I just got back from a 2 week trip to Panama, a small central American country between Costa Rica and Columbia. I spent the majority of my time in a Carribean city called Colon where the majority of the residents have Afro-Carribean descent.
There isn’t a lot of good information about the City of Colon online, and a lot of it is either outdated or inaccurate. So hopefully, I can provide you with details about crime, weather, hotels, real estate, getting around, and anything else you need to know about Panama’s hidden city in the North.
Colon, Panama Background Information
Colon is a predominantly Afro-Caribbean city located 45 minutes north of Ciudad de Panama aka Panama City.
It’s very different from Panama City since the majority of its residents are black and also unfortanutely financially poor. Colon used to be majority black owned community up until recently since Chinese and Jewish investors moved in and bought up lots of the real estate.
Do not be suprised to see certain streets completely filled with trash and people struggling to get a meal to eat. It is truly a city of have and have nots. Even though you will see some horrible things about Colon, I still find the city and people captivating and truly worth a visit.
The state of Colon is made up of a few major areas:
Central Colon – This is where most of the nightlife and action takes place. It is also home to Zona Libre, home to some of the best shopping in Panama.
Sabanitas – An upper middle-class suburb located about 15 minutes by car outside of Central Colon. You can find very large modern homes here and the crime rate is much lower. You can reach Sabanitas by taxi for $4.20 or bus for only 40 cents.
Portbello – A small yet beautiful resort town located 30 miles east of Central Colon. The city caters to tourists yet has some of the most beautiful beaches in Panama.
Getting to Colon, Panama
Fly into Panama City, Panama then take a short bus ride to Colon if you want the easiest and cheapest way to access Colon. Delta, AeroMexico, and American Airlines all have flights going into Panama City on a regular basis.
The easiest way to get to Colon from Panama City is to take a bus from Albrook Terminal Bus Station to the Colon Bus terminal. Buses leave every hour and the fare is around $3. When you arrive at the Albrook station, ask for the bus called “Expresso Colon.” The buses are very nice and air conditioned. There is room underneath the bus for your luggage, plus space to carry a backpack on the bus. The ride takes about 45 minutes and you get to see some of Panama’s beautiful landscape along the way.
What is the weather like in Colon, Panama?
It’s hot and very humid. Colon is located next to the Carribean sea so you’ll feel the heat once you arrive. It’s really important to stay hydrated and avoid the sun around high noon because it gets incredibly hot, especially while walking around the town.
Is it Safe in Colon?
First off, I’ve heard a lot of rumors and opinions that Colon is a very dangerous city to live in. As a black man walking around Central Colon, I felt safer there than I do at night in the United States.
It’s only dangerous if you lack common sense, walk around at night alone, and flash your valuables in public. I learned this the hard way when I put my cell phone down in an internet cafe and someone stole it. Never leave your valuables laying around. Always keep them in your pocket or bag.
If you are a black man, then you will blend in quite nicely in Colon so you will have few worries. If someone asks you something, politely say “No Gracias” or just nod no.
Best Hotels in Colon, Panama
Staying in Colon is difficult and there aren’t any hostels located in the central city. Finding an apartment is also difficult since the locals prefer to rent for long term rents. Your best option is to stay in a hotel, especially if you plan to spend less than 1 month in Colon.
Here’s a few hotels that I’ve visited and stayed in:
Address: Calle 13 & Paseo de Gorgas
The Radisson 2000 hotel is located in the Colon 2000 zone and is a very nice place to stay if you aren’t on a strict budget. They also have one of the best casinos in the city and offer tourists access to Western Union, a Super 99 grocery store, and the ability to make copies/send faxes. If you are stricly a business traveler, then I recommend staying here.
Address: Calle 1 & Ave. Bolivar
If you are traveling as a family or budget traveler, then Hotel New Washington is your best choice. I spent the majority of my time at this hotel because it costs half the price of the Radisoon 2000 yet has big clean rooms, wifi, and a casino called the Crowne Casino.
It’s within walking distance to mini supermarkets, internet cafes, and Ave. Bolivar, one of the main streets in Central Colon.
Hotel Plaza – $15 per night
Address: Calle 7, Across from the “Rey” Supermarket
If you are on a very small budget, then Hotel Plaza is another decent option to save money. Cleaniliness is a problem though since I frequently saw small bugs in the room. However, I stayed in the cheapest room there and there are more expensive rooms available at just $30 that are much cleaner and bigger.
You get a bed, cable tv, nightstand, and bathroom for a very cheap price. Another downside is there is a bar right next door to the hotel that gets really loud on the weekends. Request a room away from the front of the hotel to avoid the noise.
Things to Do in Colon
Colon is a very vibrant city yet lacks infrastructure so there aren’t as many things to do as Panama City offers. The main attraction of the city is to sit along “Paseo de Centenario” and people watch. During the day, you will see some of the most beautiful women you’ve ever seen in your life.
Women in Colon, Panama have great bodies, wide hips, and absolutely huge asses. You’ll see lots of people outside socializing since the vibe is very different from Panama City.
Other activies include:
- Interact with the Colon locals and practice your Spanish speaking skills
- Playing Casino games at Crowne Casino
- Exercise and play a game of soccer at the fields located in front of the Zona Libre entrance
- Pick up groceries at the “Rey” Supermarket located on “Calle 7”
- Go shopping at the Millenium Plaza (Plaza Millenino)
- Take a trip to Portbello and relax on the beach
- Use the internet at “La Pharmacia” (Pharmacy with a blue sign near Calle 14)
The city is undergoing massive construction so I expect Colon to be a much nicer place in a few years.
Best Restaurants in Colon – Where to Eat
Some of the best food in Colon is prepared by the local Panamanian women who really know how to cook a special meal. You’ll see small little restaurants along the streets selling combination platters with rice, beans, chicken, salad, and other things to eat. A full platter should cost you around $4.
There are two McDonalds located in Colon: One on Calle 9 along Paseo de Centenario and one in Sabanitas.
If you rather shop at the supermarket to save money, go the the “REY” located on Calle 7. You can buy fruits, vegetables, prepared meals, and other snacks like chips, cookies and candy.
Shopping in Colon – Where to Buy Stuff
Colon is home to Zona Libre, one of the biggest shopping areas in Latina America. It caters more towards wholesalers who buy in bulk though. However, you can walk around and buy certain items from stores at a very cheap price.
There are also plenty of clothing stores along Ave. Bolivar where you can buy things like hats, shirts, and belts for around $10 to $15.
If you want to buy a local cell phone, then go to the Mas Movile store on Ave. Bolivar. You can purchase a good Samsung/LG phone for around $30 and a $5 prepaid card to add minutes. Most people in Colon don’t have minutes so making calls to people is the best way to reach them.
Colon Nightlife – Bars, Nightclubs and Brothels
There aren’t many nightlife options in Colon since most people socialize with their friends and hang out along Paseo de Centenario to save money. There’s a decent bar next to Hotel Plaza on Calle 7 that plays music and sells cheap beers on the weekends.
As for brothels, you will find the majority of the working girls are Columbian since most local Colon women don’t work as prostitutes. However, you know what they say, “every girl has a price.” Ask a taxi driver for “Bar de Prepagos” that’s located around Calle 11. You can take a Columbiana upstairs for $40.
Another option for working girls in the Radisson 2000 casino where you will find women looking for a customer. In general, most of the women at the casino at night are working girls. Be firm with your price and never pay more than $20 to $30. If the price is too high, pretend to walk away instead of arguing. You don’t want to draw too much attention from other people.
If you take a girl back to your hotel, lock all your valuables up and let the person at the front desk know you have a guest. That is the best way to protect yourself in case something goes wrong (safety first!).
Should You Visit Colon, Panama?
Sure. I don’t think I could live in Colon long term, but I love spending a week or two in the city. It’s a nice constrast from the skyscrapers and concrete jungle of Panama City. You’ll find some beautiful women with incredible asses and enjoy the Caribbean breeze across your face. No place is perfect, but Colon will always have a special place in my heart.
Recommended Panama Resources
Here is a list of recommended books & resources that will make your trip more exciting and memorable: