DESTINATIONS IN PANAMA
Boquete is a city located in the highlands of Western Panama, in the Chiriquí Province, near the border with Costa Rica. Because of its altitude (about 1,000 m above sea level) its climate is cooler than the lowlands in Panama. Its scenic location, cool temperature, and natural environment have made it extremely popular with tourists from all over the world, especially amongst eco tourists.
For Travelers, Boquete is one of the country’s top destination for outdoor lovers. From Boquete you can hike, climb, raft, visit coffee plantations, soak in the hot springsm study Spanish or go on a canopy tour.
Check out our new Hostel in Boquete, Hostel Mamallena, Boquete.
We’ve also just opened Boquete’s newest restaurant and bar, BARU.
Take a bus to David then a one hour bus to Boquete.
Santa Clara & the Pacific Mainland
The closest beaches to Panama City are along the Pacific Coast, around 1.5 hours away by bus. San Carlos and Santa Clara are the best, but neither have budget accommodation. Santa Clara has beautiful white sand beaches with hammocks and ranchitos for protection from the sun, but there’s not really a town. Playa El Mar is the best beach for surfing, but again there is no budget accomodation.
How to get there: Get a bus from the Albrook bus terminal.
Lost and Found Eco Jungle Hostel
If you’re traveling by bus to or from Bocas Del Toro then you shouldn’t miss theLost and Found. One of the more remote hostels in Panama, you’ll be away from it all high above the clouds. This is Panama’s only cloud forest hostel. Part of the experience is getting there, especially the front entrance!!! But as the 2008Moon Handbook Panama says “The hostel is a pleasant, friendly, and well-equipped place, especially given it’s isolation, but the surroundings are the star attraction. Guests can watch the sunset behind Volcan Baru and go for day and night hikes on the network of trails used by the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute. Hikers can sometimes glimpsethe Pacific from the trails, which climb as high as 1800 meters above sea level”
One hour from David on the road to Bocas. Take a bus from either.
San Blas Islands
The San Blas Islands is an archipelago of 365 islands off the north coast of the Isthmus, east of the Panama Canal. Home to the Kuna Indians, they are a part of the comarca Kuna Yala along the Caribbean coast of Panama.
The Kuna Indians are known for their decorative art, known as molas. Molas are usually very bright and colorful and are often worn as clothing. Before the missionaries converted the natives to Christianity, they wore few clothes but decorated their bodies with colorful designs. When encouraged to wear clothes by the missionaries, they followed their body painting designs in their Molas, which they wore as clothing.
The Kuna Indians worship a god named Erragon. They believe that this god came and died just for the Kuna people. The Kuna Indians were drove off Panama during the Spanish invasion and they fled in their boats to the 365 islands around. The chief of all the islands lives on an island called Acuadup, which means rock island. The Kuna are hunters and fishers, they are a very clean people and on some of the islands have opportunities to attend school. Most of the men speak spanish and the women are the ones who carry on the traditions.
Portobelo is a port city in Colón Province, Panama. ‘Puerto Bello’ the beautiful port was named by Colombus in 1502. The city of Portobelo was founded in 1597. From the sixteenth to the eighteenth centuries it was an important silver-exporting port in New Granada on the Spanish Main and one of the ports on the route of the Spanish treasure fleets.
The city was also victim of one of Captain Henry Morgan’s notorious adventures. In 1668, Morgan led a fleet of privateers and 450 men against Portobelo, which, in spite of its good fortifications, he captured and plundered for 14 days, stripping it of nearly all its wealth. This daring endeavour, although successful, also proved particularly brutal as it involved rape, torture, and murder on a grand scale.
Today, Portobelo is a sleepy city with a population of fewer than 5,000. It has a deep natural harbor. In 1980 the ruins of the fortification, along with nearby Fort San Lorenzo, were declared a World Heritage Site.
Take a bus from Albrook bus terminal towards Colon. Get off at Sabanitas and change for a bus to Costa Arriba.
Isla Grande is not really all that grand, it’s five kilometers long and 1.5 km wide, and has around 1000 inhabitants, most of whom live in the small town tha runs along a single waterfront path facing the mainland. It consists mainly of a handful of simple hotels, some run-down houses, a few tiny stores and open-air restaurants. The island is only a few hundred meters from the mainland.
Palm trees and white-sand beaches form the backdrop to this lovely little island. Isla Grande is an ideal setting for snorkeling, scuba diving or simply soaking up the island’s relaxed vibe.
Get a bus from the Albrook terminal towards Colon and get off at Sabanitas. Take a bus to Costa Arriba, but make sure it goes to Isla Grande as Costa Arriba buses have 2 different destinations.
Bocas Del Toro
Bocas del Toro is a province of Panama. The capital is the city of Bocas del Toro, found on the island of Colon. The population of the province numbers some 89,300 people. Its extension is 8,745 kilometers and is formed by 9 principal islands. There are many plantation of plantains here, often called the oro verde or green gold of Central America.
Bocas town on Isla Colon is the party place of Panama. This is where you’ll be living the Carribean lifestyle, reggae, dreadlocks, beaches and parties. There’s no beaches in town but they’re a short boat ride away, some of the most beautiful in Panama. Isla Bastimentos is much more local and away from the party scene. Check it out if you want to get away from it all.
Hostel Aqua Lounge is across from Isla Colon($1 and 2 minutes) and right on the water. Hostel Gran Kahuna is on the main street, right across from where the boat drops you off and has a great balcony and open, airy rooms.
Direct buses leave Panama at 8pm from Albrook and arrives at about 7am. Or take a bus to David and then to Bocas.
La Amistad National Park
La Amistad National Park is located in the provinces of Chiriqui and Bocas Del Toro, and extends into Costa Rica. It covers approximately 511,000 acres of mountainous terrain in the Cordillera de Talamanca mountain range.
The park is famous for its cloudforests, where the trees form a canopy that creates a cool, misty atmosphere on the forest floor.
The park is home to a great diversity of plants, birds and animals. Over 100 species of mammals, including many primates like the howler monkey, black handed spider monkey, white throated capuchin and night monkey are found here. The park protects threatened populations of tapirs, shrews and olingo’s, which are in the same family as raccoons. The park is one of the last refuges for the five species of cats found in Panama, including the puma, ocelot and jaguar. In addition, 91 species of amphibians have been recorded in the park, including the arlequin frog and spiny toad. Among 61 species of reptiles are the mountain salamander and the coral snake. The park is home to an estimated 400-600 bird species including the harpy eagle, endemic glowthroated hummingbird, magnificent quetzal and the crested eagle, which is one of the largest and most threatened birds of prey in the tropics.
Isla Coiba National Park
Coiba separated from continental Panama about 12,000 to 18,000 years ago when sea levels rose. Plants and animals on the new island became isolated from mainland populations and over the millennia most animals have diverged in appearance and behavior from their mainland counterparts. The island is home to many endemic subspecies, including the Coiba Island Howler monkey, the Coiba Agouti and the Coiba Spinetail.
Coiba was home to the Coiba Cacique Indians until about 1560, when they were conquered by the Spanish and forced into slavery.
A penal colony was built on the island in 1919. After the prison was closed down in 2004, its pristine condition made it ideal as a preserve. It is one of the last places in Central America the Scarlet Macaw can be found in large numbers in the wild. The island is about 75% forested with a large fraction standing as ancient forest. Coiba Island is home to rare plant species found only on the island. As well, the island harbors tree species that have long disappeared from the mainland due to deforestation and overharvesting.
The waters adjacent to the island are teaming with marine life. It is surrounded by one of the largest coral reefs on the Pacific Coast of the Americas.
The island was declared a National Park in 1992.
Unesco declared the entire Coiba National Park a “World Heritage Site” in July 2005.
The Indo-Pacific current through the Gulf of Chiriqui provides a unique dive environment. The warm current brings with it coral and many of the pacific tropical underwater life that you would not expect on the Pacific Coast of the Americas. Also with it come the larger fish/mammals such as humpback whales, sharks, whale sharks, orcas and more.
Santa Catalina has the potential to be the next Central American destination. Although difficult access and remote location, the secret about Santa Catalina’s incredible surf is out.
Santa Catalina is regarded as one of the best surf spots in Central America, you can choose from any number of beach breaks. On a good day, the rifh and lefts here are easily comparable to Oahu’s Sunset beach. You can also do Scuba Diving and Sport Fishing.
Santa Catalina is home to several hundred people who lead simple lives as fishers, and the town has a laid-back feel.
Try Rollo’s Cabins for decent accomodation in the main part of town and just off the beach.
Santa Fe, is located in the Veraguas Province. A little highland town, with its own simple charm, beautiful surroundins and almost not turists.
At an altitude of 1000m, Santa Fe is much cooler than the lowlands, and much of the surrounding forest remains as they did when the Spanish founded the town in 1557. With lush mountainsides, waterfalls and mountain streams right outside of the town.
Santa Fe is an ideal destination for hikers, bird-watchers and those simply wantint to soak up the beauty of the highlands.
Hostal La Quia is one of the more relaxed and tranquil hostels in the country. It’s worth a visit here just for the hostel.
Santa Fe is one hour outside of Santiago.
El Valle de Anton
This picturesque town is nestled in the crater of a giant extinct volcano, and ringed by verdant forests and jagged peaks.
It is a superb place for walking, hiking or horseback riding, especially since there is an extensive network of trails leading from the town into the hills and around the valley.
The nearby forests offer excellent bird-watching and he valleys are home to an impressive set of waterfalls, square trees, as well as some rare golden frogs.
Direct buses go from the Albrook bus terminal.
Peninsula de Azuero
The Azuero Peninsula is like a place frozen in the past, with lot of charm and natural beauty. It’s called the Panama’s heartland, it’s the wellspring of folkloric tradition.
This is a region of farmers, cattle ranchers and fishermen.
In the Azuero you can find traditional clothing (pollera), handcrafts, and pre-colombian ceramics. It’s also a place of traditional music and literary.
The national Panamanean drink, seco the sugar cane liquor, is made here.
The people of Azuero are among the friendliest of panama.
Parque Nacional Darien
The Darien province is 16,571 square kilometers, making it the largest province in Panama, and with only around 40,000 people is also the less inhabited one. The Darien province is divided in two, the north being one of the worst scenes of habitat destruction, and the south home of one of the most spectacular rainforest.
In the south, the Darien National Park, with 576,000 hectares, is one on the grater ecosystems in the world. The wildlife in the Darien is spectacular including among others: jaguars, ocelots, pumas, margays, jaguarundi, giant anteaters, capybaras, different types of monkeys, tamarins, sloths, tapirs, caimans, crocodiles, jewel-like poison-arrow frogs, and lots of snakes, some very venomous (including one of the most lethal ones). And more than 400 different species of birds, including the rare harpy eagle and the golden-headed Quetzal. It’s biodiversity is so incredible it’s been named both a World Biosphere Reserve and a Natural World Heritage Site by UNESCO.
The Darien is home of the Embera and Wounaan tribes, who mantain their traditional practices and genarations old knowladge of the rainforest. Most of them live deep in the rainforest. They stain their bodies with the purplish black juice from the jagua tree, witch is belived to have heath-giving properties and ward off insects. The woman wear traditional jewelry, consisting of silver bracelets and elaboreted necklaces.
Their homes are suited to the rainforest, built on stills 3 to 4 meters above the ground. The floors consists primary of palm bark, with a log with stairs to provide access. Most of half the house open-sided to permit breezes to enter, and a mud oven in one corner. And the roofs made of thatch. Beneath the house, they grow medicinal plants, edible vegetables and roots.
They survive on subsistence agriculture, hunting, fishing and poultry raising. They are also exceptional woodcarvers and basket weavers.
They are experts users of the boquera (blowgun) and they envenomed their darts with lethal toxins from poisonous frogs and bullet ants. They are also famous for their incredible dugout canoes, called piraguas (some where used in the construction of the canal).
Until late 1990, the US Air force used the Emberas and Wounaan as instructors in jungle survival.
The Darien is a place of magic, where the sceneary appears as it did over a million years ago. It’s a place for travelers with youthful hearts, intrepid spirits and a yearning for something truly wild. An anonymous verse carved in the walls of a Spanish fort at the edge of the Darien reads: “When you enter the Darien, commend your soul to the virgin Mary. In your hand lies the way in; in God’s the way out”.