Travel Guide info
Where Should I Go?
Panama City is one of the most cosmopolitan, culturally distinct, and enjoyable capital cities in all of Central America. Modern commercial buildings blend with cobbled streets and Spanish colonial architecture of centuries past. West of the capital lies the Panama Canal, the legendary feat of humankind that unites two entire oceans.
Panama’s most striking and popular archipelagos are Bocas del Toro and the San Blas Islands in the Caribbean, and the Pearl Islands in the Pacific. The Pearl Islands were featured on a season of the reality TV show, Survivor. The San Blas islands are noteworthy for being populated by the Kuna Indians—remarkable artisans. Book a long-term room on a major island (specifically, Bocas Town in Bocas del Toro, and Contadora in the Pearl Islands), and use it as a base to explore Panama’s hundreds of remote islands and islets.
Other worthwhile destinations are Boquete in the Chiriqui Province, an ecotourist’s dream in the southeast featuring volcanoes, waterfalls, and even the elusive quetzal; Boquete, a quaint town overflowing with flowers; and the Anton Valley, the largest inhabited dormant volcano in the world.
What Will I See?
Docked against Costa Rica in the northwest and Colombia in the southeast, Panama’s mountains, forests and oceans boast an exceptional biodiversity. In fact, the animal species of this unique country are as varied as any region in the world. Panama is home to 900 bird species —- more than the entire land mass of North America!
Those interested in experiencing true rainforest can visit the Soberania National Park, just 25 miles north of Panama City. The Bastimentos Marine National Park in Bocas del Toro offers some of the best diving and snorkeling in Central America.
Darien is one of the most dangerous areas in Panama, but also one of the most fascinating. The Pan-American highway, which stretches from Alaska to Argentina, is broken only at the Darien Gap -— the rainforest in Darien is impenetrable. Travel to Darien is not recommended, but if you insist, book an experienced guide.
How Do I Get There and Around?
As in every Central American country, local buses — often garishly painted American school buses — are the least expensive mode of transport in Panama. Destinations like Colón, Panama City, and David are also served by larger and more comfortable express buses. Outside more populated areas, paved roads can be rare. In those cases (like venturing to Bocas del Toro, for example), booking a seat on a small aircraft is the preferable option.
To travel to Costa Rica in the northwest, you can either book a plane from Panama City or an air-conditioned Ticabus. Panama stands out among the world’s expat destinations because it offers solid infrastructure and First World amenities…close to North America.