Panama is a great destination for both active travellers and beach lovers. Take a dip into this hybrid of Caribbean and Latin culture to experience the good life. Located in the southern part of Central America, Panama is the gateway between North and South America. Interestingly enough, the famous Panama Canal also makes it a gateway between the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. Apart from being a geographic point of interest, Panama offers plenty of pristine beaches, lush rainforests, and mountains, making it a great destination on your Central American tour. Panama is just waiting to be discovered!
Panama City is both the national capital and undoubtedly the heart of business life. Though Panama’s economy is growing quickly, the general price level remains affordable for budget travellers. That said, Panama City is very cosmopolitan and has no shortage of hip clubs, eateries, and tapas bars. You’ll find all the party people at Calle Uruguay, in particular.
Most travellers also like to visit the seafront to see Casco Viejo, the historical and more rustic part of the city. Additionally, a simple 15-minute walk from the city centre will bring you to the Parque Natural Metropolitano, where you can enjoy a nice rainforest hike. Needless to say, this is worth checking out.
Bocas del Toro
You will find the more touristy side of Panama at the archipelago Bocas del Toro. Located near the Costa Rican border, it consists of six green islands and the beautiful Parque Nacional Marino Isla Bastimentos. Though tourism is booming in neighbouring Costa Rica, Panama still lacks huge hotels and commercial development. Therefore, the atmosphere around Bocas del Toro is quite relaxed. All six islands are covered with jungle and beautiful beaches.
Isla Colón is the most developed of all the islands. If you’re looking for an even more easy-going place, then you should head to nearby Isla Caranero, a famous stopover point for Christopher Columbus back in 1502.
Get in touch with the local culture
If you travel to the Comarca de Kuna Yala on the Caribbean coast, you will meet the Kuna, the most independent indigenous group in Central America. The Kuna people have maintained their traditional way of life, which separates them from the rest of contemporary Panamian society. When visiting these people, you will observe their strong sense of community and teamwork. It may cross your mind that westerners can actually learn from this lifestyle.
How about some trekking, rafting, surfing or diving? Panama is a great country for active travellers. You’ll find the country’s only volcano in Parque Nacional Volcán Barú, where you can go trekking, to see some incredibly beautiful views. Camping is great in Cerro Punta, Boquete and El Valle. Remember, it can become very cold during night-time in higher altitudes, so bring some warm clothes.
Surfers can find some serious waves at various places in Panama. Be sure to check out the surfing at Bocas del Toro. Another option is to head toward the Parque Nacional de Chiriquí, which consists of 25 islands and 19 coral reefs. This place is a paradise for divers and snorkelers. you may also want to check out the protected Isla Boca Brava, where sea turtles lay their eggs and monkeys run wild along the forest paths.
Those who are looking for more of an adrenaline kick, the province of Chiriquí, also offers great rafting. The rivers are long, and you’ll be surrounded by rich rainforests and waterfalls.