Panama City is really not the best spot for either spectator or participant sports. Generally only the most expensive hotels have tennis courts, pools big enough to swim laps in, or decent gyms. Most sports clubs are upscale places open to members and their guests.
The best options for those interested in golf are Summit Golf, Hotel and Spa (tel. 232-4653, www.summitgolfpanama.com) in the former Canal Zone or, for those going to the Pacific beaches, the course at the Coronado Hotel and Resort (Panama City reservations tel. 264-3164 or 264-2724, Coronado tel. 240-4444, fax 223-8513, www.coronadoresort.com) or the newer El Mantarraya Golf Club at the Royal Decameron Resort (Panama City reservations tel. 214-3535, resort tel. 993-2255, www.decameron.com). They are well-maintained, championship courses with good facilities.
Piscina Olímpica Adan Gordon
Piscina Olímpica Adan Gordon (between Calle 31 and Calle 32 and Avenida Cuba and Avenida Perú, 8:30–11:45 a.m. and 1–3:45 p.m. Tues.–Sat., 8:30–11:45 a.m. and 12:30–2:45 p.m. Sat. and Sun., closed Mon.) is a decent, Olympic-sized swimming pool across from the national lottery plaza in the heart of the budget hotel district. Tourists are welcome to go for a splash for US$0.50, but passports must be left with the attendant. Don’t leave valuables unattended.
Estadio Nacional Rod Carew
Panama produces a disproportionate number of U.S. Major League baseball players given its small size. Fútbol (soccer) is beginning to nudge beisbol from its pedestal as the country’s favorite team sport, but it is still Panama’s national pastime, has a passionate following, and produces some of the best players in the world.
The national baseball stadium (tel. 230-4255, www.estadionacional.com.pa), named after native son and Hall of Famer Rod Carew, is in the Cerro Patacón area on the northwest outskirts of Panama City. The stadium is bounded by three major arteries—the Corredor Norte, the Camino de la Amistad, and the Transístmica—which makes it easy to get to.
The stadium seats 26,000, but during a routine game between provincial teams, it may be nearly empty, making it easy to get close to the action and possibly see a major-leaguer in the making.
Tickets typically cost US$5 or less. Note that baseball is played only during Panama’s summer (e.g., the dry season, the baseball off-season in the U.S.). The baseball season ends in May. More information is available at www.estadionacional.com.pa and www.fedebeis.com.
Big concerts featuring international stars are sometimes held at the stadium.
Hipódromo Presidente Remón
Panama has a well-established horse-racing industry. The national racetrack, Hipódromo Presidente Remón (tel. 217-6060, www.hipodromo.com) is on the outskirts of the city. It’s about eight kilometers east of Punta Paitilla in the Juan Díaz area, on the way to the international airport. It holds races Thursday, Saturday, Sunday, and holidays. The quickest way to get there is via the Corredor Sur. It’s also accessible from Vía España, which becomes Vía José Agustín Arango east of the city. The racecourse is just past the 45,000-seat national football (i.e., soccer) stadium, Estadio Rommel Fernández.
Scubapanama (Avenida 6C Norte, tel. 261-3841 or 261-4064, www.scubapanama.com), Panama’s largest dive operator, also rents and sells snorkeling and diving gear. Those who plan to do a fair amount of snorkeling should know that most of the equipment available on Panama’s beaches and islands is mediocre at best. This is a decent place to buy some if you didn’t bring your own.
© William Friar from Moon Panama, 3rd Edition