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Seek Seafood at Mercado de Mariscos Panama City Fish Market

In Panama's capital, near the entrance to Casco Viejo, is Panama City's fish market. Known locally as Mercado de Mariscos, it's a top attraction in Panama's capital, a colorful market full of interesting characters, both human and marine.

Restaurateurs and locals know that this is THE place to go for fresh seafood. Walking through the market you will find just about anything that comes from the ocean. The selection is truly amazing … oysters, lobster, shrimp, and fish so fresh that their eyes are still clear.

Some days, there are even parrot fish, a familiar sight for divers. These rainbow-hued fish are so beautiful that it almost seems a shame to see them on ice.

Seafood stall at Panama City fish market

Mercado de Mariscos from a patron's point of view

This fish market is also home to a restaurant and food stalls. We learned quickly that we should pick up cups of the local specialty, ceviche, to snack on while we walk through the market. It's a terrific bargain, not to mention delicious.

And the seafood is an even bigger bargain. We constanly marvel at the low prices the fishmongers charge. Tuna for $3 a pound? Salmon for $1.50 a pound?  Incredible!

Low prices at Panama City fish market

Whenever we go, we enjoy watching these warm and friendly fishmongers wield their hatchets and knives on the fish. Just select a fish and they'll quickly fillet it on the spot, then wrap and bag it with ice for you. Your purchase even includes the head, if you wish to make chowder, at no extra charge.  They even sell heads by themselves.

fish heads for sale

For the freshest fish and best selection, it's best to get there really early and purchase what you need before the restaurant buyers get everything. Well, that's in the ideal world. We prefer to get there after we've had coffee and the traffic has subsided. The trade-off is that some of the stalls have sold all their fish … but we never have a problem finding something that looks appealing, so it's not important to us.

fish stall has stacks of fish on ice

Eating at Panama's fish market

Panama's mercado is split up into two areas; inside, where you can get fish by the pound and outside, where most of the ceviche stands and food stalls are. The outside areas are relatively new. The traditional dining site is a restaurant on the second floor that will cook whatever you buy.

Tip: Consider a food tour for a different way to see Panama City.

Between the upstairs restaurant and the food stalls outside there are plenty of opportunities to enjoy fresh fish on site, but we've never bothereed with that. Our usual routine: Take our purchases home, divide them into portions and drop them into heavy-duty, zip-lock bags destined for the freezer.

But there has always been some that didn't make it to the freezer: We slice up the best-looking fish for a sashimi lunch and make a batch of fresh ceviche for lunches later in the week.

Yes, it's that fresh.

On our last trip, we turned a $60 investment into 32 servings! Just think: 16 seafood meals, for less than $2 per serving. One grouper, a mahi-mahi and two Red Snappers, combined with some very good knife work, yielded four servings of homemade ceviche (two mixed, two Mahi Mahi), nine servings each of Red Snapper and Grouper, 10 servings of Mahi Mahi, and two servings of fresh sashimi.

The only challenge is when it comes time to decide which fish we want to eat for dinner. They all look good!

Our $60 purchase resulted in over 20 meals



Mercado de Mariscos is open from 6 am – 5 pm every day, except the 3rd Monday of each month when it is closed completely for thorough cleaning.


If you haven't tried ceviche, this is a perfect opportunity to try the citrus-marinated treat. There are a lot of varieties, made from various ocean creatures, so you'll have to ask. We recommend the corvina (sea bass). A small cup of ceviche fish will set you back a dollar or two.

We suggest a side order of patacones for the full “local Panamanian cuisine” experience. You can even wash it down with a cold local beer if you want.

Want a private tour?




Written by Dan

Professional photographer specializing in street, food and travel shots at As We Saw It travel blog. Enjoys catching children at play, showing their innocence in every situation … we all can learn that, to be content with what our Father in heaven has provided. Photography is unique in that it captures light in all forms, and since the Bible says YHVH (God) is light, photography captures Him in many forms.

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2 thoughts on “Seek Seafood at Mercado de Mariscos Panama City Fish Market

  1. I enjoyed reading about the fish market. I will read further to learn about Panama cocktails or wine, food culture, fruits veggies . I once had the opportunity to visit a young man friend of mine who was stationed there in the army, I chickened out, I was young, Now that trip is on my bucket list.

    1. Ha, Patsy, better late than never. Panama is a great destination; after living there for 2 1/2 years we’re still writing posts about it. (If you subscribed you’ll be the first to know when they come online!)

      I have to apologize; I was appalled to realize that all of our photos had disappeared from the post. Well, that’s fixed now.

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