“As with most holidays in Panama, city dwellers use the New Year holiday as an excuse to flee to the beach,” writes one of our Correspondents. “When a holiday falls on a Friday, traffic to the beach can be hell. This year, New Year’s was Sunday, and Monday was a holiday, so the Friday afternoon traffic from the city to the ‘City Beaches,’ as they’re called, wasn’t as bad as it can be.
“Every resort and hotel in the interior is packed for New Year’s, and the city is deserted. Panamanians refer to just about anything north of the city, including the beaches, as being in the ‘interior,’ by the way.
“A friend and I spent the long New Year’s weekend this year at the Sheraton Bijao Resort. It’s a big, all-inclusive resort with a nice beach and a golf course. I’d recommend it. Coming from someone who hates crowds and buffets, this is a strong endorsement.
“We had live music and dancing until 2 a.m. The crowd was mixed–about 50% Panamanian and 50% international. The staff was attentive and spoke enough English.
“The best part is that there were three or four restaurants where you can make a reservation and thereby avoid the buffet, and even these restaurants are included in the all-inclusive fee.
“A big New Year’s tradition in Panama’s interior is blowing up or burning life-sized dolls in effigy. Most dolls are political figures, and the favorite this year (in honor of his return to his home country) was Noriega.
“In Panama, Noriega is called MAN–Manuel Antonio Noriega. We must have seen 100 MAN dolls being burned or blown up along the road to the resort…”