Bocas Del Toro
Bocas Del Toro is the ultimate Caribbean Paradise: a laidback town, turquoise waters and magnificent beaches and marine wildlife makes this the best location in Panama.
The Bocas Del Toro province is located in the northwestern end of the country.
There are flights to Isla Colón from San José, Costa Rica, and from David and Panama City.
Getting there by land from Costa Rica is very easy: just cross the border from Sixaola, and then get a taxi to Changuinola, where you’ll board a boat that will take you through the mangroves until reaching Bocas Del Toro. From Panama City, you would need to take a bus to David first, and then another one to Changuinola or Almirante. The archipelago is made up of many islands and islets, the main one being Colón (it’s the only one where there are roads and cars). Here is where most hotels and restaurants are located, but if you are looking for something more secluded, there are lodging options in other islands too.
Being on the Caribbean, the weather is quite humid year round, with a drier season from February to March and from September to October. Activities available on the islands include snorkeling, diving, surfing, hiking, kayaking, dolphin watching, bird watching and swimming. Also, there are native cultures living on some islands; it’s possible to arrange a visit to learn about their ways and traditions.
Some of the islands are protected by a national park, which comprises the Zapatillas Keys, a pristine spot ideal for snorkeling and diving. Other important spots include Swans Cay, Boca Del Drago, Hospital Point, and Red Frog Beach.
San Blas Islands
The San Blas is an archipelago located on the Caribbean coast, northeast of Panama City. This is part of the Kuna Yala Comarca, belonging to the Kuna people, who run the islands independently from the government. These native Indians live of tourism, fishing and selling coconuts. This culture has maintained their ancestral traditions, and women still wear Molas, the country’s most famous handicraft. Also, they have kept their language, music and dances. The archipelago is made up of over 350 islands, of which most are deserted; the ones that are inhabited are usually crowded with people, both locals and tourists. The most populated ones are probably Nusatupo and Cartí Suitupo. To get there, there are flights to El Porvenir, the archipelago’s gateway, but there are flights to other islands as well. Once there, you can take boat rides from island to island, or fly as well. There are lodging options in many islands, and the lodges provide all meals for their guests, since there are no restaurants around. The services offered are basic, so be sure to bring everything you need! The demand for flights and accommodations on the islands is high, so please be sure to book well in advance.
Activities around the islands include boat rides, snorkeling, hiking, shopping for handicrafts, and meeting the Kuna. Surely the main attraction is the unspoiled white sand beaches…the perfect secluded Caribbean destination!The best time to go is from May to November, as the temperatures are lower due to the stronger winds.
Contadora Island (Pearl Islands)
The Pearl Islands are located in the Pacific, about 70 km (4 miles) off the coast of Panama City (In the Gulf of Panama). The most famous of the islands is Contadora, where there are many hotels and resorts in its eleven white sand beaches.
Activities on the island include diving, snorkeling, fishing and windsurfing and bicycle riding; and of course swimming in the warm and clear Pacific Ocean! The island is accessible by a 15 minute domestic flight from Albrook airport, or a one hour boat ride (from Panama City). This is a year round destination, with two distinct seasons: the wet season from April to November, and the dry season from December to March.
Panama City and Canal
Panama City is certainly the most cosmopolitan of Central America’s capitals, and it offers a nice colonial old quarter (Casco Viejo) as well as modern skyscrapers. The city is located along the Pacific Coast, and its international airport is called Tocumen. The domestic flights depart and arrive from the Albrook airport. One of the city’s biggest attractions is the canal, which started operating back in 1914 (took 10 years to build). The canal measures 80 km (50 miles), from Panama City to Colón, and it takes ships from 8 to 10 hours to cross it. The Miraflores locks are the closest ones from Panama City, so from here you can see the enormous ships making their way through the canal.Further north, you can also visit the Pedro Miguel Locks, and on the Caribbean side, the Gatun Locks.
In part, the canal is surrounded by carefully preserved tropical forest. The western side is protected by Soberanía National Park, which encloses a botanical garden and a zoo. The park is located just 25 km (15 miles) away from Panama City. There are other interesting locations that can be visited as day trips from Panama City: the Embera indigenous village, the Smithsonian’s Marine Exhibition Center, Gatún Lake, Soberania National Park, some beaches and the picturesque El Valle (Valle de Antón) with its fertile, lush lands and its Sunday Market. In the latter, many exciting activities are available, such as hiking, biking and rappelling. The dry season (high season) goes from mid December to mid April, so this is the best time to go (though some rain is expected).
Boquete, Cerro Punta and Baru Volcano
Boquete is located in the Chiriquí Province, along the Central
Mountain Range, just 45 minutes away from David, Panama’s second largest city. Buses depart regularly both ways.
Due to its location, this town enjoys a cool and pleasant weather, though it can get real cold at nights, so come prepared with warm clothing! This area is best to visit during the dry season (from November to April), obviously due to better weather. Additionally, the flowers and coffee festival take place at the beginning of January.
This mountain destination is known for being an agriculturally rich and fertile region. The coffee grown here is said to be the country’s best. The region also specializes in flowers and oranges. Activities available here include bird watching, hiking, and hot springs. Nearby, Cerro Punta (1970 meters / 6450 feet above sea level) offers very interesting hiking and sights, as well as bird watching (the quetzal can be spotted here). The famous Quetzal Trail, 8 km long, goes from Boquete to Cerro Punta, and it is a highly recommended trip (from west to east the trail goes downhill, so it’s easier). You can be transferred by taxi to the Cerro Punta side and then walk for 2 hours back to Boquete. The Baru Volcano is the only volcano in the country (it’s inactive), and it is the highest peak, with an altitude of 3475 meters (11 400 feet). It is possible to hike up to the summit, but it’s not an easy task: it can take from five to six hours from the park´s entrance. On clear days, the view is more than rewarding, as sometimes it is possible to see both coasts. The volcano is protected in a National Park, and the wildlife is very abundant here.