Gluten-Free in Panama

Panama is suddenly on my vacation radar. I had been searching for a warm trip for this winter and came across a dual-country tour to Costa Rica and Panama. Then, I met a new friend who spoke really highly of Panama saying it’s less touristy country-side was much more appealing to him than Costa Rica. Then, the NY Times put out The 45 Places to Go in 2012 and guess what was #1? PANAMA. The travel stars were quickly aligning and I started my research.

If you know me, you know my research started with cheap flights and gluten-free eats. This is how I start planning all of my trips. Through a little bit of a cumbersome search (too many Panama City Beach, FL results!) I found a link through to the Fundación de Celiacos de Panamá. The entire site is in Spanish, but with the help of Google translate I was able to navigate around and learn more about being gluten-free in Panama. I also found an email address and immediately emailed the group.

Valeria Lara, of the Fundación de Celiacos de Panamá wrote me back in less than a couple of hours. I am always excited to hear back from global gluten-free folks and was thrilled at this quick response. Here are some of the tips from Valeria about being gluten-free in Panama.

  • Panama does not have gluten-free restaurants, so you might want to think about cooking your own food while traveling.
  • The Gamboa Rain Forest Resort in Gamboa that can offer a gluten-free menu when ordered in advance.
  • In the city, it will be easier to find gluten-free products especially at the Organica Store.  (There are two Organica Stores in Panama and two in Guatemala. Good to know!)
  • The Riba Smith supermarket and the Super 99 might have gluten-free products, although not always.

For those of you visiting, living, or staying long term in Panama, please bookmark the Fundación de Celiacos de Panamá website and attend their future events.

As I do more research, I will post more links. For now, I think this is a very helpful start. Thank you Valeria!

About Erin Smith

Living with celiac disease since 1981 and eating gluten-free long before it was "trendy", Erin Smith has a unique perspective of growing up in the gluten-free community; Founded Gluten-Free Fun in 2007; Founded Gluten-Free Globetrotter® in 2011; Founded GlutenFreelancer® in 2014. Erin was the lead organizer of the NYC Celiac Disease Meetup group, a social community of more than 2,000 members for over a decade. She is the founder of the Santa Cruz Celiac support group. Erin currently resides in New York City and lives 100% gluten-free.
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11 Responses to Gluten-Free in Panama

  1. Tammy says:

    Hi – expat living in David Panama for the past 7 yers with a Celica 3 yr-old. Be aware that once you travel outside of Panama City your GF options are near, zero. Our town is 8 hrs by car away and I found our local Chinese store a great option; rice flour $1.50. GF Rice cookies at a dozen for $2, Rice noodles for 50 cents or so (big bag) and of course, rice. We snack on peanuts, popcorn and found you can LIVE without all of those prepackage GF options so prevalent in the states. Its cheaper too, an added bonus. In Volcan there is a GF restaurant named Mana, call ahead and they will prepare dish for you as well. Have a great trip!

    • Erin S. says:

      Tammy, thank you so much for your comment. I am sure living abroad and keeping your gluten-free child is a challenge but it sounds like you are being very resourceful. I look forward to checking out your blog.

  2. Penelope says:

    My husband and I found a great little place in the Old Town, called La Petite Bretagne. It offers both sweet and savory crepes made with gluten-free buckwheat. We enjoyed our meal there!

  3. Ori Dula says:

    Hey Erin! I’m having a similar situation. Now that you’ve gone, how was it for you finding food to eat? Would love to know as I’m traveling there very soon!

    • Erin Smith says:

      Hi Ori, I actually haven’t been to Panama personally. I just would love to go one day. Look at some of the comments on this page, some readers have great suggestions. Good luck!

  4. Colleen Hunt says:

    Hello there. I know this was written in 2012 but thought I would send you a mention. Things have greatly changed in the past years here. There are at least 9 different places in Panama City with gf options. Outside of the city, in the Highlands of Panama, Boquete, is my dedicated gf bakery and kitchen. I hope if you travel here you visit, Gluten Free Gold Bakery and kitchen.

  5. Natália Rosa says:

    Hi! I am going to Panama in January, and I want to know all of these places before I travel. Can you give me a list of the places, so I can be more prepared before I go? Thank you so much!

  6. Colleen Hunt says:

    Hello on Instagram #glutenfree507 has an extensive list of gf places in Panama. She also researched if the places were dedicated or not. She is very helpful.

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