March 19, 2015
A staple “must see” in any guide book or website you’ll come across for Panama, the Amador Causeway (Calzada Amador) is a beautiful part of the city with an important history. That being said… if I were a tourist with limited amount of time in the city, I’d skip it. BUT that was not the case for me since I live here, and I had a great afternoon exploring the area (once I finally got there).
The Amador Causeway connects a chain of four islands: Naos, Culebra, Perico and Flamenco. The causeway was originally constructed as a breakwater for the Panama Canal entrance using rocks excavated from the Panama Canal. Originally the breakwater only reached Naos Island. Over the last century the islands have transformed. During World War II, the US Military used the islands as a post to protect against potential attacks on the Panama Canal. Today, however, it’s a bustling tourist destination with lots of restaurants, shops, as well as residential and hotel accommodations.
On Naos Island sits STRI (Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute). STRI’s mission is to understand biological diversity throughout the tropics. Their research is not limited to Panama, but for the tropical regions all over the world. The project began in 1923, and they bring in approximately 900 scientists a year to the institute. STRI manages the Marine Exhibition Center where visitors can come and observe the tropical environment and species. One of the other Fulbrights here in Panama doing research is actually affiliated with the Smithsonian, doing research relating to the effect that contanmination in a river in the northern province of Chiriqui has had on a southern part of the country, called the Asuero.
Another main feature is the Bio Museum (“El Biomuseo”), which to me looks like its straight out of the Teletubbies (no offense, Frank Gehry). It’s actually still very new for Panama, only having opened in October 2014, even though the planning process started way back in 1999! Its exhibitions revolve around the idea of Panama’s biodiversity. I still haven’t been there yet, but hopefully soon!
You might be thinking… but Bailey, all of these things seem really cool! Why shouldn’t a tourist make this a top priority on their trip itinerary?
1) Hard to get to, especially for a tourist
Unless you have a car or rented a car, you’d have to take a taxi ($4-5+, more expensive since it’s a tourist spot), or the bus ($0.25 each way, but leaves from the bus terminal every hour or so and is difficult to catch on the way back). I did the latter because any few cents I can save is worth it. So I took a bus out to Albrook, waited about an hour and a half and finally got the bus to Amador. I got off around the biomuseo and walked until I found
The best way to arrive on the Amador Causeway is via your own vehicle. But unless you have a car or rented one, you’d have to take a taxi, which ranges in price from $5-$10. You have to negotiate. When you return from the Amador Causeway it’s probably best to try and hail cab, and don’t be too picky about sharing – it can actually be a lot cheaper!
I took a bus to Albrook Bus Terminal ($0.25), then waiting a half an hour for the bus to Amador (since 40 mins past, it was another $0.25). But I got there! After my biking adventure, I waited 45 minutes for a bus then ended up sharing a cab with someone, asked where they were going (turned out to be Cinco de Mayo bus/metro stop area) so I got out at the same place and it only cost me $2. I then took the Subway back to my neck of the woods for another $0.35.
This is a selfie I took while waiting for da bus
2) The Wall
The city is doing a lot of construction lately along the Amador Causeway and they have put up a wall. Many Panamanians hate it, and it has disappointed several tourists who come to see the beautiful views of the city and boats waiting to go through the canal.
3) Not that many people around
I guess I was there on a thursday afternoon… and I’m sure it’s much more lively on the weekends. But I guess I wouldn’t suggest it because the Cinta Costera is so much more lively, fun and accessible! That’s about it.
The vacancy did make for a cool photo though
The restaurants and shops know it’s a tourist destination, so just keep that in mind.
However, if one does have the time, it can make for a relaxing afternoon!
Once I got there, I walked around for a bit until I got to a bike rental place (there are plenty). You can either get a 4/6-person bike-mobile thingy with an awning… or a normal bike. I opted for the latter and it only cost me $4/hour. I had it for an hour and a half, ready to pay extra and didn’t even need to! Huzzah!
So… although it’s not on the top of my list of suggested places to go, I’d say if you have the time and want to see a nice, historic, and beautiful spot – definitely do check out Amador Causeway.
Here are some more photos I took that afternoon: