This shopping center on the PanAmerian Highway in Rio Hato is where you go to get your essentials.
The grocery store has a good selection of food & some household items. I bought a great pair of flip flops there for $1.99. There's also an air-conditioned pharmacy attached to the grocery store, where you buy drug store type items - such as contact solution : )
The building also houses an internet cafe with 56k dial up, but at least you can read your email. They also have a room in the back with a phone for international calls.
As you drive along Avienda Juan Demostenes Arosemena toward the Central Plaza in downtown Penonome, you will see lots of stores with some of their merchandise displayed on the sidewalks. This tempted us to stop and shop in these stores, but we quickly found that wandering into the main store involved having a sales girl attached to you. No amount of "just looking" or tricky trips around the racks could shake her. This happened in 2 different stores, and was so annoying that we just left.
We inquired about this practice with English-speaking locals, worried that we were feared to be shop-lifters. We were relieved (?) to hear that we were trailed because the sales girls work on commission.
El Valle's public market is best on Sunday. There are plants & produce for sale, as well as handicrafts made by local artisans.
There are also a couple of nice shops just south of the market. One, called David's, was particularly nice.
This region of Panama, however, is not a place you would go to "shop". El Valle, by the way, was the first place we even saw postcards to buy!
What to buy: I bought a basket at the market. There was also a variety of Panama hats and items made from a local hardwood, among other things.
What to pay: Unlike other places in Panama, you can bargain in the market. I paid $6 for the basket.
Corregimiento de El Valle, Distrito de Anton, El Valle de Anton, Panama
Good for: Business
115 KM VIA INTERAMERICANA, Farallon, CO 99999
Km 118 Playa Blanca, Farallon, COCLE, Panama, 8437
Good for: Couples