Santa Clara, Panama 

Last month, we took a weeklong vacation to Panama.  We had an early morning flight with lots of stuff!

Brian, Danny, and Patrick all slept on the flight while Kevin insisted on staying awake, though he was very happy.

Once we got to Panama we watched for Brian’s parents to arrive and join us on vacation.  It’s a quick nonstop six-hour flight to Panama from either Paraguay or Chicago.

We rented a big van and headed to the town of Santa Clara, about two hours southwest of Panama City.  We drove through the city seeing lots of interesting buildings on the way.  

We spent six nights in Santa Clara in a great condo right on the Pacific Ocean.  We were on the 18th floor with five bedrooms, some facing the mountains and some facing the ocean.

Next to our condo building was the ruins of what had been Manuel Noriega’s beach estate.

While in Santa Clara, we took a day trip to the nearby town of El Valle.


The town was built in the crater of an extinct volcano.  This was very confusing to Dan who was expecting to see an active volcano spewing lava and he constantly asked us when we would see that.

We visited the town market which had a variety of produce and artisan crafts.

The countryside was beautiful.

Another day we visited a nearby resort and went on a boat ride.  It was great, though Kevin ate and slept most of the way and Danny got tired too and laid down for a bit.  We saw some nice beach resorts and did a lap around a neat looking island with birds and caves.

We all enjoyed lots of great food during our trip. We stocked up at a nearby grocery store and were thrilled to find American products that can’t be found in Paraguay like real bacon, lunch meat, Johnsonville brats, and Eggo waffles.  Brian and I especially loved having deli sandwiches for lunches.  We liked just hanging out at the condo which had lots of toys to keep the boys entertained.  Their favorite toy was a Spanish-speaking Buzz Lightyear.  “A infinito y más allá!” (To infinity and beyond!) we heard repeatedly throughout the day!

Being on the 18th floor, we were grateful for the net surrounding the balcony.  Patrick did not love the net and told Brian, “If you were nicer you’d cut a hole in the net and let me do cannonball into the pool.”  

Since we are so mean, Brian and I did not cut the net, but we did let the kids spend tons of time in the pool.  And I’m pretty sure I saw some cannonballs into the pool from the two bridges over the water.  It was low season, which meant it was hot and humid, nothing was crowded and we had often cloudy but rarely rainy skies.

The boys liked hanging out under the bridges and pretending to be trolls.  They often wanted Brian to be the troll and they’d dangle their feet over the edge of the bridge and taunt, “You can’t catch me, troll!”

Kevin did a little swimming but mostly sat happily in his stroller watching his crazy big brothers. 

One of the boys’ favorite things about the condo was the balcony hot tub.  Having seen and studied photos of the property ahead of time, the boys were excited to take a bath on the balcony.  Unfortunately Brian and I could not figure out how to turn on the water.  Danny, claiming to have magic powers, somehow figured it out.  Apparently Brian and I had been twisting a dial that needed to be pulled.  Patrick and Danny were thrilled and jumped right in the tub.

Living in a third world country where nearly every playground is somewhat like a death trap, the boys are used to being told, “No, you can’t play on that dangerous playground.”  They didn’t even mind that we wouldn’t let them play on this leaning, about-to-fall-over playground in front of the condo building.  The boys preferred the pool and beach anyway!

The building had two banks of elevators facing each other and the boys loved hitting the buttons.  One afternoon while Danny and I were leaving the pool with Kevin sleeping in the stroller, Danny hit the “up” buttons on both banks of elevators.  Both elevators arrived at the same time and Danny, Kevin, and I all got in one of the elevators and I pushed the button for the 18th floor.  As the doors started to close, Danny ran out of our elevator and into the other elevator as its doors closed behind him.  While I was fast enough to follow Danny out of the first elevator, I wasn’t quick enough to stop him from leaving in the second elevator.  Meanwhile, the first elevator had closed its doors and left with Kevin, leaving me in the elevator lobby with no kids.  I hit the call buttons for both elevators and thankfully Kevin returned without incident, still sleeping and unaware of the solo trip he had taken.  Danny’s elevator however returned empty.  Kevin and I got into the empty elevator in search of Danny.  Luckily his piercing screams of “Mommy!  Mommy!” alerted us to his presence on the 16th floor.  The poor scared little boy was very relieved to see us.  “I was so worried about you!” he repeatedly exclaimed as he wrapped his arms tightly around my neck and refused to let go.  Less traumatic aspects of the trip included entertaining stories from Danny about his many imaginary pet animals – baby dinosaurs, baby penguins, and baby birds as well as fire dragons (which breathe fire) and freeze dragons (which breathe ice and freeze things).  He told us he had “fourteen eleven” of each animal.  Danny often told us what his animals were doing, what they ate, how they were behaving.  “His animals aren’t real.  He doesn’t really have those animals,” Patrick helpfully explained to the grandparents.  

We spent a lot of time at the beach. Kevin swam for the first time in the Pacific Ocean and seemed to enjoy it.  Patrick loved jumping in the waves.  Danny enjoyed making “snow angels” in the sand.

Another favorite activity for the boys was looking for bugs and animals.

On the Fourth of July, the boys donned their bathing suits and patriotic accessories from Grandma and Grandpa Keenan.  

They also enjoyed freeze pops.  Kevin didn’t get one, though he did seem to be practicing for one.

We capped off our celebration of our nation’s birthday by watching YouTube videos of fireworks before bed.

We had a nice time in Santa Clara!

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