Despite my exhaustion (see my last post), I was not about to go straight to bed when I arrived in Panama City. The drive from the airport had given me a glimpse of this beautiful new place, and I just had to check it out.
And besides, although it was dark, it was still only about 8 p.m. on a Saturday night. The sun goes down much earlier in Central America than it does further north.
And so I put on my running shoes and started walking.
And this is what I saw:
Fishing boats parked in the bay, near the Monument of the Flag of Panama.
The Panama City sign along Cinta Costera.
There were families out walking; vendors selling food; kids rock-climbing and playing in park areas; teens and young adults playing a variety of sports in fenced courts; people working out in exercise areas; and even swings under bridges.
Oh, and groups like the one below performing, too.
How cool is this?
I didn't know it then, but the area I had discovered is called Cinta Costera, and it's pretty famous in Panama City. Cinta Costera means "Coastal Beltway" in Spanish, and what's incredible is that it's made entirely of reclaimed land.
According to my research, in the early 2000s, Panama City's coast was underutilized and was not a destination for leisure. The largest roadway through the city, Avenida Balboa, typically saw around 72,000 cars per day. Traffic was a big problem.
To address this, the government decided to create a roughly two-mile beltway that bypassed the city. In addition, the beltway would create around 64 acres of park area to revitalize the coastline. The project, which was started on October 15, 2007, utilized dredgers to remove sand from the seabed and pump it to the rock landfill area. It was finished in June 2009 at a cost of $189.1m.
Today, the project looks like this:
It's amazing that this used to be the ocean.
Skyscrapers along Cinta Costera.
In addition to being a great place to people watch, the beltway was also a good place to see... wild animals?
I was not expecting to see raccoons! They were not tame, though, and only came looking for food. They also did not like each other.
I love animals, in case you coudn't tell. :D
Of course, the beltway was a great place to watch the sunset and moon rise, too. These pictures do NOT do these scenes justice.
The full moon that night was incredible.
Several additions have been made to the project since its original completion date. Most recently, in 2014, they finished the third extension of the Cinta Costera. This project included an impressive loop around the Casco Viejo (the "new old city") with water on both sides of the beltway. (I walked this extension on my third day in Panama, and it was awesome! More on that later.) This final extension also connected the Maracana Football Stadium to the rest of the Cinta.
Google map showing Cintera Costera, including the third portion which extends all the way around Casco Viejo.
I am by no means an expert on any of this, but I find it all fascinating. If you'd like more info, below is a short video from YouTube that explains the creation of Cinta Costera better than I ever could.
Thank you for reading!