The Luxury-Worshipping (But Willing-to-Rough-It) Newlyweds

Westin Playa BonitaPhoto: Courtesy of the vendor
Photo: Courtesy of the travelers

Daniel Firger, 33, lawyer, and Sonal Bains, 29, digital strategist

Budget: Moderate

Time to burn: 3 Weeks

“We got married in June but haven’t yet had time for a proper honeymoon. We’re hoping for a high-low sort of trip, with a few nights at ­super-luxe hotels, sipping fancy cocktails by an infinity pool, and the rest of the time lying in hammocks on the beach.”

Go Here: Panama City and Taboga Island, Panama

Why now: By November, a trade agreement between Panama and the U.S. is expected to go into effect. It’s no surprise, then, that expat real-estate obsessives are flocking to the country flanked between two oceans, building up Panama City with skyscraper after skyscraper—the tallest of which, tellingly, is a sparkling Trump endeavor—and establishing enough contemporary-art galleries and rooftop party spots to keep travelers prattling on that Panama is “The Next Dubai.” Unlike the Emirates, though, you’ve got rain forest, not desert, making this a smarter choice for the adventure-minded. And, compared with the UAE, it’s actually affordable.

What to do: To best understand the lush environment, get an early look at Frank Gehry’s first Latin American project, BioMuseo (from $2; Amador Causeway; 507-314-0097), a natural-diversity museum set to be completed next year, but which can be toured while it’s in progress. For a glimpse of actual toucans and monkeys, head to the city’s Metropolitan National Park ($2; Ave. Juan Pablo II Final; for a mile-long hike, or rent a car and drive roughly 50 miles to Parque Nacional Altos de Campana near Capira, where you can climb an ex-volcano and trudge through the tropical canopy. Back in the city, discover Casco Viejo, a neighborhood that dates back to the 1670s; here, strolling, souvenir-shopping, and cute inns opened by expats stand in sharp contrast to the build-build-build ethos of new Panama City. A must-see is the Diablo Rosso (Avenida A and Calle 6; 507-262-1957), a gallery, café, and concept store touted by the New Museum. Beach-bound? Take a rapida boat from the Amador Causeway 30 minutes to Taboga Island, where you can eat at seafood shacks, lounge on the sand, and even stay a few nights. Once you return, don’t forget to visit the canal: Now is your last chance to see it as it was originally built.

Where to stay: Relax at the new Westin Playa Bonita (from $245; 507-304-6600), which offers beach access, views of the Panama Canal’s entrance, and an undulating pool bar. While on Taboga Island, Hotel Vereda Tropical has simple rooms and killer ocean views (from $65; 507-250-2154).

Where to eat: To experience the pulsing nightlife along Calle Uruguay, head to Laurent Tourondel’s LT Signature inside the sexy Manrey Hotel (Calle Uruguay; 507-203-0042). Afterward, stare at the beautiful people who crowd the rooftop lounge, complete with a glowing pool and gauzy white cabanas. Or there’s this year’s reopening from the city’s popular Henesy-Rodriguez restaurant group: It’s called La Chesa (Calle 49; 507-269-1225) and offers extensive Italian à la carte in an antique home.

Buy this: Molas, intricately stitched panels of fabrics sewn into blouses by Kuna Indian women in offshore villages, top out at $75 at Flory Saltzman Molas (off Via España; 507-223-6963).

Also consider: Swarming São Paulo with the rest of the art world for the 30th anniversary of the city’s biennial, which runs through December 9, then ferrying off to Ilha de São Sebastia, one of Brazil’s largest offshore archipelagoes and a repository of rain forests and waterfalls.

The Luxury-Worshipping (But Willing-to-Rough-It) […]