The Appeal and Beauty of Panama What to see, where to relax

With eternally blissful weather, gorgeous coastlines on the Caribbean and the North Pacific, and relatively inexpensive prices, Panama is a Central American vacation destination that offers the works. Here, we have identified some great destinations in Panama.

Panama City

The country’s capital is a contrast of sleek high-rises and historic architecture, surrounded by a verdant belt of tropical rainforest. You can see crumbling colonial ruins in Casco Viejo and Panama Viejo (where you’ll find the remainder of the city razed by Henry Morgan in the 17th century) as well as eat great Panamanian dishes (tortillas, bollos, lots of arroz). Dominating the city is the Panama Canal, the huge watery thoroughfare through which millions of tons of cargo passes each year. It’s a stunning sight, best enjoyed from a well-located hotel. One such hotel is the Hard Rock Hotel Panama Megapolis, a 66 story tower with panoramic views of the city and the Panama Bay. The hotel is classy but has swagger too; it boasts 11 bars, a nightclub and a rooftop pool. And for the morning after, there’s always the Rock Spa.

La Amistad International Park

Panama’s La Amistad International Park is shared with Costa Rica, and is the largest nature reserve in Central America. When the sights and sounds of Panama City have worn you out, head here to explore a cornucopia of lush vegetation (1,000 fern species, 500 tree species and 130 types of orchid), and consider camping out for a night or two. La Amistad is huge, thus much of it remains unexplored (although the Natural History Museum in London, INBio and the University of Panama have made headway into its depths in recent years). Don’t go wandering off the beaten track alone though: you may well come up against pumas, ocelots, and jaguars.

Pearl Islands

Panama’s beauty extends well beyond the mainland. The Pearl Islands is a string of about 200 islands located in the Gulf of Panama – just a 45 minute flight from Panama City. Contadora Island is probably where you’ll end up landing (two ferries sail to and from here, too). But from here, the Pearl Islands are your oyster. Board a sailing charter and weave through the other islands. Go fishing for wahoo, yellow tail tuna, sailfish and marlin. Stroll through virgin forests and over white sand beaches. The Pearl Islands is where they filmed three seasons of the TV show Survivor. But don’t worry – the cameras are long gone, and peace reigns here.

Parque Nacional Marino Golfo de Chiriquí

More secluded islands can be found at Parque Nacional Marino Golfo de Chiriquí – 36,400 acres of coral reef, mangroves and marine meadows. In the past, the park has been called  “one of Panama’s best kept secrets”, and although people are now wiser to its charms, the area still offers pockets of true tropical bliss. Scuba diving is a favorite pastime around the Parque Nacional Marino Golfo de Chiriquí, and if you head further out to sea on a charter, you’ll have the chance to marvel at humpback whales, dolphins and green iguanas. Stay a few nights in the fishing village of Boca Chica on the nearby mainland; the fish restaurants here are exceptional.

Safe Travels…. team

Image Courtesy of Marc Serarols