For many, the ideal vacation is to go where it is sunny and warm, be it the tropics or somewhere with good “Mediterranean” climate. Be it the Caribbean, the South Pacific, or the Greek Isles, sun and fun seem to go together. I am not as much a chaser of these climates but they definitely present great color and usually interesting and, pardon the word, warm peoples. For the “Capital Cities” series, I have chosen four warm capitals: Panama City, Manila, San Juan, and Port of Spain.
Panama City, Panama
I have shared before about incredible and ever-changing Panama City, a place I have visited over four different decades and which I always enjoy.
As I have family there, I get to do both the things a visitor would do but also live a little like the locals when I am there. Panama City is both old and modern and whether by visiting the old ruins of the original establishment, or exploring the old (but not as old) city or “Casco Viejo,” or entering the Canal Zone, or simply enjoying the modern life, Panama City offers great experiences. And when those are not enough, then fly to the Pearl Islands or head to other beautiful parts of the country like the area near Chagres or Chiriqui, for example.
Manila, The Philippines
I have only visited Manila once and for a rather brief visit. I shared in another post how the old district has much more history than I understood from centuries of Spanish rule, then American control, then Japanese occupation, and –finally- from the times after it gained its independence.
While it can be quite hot and humid (as Panama City), the warmth of the people is well worth the warmth of the climate. You’d expect that people in any large city would be short-tempered, always in a rush – a la Manhattan. Not in Manila, where it seems the human connection is most important. I did not get to venture outside of the city to enjoy what I hear are incredible beaches and other natural settings worth exploring. But the city alone was well worth the visit!
San Juan, Puerto Rico
You may know from prior posts that I grew up in Puerto Rico. We moved there when I was two and I left at 17. 15 years to make San Juan a piece of my heart, as the lovely song says: “En mi Viejo San Juan, cuantos cuantos sueños forjé en mis noches de infancia…” The old part of San Juan is referred to as “el Viejo San Juan” to distinguish it from the more modern city around it.
The small island where old San Juan sits is connected by bridges to the rest of the city and, if you don’t pay attention, you may not catch that.
Old San Juan is truly a living museum. Centuries old, it has not been destroyed nor significantly burned so what you see is what it was and has always been. But it is not a lifeless museum or collection of old buildings: people work, shop, play and live in those old buildings! The heat of the tropics is kind in Puerto Rico due to the strong breezes coming in from the Atlantic, at least on the northern and eastern side of the island so Old San Juan is a great place to spend time as it sits higher than sea level for the most part and the breezes, combined with the shadows the buildings offer part of the day, make it comfortable even for the most cold-loving snowbird. When you go, make sure you explore the old forts and walls erected by the Spanish centuries ago. For more of what to see in this incredible place and the rest of Puerto Rico, check out my recommendations on experiences to have in Puerto Rico!
Port of Spain, Trinidad & Tobago
The capital of Trinidad and Tobago sits in the island of Trinidad. Facing the water but with hills around it, it is a melting pot of races and cultures which results in a fun place to discover, even when it is not Carnival (which I hear is phenomenal!). I visited for a few days and enjoyed GREAT food (whether Italian, Indian, tropical, or other!). I loved driving around the neighborhoods and seeing some neat island architecture.
While Port of Spain definitely has an industrial side to it, it has many other awesome areas to spend time in – and don’t forget Maracas Bay not too far away (passing through a beautiful tropical forest and great ocean views from the road!).
The world has many capitals in the warmer climates. In fact, quite a bit! Here is to getting to explore many more of them! Have any recommendations??