North America > Central America > Panama > Pacific West > David (Panama)
It is on the Pan American Highway and is one of the most prosperous areas of Panama, with good infrastructure.
Although, David is not particularly interesting, it is a convenient transport hub for destinations in the region like Boquete, Boca Chica, the volcano, hot springs and many cool little places.
- 1 Enrique Malek International Airport (DAV IATA) (is about 5km south of David). AirPanama flies to David from Panama City's domestic airport Marcos A Gelabert (Albrook) and from Juan Santamaria Airport in San Jose, Costa Rica. Copa Airlines flies to David from Panama City's Tocumen International Airport. The airport is very small and there are only two small cafes - both before security. There is free Wi-Fi. There are no drinking water fountains.
A taxi to the airport from the center of David should not cost more than $3 per person.
Two bus companies offer service from the Albrook Mall terminal in Panama City to and from David. Prices for either are around $15 per person, slightly more for the nighttime express buses (10pm, 11, 12, and 3am from the David bus terminal). It's a 7 hr ride. The buses are modern, relatively safe, keep track of luggage well, and will probably show a second-rate action movie, though maintenance leaves something to be desired, especially in the bathrooms. Both companies stop in the city of Santiago on the way to David for bathroom breaks and food. Highly suggested that you try some of the food they serve at these stops. Also, you'll find a cart where they sell sweets (mini chocolate eggs and another square treat called cocada), try them out.
David is also served by many "Coaster" local buses, which you can often flag down along the Interamericana to get to David. (During peak times, sometimes they'll even run Coasters from Panama City.) They're definitely less safe and usually less comfortable; you may end up standing for much of the trip.
Other destinations from the David bus terminal include Paso Canoas border with Costa Rica (1 hr 30 min, $2), Boquete (1 hr, $1.75), and Almirante (3-4 hr, $8.45) for Bocas del Toro and the Atlantic coast (look for buses to Changuinola, which is a bit past Almirante).
There are stop signs at most intersections, but in Spanish "Alto" means two things, 1. stop, and 2. HIGH, so there's a joke that some people think "alto" street signs means pass at a high speed. Seriously though, you have to be very DEFENSIVE if you're just driving on the same road, and very OFFENSIVE if you're making a turn, if you're trying to get to the other side of the intersection, etc...
Most, if not all buses travel to terminal in David. Just stand on the side of the road and wave down a bus when you see it. They'll have written on the window where they go to and where they come from.
There's quite a bit to do in David. It all depends on what one likes and what time of year you visit.
- There are a few Casinos in the city that you can visit, the two most popular ones are Royal Casino, and the Fiesta Casino (Fiesta is in the Hotel Gran Nacional).
- There are a few nightclubs to go to, $3 cover, no dress code, $20 for bottle service (Carta Vieja Rum), which is what most people get here.
- There are different types of festivals throughout the year, but the best ones are in the beginning of the year, timed with the Carnavales in different parts of the country.
- There's plenty of adventure sport and naturalist activities for those so inclined within an hour's drive all over the Province of Chiriqui.
Also checkout the other sights around the region.
There are really a lot of places to eat at.
- Chobeca's Burgers. The most popular place, which is a Panamanians version of McDonald's. It's cheap, and has nothing to do with burgers. They sell fried Panamanian-type food, try it at least once.
- McPato. Next to the Hotel Gran Nacional (and the Fiesta Casino) is a restaurant called McPato. Now THAT is David's real version of McDonald's from way, way back. The story behind that is that they wanted to bring a McDonald's franchise, but the owner found it to expensive to buy a franchise restaurant, and decided to open his own. The Mc in the name is obvious, and Pato in Spanish means Duck, and Donald is a duck, so the owner figured Mc(obvious)Pato(Donald).
- Restaurante Chiriqui. A Chinese restaurant located within the city.
- Carta Vieja, Panama's Rum. No matter where you go in this town to enjoy it's nightlife, you'll see Carta Vieja bottles around you. The clubs offer bottle service, which really, everyone gets. $20 will get you a bottle of Carta Vieja, bottle of coke, and ice, split that up between however many people you go with, and done.
- El Hangar. If you are the type of person who just likes to have a beer and relax with some friends, El Hangar (The Hangar) is the place to go. It's a drive-thru bar basically. You go, buy your drinks, park your car, and either pump YOUR music, or listen to the music other people are pumpin from their car. It's a nightclub where the patrons are the DJ's basically.
There are many lodging options in the city including many fine and reasonably priced hotels. Many of the hotels are owned by families' of Spanish origin, so they have names like Hotel Toledo, Hotel Madrid, Hotel Alcala, Hotel Iberia, Hotel Galicia, etc.
For the backpacking traveler ready for some urban action, clubs, casinos and 24 Hour shopping, consider staying in one of the backpacker hostels especially geared toward the budget traveler.
- Hotel Toledo. In easy walking distance from the bus terminal. Rooms are simple, though small and can be dark, but it has helpful front desk staff, hot showers, and good free WiFi. With a laundromat around the corner and a supermarket and restaurants nearby, it's a good place to stay the night if you're arriving late or leaving early.
- Bambu Hostel, Calle De La Virgencita, San Mateo Abajo, ☏ . In the San Mateo District of David, Panama. It has a deluxe in ground pool, small gym and a mayan style rancho bar. The owner Gregg Lapkin is a New York City musician and is a well informed host. Bambu Hostel is an International Backpackers Hostel.
- City Plaza Hotel & Suites, Ave. F SUR – Northeast, Avenida Segunda, David Chiriqui (In the center of David's commercial zone), ☏ . It has 78 rooms, 2 restaurants, 1 bar and 3 meeting rooms.
There is a pretty useful and quite cheap luggage storage at the bus terminal, which you might want to use, travelling the region. $0.75 for first 24 hr, then about $1 per day.
- San José, Costa Rica – There are direct buses every day from David to San Jose (Costa Rica).
- Boquete – Touristic epicenter of this region (in the Mountain Highlands near David) with some of the best coffee in the world (including numerous tours), and lots of activities like hiking (Quetzal Trail and Volcan Baru), rock climbing, bird watching, horseback riding, and rafting.
- Las Lajas – Remote, magnificent beach, luxuriant vegetation, beginners surfing.
- Panama City – It's a 7 hour bus ride with a stop in Santiago de Veraguas.