The Bristol

Path Between the Seas

As I hailed a taxi at Panama City's Tocumen International Airport, an affable young man named Patricio asked to share a ride with me. A travel agent, he had just returned home from several days of meetings in the United States. While we sped toward downtown, Patricio explained the purpose of his visit north. "I was trying to let people know that Panama City isn't the boonies," he said. "We have tall buildings! We have cell phones!"

Indeed. Visitors are usually shocked that Panama City is so large -- nearly a million people live there, 2.7 million in the entire country -- and cosmopolitan.

Chief among the city's charms is how nonchalantly it accommodates...