What Country is Better? Nicaragua or Panama? 8

Well, as our house sit winds down here in Nicaragua we get to reflect on the time we had here. We had some tough times, like when Cheli got REALLY sick. And we had some fun times, like when I got covered in Chocolate sauce.

Much like how I compared Canada to America to PanamaI decided I would do a quick comparison of Nicaragua and Panama. So which country is better…Nicaragua or Panama? Let’s find out with these completely random categories:


Panama has…hot sauce on every table. Nicaragua has spicy food that I love on the way in, and curse the next day as that food exits. Okay, let’s face it, I really want Panama to have better food but it rarely “wow’s” many of us foreigners. In fact, a Tico friend said the same thing.  I was pleasantly surprised, though, with the food at the recent Gastronomica event in Panama City. That’s hopefully a sign of things to come for the food scene in Panama. But Nicaragua’s food options just seemed to be better and all around more flavorful.

Winner: Nicaragua by a chili pepper (or two)


Panama: Yeah, there’s a joke about this right? Like “What service”? Well, I get good service at stores, like Do-It Center, or the Rey, but it’s the restaurants in Panama that are lacking good service. I mean come on servers, smile once in a while. Hey, I know – serving food sucks, I’ve done it. But you’re not going to make it better wallowing in your self-pity, so smile, say “Buenas”, and get me another fucking beer!

Nicaragua: Great service every restaurant we went to. Beers come with a napkin wrapped around the top so you can wipe it off, and straws are left with a little piece of paper on them still so you know you’re getting a new straw. When you say “gracias”, they always reply with “a la orden”. Okay, they don’t always smile, but they’re generally seem happier to be doing their job than in Panama’s restaurants.

14 employees for every customer. That's service!

14 employees for every customer. That’s service!

Winner: Nicaragua


Nicaragua’s two main cervezas are Toña and Victoria.
Panama has a few more options with Panama, Soberana, Atlas, Balboa. 507

Yes, there are other options but these seem to be the big sellers. I prefer Toña over Victoria, and Soberana over Toña . Unless I feel like having something stronger, than I’ll go for a Balboa. But Victoria is cheaper than Toña in Nica…oh the beer choices…To be honest, a lot of these beers taste VERY similar. Whatever’s on hand does the job.

Winner: Panama because of variety.

The peeps:

picture of drunk guy texting

Panama – mui tranquillo

Having visited Nicaragua in 2012, I must say, not much has changed. People here are poor. When you walk the streets there is almost always someone with their hand out looking for money. Kids want to take your grocery cart back to the front of the store (10 ft away) for a few cordobas. When you go to one of the main tourist areas, Granada, the poverty is even more noticeable, as are the “glue kids”.  Add to that we were given the finger by a 5 year old, yelled “gringa, gringa, gringa” at by another youngling, and got a nice welcoming “fuck you” while eating because I didn’t buy one of those ridiculously stupid wood-carved bird whistles. And just the other morning, while walking to the store to get phone data, we noticed a few young kids with machete’s in hand and other tools and not in school uniform as they walked along with an older man, presumably on their way to “work”. I’m no Principal Edward Rooney, but shouldn’t those little Ferris Buellers be in school?

While living in Panama, I adored the “buenas” attitude of the people there. Get on a bus…Buenas! Walk into a store…Buenas! The children didn’t really pay attention to us in Pedasi. They wouldn’t say “buenas”, but they wouldn’t be insulting us either. In fact, we rode buses overloaded with school children and never received treatment similar to what we did in Nica. Not in Pedasi. Not in Las Tablas. Not in my brief time in PC, or our visit to; Bocas, Boquete, David, Chame, El Valle and Arraijan. Nunca in Panama.

Winner: The Peeps of Panama


Panama is an ocean lover’s dream. You can fish, dive, snorkel, sail, surf, SUP, dude (see what I did there, clever, eh). You can also enjoy many festival festivities, fairs, go zip-lining, gamble at a casino, gamble at a cock-fight, watch some drag-races…to name a few things.

In Nicaragua, you can also surf, SUP, sail, fish, dive, go zip-lining, get covered in chocolate, “volcano board” down a volcano, stay on a volcanic island, or swim/kayak in a crater lake…to name a few things.

Okay, so there’s plenty to do in both countries.

Winner: Tie

Well, looks like a 2-2-1 tie. We can’t have a tie. That’s just no fun and can’t possibly promote internet trolls to post anything sour or fightworthy, so one more category….

Iconic Statues:

Nicaragua: Christ of the Mercy, San Juan del Sur

Christ of the Mercy Statue San Juan del Sur

Nicaragua’s most iconic statue?

Panama: This girl:

Panama's most iconic statue?

Panama’s most iconic statue?

Winner: You tell me???

Later Dudes!



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8 thoughts on “What Country is Better? Nicaragua or Panama?

  • Diana

    Win has gotta be Nicaragua….view to die for once you get to to the top of Christ statue:) Also, having lived in Nicaragua for a year we had a much better experience with the friendliness of the Nicas. Although Granada probably the least as it has more of a “big city” attitude and problems 🙁

    • Panama Dude

      Diana, that is a great view. Same with the top of Mambacho, or watching the sunrise from the rim of Laguna de Apoyo crater. Although Panama has some tremendous views too, like seeing both the Atlantic and Pacific oceans from atop Volcan, or view the amazing Panama City skyline from the Amador Causeway or even Casco Viejo. Tough call. Hate to be a judge rating views in any country!!!

  • Randy Hilarski

    Love it Al! I have heard alot about Nicaragua from friends and one who lived there over ten years. He much prefers Panama and your post just makes that more clear. I noticed that customer service is improving in Panama and I think it is because of the Colombians who tend to work in the restaurants in the city.

    • Panama Dude

      Thanks bro, I think Panama just wasn’t ready for the tourism/expat influx as it seemed to come in faster and furious…er…than Vin Diesel. Like I said, I’ve never had a problem with service in stores there, it’s just odd that it didn’t completely trickle down to restaurants. Good to know it’s getting better. We’re looking forward to 7 weeks in the city soon, too!

  • Thomas Richardson

    Having been born here, I find I couldn’t
    live anywhere else. I tried for ten years
    Living in Miami during the 80’s, I couldn’t
    wait to get back and resume the adventure.
    Stay out of politics, pay your taxes, and
    your free to do whatever you want.
    Buy a cattle ranch, coffee finca, go gold
    mining… Whatever you want, your treated
    just like a native… Bring your money, you’ll
    make lots & lots of friends. The opportunities
    here are just waiting to be tapped. Better
    Hurry, Walmart just came into town …