdoor seating is located at the Biomuseo. There are a variety of food options ranging from sweets to hotdogs and sandwiches. Outdoor seating provides views of the canal and Bridge of the Americas, in addition to the outdoor park which is part of the museum. The menu is in English and Spanish.

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Pricing for the museum varies depending on the time of year. The museum also offers a package deal with the Miaflores Locks which is $25 per person (regardless of a child or adult) and allows access to both locations for the day. This option only applies to non-residents. If this is a more cost efficient option for your family be sure to ask for this as it is not listed on the website.

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Hours for the museum are as follows:

Monday 10:00am-4:00pm
Tuesday: Closed
Wednesday-Friday 10:00am-4:00pm
Saturday-Sunday 10:00am-5:00pm

Getting to the museum is fairly easy. Cross the Bridge of the Americas and take the first right off the bridge following signs for Amador. Parking is free and is located just before you get to the museum. After you visit the museum you can explore other nearby places of interest including Amador Causeway, Casco Viejo, Ancon Hill, and the Miaflores Locks.

 

Shipping and Mailing to Coronado

Panama is unique in many ways compared to what many of us may be used to in the United States and Canada. One thing that sets Panama apart is the use (or lack there of) of addresses. If you have been here you quickly realize that you navigate by landmarks by saying things like “pass the gates and take the third right.” There is also no mail delivery system in Panama. If you need to mail something or have something mailed to you, what are you to do?

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There are various PO Box companies around Panama.  The closest one in the Coronado area is Mail Boxes Etc. and is a great local resource for shipping and receiving items. They offer a variety of month options for a PO Box which is based off the total weight of the mail received each month. If leasing a mail box is not a viable option, they also provide alternative solutions to help mail an item out or get an item shipped to Mail Boxes Etc.

Mail Boxes Etc. is located at on the side of the El Rey market. Contact the office for pricing and help with sending and receiving mail.

Their hours are:
Monday-Friday 8am-5pm
Saturday 9am-1pm

Moving Your Clocks Back

It’s that time of year for many people in North America: tonight and in the early hours of the morning people will be moving their clocks back an hour. Here are a few things you may not know about time changes around the world:

 

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  • Panama does not participate in daylight saving time. In fact, many countries in Latin America do not observe daylight saving time. Latin American countries that currently do include some parts of Brazil, Paraguay, and most of Mexico.
  • Over 70 countries around the world (or roughly 25% of the world’s population) observe daylight saving time, although many have their own times about when they switch the clocks.
  • The concept of daylight saving time was first proposed in 1784 by Ben Franklin.
  • Germany was the first country to adopt daylight saving time on 30, April 1916 as a wartime effort to conserve energy.
  • In the Southern Hemisphere, daylight saving time is observed from late October to late March.

Whether you live an area that changes their clocks or not, remember that your friends throughout much of North America will be doing so soon. That means all of us in Panama will have to remember to call or text our friends in Pacific Standard Time will be three hours behind us instead of two!

 

 

November Holidays in Panama

November is a popular month for holidays in Panama. In fact, there are six holidays that occur throughout the whole country of Panama. This makes it an excellent opportunity for people to get immersed into Panamanian culture and history.

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2, November-Day of the Dead

This is a day for Panamanians to remember and honor their ancestors. This is also a day where alcohol sales are prohibited.

3, November- Separation Day

Separation Day commemorates the separation of Panama from Colombia in 1903.

4, November-Flag Day

Flag Day is the celebration of Panama’s flag. The flag was designed by Maria de la Ossa de Amador who has a statue honoring her at Ancon Hill.

The design of the flag was reflective of the current events occurring in Panamanian history. Blue was represented the Conservative Party while red represented the Liberal Party. The white stood for peace and purity. The blue star stands for the purity and honesty of the life of the country; the red star represents the authority and law in the country. Together the stars stand for the new republic.

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5, November- Colon Day

This is Panama’s version of Columbus Day, which is celebrated in the United States.

10, November- First Cry for Independence 

The day known as Primer Grito de la Independencia, in Spanish, originated in La Villa de Los Santos when a group of townsmen wrote a letter to Simón Bolivar asking for help in gaining independence from Spain in 1821. Eighteen days later Panama gained independence from Spain.

28, November- Independence  Day

On 28, November 1821 Panama gained independence from Spain. Panama was then governed by Colombia for 80 years before gaining full independence on 3, November 1903.

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While stores are typically open during the holidays, many government offices are not. If you have any government business to take care of (including visas, residency cards, etc), be mindful that there will likely be a delay; not only are there many holidays between November and December, it also tends to be a popular time for foreigners to visit. If you can, enjoy the festivities and all that Panama has to offer!

Staff Picks: Best Place to Eat Under $6

Coronado Cars has started a new series of posts in which we will give you our opinion of where we like to eat based on a variety of topics or criteria. There are only two rules: we are not paid for these opinions, the restaurants we pick are in the general areas of where we serve our customers.

Josh: Cafe Caracoles

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My favorite six dollar meal hands-down has to be Cafe Caracoles. Excellent service, excellent food, and best desserts in town call it a really good price.

BLT with homemade french fries $5.75
Coney chili cheese dog $4.75
Homemade Venezuelan empanadas $4.00

All so good I can’t decide on my favorite. Alex, one of our staff members says the empanadas.

Caracoles Cafe is located in the Village Mall on the same side of the plaza as KFC.

Hours for Cafe Caracoles are:
Monday-Thursday 11:00am-9:00pm
Friday-Saturday 11:00am-10:00pm
Sunday 11:00am-9:00pm
Closed Wednesday

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Honorable mentions: Layas for breakfast located in Coronado

Natalie: Delicias Margot

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I really enjoy going to Delicias Margot in Coronado. Being a vegetarian I feel I usually get stuck with having to eat fish (which I eat if there are no vegetarian options), or cheese pizza. Not here! I can get a drink and classic Panamanian food for $5.50 a person without scarfing portion sizes.  You can have breakfast a la carte, or have lunch from a menu.

Delicias Margot is located off the Panamanian highway between Cochez and the Village Mall in a pink building.

Hours are:
5:30am-5:00pm daily
Closed Mondays

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Honorable mention: Leonardo Steakhouse in Coronado, not the best pizza, but for $3.60 for a drink and a personal pizza including one topping (which can be shared if you are not famished) it is inexpensive.

Robert: El Parque

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El Parque in San Carlos is a Chinese-Panamanian restaurant that can satisfy your Chinese food cravings within $6. The restaurant proudly claims inside their menu cover that they have the best food in San Carlos. Although you will not find them listed on Tripadvisor, they certainly challenge the best restaurants in the area. They have a large variety of items on their menu as well as many daily specials. Their full dishes run around $6; however, they also offer ½ dishes for around $4, which can still feed three people. The thing I enjoy about El Parque best is their different combinations of dishes, depending on if you are craving chicken, pork, shrimp, vegetables, or more.

The restaurant is located in San Carlos across from the park.

Hours are 9:30am-8:30pm daily
Closed Tuesdays

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Honorable Mention: Restaurante Tierra y Mar in El Valle.

 

Here are our favorite places to eat under $6. What is your favorite place?

Coronado Blood Drive

This week was a milestone for all three of Coronado Cars’ owners: we donated blood for the first time at the blood drive in Coronado earlier this week. It was a great opportunity for all of us to expand our knowledge about blood drives.

All together the process was relatively quick, painless, and easy- at least from this writer’s perspective. This writer found the worst part of the process to be the anxiety about what to expect. None of us passed out, and in fact, there was some discussion about whether or not the surf was going to be good later in the afternoon.

Natalie donating blood

Photo courtesy of Sheila Scott

This event was a half day event for volunteers and the doctors present and approximately 30 blood donations were given, potentially saving up to 90 people! The whole process took all of us roughly 90 minutes from the start to finish (although a lot of it consisted of waiting our turn for the donation and us talking after). The actual donation took all of us between 7-15 minutes. 

Donating blood in Panama is safe and is something that is very much needed; blood banks here are often low. This writer overheard a story where a person needed a blood transfer and the donation had to come from an hour away.

photo courtesy of Sheila Scott

photo courtesy of Sheila Scott

Prior to the event this writer had several questions about donating blood that were answered by one of the blood drive coordinators.

  • Why is it important to donate blood?
    • We still have not designed a “synthetic” blood, so we need donors. Blood only lasts on the shelf for 48 days (up from 21)
  • Why donate?
    • Why donate??  I think of my donation as a mini-physical, and that is what I tell my students.  You actually get to see a Dr. here in Panama, who will look at your CBC (complete blood count), your BP, ask you questions. Your blood will be tested for Hepatitis A & B, HIV (Aids), Chagas Disease, HTLV-virus (20% of all cancers are caused by a virus such as this one).  You will learn your blood type!  And you are helping someone in need, and one day, that may be YOU.
  • Advice to somebody who may be anxious about donating for the first time
    • Eat before you donate (but try to stay away from fatty foods), be hydrated and drink water during the donation if you need to.  Stay calm, ask questions, and make sure you let the health care folks know if you’re feeling “rong”.

Additional facts about donating blood. Although these facts are for the United States this information is still, in many ways, applicable to Panama.

  • Every two seconds someone in the U.S. needs blood.
  • More than 41,000 blood donations are needed every day.
  • The blood type most often requested by hospitals is Type O.
  • Sickle cell disease affects more than 70,000 people in the U.S. About 1,000 babies are born with the disease each year. Sickle cell patients can require frequent blood transfusions throughout their lives.  And we do have sickle cell patients in Panama!
  • More than 1.6 million people were diagnosed with cancer last year. Many of them will need blood, sometimes daily, during their chemotherapy treatment.

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Here are some of the requirements for blood donations in Panama

  • A resident of Panama
  • No travel in the past month (except USA & Canada)
  • Good Health
  • No aspirin in the 24 hours prior to donation
  • Please eat before you donate!
    • Juice, coffee and cookies when you finish

Although more events are currently being planned, those who want to donate but do not want to wait can go to two locations in Panama City:

Hospital del Niño’s Blood Bank is on the hospital’s third floor.
Hours of operation: Monday-Thursday: 7:00 am to 6:00 pm
Friday: 9:00am to 6:00 pm Saturday and Sunday: 7:00 am to 2:00 pm

Hospital Santo Tomas’s Blood Unit is on the main floor as soon as you enter.
Monday-Friday: 7:00 am to 3:00 pm
Saturday: 8:00am to 3:00 pm.

There is no current date for the next blood drive at this time. Information will be posted on our Facebook, Twitter, and Google Plus pages as updated information is recieved. A special thank you to Sheila Scott and Karen Barnett for contributing to this post!

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Fitness in Playa Coronado

It is not uncommon to see people exercising in and around Coronado. Adding physical fitness to your daily routine has an endless amount of benefits, including making new friends, improving your immune system, and improving cardiac fitness. Whether you are a beginner or a triathlete, a yoga enthusiast, an aquafit addict, or are looking for something for the kids, chances are you’ll find it in Coronado. Many of these classes allow you to try one free class; what do you have to lose?

Lift Studio

Lift Studio is located to the right side of the road coming into Coronado in Sukah Bar Plaza. This studio offers a growing number of classes. Classes include:

  • Zumba
    • Tuesdays and Thursdays 9:30am-10:15am
    • Mondays and Wednesdays 5:30pm-6:15pm
  • Yoga with Marla
    • Power yoga-Mondays 8:30am-9:30 am
    • Karma yoga/mixed level yoga-Wednesdays 8:30-9:30am
    • Healthy back yoga-Fridays 8:30-9:30am
    • For more information contact her at surfnyogamarla@gmail.com
  • Children’s Gymnastics
    • Wednesdays 4:15pm-5:15pm
    • For more information contact smgag89@hotmail.com
  • Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu
    • Thursdays 4:30pm
    • Saturdays 10am
  • Fencing
    • Mondays 6:30pm-7:30pm
    • Thursdays 10:45am-11:45am

For a complete list of classes be sure to visit their Facebook page.

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Aqua Fitness

Classes are at the Coronado Country Club (which are the pink towers) on Thursdays 8:00am-9:00am. Aqua fitness is perfect for anyone looking to get a high quality, low impact work out. For more information visit their Facebook page.

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Coronado Track Cycle Group

This group meets at the Coronado Kartodomo Track on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays at 7:30am. The track is located as if you were driving to the International School in Coronado, make a left at the t and pass through the farm gate. The cost of $5 for use of the track is split among cyclists. For more information email fpcorbett@hotmail.com

Stand Up Paddle Boarding

R&B SUP hosts a group on Mondays for stand up paddle boarding and kayaking ethusiasts. The group meets at Playa Serena in Coronado, with times varying on low tide. Private lessons are also available. For more information visit their Facebook page.

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Harmonie Pilates Studio

This studio is located at the main entrance of Gorgona across from the police station. This studio offers a variety of growing classes including:

  • Aerobics Class
    • Monday, Wednesday, and Friday 9:00am-10:00am
  • Salsa Lessons
    • Tuesday and Thursday 6:00pm-7:00pm
  • Pilates classes available by appointment
    • Monday-Friday 7:00am-7:00pm
    • Saturdays 7:00am-12:00pm

For more information visit their Facebook page. 

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Above is a comprehensive but not complete list of some of the fitness classes. For current information contact the studio/location.

National Beach Cleanup Day

Today marked National Beach Cleanup day in Panama. Coronado Cars recognizes the impact that litter can have on the environment. We took advantage of the cleanup day by going to Playa Serena and Coronado Bay to pick up garbage.

 

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Litter affects every aspect of our lives even if we do not live by an ocean, lake, or river. Pollution affects the air we breath and the food we eat. It also affects the safety of those who enjoy recreational activities outside. Have you ever been on a beach and had a close encounter with a broken glass bottle? This writer has!

It was great to see so many adults, children, and dogs at the beach with garbage bags picking up trash. It is estimated that 5,000 people in Panama participate in this annual event. In celebration of this event our staff, Robert, Natalie, and Josh answered questions in relation to the day.

What is a favorite beach memory or past time?

Natalie: Going camping with my friends in college after Spring finals.

Josh: Surfing with Bethany and Hanalei Bay New Year’s Day.

Robert: One time I was at the beach, extremely determined to find a sand dollar for the first time. I had spent quite awhile searching, but I finally found one. Very nearby I discovered a stash of twenty more.

Your favorite beach activity:

Josh: Surfing

Robert: I enjoy running on the beach barefoot followed by a refreshing dunk. The beaches in Panama can be hit or miss on the grittiness of the sand. Playa Serena’s sand, however, is very pleasent.

Natalie: What the guys said. I also enjoy kayaking.

Favorite thing about the beaches in Panama:

Robert: The best thing about the beaches in Panama is going out on a weekday and having almost the entire beach to yourself.

Natalie: Watching the sunrise on the Pacific Ocean. Sunrises are pretty; a sunrise in the Pacific is just cool.

Josh: Being able to drive my Buggy  on the beach

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The most surprising piece of garbage you found on the beach:

Robert: I was not really surprised by anything I found today. It was unfortunate and gross to find a used diaper, but I cannot say I was surprised.

Josh: Finding a women’s bathing suit top full of sand.

Natalie: I think I was most surprised by how much construction material was on the beach. I found piping, gate scraps, electrical wires, and landscaping fabric.

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What can you do to help keep our beaches clean? Here are a few ideas we found from the internet

  • Take everything home that you brought to the beach with you-minus a few foot prints
  • Recycle. Plastic is the number one pollutant in the ocean and the biggest threat to marine life
  • Shop with reusable shopping bags
  • When you see garbage pick it up
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Miraflores Locks

The Panama Canal is a popular tourist destination (in fact it is ranked #1 on Trip Advisor), and for good reason: the Panama Canal is an incredible engineering feat that took many lives during its construction. The Miraflores locks offers a great experience for anyone wanting to witness ships in transit, to learn about the history of the canal, and to gain some Panamanian history in the process.

The Miraflores Locks are located on Ave. Omar Torijos Herrera in between the Centinario Bridge and Bridge of the Americas. The hours are 9am-5pm daily; tickets are available from 9am-4:15pm. Pricing can vary depending whether you are a tourist, a resident, or have a Pensionado card. If you plan on paying as a resident or retiree, be sure to have the proper identification available at the time of purchasing the tickets to receive a great discount.

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For tourists who are planning on going to the Biomuseum the same day (which is normally $22), they can now purchase a new combo pack that includes admission to both sites for $25. This combo package can be purchased at either the Miraflores Locks or the Biomuseum.

One of the main purposes of going to the locks is hopefully seeing a ship transit through the canal. The best time to do this is approximately at 9am, noon, and 2:30pm. For current transit times ask a staff worker, many speak English and Spanish and are happy to answer any questions. The observation deck is on the third floor. Be sure to get to the deck 30 minutes early to get a spot by the railings so you won’t miss out on the ship!

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The museum provides four levels which offer the history of Panama, and history of the canal in addition to interactive stations, including the opportunity to pilot a ship through the canal. There is also a 3-D movie that you can watch to learn more about the canal and the new locks which is expected to be operational by April 2016. All of the exhibits are in Spanish and English. The Miraflores Locks’ website says that the museum takes approximately two hours; this is not accounting for the observation deck and a meal, which can easily turn this into a half day event.

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The restaurant is located on the third floor and offers a buffet with a variety of food including a fresh salad bar, turkey and fish, along with traditional Panamanian food. The buffet has a variety of choices that extend to vegetarians as well (beyond eating starches and the salad bar). Diners at this restaurant can sit outside and enjoy the views of the canal. A soda costs $5 and the buffet was $45 per person during this writer’s visit.

The Mriaflores Locks can be a fun and educational opportunity for anyone wishing to see the Panama Canal and learn more about its fascinating history. This visit would be a great half day event which leaves plenty of opportunity for more exploration of Panama City.

Flying into Tocumen International Airport

Flying internationally can seem overwhelming at times, especially if you are trying to figure out exactly how to get to where you want to go. Unless you are flying from some parts of Canada (read our previous blog post about flying in from Canada) chances are you will fly into Tocumen International Airport (PTY). This airport is considered the hub of the Americas which means that regardless of your final destination and with over 20 airlines flying into PTY regularly, the flying to and from Panama has never been easier.


From Canada

Flag_of_Canada.svgMontreal

Montreal-Pierre Elliott Trudeau International Airport
Airport code: YUL

  • Copa Airlines

Toronto
Toronto Pearson International Airport
Airport code: YYZ

  • Air Canada
  • Copa Airlines

From Europe 

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Amsterdam
Amsterdam Airport Schiphol
Airport code: AMS

  • KLM Airlines

Frankfurt International Airport
Frankfurt Airport
Airport code: FRA

  • Condor Airlines
  • Lufthansa (beginning March 2016)

Madrid
Adolfo Suarez Madrid-Bajaras Airport
Airport code: MAD

  • Iberia Airlines

Paris
Charles de Gaulle Airport
Airport code: CDG

  • Air France

From United Arab Emirates 

United-Arab-EmiratesDubai

Dubai International Airport
Airport code: DXB

  • Emirates Airlines (beginning February 2016)

From Latin America

latin_america_flagsAruba

Queen Beatrix International Airport
Airport code: AUA

  • Aruba Airlines
  • Copa Airlines

Bagota
El Dorado International Airport
Airport Code: BOG

  • Avianca Ecuador
  • Copa Airlines

Havana
Jose Marti International Airport
Airport code: HAV

  • Copa Airlines

Lima
Jorge Chavez International Airport
Airport code: LIM

  • Copa Airlines

Mexico City
Aeropuerto Internacional Benito Juarez
Airport code: MEX

  • Copa Airlines
  • Aeromexico

San Jose
San Joes International Airport
Airport code: SJC

  • Avianca Costa Rica
  • Copa Airlines

Santiago
Comodoro Arturo Merino Benítez International Airport
Airport code: SCL

  • Condor Airlines
  • Copa Airlines

From the United States

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Dallas/Fort Worth
Dallas Fort Worth International Airport
Airport code: DFW

  • American Airlines

Ft. Lauderdale
Ft. Lauderdale Hollywood International Airport
Airport code: FLL

  • Spirit Airlines

Houston
George Bush Intercontinental Airport
Airport code: IAH

  • Copa Airlines
  • United Airlines

Las Angeles
Las Angeles International Airport
Airport code: LAX

  • Copa Airlines

Las Vegas
McCarran International Airport
Airport code: LAS

  • Copa Airlines

Miami
Miami International Airport
Airport code: MIA

  • American Airlines
  • Copa Airlines

For specific information on the airlines and airport information we suggest that you visit the airline website. This list is not exclusive of all flights into Tocumen International Airport.