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  • Panama: Poised for growth - 1 of 15

    Panama: Poised for growth

    On a recent trip to Panama, copy editor Eric Moya stayed at the Riu Playa Blanca, pictured, and the Riu Plaza in Panama City. The Playa Blanca property opened on April 4 and is the hotelier's second Panama property and its first all-inclusive in the country. TW photos by Eric Moya; posted May 23, 2014

  • Panama: Poised for growth - 2 of 15

    Panama: Poised for growth

    Riu's 573-room resort on Panama's Pacific coast is the newest property to join the increasing number of hotels and condos that line the shores of Playa Blanca, a former fishing community in Cocle province about 90 miles west of Panama City. Pictured, early morning in Playa Blanca.

  • Panama: Poised for growth - 3 of 15

    Panama: Poised for growth

    A day trip from the resort to other parts of Cocle province included a stop at Artesanias Elaguila, where Panamanian straw hats -- not to be confused with Panama hats, which actually originated in Ecuador -- and other souvenirs are made and sold. Pictured, a woman weaves colored and plain straw for a hat.

  • Panama: Poised for growth - 4 of 15

    Panama: Poised for growth

    In the community of Membrillo, stone and wood are carved and painted into souvenirs evoking the region's flora and fauna. Here, a woodcarver begins work on a piece of balsa.

  • Panama: Poised for growth - 5 of 15

    Panama: Poised for growth

    Balsa carvings begin to resemble macaws. Simpler pieces can be completely carved and painted in a matter of hours, while more complicated carvings can take more than a day.

  • Panama: Poised for growth - 6 of 15

    Panama: Poised for growth

    A personalized chunk of soapstone.

  • Panama: Poised for growth - 7 of 15

    Panama: Poised for growth

    Plaza Mayor and the Metropolitan Cathedral in the Casco Antiguo area of Panama City. Casco Antiguo was named a Unesco World Heritage site in 1997.

  • Panama: Poised for growth - 8 of 15

    Panama: Poised for growth

    The Presidential Palace, originally built in 1673 and rebuilt in 1922. Also known as the Palacio de las Garzas (Herons Palace), it serves as the president's office today but has also been used as a residence.

  • Panama: Poised for growth - 9 of 15

    Panama: Poised for growth

    The Iglesia del Carmen metro station in Panama City's commercial district. The subway system, currently one line and 12 stops, opened last month.

  • Panama: Poised for growth - 10 of 15

    Panama: Poised for growth

    The Mercado de Mariscos seafood market in Panama City.

  • Panama: Poised for growth - 11 of 15

    Panama: Poised for growth

    Whole fried corvina with coconut rice at the Mercado de Mariscos' upstairs restaurant.

  • Panama: Poised for growth - 12 of 15

    Panama: Poised for growth

    The Miss Marina oil tanker transiting the Miraflores locks of the Panama Canal, which celebrates its 100th anniversary this year.

  • Panama: Poised for growth - 13 of 15

    Panama: Poised for growth

    A Panama Canal worker. The canal's workforce numbers about 9,000.

  • Panama: Poised for growth - 14 of 15

    Panama: Poised for growth

    A two-hour ferry ride from Panama City, Contadora Island in the Gulf of Panama offers respite from the city's bustle. Golf carts, pictured in front of the restaurant at the Hotel Villa Romantica, are the primary mode of transportation on the island.

  • Panama: Poised for growth - 15 of 15

    Panama: Poised for growth

    Cacique Beach on Contadora Island.

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