Unflinchingly urban, the capital rides the rails of chaos, with traffic jams, wayward taxis and casinos stacked between chic clubs and construction sites. A center of international banking and trade, it has a sultry skyline of shimmering glass and steel towers that is reminiscent of Miami. In contrast, the colonial peninsula of Casco Viejo has become a hip neighborhood where cobblestones link boutique hotels with rooftop bars and crumbled ruins with pirate lore. Escape is never far away. Day-trip to sandy beaches (Pacific or Caribbean), admire the canal, or explore lush rainforests of howler monkeys, toucans and sloths.