by Dave McBride

We are off to Panama City and not the Florida one where spring breakers bong beers on the beach.

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Our destination, Panama the country, is the newest real estate in the Western Hemisphere. The space in which it resides was previously occupied by the ocean for 70 million years between two drifting continents before colossal pressures in the deep heaved up a bridge from the bottom of the sea and plugged the gap between them roundabout the time humans were invented.

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It takes a bit of brainwork over pool bar umbrella drinks to overcome internal compass disorientation. Panama is shaped like the letter S that has toppled over backwards. Instead of Costa Rica being above Panama and Colombia being below as one travels to South America, Costa Rica is west and Colombia is east. The Atlantic Ocean is north, and as we face the Gulf of Panama and the Pacific Ocean from the resort, we are facing south. The sun doesn’t set on the Pacific horizon. It sets to our right over Costa Rica. The Panama Canal runs north and south and when one enters from the Pacific Ocean and comes out the other side in the Caribbean, one is actually west of where one started! Whaaaat? Una mas mojito por favor!

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The Westin Playa Bonita all-inclusive, our lavishly landscaped home base, is perfectly situated for excursions by those sufficiently adventuresome to desire a brief visit to the not-inclusive. The Miraflores locks of the Panama Canal are just over a half-hour drive from the pool bar.

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The Ancon Hill natural area and highest viewing point overlooking Panama City is a half-hour drive from the pool bar. The new Biomuseo biodiversity museum, the only Frank Gehry-designed building in Latin America (On the Amador Causeway with spectacular views of Panama City and the Bridge of the Americas) is less than a half-hour from the pool bar.

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And day-trips to Panama City, the Gamboa Rainforest with tree-top canopy tram, and to a real-deal rainforest river-tribe village are also available from the resort through (Apple partner) Gamboa Tours.

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The resort overlooks the beach with a view to the sea and a commercial armada of ships carrying cargo and passengers queued up on the far horizon awaiting their turn to transit the canal.

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Playa Bonita was once a beach destination for soldiers when it was part of a U.S. military base. A picturesque causeway projecting nearly two miles out into the Pacific from the Panama Canal nearby (created from the rocks blasted out of the canal) helps shelter the resort beach from ocean waves. Westin Playa Bonita provides just the right mix of proximity to the attractions of Panama City while remaining lushly secluded from the urban rumpus and rowdydow.

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Incidentally, the Florida Panama City got its name (at the time the Panama Canal dig was big news) when the developer of the Panhandle town devised that if you drew a straight line from Chicago (which touted itself as close to Panama’s capital in longitude) to the canal, the last spot that line would intersect in the USA would be the spot he proclaimed to be Panama City, FL. At least that’s Wikipedia’s story and it’s sticking to it.

Veteran Newsman Dave McBride is an award-winning news radio reporter, anchor and program director and creator of fan-favorite Dave’s Raves. Dave has received the Edward R. Murrow Award for Best Writing for Radio/Large Market and the 2010 and 2011 Murrow for continuing news coverage. He was awarded the New York Festivals World Gold Medal for Best Writing for Radio. In his first year in Florida he received the Florida AP award for Best Long Light Feature in both first and second place. Dave is currently based in South Florida.