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Friday, December 14, 2012

Christmas shopping in Panama

I was out today, driving through the rain soaked streets, on a mission to take photos of some of the best places to shop here in Panama. For those of you already living here, if you've never ventured out to some of the smaller neighborhoods, you may have never come across some of these hidden treasures. Two years ago I was in search of art supplies for my wife. She'd mentioned how she missed painting, so I thought I'd surprise her and pick up an easel, some paints, and other supplies. I had a hell of a time figuring out where to go to get some of this stuff. I asked around, and finally, someone told me about this place called Artec, located in San Miguelito. As of right now, their website is still "coming soon." Here's the link though:

If you need to pick up pet supplies or even buy a pet for someone, Melo is a place you need to check out. These are located all over the city. I found one right down the street from Artec, but I've also seen them in the Los Pueblos outdoor shopping area, in Metromall, and just about everywhere else around the city. Locating a Melo wouldn't be a challenge. Their website is

If you have a family member who is into sports or music, on Cincuentenario (hope I spelled that correctly), right across the street from Multiplaza Mall and right next to Niko's Cafe, is an El Deportista sporting goods store that is combined with a La Nota music store. There you can find everything from soccer and baseball equipment to guitars and sheet music. Here's their website in English:

One of my favorite places in the city (or its surrounding areas) is the Discovery Center located in what I believe is Condado del Rey, which you'll find on your way to El Dorado if you're traveling down Tumbo Muerto (Dead Tomb is a horrible name for a street). At Discovery Center you'll find a little bit of everything. I think I like it because it reminds me of Walmart. You can find hardware items, fishing gear, pet supplies, toys, bicycles, ceiling fans, dishes, pots & pans...just about anything you can think of. I've heard people complain that it's a little overpriced, but I bought a punching bag (a heavy bag) for less than $40. That's pretty cheap. I couldn't find a website for Discovery Center. 

Another store that's similar to a Discovery Center, but actually has a full-size supermarket, furniture, and a much larger clothing selection, is El Machetazo. El Machetazo is a great place to put on this list because it really is one-stop shopping. Plus, you'll find El Machetazo outside of Panama City. A brand new one just opened up in Coronado. I bought a Blu-Ray player at the San Miguelito store, which is going through a major renovation. Speaking of electronics, other popular electronics stores in Panama are Multimax (, Audiofoto (, and Hometek ( All three of these can be found in many of the city's shopping centers and malls. 

Not that Victoria's Secret is anything secret, but there is one located in Panama, and it's a great place to pick up affordable smell goods for any lady friends. I stopped by the branch in Multiplaza Mall today and found that they have a Christmas deal going on right now. All lotions are 3 for $30 or 5 for $45. 

If you have an avid reader in the family, finding books in English might be a bit of a challenge here. I recently bought a Kindle because I was tired of paying so much for each book and having such a small variety to choose from. I've found a few books in English at Riba Smith, which is the supermarket here with the most imported foods and will be the closest thing to what you're used to in the States and in Canada. The selection is very limited though. There's also a place on Via EspaƱa called Exedra Books which I've heard carries some books in English. Farmacia Arrocha, some of them, may have a small selection. El Hombre de la Mancha is one of the most popular book stores here and is found in nearly all of the malls. I'm not sure about Multicentro, but I've seen it in Albrook, Multiplaza, and Metro Mall. This store usually has a decent selection, but is kind of pricey. If you can afford it, just buy your friend/family member a Kindle. They'll love you for it. To go to El Hombre de la Mancha's website, click here

If you know someone who likes to spend time at the shooting range, or might want to pick something up from the gun shop, I noticed this place today when I was dropping my kids off at school in downtown Panama City. It's kind of hard to explain where this place is located, but it's close to Avenida Balboa, right behind the bright blue building with the X's. The phone number is in the picture, so I'm sure if you give them a call they can explain it a little better.

Farmacia Arrocha is the closest thing to a CVS/Walgreens here in Panama. I think it's much better actually. It's probably my favorite convenient place to shop here. You can find an Arrocha almost everywhere. I live in Villa Lucre, and the one in my area is usually uncrowded and very clean. It's a good place to pick up make-up, perfume, toys, medicine, school supplies, etc. The branch at Los Pueblos is probably the best one for toys. The Los Pueblos branch is also where my wife goes to pick up her Clinique products. Not all Arrochas carry Clinique apparently. The large branch on Calle 50 is another good one to visit. You can go to for more info.

The closest thing to a Toys R Us here is the Felix Juguetes located in the Los Pueblos outdoor shopping center, right across the street from Metro Mall on Avenida Domingo Diaz or what some people consider Via Tocumen. Half the store is dedicated to toys, the other half is an outlet store, with discount clothing. Click here to go to the Felix Juguetes website: If you don't want to travel all the way to Los Pueblos, all of the Felix B. Maduro stores carry toys and video games, the selection just isn't as large as it is at the Felix toy store. 

If you need to pick up power tools, other household appliances, or hardware supplies, Do It Center is like the Home Depot of Panama. I go to the one down the street from my house all the time. They have a nice garden section and even cary exercise equipment and some sporting goods. Do It Center can be found in most malls and shopping centers in and around the city. Check out their website here:

Of course there are tons of other places to shop in Panama City and its surrounding neighborhoods. All of the malls have anchor stores. Felix B. Maduro is kind of the high end department store here. I wouldn't say it's a the Bloomingdale's or Neiman Marcus level, but possibly equal to a Nordstrom or Dillard. Steven's is another that can be found in most malls. It's kind of the middle level store here. Probably the closest thing to a Macy's. If you're looking for high-end jewelry, there's a Tiffany & Company, Cartier, Montblanc, Bvlgari, and other luxury stores located in Multiplaza Mall. 

More affordable anchor stores, mostly found in the lower end malls like Metro Mall, are stores such as El Titan, El Costo, and Dorians. These would be the JC Penney, Sears, Marshalls, and even much lower chains of Panama. And don't be fooled. The Saks you see in Panama has nothing to do with 5th Avenue. 

All of these stores are bargain shopping, places where you find T-shirts for as low as $1.99 and blue jeans for as low as $5.99, but be careful, check the clothes carefully as it's common to find stains or small tears on the super-cheap digs.  Well...I hope this list of stores helps you out with your Christmas shopping. I'm nearly done and can't wait to finally finish and stay the heck out of this insane traffic. 

Thanks for reading.