Statue of Liberty from the Ferry

How To Combine Miami, Panama & New York In One Epic Trip

A fantastic trip combining three epic American destinations in three weeks: Miami, Panama, and New York. This post tells you how to do it and why you should.

This trip started life with us wanting to go somewhere ‘a bit different’ but relatively easy to travel. With three weeks leave booked we were excited about getting under the skin of a new place. But where to go? Whilst we wanted to be adventurous we didn’t fancy roughing it, as it were. We had both been working extremely hard for months and months and we needed a proper break. We knew that new experiences coupled with sleeping in comfortable beds would provide that break. Throw in sunshine, nature, stunning beaches, good food, and excitement and we’d have the perfect trip. But how to combine all of this in one trip?

If you want more ideas for multi country holidays which include stunning beaches, sunshine, and nature read Mauritius Multi Centre Holidays: 8 Incredible Ideas.

We were travelling in March and our wish for warm sunshine helped to narrow our choice of destinations. Three weeks meant a long-haul trip was easily possible and as we talked the words ‘Central America’ kept popping up. As neither of us had been to any of the Central American countries before we settled on visiting one of them. The more we researched the more we realised Panama fit our criteria. We soon discovered that Panama is a fantastic winter sun destination.

For ideas on how to use your annual leave to get even more time off for work for experiences like this read How To Maximise Your Annual Leave.

At the time we travelled there were only indirect flights from the UK to Panama. We chose to fly via Miami as neither of us had been to Florida before and we thought that rather than just transit through we could spend a few days there. We had also read that Miami was a good place for March warmth and sunshine. As we needed to get an ESTA for the US we decided that it would be a good opportunity to go to New York City too. There’s always a good reason to go to New York!

Itinerary Summary

Our time was split as follows:

  • 4 nights in Miami/Fort Lauderdale
  • 13 nights in Panama
  • 4 nights in New York City

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1
Flight from London Heathrow to Miami International
Departed 0900 (UK time) landing in Miami at 1350 (US time) flying with American Airlines
Overnight in Hollywood1 night staying in the Hollywood-by-the-Sea Hotel
Days 2-4
Miami/Fort Lauderdale
Exploring Miami & Fort Lauderdale for 3 nights, staying at The Pillars Hotel, Fort Lauderdale
Day 5
Flight from Miami International to Tocumen International, Panama City
Departed 1842 (US time) landing in Panama at 2153 (Panamanian time) flying with American Airlines
Days 6-8
Panama City
4 nights staying at the Hard Rock Hotel Panama Megapolis
Day 9
Flight from Tocumen International, Panama City to David and transfer to Boquete, Chiriqui Province
Departed 1200 arriving in David at 1303 flying with Copa Airlines
Days 10-11
Boquete, Chiriqui Province
3 nights staying at The Haven Boquete
Days 12-15
Boca Chica, Chiriqui Province
3 nights staying at Boca del Mar
Day 16-17
Flight from David to Tocumen International, Panama City and time at Playa Bonita
Departed 0931 arriving in Panama City at 1031 flying with Copa Airlines

2 nights staying in the Westin Playa Bonita Resort & Spa
Day 18
Flight from Tocumen International, Panama City to La Guardia, New York via Miami International
Departed 1315 (Panamanian time) landing in Miami at 1716 (US time) flying with American Airlines

Departed Miami 1855 landing in New York at 2154 flying with American Airlines
Days 19-21
New York City
4 nights staying in the Hotel Chandler
Day 22
Flight from JFK, New York back to London Heathrow
Departed 0930 (US time) arriving in London at 2015 (UK time) flying with American Airlines
Map showing Miami-Panama-New York route
Itinerary map

Things to Think About For This Trip

Weather

From April to November the average maximum daily temperatures in Miami and Panama City are similar, and they are not that different for the rest of the year. New York has similar temperatures to both from June to August but very different for the rest of the year. You will need to take the time of year into account when doing this trip because it will affect what you pack. When we went in March it felt like we packed our entire wardrobes! We took summer clothes for the hot temperatures in Miami and Panama and winter clothes for the bitterly cold New York weather.

The chart below shows the average maximum day temperatures in Celsius for Miami, Panama City, and New York for each month of the year.

Miami, Panama, New York Temperature Chart

To see why Miami and Panama are fantastic winter sun destinations, and to get more winter holiday inspiration, read Top Winter Sun Destinations.

Entry Requirements

USA

The UK is one of a number of countries participating in America’s Visa Waiver Program. Therefore, as UK passport holders we did not need to have a visa to enter the USA but we needed to obtain ESTAs in advance (Electronic System for Travel Authorization). However, in accordance with the US rules we would have needed to obtain these even if we were only landing in the States to board a connecting flight.

The United States government website provides information on how to enter the USA. Click here to access the site.

Panama

As UK passport holders who were not arriving in Panama by sea we did not need visas for entry. However, citizens of some countries require a tourist card whilst others require a visa. We found that the best way to ascertain whether you need a visa or not is to search online for your own country’s information.

Currency

Panama has its own currency, the balboa. However, 1 balboa = 1 US dollar and dollars are legal tender in Panama. Being able to use the same currency throughout the whole trip simplifies things considerably.

If you are thinking of doing this trip, or something similar, our article on planning a multi-country itinerary is a must read. Read it here.

Miami

Over 80 airlines from around 150 destinations worldwide fly into Miami International, making it a convenient place to start this multi-country itinerary.

Why Go to Miami?

Stunning beaches, pulsating nightlife, Art Deco architecture, trendy restaurants, high end shopping, world class museums, sunshine all the year long…the list goes on. When it comes to glitz, glamour and the A-list lifestyle Miami has it all!

The easiest way to get around is to hire a car and drive. Live the dream and hire a convertible or sports car. You won’t be out of place, especially when cruising down Ocean Drive. However, if you really want to stand out from the masses shun the luxury cars and do what we did, drive around in a Toyota Yaris! That’s right, in a city where Lamborghinis and classic Cadillacs are ten-a-penny the humble Yaris is the more unique choice.

A word of warning about the traffic in Miami – boy does it exist! Miami suffers from extreme congestion, particularly at rush hour, so be prepared to become well-acquainted with your car.

When planning a trip you need to know that Miami and Miami Beach are two separate cities, although ‘Miami’ is used interchangeably.

Miami

Miami feels more gritty and urban than its beachy cousin. The city has a large Latin American community and the vibrant Little Havana is the most well-known Cuban neighbourhood. Explore the different districts making up the city and you will be spoilt for choice for bars, restaurants, and night clubs.

Amongst other things visit:

  • Perez Art Museum Miami for exhibitions of contemporary art from the 20th and 21st centuries. Entry is free on the first Thursday and second Saturday of the month. The PAMM is closed on Wednesdays.
  • The Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts, one of the world’s leading venues. Whether you are into jazz, opera, musical theatre, classical music, flamenco, ballet, or anything else, this place is a must-do.
  • The Phillip and Patricia Frost Museum of Science is a world-class, state-of-the-art, science museum, planetarium, and aquarium. The museum is open every day of the year from 9:30 am to 6pm. Children of 5 to 17 can explore the museum after hours at the special Kids Nights.
  • Vizcaya Museum & Gardens housed in an Italian-Renaissance style villa originally built as James Deering’s winter home. As well as visiting the house and the landscaped gardens you can take part in the waterfront yoga sessions, wander amongst the art collections, and participate in one of the family programmes for children aged 6 to 12 years.

Miami Beach

Miami Beach is what we were picturing when we decided to make ‘Miami’ part of this trip. The glorious white sand, brilliant turquoise waters, the famously colourful lifeguard huts are all too much to resist!

Take your pick from the number of beaches that make up Miami Beach. Visit Lummus Park Beach (the party beach), South Beach (the celebrity favourite), Haulover Beach (the scenic one with a ‘clothing optional’ section) etc etc.

Miami Beach
Exactly what we were hoping to find at Miami Beach

Our favourite thing to do was to park up at South Pointe Pier Park and stroll along the sand stretching miles into the distance. At the southern most point of South Beach, South Pointe Park Pier is a 17-acre park with access to the beach. Amenities include bike rental, a children’s playground, fishing pier, and restaurants.

Miami Beach is famous for its Art Deco architecture and you can take a tour around the Art Deco neighbourhood. We enjoyed following this self-guided tour from freetoursbyfoot.com.

Yellow Art Deco building on Ocean Drive
The distinctive yellow paintwork of the Leslie, 1244 Ocean Drive

Miami Beach is famous for its focus on health, wellness, and therapies. Lincoln Road Mall provides the best opportunity for one of the most effective therapies…retail therapy. This outdoors pedestrianised shopping area means you can enjoy the glorious Florida sunshine whilst browsing. You’ll find most of the mainstream clothes shops here as well as bars, restaurants, and a cinema. If you enjoy people watching it is worth coming here and sitting at an outdoor table for that alone.

Lincoln Park Mall after a rain shower
Lincoln Road Mall

What do the films Scarface and Birdcage, and the TV series Dexter all have in common? They all have scenes featuring Ocean Drive. Ocean Drive is high up on the list of the most iconic streets in the world. It is impossible not to admire the pastel hued Art Deco buildings, supercars, palm trees, cafés, bars, hotels, and Gianni Versace’s former home all jostling for position. And, of course, all looking out onto the white sand and turquoise waters of South Beach. Strolling along the Ocean Drive promenade is one of the best things to do in Miami Beach.

Blue skies, palm trees, Art Deco buildings of Ocean Drive
Ocean Drive

Everglades National Park

The Everglades National Park covers 1.5 million acres of South Florida! Its famous inhabitants are the American alligators and crocodiles but it is also home to other endangered and threatened species, such as the Florida Panther and Indian Manatee. Hundreds of birds, plants, animals, and reptiles call the park their home making it an absolutely fascinating and wonderful place to visit.

The park has three entrances: the entrance closest to Miami and Fort Lauderdale is the Shark Valley entrance. It is roughly a 1.5 hour drive from both cities.

Within the park you can follow canoe and kayak trails, fish, hike, and even camp. The Everglades is also famous for its airboat tours and licensed businesses operate within the park. We decided to hire bikes to cycle the 15 mile (24 km) scenic loop, accessible from the Shark Valley entrance. This is a wonderful way to see some of the park, although once you are on the trail there are no shortcuts. It was hard going because the bikes were in a bad condition. We were also cycling against the wind on the return journey which definitely added to the challenge!

We asked at the Visitors Centre whether we’d see any alligators and crocodiles. The man gave us a strange look and as we cycled we realised why. It’s impossible not to see these magnificent reptiles! The park advises visitors to keep a safe distance from the wildlife, around 4-6 metres away (15-20 feet). However, when you find yourself encountering an alligator on the side of the road it is somewhat difficult to keep this distance! Needless to say, we allowed the alligator the right of way.

Alligator by the side of the road
Difficult to keep your distance when an alligator is on the same path as you!

It was a curious thing in the park. We found ourselves being lulled into a false sense of security by the number of peaceful looking alligators basking in the sun. It was hard to believe they can be ferocious predators who could swallow us whole. Especially when you see them slumbering alongside each other…

Two alligators looking at each other in the Everglades
In love, or about to duel?

…then we saw an alligator open its jaws! Seeing how wide its mouth could open and its teeth in all their glory reminded us how powerful they are!

Crocodile or alligator with jaws open in grass
Probably not a warm welcome

Visiting the Everglades National Park and marvelling at the wonders of nature is something we highly recommend. Not least because the dichotomy between the wildness of the park and the glitz and glamour of Miami and Fort Lauderdale cities is worth experiencing.

What We Did

Day 1 – Flight from the UK to Miami International and overnight in Hollywood

We took a direct flight from London Heathrow, landing at Miami International 9.5 hours later where we picked up our hire car (the aforementioned Toyota Yaris). Over 80 airlines from around 150 destinations worldwide fly into Miami International, making it a convenient place to start this multi-country itinerary.

Whilst we originally wanted to stay in Miami we ultimately decided to book a hotel in Fort Lauderdale. At the time we were planning this trip the pound was weak against the dollar and the hotels we liked in Miami Beach all cost more than we wanted to pay. Fort Lauderdale, however, was more reasonable and so we decided to be sensible. Or at least, sensible-ish.

Although Fort Lauderdale has its own international airport we booked the flights before we decided not to stay in Miami. Had we made this decision first we would have considered flying into Fort Lauderdale. However, it worked out for the best because the hotel we wanted to stay in (see below) didn’t have any availability for our first night so we chose to stay in Hollywood instead. No, not that Hollywood! This Hollywood is around 40 minutes from Miami Beach and 30 minutes from Fort Lauderdale and has its own glorious beach. However, by the time we got there we were so tired from the flight that all we felt like doing was getting something to eat before crashing. Unfortunately, we didn’t get to see much of Hollywood as we left early for Fort Lauderdale the following morning. We were, however, able to have a short stroll along the Broadwalk, which runs for 2.5 miles along the soft white sands of the beach.

White sand and turquoise waters of Hollywood Beach
Hollywood Beach

Days 2-4 – Miami/Fort Lauderdale

Fort Lauderdale is 33 miles north of Miami Beach (around an hour’s drive) and is a beautiful place in its own right. Its beach has the white sand and turquoise waters which make Miami’s beaches so photogenic, so there’s no missing out there.

Las Olas Boulevard provides all of the chic shopping and dining options you could want but it’s the canals that really make Fort Lauderdale stand out from other cities. Around 165 miles of canals run through the city giving its nickname, “Venice of America”. Many of the canals are lined with stunning luxury mansions, each with their own access to the water. There is clearly a lot of wealth in Fort Lauderdale!

Sunsetting with palm trees in the foreground at Hollywood Beach
Fort Lauderdale Beach at sunset

Where We Stayed

Hollywood

For the one night we spent in Hollywood we stayed in the Hollywood By The Sea Hotel. Although it calls itself a ‘hotel’, it is actually a collection of 8 self-catering studio apartments. Just steps from the Atlantic Ocean, each of the 8 suites is named after a renowned city (Paris, Milan, Montreal etc). They are all equipped with a full kitchen and free wifi. There is assigned free parking and laundry facilities onsite. The rooms are prettily decorated and, whilst they are not luxurious, they are comfortable enough. This accommodation suited our needs for a one night stopover, although staying longer would not have been a hardship.

Fort Lauderdale

For the three nights we had in Fort Lauderdale we stayed at The Pillars Hotel. The hotel is situated on the Intracoastal Waterway and is less than a minute’s walk from the ocean. It is a member of the Small Luxury Hotels of the World brand and we had booked through SLH.com. We booked the ‘Run of the House’ rate which meant our room type would be assigned on check-in. We were assigned one of the Superior Poolside rooms on the ground floor. The hotel describes the room as ‘lavishly decorated in a British Colonial style’ and it was beautifully done, with a marble bathroom and Molten Brown toiletries.

Don’t get us wrong, the hotel was sophisticated and glamorous but we couldn’t help being a little disappointed. The pool itself is tiny, not suitable for a proper swim. This came as a surprise as the photographs on the hotel’s website made it look much bigger. The reception area is no more than a counter and, whilst nobody books a hotel because of the reception area, a grand reception certainly adds to the luxury of a place. The hotel does not have a spa or fitness facilities.

The hotel has its own restaurant which we’d read very good things about. However, the rubbish exchange rate between the pound and the dollar led us to make the decision not to eat there. The other facility we didn’t use was the hotel’s 18-inch draft Picnic Boat. Up to 6 people can charter the boat from 2 hours to the full day. You can go all the way to Miami if you so wish, which would be a pretty cool way to arrive.

Sea View from The Pillars hotel
The Pillars Hotel dock

Panama

Why Go to Panama?

Panama is a 3 hour plane journey from Miami, with several flights departing on a daily basis. The capital is Panama City and, in some respects, it is difficult to distinguish from Miami. For example, they both have luxury hotels, skyscrapers, and a vibrant foodie scene. However, Miami doesn’t have the same historical grounding as Panama City. And whilst Miami has wonderful access to nature, the rainforests and jungles which can be accessed from Panama City are something else.

Panama is more than just its capital city. The country has everything: lush mountains and valley towns, stunning coasts, and glorious national parks. Of course, Panama is synonymous with the Panama Canal, but it is also home to Indigent tribes, and it is particularly known for its spectacular birdwatching.

What We Did

Days 5-8– Flight from Miami to Panama City, staying in Panama City

We took an evening American Airlines flight from Miami International, arriving at Panama’s Tocumen International Airport 3 hours later at approaching 10pm. It was easy to get a taxi from the airport to our hotel, the Hard Rock Hotel Panama Metropolis. We spent the next 4 nights in Panama City. Amongst other things, whilst in the city we did a walking tour around Casco Viejo, visited Panama Viejo, stood in awe at the ships passing through the Miraflores Lock on the Panama Canal, got deep into the rainforests in several national parks, hired bikes and cycled the Amador Causeway, and made the most of Panama City being a fantastic foodie destination and ate lots of good food.

View across the water of the metropolis from Casco Viejo
Panama City – El Cangrejo

For inspiration about the things you must do in Panama City read 10 Reasons Why You Must Visit Panama City

Days 9-11 – Flight from Panama City to David and transfer to Boquete, Chiriqui Province

An hour’s flight at midday from Tocumen International to David with Copa Airlines and we were in the Chiriquí Highlands. The Highlands are in the west of Panama, not far from the border with Costa Rica. Our first three nights were spent in Boquete, a town in a valley on the flank of Barú Volcano along the shores of the Caldera River.

Lush free valley with Boquete in the distance and the Caldera River
Boquete and the Caldera River in the lush green valley
Respendent Quetzal in a tree
The Resplendent Quetzal

Whilst in Boquete we enjoyed riding horses through the valley, making the most of the spa and fitness facilities at our hotel (see below), taking a tour of a coffee plantation and understanding what is so special about Panama’s coffee at Finca Dos Jefes, and hiking the Pipeline Trail where we were lucky enough to spot the Resplendent Quetzal.

It’s well worth spending time in this gem of a place because there are so many wonderful things to do in Boquete. We loved our time here!

Days 12-15 – Boca Chica, Chiriqui Province

After reading about and seeing pictures of Panama’s coastline, with its white sand and azure waters, it was a given that we would incorporate a beach holiday into our trip. Although most people head to Bocas Del Toro or the San Blas Islands we found that the internal flights and transfers didn’t quite fit in with everything else we wanted to do. Boca Chica, however, was perfect as we could reach it easily enough from Boquete. On the Pacific coast, it has its own islands to explore with beaches straight from paradise.

Empty beach on an island off Boca Chica, Panama
A Boca Chica island

The Haven Hotel arranged for a driver to take us to Boca Chica for the part of our trip which was all about R & R. Whilst in Boca Chica we explored the quiet village, chartered a local boatman to take us on a day trip around the islands, enjoyed relaxing on the beaches and swimming in the sea, and chilled out at our hotel. The views across the water from the hotel were breath-taking.

Boca Chica with the sunsetting over the Pacific Ocean
View at sunset from the Bocas del Mar hotel

Day 16-17 – Flight from David to Panama City and time at Playa Bonita

For the last few nights in Panama we stayed in Playa Bonita, not far from the capital. We confess that we found the beach disappointing after the wonders of Boca Chica. We therefore made the most of our time by exploring further afield. We met Panama’s national bird, the harpy eagle, at the Summit Gardens Park & Zoo, and followed trails into the rainforest at the Rainforest Discovery Center.

Harpy eagle looking straight at the camera, Summit Zoo & Gardens

Where We Stayed

Panama City

For our first visit to Panama City we stayed at the Hard Rock Hotel Panama Megapolis. The hotel’s claim on its website that dining, nightlife, and entertainment is all in one place is accurate. It is enormous, with 1,400 rooms and suites, four restaurants, a juice bar, coffee shop, spa, hair and beauty salon, fitness centre, small, outside pool halfway up the building, a nightclub, bars, and an attached shopping mall and casino. It wouldn’t be out of place in Las Vegas. You could easily have a city break in Panama City and never set foot out of the hotel, if you didn’t mind missing out on all that this wonderful city has to offer.

Even if this sort of hotel is not your thing (and, we confess, it isn’t ours), the Hard Rock Hotel is a very good example of a resort-style hotel. Aside from the amenities, it does all of the basic things a hotel should do very well. It is immaculately clean, the beds are comfortable, and the breakfast buffet is excellent.

The hotel is located in the modern El Cangreja/Area Bancaria part of the city. This is a good location for seeing the city’s sights. For example, the Panama Canal is a 15 minute drive away, Casco Viejo is 5 minutes away, whilst the International Airport is approximately 20 minutes away. It is difficult to get public transport from the hotel but taxis stop outside, or you can call an Uber.

View from our room in the Hard Rock Hote. We could see across to Casco Viejo and the Amador Causeway in the distance
The early morning view from our room in the Hard Rock Hotel Panama Megapolis
Boquete

We’d intended to hire a car at David airport and drive to Boquete. However, by the time we had found the rental company’s portacabin some way from the airport, and by the time we’d had a falling out with the agent who tried to charge us three times more than the quote we’d been given a day before, we decided to eschew the car hire. Having made this principled decision we realised we were stranded at the airport. David Airport is only small and the few taxis that were there when our flight landed had all departed; the nearest bus stop involved a 4 mile walk. We called our hotel in despair. The Haven Boquete secured our good favour from the moment they offered to send a driver to collect us immediately. We were so grateful for the assistance and were very happy to pay the driver directly.

The Haven Boquete is a boutique hotel focusing on tranquillity and rejuvenation. Its adults-only policy contributes to the calm atmosphere. In the words of the hotel:

The Haven provides a peaceful place to relax for a few days, recharge your batteries or as a base to explore Boquete. If you are looking to party this is not the place for you. 

http://www.hotelboquete.com

With 8 rooms and 1 suite the hotel is somewhat exclusive. It stands in verdant grounds, complete with babbling brook. Hotel guests have full use of the gym, sauna and steam area, the endless exercise pool, and access to the spa and yoga studio.

There is not a restaurant at the hotel but it is 1km to the centre of Boquete and easily walkable. Although the hotel offers breakfast this is little more than a muffin and bowl of cereal in the room. You should not be put off by this, however, because the standards of this hotel are very high. The staff could not be more hospitable and pleasant and it is extremely well cared for. It certainly achieves its aim of providing a restive and restorative experience and we thoroughly enjoyed our time here.

Boca Chica

For the part of our holiday intended to be all about R&R, we needed the right hotel. Hello Bocas del Mar! Situated on the mainland in Boca Chica, the hotel is the gateway to the islands of the Gulf of Chiriqui Marine National Park. And when we say gateway, we mean it. The hotel is on the water’s edge and the views of the ocean are magnificent.

This boutique hotel describes its rooms as contemporary-style bungalow rooms. They are comfortable and have views of the ocean. To add to this, they are set within a beautiful tropical garden. Good luck finding fault with their setting!

The hotel’s swimming pool has spectacular views and is perfect for both lazy and training swimming. It is exclusively for the use of hotel guests so there’s no concerns about it getting overcrowded. We pretty much had it to ourselves.

Swimming Pool at Boca Del Mar with Pacific Ocean in the background

As well as the swimming pool, the hotel has a tennis court, pétanque bowls, and its own dock for boat trips to the islands or fishing trips. It does not have a spa but offers massage treatments in a beautiful wooden hut looking out on the ocean. The location alone will relax you!

The hotel’s restaurant serves exceptionally good food at lunch and dinner time, all against the stunning Pacific Ocean backdrop. Boca Chica itself is very quiet so a good restaurant is essential. Breakfast is included in the room price and is on an à la carte basis.

Bocas del Mar is the perfect hotel for relaxation and rejuvenation; a world away from the hustle and bustle of Panama City.

Panama City – Playa Bonita

The Westin Playa Bonita Resort & Spa is a big resort style hotel with three swimming pools, a spa, six restaurants, and a well-equipped business centre.  Unfortunately, whilst staying there we were reminded that this style of hotel is just not our thing. Whilst it was very clean and had immaculate facilities its large, impersonal nature made us feel as if we could have been anywhere.  The beach was also a disappointment.  The website pictures made it look as if we would could lay on fine white sand to bask in the sun.  Instead, what beach there was, was akin to grey shale.  Definitely not the beach we were anticipating it would be. There were numerous guests clearly very much enjoying their time at the Westin. We don’t blame them, it is a good hotel.  Just not our ideal hotel.

New York

Why Go to New York?

New York is so ubiquitous throughout pop culture that it feels like you know the city, even if you’ve never been there before. The list of TV shows, films, and theatre productions set in New York is a long one. The city has even been described as the fifth main character in Sex and the City. You can walk around New York humming songs about it all day without ever needing to repeat a track, there are that many. Whether your reference is Billy Joel’s New York State of Mind, or Jay-Z and Alicia Keys’ Empire State of Mind, or any one of hundreds of other artists who have sung about the city, the popularity of New York throughout the ages is testament to the greatness of this city. Surely that’s reason enough to go there?

Even if you’re trying to avoid the road well-travelled you have to experience New York at least once in your lifetime. A great city should fit every person, no matter what your interests may be. And with world-class museums, galleries, restaurants, well, pretty much everything, New York is definitely a great city.

What We Did

Days 18-22 – Flight from Panama City to New York (via Miami International). 4 nights in New York before flying back to London

At the time we visited (and at the time of writing) flights to New York from Panama City go via Miami. Even though the flight times are relatively short, inevitably it takes a day to travel.

Although we knew New York was going to be considerably colder than Panama the change in temperature was more extreme than expected. Our time exploring the city was punctuated with buying hats, gloves, and scarves to help combat the cold.

We decided to spend our three full days in NYC taking in as much as possible – this part of our trip was definitely not about R&R. We perused the shops on Fifth Avenue, visited the Public Library (undoubtedly one of the most beautiful libraries in the world), and traversed Central Park.

Fifth Avenue sign & Empire State Building in background
Lake and footbridge in Central Park

We took the ferry over to Staten Island and enjoyed the spectacular views of the Statue of Liberty on the way. We took hundreds of photos of the Empire State Building but enjoyed breath-taking sky-high views across the city from the One World Trade Center.

Statue of Liberty from the Ferry

We stood in sadness at Ground Zero.

Ground Zero

We walked across the Brooklyn Bridge and the High Line. We gawped in Times Square and then watched Phantom of the Opera on Broadway. We got our pop culture fix by hunting out the Friends apartment block and Carrie Bradshaw’s apartment, and eating cupcakes from the Magnolia Bakery.

Neon signs of Times Square

We left New York feeling exhausted but happy. There was time enough to catch up on sleep after we left the city that never sleeps. There’s so much to see and do in New York and we barely scratched the surface. When we go back (note we said when and not if) one place which is definitely on our list is the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Where We Stayed

It can be difficult to choose accommodation in New York because the options are so varied. We decided to stay in a hotel and chose the Hotel Chandler in the NoMad/Flatiron neighbourhood, midtown Manhattan. Situated a couple of blocks from the Empire State Building, this boutique hotel is elegantly decorated in muted chocolate tones. Space is at a premium in New York but this hotel makes the most of it in the rooms and has an onsite bar and restaurant.

The Chandler does what it does very well. We very much liked it but it is not somewhere that stands out in our minds. That’s not to say it isn’t a good place to stay, because it is. In our opinion, a really good hotel will have the wow factor whether you’ve booked the standard room (which we usually do) or the best they have (which we never do). For us, whilst we would stay in the Chandler again, it didn’t have the wow factor.

We loved this trip because we were able to spend time in spectacular places, very different from one another. From modern cities to a city in ruins, from rainforests to Central Park, from Miami Beach to paradise islands, it was all there. We had three weeks for this trip but it can be adapted for longer or shorter holidays. Feel free to contact us if you’d like ideas on how to do this.

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