Panama is literally the center of the Americas. But most outsiders know it only for two of its icons. Of course, there's the Canal, which is now undergoing a $5 billion expansion in honor of its 100th birthday. And there are those famous Panama hats (still meticulously fitted by hand, if you know where to look). Lately, though, travelers seeking the next fascinating destination are finding a lot to love about Panama City. "It's like Hong Kong meets Costa Rica," says KC Hardin, who co-owns the Ace's new American Trade Hotel (photo) in Panama City. "You have this vibrant, eclectic city backed up against an amazing landscape." Here, Hardin and three other experts divulge their favorite spots.
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The American Trade Hotel
"This hotel feels at home in the hip Casco Viejo district." acehotel.com.—Miky Fábrega, Painter
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Guna Fabric Store
"An unmarked store with no name sells fabric from the Guna indigenous people. You'll find the shop at the intersection of Central and Balboa Avenues." —Miky Fábrega, Painter
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Pictured: Andrés Morataya of Manolo Caracol restaurant. "The place serves superfresh seafood from both coasts." manolocaracol.net—Michael Cirino, Performance Artist.
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"Basil is one of the best flavors at Granclément ice cream shop." granclement.com—Michael Cirino, Performance Artist.
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"El Trapiche makes an amazing pork sandwich with melted cheese on thick and crunchy Panamanian tortillas." Via Argentina.—Mario Castrellón, Chef
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"There's a view of the whole city from Cerro Ancón park."—KC Hardin, Hotelier
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"Mario Ubillús fits hats the old-fashioned way—and he'll come to your hotel." 507-6576-9183.—KC Hardin, Hotelier
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