David is the capital city in the province of Chiriqui province in the Pacific West of Panama. It is on the Pan American Highway and is one of the most prosperous areas of Panama, with good infrastructure.
Two bus companies offer service from the Albrook Mall terminal in Panama City to and from David. Prices for either are around $15 per person, slightly more for the nighttime express buses (10pm, 11, 12, and 3am from the David bus terminal). It's a 7 hour ride. The buses are modern, relatively safe, keep track of luggage well, and will probably show a second-rate action movie, though maintenance leaves something to be desired, especially in the bathrooms. Both companies stop in the city of Santiago on the way to David for bathroom breaks and food. Highly suggested that you try some of the food they serve at these stops. Also, you'll find a cart where they sell sweets (mini chocolate eggs and another square treat called cocada), try them out.
David is also served by many "Coaster" local buses, which you can often flag down along the Interamericana to get to David. (During peak times, sometimes they'll even run Coasters from Panama City.) They're definitely less safe and usually less comfortable; you may end up standing for much of the trip.
Others destinations from the David bus terminal include Paso Canoas border with Costa Rica (1 h 30, $2), Boquete (1 h, $1.75), and Almirante for Bocas del Toro and the Atlantic coast (4 h, $8.50, look for buses to Changuinola, which is a bit past Almirante).
By car: There are stop signs at most intersections, but in spanish "Alto" means two things, 1. stop, and 2. HIGH, so there's a joke that some people think "alto" street signs means pass at a high speed. Seriously though, you have to be very DEFENSIVE if you're just driving on the same road, and very OFFENSIVE if you're making a turn, if you're trying to get to the other side of the intersection, etc...
By bus: Most, if not all buses travel to terminal in David. Just stand on the side of the road and wave down a bus when you see it. They'll have written on the window where they go to and where they come from
- Costa Rica Executive Transportation Chauffeur Driven Luxury Transportation and Security Service. Providing Transportation to David, Panama via Costa Rica, air charters, meet and greet services, airport transfers for all travelers to Costa Rica and David, Panama.
There's quite a bit to do in David. It all depends on what one likes. There are a few Casinos in the city that you can visit, the two most popular ones are Royal Casino, and the Fiesta Casino (Fiesta is in the Hotel Gran Nacional). There's a few nightclubs to go to, $3 cover, no dress code, $20 for bottle service (Carta Vieja Rum), which is what most people get here. It also depends on what time of year you visit. There's different types of festivals throughout the year, but the best ones are in the beginning of the year, timed with the Carnavales in different parts of the country.
There's plenty of adventure sport and naturalist activities for those so inclined within an hour's drive all over the Province of Chiriqui.
A pleasant day trip from David is to the Los Pozos de Caldera hot springs. These are very undeveloped but in a way this just makes you feel you've strayed from the beaten track a little. To get there, take a Caldera-bound bus from the David bus terminal (USD2) and tell the driver you want to go to the springs. About an hour later, you will be dropped off at a junction where you can walk 2.5km down a paved but bumpy road to the spring entrance, crossing an unusual mini-suspension bridge on the way. From the "Bienvenidos a Los Pozos" sign, walk along the trail as indicated (this can be a little rough, so wear sensible shoes and expect a little mud in the rainy season) until you come to a "private property" sign with a small house beyond. At this point you can pay the owners (USD2) and pass on to the small but pleasantly warm pools beyond. Take care not to leave too late as buses back to David get thin on the ground later in the day. If you do run into problems, you can ask the small restaurant near the junction to call you a taxi, which will cost about USD20.
The most popular place is "Chobeca's Burgers" which is a Panamanians version of McDonald's. It's cheap, and has nothing to do with burgers. They sell fried Panamanian-type food, try it at least once. Next to the Hotel Gran Nacional (and the Fiesta Casino) is a restaurant called McPato. Now THAT is David's real version of McDonald's from way, way back. The story behind that is that they wanted to bring a McDonald's franchise, but the owner found it to expensive to buy a franchise restaurant, and decided to open his Own. The Mc in the name is obvious, and Pato in spanish means Duck, and Donald is a duck, so the owner figured Mc(obvious)Pato(Donald). Restaurante Chiriqui is a chinese restaurant located within the city. There's really a lot of place to eat at.
Carta Vieja, Panama's Rum. No matter where you go in this town to enjoy it's nightlife, you'll see Carta Vieja bottles around you. The clubs offer bottle service, which really, everyone gets. $20 will get you a bottle of Carta Vieja, bottle of coke, and ice, split that up between however many people you go with, and done. If you are the type of person who just likes to have a beer and relax with some friends, El Hangar (The Hangar) is the place to go. It's a drive-thru bar basically. You go, buy your drinks, park your car, and either pump YOUR music, or listen to the music other people are pumpin from their car. It's a nightclub where the patrons are the DJ's basically.
There are many lodging options in the city including many fine and reasonably priced hotels. Many of the hotels are owned by families' of Spanish origin, so they have names like Hotel Toledo, Hotel Madrid, Hotel Alcala, Hotel Iberia, Hotel Galicia, etc.
For the backpacking traveler ready for some urban action, clubs, casinos and 24 Hour shopping, consider staying in one of the backpacker hostels especially geared toward the budget traveler.
- Hotel Toledo is easy walking distance from the bus terminal. Rooms are simple, though small and can be dark, but it has helpful front desk staff, hot showers, and good free WiFi. With a laundromat around the corner and a supermarket and restaurants nearby, it's a good place to stay the night if you're arriving late or leaving early.
- Bambu Hostel is in the San Mateo District of David, Panama. It has a deluxe in ground pool, small gym and a mayan style rancho bar. The owner Gregg Lapkin is a New York City musician and is a well informed host. Bambu Hostel an International Backpackers Hostel .
- The Purple House International Backpacker hostel opened in 2002 as the first backpacker hostel in this city (and the 2nd in the entire country of David!) English speakers, free WiFi, purple theme, clean and secure. Now with a cool and refreshing "SPLASH PAD" (the only one in the entire country!)
- Waterfall hostel is closed.