Panama City’s Seafood Market (Mercado de Mariscos)

Panama isn’t an island, but with such a high proportion of coastline to land, it might as well be. So it’s only natural that seafood figures prominently in Panamanian cuisine.
Mercado de Mariscos (Seafood Market) in Casco Viejo Panama City Panama
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Panama isn’t an island, but with such a high proportion of coastline to land, it might as well be. So it’s only natural that seafood figures prominently in Panamanian cuisine.

Panama City’s seafood market, the Mercado de Mariscos, lies at the foot of the historic Casco Viejo district and is, as you would expect, bustling.

It consists of two parts. To the left is the market proper, where you can buy freshly caught seafood fresh off the fishing boats you see in the bay. This part of the market opens early–around 5am, as the fisherman arrive in with their overnight catch. Fresh fish, lobsters, and shellfish are all laid out on ice or swimming in buckets of water.

But unless you have your own kitchen to cook your own feast, chances are that the other part of the market is more useful to you. That’s where the restaurants are, where the freshly caught seafood is served up for your dining pleasure.

These aren’t fancy joints. They’re essentially counters with plastic outdoor seating. Latin tunes blare over the speakers, and some have TVs jury-rigged under the canopy showing the soccer game of the moment. It’s more like Istanbul’s Karakoy waterfront than San Francisco’s Fisherman’s Wharf.

The local specialty is ceviche, served in cups, where the raw fish is “cooked” in citrusy juices. A cup of ceviche fish or octopus (pulpa) will set you back a dollar or two, and you can order fries on the side of you like and wash it down with a cold Panama beer. Platters, which are generally fried fish or fried something else like mussels or prawns, are more expensive. While there’s not the same variety as somewhere like the Santiago de Chile’s Mercado Central, which has an incredible variety of shellfish thanks to the country’s endless shoreline, all the basics are covered, from fish to octopus to prawns.

Photos of Mercado de Mariscos

Mercado de Mariscos (Seafood Market) in Casco Viejo Panama City Panama
[license topic=”Mercado de Mariscos Panama City”]
Mercado de Mariscos (Seafood Market) in Casco Viejo Panama City Panama
[license topic=”Mercado de Mariscos Panama City”]
Mercado de Mariscos (Seafood Market) in Casco Viejo Panama City Panama
[license topic=”Mercado de Mariscos Panama City”]
Mercado de Mariscos (Seafood Market) in Casco Viejo Panama City Panama
[license topic=”Mercado de Mariscos Panama City”]
Mercado de Mariscos (Seafood Market) in Casco Viejo Panama City Panama
[license topic=”Mercado de Mariscos Panama City”]
Mercado de Mariscos (Seafood Market) in Casco Viejo Panama City Panama
[license topic=”Mercado de Mariscos Panama City”]
Mercado de Mariscos (Seafood Market) in Casco Viejo Panama City Panama
[license topic=”Mercado de Mariscos Panama City”]
Mercado de Mariscos (Seafood Market) in Casco Viejo Panama City Panama
[license topic=”Mercado de Mariscos Panama City”]
Mercado de Mariscos (Seafood Market) in Casco Viejo Panama City Panama
[license topic=”Mercado de Mariscos Panama City”]
Mercado de Mariscos (Seafood Market) in Casco Viejo Panama City Panama
[license topic=”Mercado de Mariscos Panama City”]
Mercado de Mariscos (Seafood Market) in Casco Viejo Panama City Panama
[license topic=”Mercado de Mariscos Panama City”]

What To Know Before You Go

  • There are a couple of dozen restaurants all serving roughly the same things. You sit outdoors on plastic chairs and tables with waiter service. Naturally, because of both the sun and the rain, both of which come with a vengeance in this part of the world, there’s extensive shade under large sails.
  • It’s open for lunch, through the afternoon, and into dinner. On a nice weekend evening, locals come out in force along the expansive waterfront, but you won’t have a problem finding a table at one of the restaurants.
  • It’s an easy walk along the waterfront from Casco Viejo. You can cross the highway, but more pleasant and safer, albeit longer, route is to follow the waterfront boardwalk under the highway and around the point.
  • It’s a great option if you’re traveling with kids. There’s lots of room, they won’t be disturbing anyone, and the nearby waterfront is basically a big park (check out the swings literally underneath the highway along the boardwalk). Fussy eaters will be able to find something fried they’re familiar with (french fries, or chips, are readily available). The only negative is that the bathroom facilities are very basic.

Where to Next?



Travel Advice for Panama

You can find the latest U.S. Department of State travel advisories and information for Panama (such as entry visa requirements and vaccination requirements) here.

The British and Australian governments offer their own country-specific travel information. You can find the British Government's travel advice for Panama here and the Australian Government's here.

Health & Vaccinations

The CDC makes country-specific recommendations for vaccinations and health for travelers. You can find their latest information for Panama here.

Guidebooks for Panama

If you're looking for a guidebook to make the most of your visit, these are some of the most popular ones currently for Panama. Some are available in both paper and e-book formats.

Lonely Planet Panama 8 (Country Guide)
  • Fallon, Steve (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
The Rough Guide to Panama (Travel Guide) (Rough Guides)
  • Guides, Rough (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
Fodor's In Focus Panama (Travel Guide (2))
  • Fodor's Travel Guides (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
Frommer's Panama (Complete Guide)
  • Frommermedia Llc
  • Gill, Nicholas (Author)

Travel Insurance For Your Trip to Panama

I never travel without travel insurance, and I've run into several situations where I've had to make claims. I consider it essential.

But shopping for travel insurance can be a pain and confusing. Thankfully, there are some travel insurance comparison sites that show you a wide range of plans, make it easy to compare coverage, and can save you money at the same time. And the coverage can be much better tailored to your specific needs than the checkbox offering at travel booking sites or through your credit card.

These are some good places to shop for travel insurance for your next trip to Panama :

Hopefully, you won't need it, but if something goes wrong, you'll sure be glad you have it!

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