panama hats

The elegant Ecuadorian straw hats or Panama hats

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 The elegant Ecuadorian straw hats or Panama hats

Our traditional toquilla straw hats

Despite the name that is misleading, the famous Panama hats or fedora are original from Ecuador and is an icon of the country.  This means that the hats are actually made in Ecuador (Chordeleg and Sigsig, near Cuenca in Azuay and in Montecristi in Manabi) and then exported and sold worldwide. This is a technique passed along generations.

The name

The history of this hats dates back to Pre-columbian times according to evidence.  This light straw material ideal for sun protection was used to make the hats. Moreover, according to legend the toquilla straw hat was exported to Panama when the canal was on construction and from that time forward they started being called “Panama hats”.

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Straw hats are made with Carludovica palmata, a plant native of Ecuador. First of all, artisans collect the raw material(carludovica palmata). It is mainly found in the Coastal region of the country.

Then artisans cut the stems, divide and clean the material.  After this, they boil the threads.  Finally,  is to let the threads dry.




The weaving process takes around one week for each hat. This time depends on the thickness desired and quality of the hat.  That is, the thinner the better the quality.


Where can you get a panama hat

  • Visit a workshop in Cuenca

So, if you are in Cuenca, you can visit some of the straw hat or panama hat factories and get an elegant souvenir from Ecuador!

The hat design that I personally recommend is Homero Ortega. The company produces and has over 40 years of experience exporting to 32 countries on five continents.  Moreover, during your visit, you will see the manufacturing process. Additionally, you will be able to buy a genunine panama hat including a certificate of authenticity.

Where: Hermano Miguel 6-84 y Presidente Córdova

Price: Free entrance

  • Order online

There are different models and prices available, I give you two great options:

If you are looking for the authentic Classic Fedora Straw Panama Hat



The Genuine HAVANA Retro Panama Straw Hat Classic Ultrafino.




The “True” Panama Hat Handwoven in Ecuador, Fedora Style, Natural or White Color, Grade 2, Manufactured Since 1975.




Best place to retire

Furthermore, one of the best places to retire in the world is Cuenca. So, if you are planning on retiring consider this colonial charming city in beautiful South America. Besides, to get more information about the city I recommend that you read Cuenca: 101 Questions Answered.


When in Ecuador, make sure to get a beautiful handwoven straw hat, it is not only an icon of Ecuador, but also its technique an Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. 



If you want more in-depth information and also a guide that you can bring along during your trip, I recommend the travel guide Lonely Planet Ecuador & the Galapagos Islands.

This is a great source of information and tips, maps and all you need if you plan on visiting Ecuador. I personally like the option of having a hard copy version where I can take notes and have at hand.

Don´t just dream it, make it happen. Plan your South American trip with a local!

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Send email to get help planning your trip: info(at) visitecuadorandsouthamerica(dot)com