Panama has it all
Last update: November, 2009
Panama’s merchants, operating in one of the great crossroads of the world, bring to the isthmus the finest merchandise; and the volume generated by buyers who flock in from all over the Americas guarantees variety and excellent prices.
The Colon Free Zone is a significant contributor to Panama’s success as a shopping center. Many wholesalers operating in the Colon Free Zone have retail outlets in Panama City and many other city shops draw on the huge variety offered in the zone and pass price advantage on to their customers.
Panama’s old-established and traditional shopping areas are Avenida Central, now a pedestrian precinct, and Calidonia, the extension of Avenida Central up the first few hundred yards of Via España, but in recent years big malls and commercial centers have been developed.
There is a good selection of shopping on Via Espana in the main hotel and banking area, which also offers the Plaza Concordia.
Albrook Mall is a large complex between Marcos A Gelabert Airport and the country’s central bus station (El Gran Terminal).
In the center of the city on Avenida Balboa adjacent to the banking and hotel area is the Multicentro Mall, a multi-storied complex of impressive architecture, incorporating a large casino and the Decapolis Hotel.
The Multiplaza Pacific, yet another gigantic mall, is located in the newly-developed and fashionable area of Punta Pacifica. The following is a resumé of some of the fine shopping offered in Panama City.
Panafoto: This old-established store has a number of branches. The one closest to most hotels– and within walking distance of many, is on 50th street opposite the Banco Continental building.
Panafoto has a superstore in the Multiplaza Pacific Mall. Their recently opened branch at Albrook Mall is not on the Mall itself but just beside it with plenty of parking space.
The latest technology is offered in all types of audio visual and computer equipment. The stores are well organised and the staff attentive.
Reprosa: This unique store, located on Ave Samuel Lewis in the city’s Obarrio district and on Ave. A, Casco Viejo specializes in reproductions of pre-Columbian gold and silver jewelry. They also offer reproductions of natural items of beauty such as orchids and seashells, in the form of brooches, pendants, earrings, necklaces and charms. Some of the items are surprisingly moderate in price and each one makes a delightful memento or gift.
La Ronda: In an ancient Native American language, the word 'Panama' means "abundance of fish and butterflies", but it could also mean "abundance of handicraft", since local craftsmen hail from a wide variety of cultures. At La Ronda, you will find handicraft in great abundance. You will also find fishes and butterflies aplenty on your mola from San Blas. Look also for dolls dressed in the Pollera (Panama's national dress for women), soapstone figurines of the Old Panama ruins, ceramics made in the central provinces and Panama hats (which, believe it or not, are a product of Ecuador).
La Ronda is located in Casa la Ronda, a restored, old Spanish colonial house situated on Calle Primera, San Felipe, a few steps from the French embassy, at Multicentro Mall and at Hotel Torres de Alba.
Decoraciones Modernas: This store on Avenida Ancon immediately delights the eye with its colorful display of fabrics for curtains and upholstery. The selection is impressive and you can either buy the fabric for your own use or have them make up curtains or cushions or re-cover your chairs and sofas. They also have a wide selection of Persian blinds. Yacht owners take note… this company specializes in upholstery for yachts.
Beads & Gems: Gems and precious stones have captivated man since the beginning of time and their beauty and mystique have been interpreted by a variety of cultures from around the world. At Beads & Gems, you will find necklaces, earrings and bracelets, crafted in silver and adorned with Onix (excellent stress reliever), Amber (recommended for your emotional well-being; good for your liver and heart), quartz (improves meditation and communication skills) and a large variety of gems of all shapes and sizes, from the Far East, Russia, China and Brazil.
The staff of Beads & Gems is also at hand to repair or redesign your jewels.
Arelis Alvarez: Venezuelan artist, Arelis Alvarez, offers a stunning collection of jewelry at her store on. 48th Street in Bella Vista in Panama City, in front of the Eurasia restaurant. Her combination of fossils, gems,volcanic lava and crystals is both eye-catching and innovative. No two pieces are alike and if you like the design but would prefer different stones she will be happy to oblige. Available in the best boutiques in Bal Harbor and West Palm Beach in Florida since 2006, her latest collection is now a sensation among the fashion-conscious here in Panama.
Museo de la Esmeralda: Situated in Cathedral Plaza in the Old Quarter, this store is a unique combination of jewelry store and museum, exhibiting a great collection of the world’s most beautiful emeralds, both polished and unpolished. There is an interesting replica of a gold mine and they offer a free gift of an emerald with every purchase made.
Game Masters: Number one in the city for video games and located conveniently in the Multiplaza Pacific Mall, Albrook Mall and Dorado Mall. At each location fully trained and friendly staff can help customers find what they want among the large stocks of video games and explain their characteristics. Customers can also try the games hands-on before buying. The store will also accept trade-ins of used videos.
Galeria Drilo: This speciality boutique has its own crocodile farm (approved by CITES) and so the crocodile skin accessories are very special. Galerias Drilo is found in two locations in Panama City, one in Amador and the other in Bella Vista. Owner Gladys Vallarino ensures that all items are finely crafted and she serves a growing export market.
For sporting goods, especially for fishing and boating, Abernathy offers the best choice in the city. Diving enthusiasts will find everything at Scuba Panama.
For art and framing, the gallery Arteconsult offers a selection of contemporary Panamanian painters and can advise on finding specific types of artwork.
Deco Accesorios is a big supplier of hotel and residential hardware and architectural features.
Ty-group supplies bathrobes, towels and toiletries to hotels.
Book-lovers take note. Several bookstores in Panama specialize in English and Spanish books. In the city, Exedra on Via Espana offers events as well. The old-established Libreria Argosy on Via Argentina has books in French, too. In Chiriqui, a surprising collection of used books in English can be found at Bookmark in Dolega on the road up to Boquete.
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Free Zone Users' Association website