Facts About Panama
- Country Telephone Code: 507
- Country Capital: Panama City
- National Currency: Panama's official currency, the Balboa, is available only in coins and not in paper bills. The value and size of Balboa coins are equal to those of US coins. Products and services can be priced in both Balboas and US$'s.
- Independence Day: November 28, 1821 (from Spain), November 3, 1903 (from Colombia)
- Tourism Web Site: Visit Panama
- Fire Department: 103
- Police: 104
- Red Cross: 228-2187
- International Calls: 106
- Directory Assistancee: 102
- Total Area: 29,157 sq miles (75,517 sq km)
- Length: 480 miles (772 km)
- Width: 37-110 miles (60 - 177 km)
- Lattitude & longitude: 9° 0' 0' N / 80° 0' 0' W
- Land boundaries: 345 miles (555 km)
- Colombia: 158 miles (225 km)
- Costa Rica: 205 miles (330 km)
- Coastal boundaries: 1,547 miles (2,490 km)
- Highest elevation: Baru Volcano 11,401 ft. (3,475 m)
- Political Map: Panama is coprised of nine provinces - Bocas del Toro, Chiriquí, Coclé, Colón, Darién, Herrera, Los Santos, Panamá and Veraguas, and three Comarcas - Kuna Yala/ San Blas, Ngübe-Buglé, Emberá Wounaan Cémaco and Emberá Wounaan Sambú.
Credit Card Services
In the event that you need credit card assistance, below we have provided contact information for the four major credit card companies.
- Banco Exterior Balboa Avenue, 9th Floor
- Tel: 225-5858
Diners Club International/ Visa/ Mastercard
- Centro de Tarjetas as del Banco General Marbella
- Tel: 263-7922
Passports & Visa's
Each country has different requirements and restrictions regarding tourist visas, thus we recommend you consult with your embassy or consulate. For North Americans, entering Panama requires a valid passport, visa or tourist card, the latter of which can be issued through your airline or at Tocumen International Airport. The tourist card is valid for 180 days, at which time you must leave the country for a minimum of 72 hours. Tourist visas can't be extended!
If you find yourself in Panama beyond the 180 day limit and wish to leave the country, you will be required to pay a $50 fine for each month you stayed over the 180 limit. Once the fine has been paid, you are permitted to remain in the country for an additional 7 days before departing. To coordinate your departure, you must visit the Immigration Office (tel: 507-1800) in Tumba Muerto
Once inside, proceed to the front desk and request a ticket number, and then go downstairs and wait for your number to be called. You will need to supply copies of your passport - you must present copies of the pages that show your photograph and reveal your most recent arrival date. Just outside the front door, to the right, there are make shift booths that offer copy services.
(Note: You are not permitted to enter into the Immigration Office with short pants or a sleeveless shirt.)
Embassies & Consulates
- Argentina: 302-0003
- Belgium: 301-5200
- Bolivia: 214-6438
- Brazil: 263-5322
- Canada: 294-2500
- China(Taiwan): 223-3424
- Colombia: 264-9513
- Costa Rica: 223-4059
- Cuba: 223-6250
- Chile: 294-8901
- Dominican Republic: 263-6324
- Ecuador: 264-2654
- Egypt: 263-5020
- El Salvador: 209-327
- France: 211-6200
- Germany: 263-7733
- Great Britain: 269-086
- Guatemala: 269-3406
- Haiti: 269-3443
- Holland: 264-7257
- Honduras: 264-2652
- India: 226-0012
- Israel: 208-4708
- Italy: 225-8948
- Japan: 263-6155
- Korea: 264-8293
- Libya: 227-3342
- Mexico: 263-2436
- Nicaragua: 264-8225
- Paraguay: 215-0238
- Peru: 268-6809
- Russia: 264-1408
- Spain: 227-5122
- Sweden: 264-5122
- Switzerland: 279-153
- United States: 207-7000
- Uruguay: 264-2838
- Venezuela: 269-1244
- Vietnam: 265-4207
- Bocas del Toro: 757-9208
- Cap. Alfonso Valderama (Chitré): 996-4432
- Enrique Malek Airport (David): 721-1072
- Manuel Niño (Changuinola): 758-8231
- Marcos A. Gelebert (Albrook): 315-0241
- Rubén Cantú (Santiago): 998-5252
- Tocumen International Airport (Panamá): 238-2700
Domestic Airlines & Charters
All domestic flights in Panama City originate from and return to Marcos A. Gelebert Airport (tel: 315-0241) in Albrook, which is just 5-10 minutes from the city district.
Getting to Marcos A. Gelebert Airport
There are no public buses that service Marcos A. Gelebert Airport from Panama City, but you can take the Metro train, a public bus or taxi to the Albrook Bus Terminal, where you can then board a local bus that will take you to the airport.
Once at the Albrook Bus Terminal, you have several different options. You can board one of the buses that read "Paraiso" or "Gamboa", which are operated by a company called La Saca and depart from behind Burger King, or you can board one of the Metro Buses that read "Miraflores" or "Ciudad de Saber". These buses don't pass directly in front of the terminal, but they will stop just up the road. From there it's a short walk to the terminal entrance.
Taxi's charge approximately $4.00 - $5.00 from the city district, and $2.00 from the Albrook Bus Terminal.
Panama's Tocumen International Airport is located just 30 minutes southeast of Panama City. Direct and connecting flights depart and arrive daily, flying to and from all major destinations. As well, the airports in Bocas del Toro and David service international flights, see below.
- Air Panama (•): 316-9000
- Copa Airlines: 217-2672
- Nature Air (••) Panama City: 757-9963 | Bocas del Toro: 656-0460
(•) Air Panama flies to San José, Costa Rica from David and Bocas :el Toro.
(••) Nature Air, a Costa Rica airline company, offers service between Bocas del Toro, Panamá and Pavos Airport in San José, Costa Rica.
Bus Service - Domestic
Traveling by bus throughout Panama is efficient and affordable, and virtually every part of the country is accessible. Larger cities, like David, Santiago and Colon, are serviced by large, modern buses, whereas much of the country’s interior is serviced by smaller mini-buses. All buses depart regularly from the Albrook Bus Terminal (tel: 303-3040), which is located just 5-10 minutes outside of the city district.
The metropolitan bus system, known as "'Metro Bus", has a fleet of new, modern buses that run along most of the city's main arteries. In order to ride the "Metro Bus" you must purchase a pre-paid card, which can be purchased in any of their offices. Bus fares for local routes cost $0.25, whereas routes to the outerlying areas cost $1.25. You can recharge your card at any Metro Bus office, in select stores.
Bocas del Toro
Buses to Chiriqui Grande, Almirante and Changuinola depart daily from Panama City (tel: 303-6326) at 7:00 p.m, 7:30 p.m. and 8:00 p.m.. When returning to Panama City, buses from Changuinola at 7:00 a.m. and 6:00 p.m., and from Almirante 8:00 a.m. and 7:00 p.m. The ride to/from Panama City to Changuinola takes approximately 10 hours. Panama City - Chiriqui Grande ($21.75), Panama City - Almirante - Bocas del Toro ($27.80), Panama City - Almirante ($29.10)
Colón & David
Express and local bus service to Colon is available throughout the day (tel: 303-6379). Express buses, costing $3.15, depart every 30 - 45 minutes between the hours of 4:55 a.m. - 9:00 p.m .(the trip takes approximately 1.5 hours). Local buses depart as frequently, between the hours of 3:30 a.m. - 11:00 p.m., and cost $1.80 (the trip takes about 2.5 hours).
Regularly scheduled buses travel between Panama City and David throughout the day. The trip lasts approximately 7-8 hours and costs $10 - $11. There are also "Express" buses that complete the trip in just 6-7 hours, and they cost $15 - $16.
Panamá/Costa Rica Border
Direct buses to the Panama/Costa Rica border depart from the Albrook Terminal throughout the day, normally stopping in Santiago and David along the way. The trips lasts about 8.5 - 9 hours and costs approx. $18.00. Or, you can take a bus to David and then hop on a local bus that will take you to the border. Likewise, if you 're at the border you can either take a direct bus to Panama City or a local bus to David, where you'll then need to hop on a bus that travels to Panama City.
Sightseeing Panama (tels: 392-6000, 392-9999) is an international company that offers bus tours of the Panama Canal and Panama City. Your ticket allows you to HOP ON and HOP OFF at any of their many stops for a specified periof of time. Stops include Albrook Mall, Panama Canal, Museum of Biodiversity, Flamenco Island (Causeway), Casco Antiguo (Viejo), Multicentro Mall, Panama Viejo and Multiplaza Mall.
Bus Service - International
There are two bus companies offer bus service between Panama City, Panama and San José, Costa Rica, Tickets cost approximately $40.00 each way, and the trip lasts between 14-16 hours. Buses depart from and return to the Albrook Bus Terminal.
Car Rental Companies
- Alma: 236-5777
- Ancon: 225-1433
- Arrendadora Economica: 229-5257
- Automobile Car Rental: 225-8974
- Avis: 800-2847
- B&B Rent a Car: 391-7640
- Barrage: 269-0056
- Budget: 263-8777
- Continental Car Rental: 213-0177
- Dollar: 270-0355
- Executives Rent a Car: 392-0202
- Express Car Rental: 225-3200
- Hertz: 301-2611
- National Car Rental: 265-2222
- Panama Rent a Car: 263-7604
- Panarent Rent a Car: 393-3180
- Payless Car Rental: 263-2000
- Prestige Car Rental: 393-9406
- Shellane’s: 265-3880
- Sixt: 269-7498
- Smile Rent a Car: 396-2050
- Thrifty: 800-2277
- Truck 4 Rent: 360-1515
- Sea Las Perlas - Isla Contadora
- Ferry Las Perlas - Isla Contadora
- Ferry Express - Cartegena, Colombia & Bocas del Toro, Panamá
- Calypso Queen - Isla Taboga
- Caribe Shuttle - Bocas del Toro, Panamá & Puerto Viejo, Costa Rica
Helicopter Rental & Tours
Metro City Train Service
Inaguarted in 2014, at a cost of over $1.5 billion dollars, Panama's Metro is Central America's first underground railway system. The Metro currently operates one line, which connects the Albrook Bus Termainal and Los Andes Shopping Mall, though there are plans to add an additional line. Covering a distance of 8.5 miles (13.7 km), the ride costs just $0.35 and must be paid for with the Metro card - the same card that is used for the Metro buses. Trains pass every 5 minutes and make several stops along Via España, i.e Via Argentia, Via Veneto and 5 de Mayo. The Metro, a very pleasant experience, offering an affordable, rapid and convenient way of getting around Panama City.
Motorcycle Rental & Tours
Panama Canal Railway Service
The Panama Canal Railway (tel: 317-6070), a 47.6 mile transcontinental railroad operating parallel to the Panama Canal, offers passenger service Monday – Friday between Panama City and Colon. The train departs Corozal at 7:15 a.m. and returns from Colon at 5:15 p.m. The trip lasts one hour and costs $22.00 each way and provides passengers with a wonderful opportunity to see the Canal in its entirety.
(Note: you can not reserve seats in the tourist car, which has a glass ceiling, but if you arrive early you should be able to obtain tickets without too much difficulty.)
Getting to Corozal
Taxis charge approximately $5.00 from the city district, and $3.00 - $4.00 from the Albrook Bus Terminal. If you wish to travel by bus, you will need to take a bus that departs from the Albrook Bus Terminal - buses to Paraiso, Gamboa, Miraflores, Ciudad de Saber and Forestal all pass by the train terminal.
Taxi’s throughout Panama are plentiful and can be easily recognized by their yellow color and numbered markings. All fares are based on zones, there are no meters; cab drivers are required by law to carry a copy of the zone chart with them at all times. Most fares within the metropolitan area average $2.00 - $4.00, and for each addition passenger there is a $0.50 surcharge. Trips between Panama City and Tocumen International Airport cost $25.00 - $30.00 for two people (one way), with each additional passenger required to pay $10.00. The standard hourly rate for taxi rental in Panama City hovers between $8.00 - $12.00, depending on the vehicle type and service you are requesting.
Newspapers & Online Media
Panama has several Spanish and English newspapers and magazines, most of which are readily available in stores, hotels and street vendors. Below we have listed the major national periodicals, which are followed by tourism oriented publications.
- Bella Vista News
- Capital FInanciero
- Costa del Este News
- Critica Libre
- Dia a Dia
- El Siglo
- El Venezolano
- Hora Cero
- La Estrella de Panama
- La Panama America
- La Prensa
- Mi Diario
- San Francisco News
Spanish & English
- Focus Panama
- The Bocas Breeze
- The Bulletin Panama
- The Panama News
- The Pearl Island Times
- The Visitor / El Visitante
Museums & Exhibits
Panama’s diverse Indian culture, and pivotal role in providing transoceanic passage between the Atlantic and Pacific oceans, has lead to the creation of numerous museums. For those visiting Panama, these museums provide visitors with an interesting perspective of the country’s past and its contributions. Below we have listed the frequented museums, along with a description, their location and phone number.
Afro Antillian Museum
- Location: Calle 24 este y Ave. Justo Arosemena (in front of the Metro train station)
- Hours: 8:30 a.m. - 3:00 p.m., Tuesday - Saturday
- Cost: Adults - $1.00
- Biodiversity Museum
- Location: Causeway
- Hours: Monday, Wednesday - Sunday (Closed Tuesday)
- Cost: Adults - $22.00 / under 18 yrs. $11.00 (non - residents)
Contemporary Art Museum
There are a permanent exhibitions displaying artwork using the different techniques of oil, frescoes, watercolor, pastels, tints and engravings.
- Location: Calle San Blas, Ancon y Ave. de los Martires
- Open: Tuesday - Sunday, 9:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m.
- Cost: Adults - $1.00 | Children: $0.50
- Gold Factory Tour (Reprosa)
- Reprosa offers a one hour tour of their gold exhibit, which includes a refreshment and "goodie bag". Make your reservations 24 hours in advance.
- Location: Corner of Samuel Lewis Ave & 54th St. (next to Plaza Obarrio)
- Hours: Monday - Friday, 9:30 a.m. - 2:00 p.m.
- Cost: $10.00
- Panama Canal Museum
- An outstanding exhibit of Panama’s historic role as interoceanic route from pre-historic times to the building of the Panama Canal. Guides can be hired, but you must call and make a reservation in advance. For groups of up to ten people, guides cost $5.00 per person.
- Location: Plaza Cathedral, San Felipe (Casco Antiguo)
- Open: Tuesday - Sunday, 9:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m
- Cost: Adults - $2.00 | Children: $0.75
Panamanian History Museum
This museum offers visitors a detailed collection of objects dealing with Panamanian history. The collection spans from colonial times up to the Torrijos-Carter treaty of 1977.
- Location: Building "Palacio Municipal" Cathedral Plaza in Casco Antiguo (the building just to the right of the Panama Canal Musuem)
- Open: Monday - Friday, 9:00 a.m. - 4:00 p.m.
- Cost: Adults - $1.00 | Children & Students: $0.75
Religious Colonial Art Museum
This museum dates back to the early 1700’s. It’s structure is a treasure unto itself, as it is located in one of the old chapels of the Church and Convent of Santo Domingo. View a collection of religious paintings, silver religious pieces and the golden altar.
- Location: Casco Antiguo, between Ave. A y Calle 3
- Open: Tuesday - Saturday, 8:30 a.m. - 3:00 p.m.
- Cost: Free
Museum of Natural Science
It exhibits geology, paleontology, mammals, reptiles and national flora and fauna.
- Location: Ave. Cuba, between 29th & 30th
- Open: Monday - Friday, 9:00 a.m. - 3:30 p.m.
- Cost: Adults - $1.00 | Children - $0.75 | Groups (5 or more) - $5.00
National Bank Museum
It houses a fine and valuable collection of coins and paper bills, metallic coins and other financial papers, dating back to the sixteenth century.
- Location: Calle 34 y Ave. Cuba
- Open: Monday - Friday, 8:00 a.m. - 12:30 p.m. | 1:30 p.m. - 4:00 p.m.
- Cost: Free
Camera/Video - Service & Repair
Professional camera/video repair service is available at the following authorized repair service center.
Fotoser S. A. (Canon/Olympus)
- Location: Building "El Paical", First Floor, Office #3 - behind Banismo Bank in Transistmica
- Tel: 261-0436
Bocas del Toro
- Casco Antiguo Spanish School
- EPA - Espanol en Panama
- Habla Ya
- Ileri Spanish Institute
- Spanish Panama
Marinas & Yacht Clubs
Bocas del Toro
Isla Flamenco / Panama Canal
National Parks & Reserves
Bastimentos Marine Park
The Bastimentos Marine Park encompasses a significant portion of Isla Bastimentos, Islas Zapatilla, and the waters and mangroves that surround these islands. Oddly enough, the portion of Isla Bastimentos that has been reserved for the park resides in the middle of the island, and runs north - south. The island’s western end, which includes Bastimentos town and Red Frog Beach, and eastern end, which includes Cayo Coral, are not part of the marine park.
There is no access to the park along the southern side of Isla Bastimentos, as the shoreline is comprised entirely of dense mangrove and forest. You can access the park along its northern side, but you’ll need to hire a boat to take you there or walk from Bastimentos town or Red Frog Beach. Keep in mind, the northern side of the island faces the Caribbean Sea, and as a result has much rougher seas. While there is ample space for boat landings, most of the beaches can’t be accessed unless weather/water conditions permit - the best time of year would be between August-October. The landscape along the northern side varies, and includes large rock outcroppings, stretches of long beaches, and numerous coves and inlets. There is no defined trail, you’ll just have to make your way. Expect to get wet!
Isla Bastimentos contains a healthy supply of wildlife, including the white face and howler monkeys, sloths, and the ever so popular poison dart frogs, but the absence of interior trails means you’ll be limited to the whatever makes itself visible along the coast. Though not part of the marine park, the area around Bastimentos town and Red Frog Beach are the best areas to see the multicolored poison dart frogs. Only 3/4” in length, they come in a multitude of colors and shouldn’t be too difficult to find, even without a guide.
The park’s headquarters are located on Isla Zapatilla’s southernmost island, where Panama’s National Environmental Authority (ANAM) maintains an office. There is a short nature trail that leads to the windward side of the island, winding through mangrove and forest. All visitors must pay $10 to enter into the park.
Metropolitan Natural Park
The Metropolitan Natural Park (MNP), situated just outside of downtown Panama City, serves as a wonderful retreat for those interested in escaping from the neighboring city; it is the only park in Latin America with a natural forest located within a metropolitan capital. Encompassing approximately 655 acres, 474 of which consist of dry lowland Pacific forest, the Metropolitan Natural Park was decreed a park in 1985. Managed by an array of governmental and private institutions, including the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute, the Metropolitan Park also shelters plants and animals threatened by extinction.
The park has four trails, all of which are well maintained and easy to hike. As well, there are several “look-out” points that offer sweeping views of the park, Panama City, Panama Bay and surrounding area.
For more information, we recommend you visit the Metropolitan Natural Park website. The park itself is open from 6:00 a.m.-5:30 p.m., however, the administration office (tel. 232-5552) opens at 8:00 a.m. Guided tours are available upon request, however a minimum number of people are required and the service must requested in advance.
Getting to Metropolitan Natural Park
There are no public buses that service the park, you will need to take a taxi. From the city district, it shouldn't cost more than $3-5.
Coiba National Marine Park
Situated in the Gulf of Chiriqui and comprised of 38 islands, Coiba National Marine Park covers 430,825 acres and was identified by UNESCO in 2005 as a World Heritage Site. Once a penal colony, the park is currently managed by the National Authority for the Environment (ANAM) and offers visitors an opportunity to appreciate its pristine natural resources. White sand beaches, lush verdant forest, prolific wildlife, and world class diving are just some of the many things you’ll enjoy during your visit to Coiba National Park.
Coiba Island, the largest of the 38 islands, is located approximately 30 miles off the Panamanian coast and is home to the park’s headquarters, which is situated on the westernmost portion of the island, facing north. All visitors to the marine park are required to obtain a permit, which costs $20.00 per person/per day. The ranger station consists of a small beach, visitors/information center, kitchen, bathrooms, and cabins.
The island also has one trail, the “Monkey Trail, which departs just off to the right of the visitors center and leads up to the top of the nearby hill. The trail itself is rather steep, but well maintained and easy to follow. The remaining portion of your hike should take between 15-25 minutes, depending on your physical condition. Upon reaching the hilltop, the trail levels off and you’ll find two different lookout areas, each offering spectacular views of the neighboring islands. The first, just off to the right side of the trail, offers stunning views of the ranger station and beach below, in addition to nearby islands. The latter, which is just a short distance further along the same trail, offers terrific views of distant islands and the Pacific Ocean. And yes, there are monkeys on this trail!
Overnight accommodation on Coiba Island can be coordinated by consulting directly with ANAM in Santiago at (tel: 998-0615). If you are traveling alone or in a small group you might be able to arrange your accommodation upon reaching the island, providing ample space is available. If you are traveling in a large group we highly recommend you contact the main office in Santiago beforehand.
The facilities on the island include a kitchen, however, you are required to bring your own food and beverages. There is a $20.00 fee/per person for each night spent on the island, this in addition to the $20.00 park entrance fee all visitors pay. Some local hotels and tour operators schedule overnight trips to Coiba Island, including all food, lodging and transportation, so you might want to consult with them as well.
Visiting Coiba National Park
The closest access point to Coiba National Park is Santa Catalina, which is about 1-1.5 hours away by boat. Along the main road there are several tour operators that offer snorkeling and dive trips to Coiba National Park. As well, bird watching and fishing tours can also be arranged. It is from Estero Beach that all of the dive/snorkel tour boats depart, normally no later than 8:30/9:00 a.m. to ensure you enjoy a full day in the marine park. Tours normally return to Santa Catalina between 4:30 - 5:00 p.m. If you don’t have a pre-booked tour you can just walk around and consult with the different businesses to see what they have to offer. Some tour operators offer lunch, others don’t, so make sure you know what you’re getting before hand.
Diving trips to Coiba National Park normally consist of 2 or 3 dives per day - there are no night dives offered by land based operators. Unless they can fill the boat with snorkelers only, in all likelihood your boat will consist of both snorkelers and divers, in which case the snorkelers will be dropped off at select locations (small, outer islands) while the divers complete their dives.
The trip to and from Coiba Island can be a rough one, everything depends on the weather and sea conditions. The tour boats try to hug the coastline as long as possible, this helps protect them from unfavorable sea conditions. Life vests are always provided.
Getting To Santa Catalina
By Bus - there are no direct buses to Santa Catalina, you will need to take a bus to either Soná or Santiago, and then change buses. Mini-buses from Panama City to Soná depart regularly and take approximately 5 hours. From Soná, you’ll need to take another mini-bus to Santa Catalina, which will take an additional 1.5 hours. Bus service between Soná and Santa Catalina is regular, with buses departing 4-5 times daily. You can also take a bus from Panama City to Santiago (314-6230/998-3818), which takes approximately 3.5 hours. The buses that run between Panama City and Santiago tend to be larger and more comfortable than those which depart directly for Soná. From Santiago, you’ll need to take a mini-bus to Soná, and from there the same mini-bus mentioned above to Santa Catalina. Buses from Santiago to and from Soná depart regularly, perhaps every 30-45 minutes. Either way, the trip will take between 7-8 hours to complete.
By Car - from Panama City, take the Interamerican Highway until you reach Santiago, and turn left at the Shell station (Ave. Central) Follow this street for approximately 2 miles, passing the church on the left side. At the second crossroad, turn right and continue until you reach the next Shell station.. At this station, turn left and follow the sign to Santa Catalina. After approx. 28 miles, turn left in El Tigre de los Amarillos, following the sign for Santa Catalina, Lagartero. Continue along this road until you reach the intersection in Soná, then turn right and continue along this road until you reach Santa Catalina. The trip trip from Panama City to Santa Catalina takes approximately 6 hours.
Bocas del Toro Province
The province of Bocas del Toro resides along Panama’s Atlantic coast, bordering Comarca Ngöbe–Buglé to the east; Chiriqui province to the south; Costa Rica to the west; and Caribbean Sea to the north. The province is comprised of a section on the mainland, in addition to numerous islands just off the coast, which include Isla Colon, Isla Bastimentos and Zapatilla Cays among others.
- Al Natural Resort
- Bocas Island Lodge
- Bubba's House
- Casa Cayuco
- Eclypse de Mar
- Hotel Caribbean View
- Hotel El Limbo
- Hotel Macca Bite
- La Loma Jungle Lodge
- Palmar Tent Lodge
- Red Frog Beach Island Resort & Spa
- The Bungalows at Red Frog Beach
- Tranquilo Bay
- Yellow Jack Lodge/Hostel
- Aqua Lounge
- Buccaneer Sport Fishing Resort
- Careening Cay Resort
- Casa Acuario
- Gran Kahuna Beach Hostel
- Hotel Tierra Verde
- Apartotel Tropical Suites
- Azucar Surf Retreat
- Bahia del Sol Guest House
- Bocas Paradise Hotel
- Bocas Surf Hostel
- Bocas Tropical Suites
- Brisas Bocas
- Calypso Hostel
- Casa Blanca Guesthouse
- Casa Verde Hostel & Guesthouse
- Cocomo on the Sea Bed & Breakfast
- Coconut Hostel
- El Limbo
- Gran Hotel Bahia
- Gran-Kahuna Hostel
- Hostal Hansi
- Hostal International
- Hostel Heiki
- Hotel Angela
- Hotel Bahia
- Hotel Bocas del Toro
- Hotel Cala Luna
- Hotel Cayo Zapatilla
- Hotel La Rumba
- Hotel Las Brisas
- Hotel Los Delfines
- Hotel Oasis Over the Sea
- Hotel Olas
- Hotel Vista Mar
- Hotelito de Mar
- Koko Resort
- La Coralina
- Lula's Bed & Breakfast
- Mar e Iguana Frontbeach Hostel
- Mondo Taitu Hostel
- Palma Royale Hotel & Resort
- Playa Mango Hotel
- Playa Tortuga Resort
- Posada Los Delfines
- Pukalani Hostel
- Punta Caracol
- Selina Hostel
- South Beach Boutique Hostel
- Swans Cay
- Tungara Hostel
Bocas del Drago
Isla San Cristóbal
Ojo de Agua Changuillo District
The province of Chiriqui resides along Panama’s Pacific coast and shares a border with Comarca Ngöbe–Buglé to the east/northeast; Veraguas province to the east/southeast; Gulf of Chiriqui to the south; Costa Rica to the west; and Bocas del Toro province to the north. Like Bocas del Toro, Chiriqui is comprised of a mainland section, in addition to several islands just off the coast.
Isla Boca Brava
- Boquete Garden Inn
- Boqute Tree Trek Mountain Resort
- Cabinas Momentum
- Cabinas El Parador
- Cabinas Los Piños
- Cabinas Sabrin
- Cabinas Sunny Hills
- Casa Victoria
- El Oasis Boquete Hotel
- Finca Lerida Ecolodge
- Hacienda Los Molinos Boutique Hotel
- Haven Spa
- Hostel Boquete
- Hostel Casa Pedro
- Hotel Fundadores
- Hostel Gaia
- Hotel Ladera
- Hostel Nomba
- Hostel Refugio del Rio
- Hostel Villa Marita
- Hotel Valle Escondido
- Hotel Villa Marita
- Isla Verde Hotel
- La Casa de Abuela
- La Casa del Risco Boutique Hotel
- Los Establos Boutique Hotel
- Panamonte Inn & Spa
- Pension Marilos
- Rancho de Caldera
- Stone Cabins Boquete
- The Coffee Estate Inn
- The Riverside Inn
- Tinamou Cottage
- Valle Escondido Resort, Golf & Spa
- Valle del Rio Inn
- Valle Primavera
Isla La Eseñada
Playa Las Lajas
Valle Las Minas
The province of Cocle resides along Panama’s Pacific coast, just east of the Azuero Peninsula. It shares a border with the province of Panama to the east; Gulf of Panama to the south; Herrera province to the south/southwest; Veraguas province to the west; and Colon province to the north.
Altos de María
El Valle de Antón
- Anton Valley Hotel
- Canopy Lodge
- Crater Valley
- Golden Frog Inn Bed & Breakfast
- Hotel & Cabanas Las Mosas
- Hotel Campestre
- Los Capitanes
- Los Mandarinos Boutique Spa & Hotel
- Park Eden Bed & Breakfast
- Residencial El Valle
- Rincon Vallero Hotel
Playa Blanca - Farallon
- Casa Guardia
- Hotel Royal Decameron
- Nikki Beach Hotels
- Playa Blanca Beach Hotel & Resort
- Hotel Riu Playa Blanca
- Wyndham Grand Playa Blanca
The province of Colon resides along Panama’s Atlantic coast, and is divided into two distinct sections of similar size as a result of the Panama Canal. Colon shares a border with San Blas (Comarca Kuna Yala) to the east; Panama province to the south/southeast; Cocle Province to the southwest; Veraguas province to the west; and Caribbean Sea to the north.
- Hotel Andros
- Hotel Harbor Inn Panama
- Hotel Melia Panama Canal
- Hotel Meryland
- Hotel New Washington
- Hotel Radisson Colon2000
The Darien is Panama’s easternmost province and borders Colombia to the east; Pacific Ocean to the south; Panama province to the west, and San Blas (Comarca Kuna Yala) to the north.
Residing on the Azuero Peninsula, Herrera is Panama's smallest province and borders the Gulf of Panama to the east; Los Santos province to the south/southeast; Veraguas province to the west; and Cocle province to the north.
Los Santos Province
The southernmost province on the Azuero Peninsula, Los Santos borders the Gulf of Panama to the east; Pacific Ocean to the south; Veraguas province to the west; and Herrera province to the north.
- Casita Margarita
- Hostel Doña Maria
- Hostel Villa Marina
- Pedasi Sports Club
- Playita Resort
- Posada Los Destiladores
- Villa Camilla
- Villa Romana
The province of Panama. like the province of Colon, is divided into two two distinct parts as a result of the Panama Canal, and borders San Blas (Comarca Kuna Yala) to the northeast; Darien province to the east; Gulf of Panama to the south; Cocle province to the west; and Colon province to the north. As well, the province also includes numerous islands just off the Pacific coast, which include the Pearl Islands and Toboga Island among others.
Casco Antiguo (Viejo)
- Ace Hotel
- American Trade Hotel
- Casa Nuratti
- Casa Sucre Boutique Hotel
- El Hotel Colón
- Hospedaje Casco Viejo
- Hostel Casco Viejo
- Hostel Luna's Castle
- Hotel Casco Antiguo
- Hotel Herrera
- Hotel Las Clementinas
- Los Cuatro Tulipanes
- Luna's Castle Hostel
- Magnolia Inn
- Selina Hostel
- Tantalo Hotel
- The Canal House
- White Lion Hotel & Hostel
City of Knowledge (Ciudad de Saber)
Costa del Este
- Aloft Panama
- Aparthotel Coral Suites
- Aparthotel Las Vegas
- Aparthotel Sevilla Suites
- Aparthotel Torres de Alba
- Avalon Grand Panama Resort
- Baru Lodge
- Canal Inn Bed & Breakfast
- Casa Sucre Boutique Hotel
- Clarion Victoria Hotel & Suites
- Continental Hotel & Casino
- Country Inn Suiies
- Double Tree
- Fusion Lofts
- Hostel Madeira Little Valley Suites
- Hostel Mama Llena
- Hostel / Bed & Brealfast Villa Michelle
- Hostel Siriri
- Hostel Villa Vento Surf
- Hotel Andino
- Hotel Aramo
- Hotel Avila
- Hotel Az
- Hotel Bahia Suites
- Hotel Benidorm
- Hotel Centroamericano
- Hotel Costa Inn
- Hotel Crown Plaza
- Hotel Crystal Suites
- Hotel Deville
- Hotel Discovery
- Hotel Dos Mares
- Hotel El Ejecutivo
- Hotel Hard Rock Cafe
- Hotel Hyatt Place
- Hotel Latino
- Hotel Marbella
- Hotel Milán
- Hotel Miramar
- Hotel Montreal
- Hotel My Home in Panama
- Hotel Parador
- Hotel Roma Plaza
- Hotel Saba
- Hotel San Fransisco
- Hotel Sheraton
- Hotel Stanford
- Hotel The Bristol
- Hotel Toscana Inn
- Hotel Veracruz
- Hotel Via España
- Hotel Waldorf Astoria
- La Estancia Bed & Breakfast
- La Cresta Inn
- Le Chateau de Xello Petit Suites
- Lemon Inn
- Metro Hotel Panama
- Pequeño Paraiso Bed & Breakfast
- Playa Bonita Resort & Spa - Playa Kobbe
- Plaza Paitilla Inn
- Radisson Hotel Decapolis
- Radisson Summit Hotel & Golf
- Ramada Plaze Panamá
- Riande Granada
- Riu Plaza Panamá
- Royal Sonesta Hotel & Casino
- Sortis Hotel, Spa & Casino
- Trump Hotel
- YRYP Centro
- Veneto Wyndham Grand Hotel & Casino
- Isla Contadora
- Beach Club Las Perlas
- Casa del Sol
- Contadora Island Inn
- Gerald's Bed & Breakfast
- Hibiscus House
- Hotel Punta Galeon
- Perla Real
- The Point
- Villa Romantica
- Villa Sea Star
- Isla San José
- Hacienda del Mar
San Blas (Comarca Kuna Yala)
Home of the Kuna Indians, San Blas consists of a thin strip of land and hundreds of small idyllic islands that lie just off the Atlantic coast. Stretching from the coastal community of Porvenir to the Colombian border, San Blas borders Colombia to the east; Darien province to the east/southeast; Panama province to the south; Colon province to the west; and Caribbean Sea to the north.
- Akwadup Lodge - Playon Chico
- Carti Homestay - Carti
- Dad Ibe Lodge - Ailigandi
- Hotel Porvenir - Porvenir
- Kuanidup Island Lodge - Isla Kuanidup
- Sapibenega - Playon Chico
- Uaguinega Dolphin Lodge - Mamitupu
- Ukuptupu - Isla Ukuptupu
- Yandup - Isla Yandup
Covering an area that reaches both the Atlantic to Pacific coasts, Veraguas shares a border with the Colon and Cocle provinces to the east; Herrera and Los Santos provinces to the southeast; Caribbean Sea to the south; Chiriqui province to the southwest; Comarca Ngöbe–Bugle to the west; and Caribbean Sea to the north. The Veraguas province is the only province that shares a border with five different provinces, and also includes numerous islands off the southern coast, one of which is Isla Coiba.
- Heliconia B&B - Azuero Peninsula
- Blue Zone Hostel Panama
- Cabañas Time Out
- Casa Dos Palmas
- Casa Kenia
- Casa Maya
- Hibiscus Garden
- Hostal El Mundo Pequeño
- Hotel Santa Catalina
- Hotel Sol y Mar
- La Buena Vida
- La Casa Verde
- Oasis Surf Bungalows
- On the Reef Hotel
- Rancho Estero
- Rolo's Cabins
- Santa Catalina Inn
- Santa Catalina Surf Point & Mama Inés
- Sherlley's Cabins
- Surfside Point
- Wahoo Rock Hotel
Destinations - Things to Do
Bocas del Toro
[ Google Map ]
Once a low budget, backpackers retreat, Bocas del Toro has gradually become a more upscale, international destination. While the overwhelming majority of its visitors are still budget travelers, the arrival of newly built hotels and expensive, residential developments has begun to attract a more demanding, international clientele. As well, Bocas has a rather stable ex-pat community, comprised primarily of North American and European citizens. With international flights now arriving from San José, Costa Rica, Bocas is expected to continue along the same path and find a permanent home on the international tourist map.
Getting to/from Bocas del Toro
Daily flights service Bocas del Toro (Colon Island) from Panama City (Air Panama: 757-9841) and from San José, Costa Rica (Nature Air: 656-0350).
From the Albrook Bus Terminal in Panama City, overnight buses depart daily to the coastal communities of Almirante ($23.00) and Changuinola ($24.00). Buses depart Panama City between the hours of 7:00 p.m. - 9:00 p.m., arriving Almirante at 5:30 a.m. and Changuinola at 6:30 a.m. These same buses depart daily from Changuinola and Almirante for Panama City.
From David, mini-buses to Almirante and Changuinola depart daily from the central bus terminal (tel: 775-0268), between the hours of 5:30 a.m. - 6:30 p.m.
If you are arriving from Costa Rica and have entered into Panama at the Sixaola border, you will need to take a mini-bus or taxi from Changuinola to Almirante, as there are no longer any water taxis departing from Changuinola. Mini-buses depart every 30 minutes from the central bus terminal and take approximately 1 hour. Once in Almirante, you will need to take a water taxi to Colon Island - the dock is just a 5 minute walk from the bus terminal.
Situated on the southeastern side of Bastimentos Island, just 30 minutes by water taxi from Bocas town, Coral Cay is Bocas’ most popular tourist destination.
Most day tours, particularly those visiting Zapatilla Cays (see below), stop for lunch at Coral Cay. Food orders are customarily placed 1-2 hours before lunch is served, providing visitors with ample time to snorkel, dive or visit the nearby attractions. Upon your return, normally around 1:00 p.m., your meal is promptly served, complete with cold beer, soft drinks or tropical drinks. Fresh lobster, fish, turtle, and conch are just a sample of what you’ll find at any of the restaurants at Coral Cay, delicately prepared by seasoned chefs with island herbs and spices.
Just in front of the restaurants visitors can snorkel or swim at their leisure, where common sighting include sizable populations of angel fish, sea cucumbers, hard coral, and numerous other colorful, tropical fish.
Most frequently visited for lunch, Coral Cay is a perfect resting spot to savor the mornings events, as well as look forward to the afternoon’s activities. Ample shelter and gentle sea breezes make this place a must see if your in Bocas.
Just off the Colon Island, resting on the northwest tip of Nancy Cay (Isla Solarte), lies Hospital Point. Once the central medical center for the United Fruit Company, which established its headquarters in Bocas del Toro in 1899, Hospital Point is now under private ownership. Home to a variety of colorful marine life, some of which include moray eels, angelfish, parrot fish, sea stars, tube sponges, stinging coral and spiny lobsters, the shallow, clear and calm waters surrounding Hospital Point are ideal for snorkeling and scuba diving.
The water is shallowest just off the point and to the left when facing Bocas town, and deepest off to the right side where a steep wall descends to form part of the deep ocean channel that lies just in front of the island.
Most tour operators normally include a stop at Hospital Point as part of a full day tour - it's normally the last stop before returning to Bocas town. For those who prefer to visit Hospital Point at their leisure, private boats/water taxis can be hired, or you can rent a kayak by the hour, half day or full day.
Red Frog Beach
Red Frog Beach, who’s name is derived from the small, red poison dart frogs that inhabit the area, is one of three beaches that stretch along Bastimentos’ northern coast. Red Frog is Bocas’ most frequented beach and is almost always accessed via a short trail that originates from the island’s leeward side, though you can also access the beach by boat during certain months of the year when the seas are normally calm (August - October).
Most full day tours visit Red Frog Beach, usually in the afternoon and just before Hospital Point. If you’re not on a tour, you can also hire a boat in Bocas town to take you there.
Swan’s Cay (Bird Island)
Situated just off the northern most part of the Bocas Island is Swan’s Cay, or Bird Island. This small islet and its satellites are the only known nesting site in the southwest Caribbean for the Red-billed Tropic bird. It is also one of only three nesting sites of the Brown Booby on Panama’s Caribbean coast.
Full day tours from Bocas town to Bird Island island are available, but it's much easier and cheaper to visit the island from the town of Drago, which is located on the northern side of Colon Island. Public buses run between Bocas town and Drago Beach throughout the day, or you can take a taxi there. As well, you can rent a bike and ride there.
(Note: Bird Island is a marine preserve, you are not permitted to step onto the island.)
From Bocas town, a 1.5 hour boat ride through the Bastimentos National Marine Park takes you to Zapatilla Cays. Consisting of two small islands, Zapatilla Cays lie just to the east of Bastimentos Island. In addition to having the areas nicest beaches, particularly those along the leeward side, the water is ideal for swimming, snorkeling and scuba diving. Most tours visiting Zapatilla Cays will stop at Coral Cay for lunch, where you'll spend approx.1-2 hours.
Most tours to Zapatilla Cays visit the southernmost island, where Panama’s National Environmental Authority (ANAM) maintains an office. There is also find is a short nature trail that leads to the other side of the island, winding through a section comprised primarily of mangrove.
(Note: Zapatilla Cays are part of the Bastimentos Marine National Park, all visitors must pay $10 to disembark.)
While not world class, the diving in and around Bocas can be enjoyed throughout the year, with most dive spots no more than a 20-30 minute boat ride from Bocas town. There are, however, some dive spots near to Zapatilla Cays, like Tiger Rock, which require considerable more time. The water temperature is very tropical and constant, so wet suits are not required. Water visibility varies from one dive spot to another, and is almost always better during dry season months of August – October. Dives tend to be quite shallow, with most not exceeding 30-50 ft.
Scuba Diving Operators
Other Bocas Attractions
- Finca Los Monos (Monkey Farm)
- Bastimentos Sky Canopy Tour
- Smithsonian Institute Bocas Research Station
Boquete (Chiriqui Province)
[ Google Map ]
With an elevation of 3,600 ft. (1,200 m), and just 45 minutes from David, Boquete is nestled between the Caldera River to the east and Baru Volcano to the west, the latter of which is Panama’s highest peak at 11,400 ft. (3,475 m). While small when compared to David, Boquete is Chiriqui’s most populated and developed highlands community, with a very stable population and an ever increasing number of ex-pats.
Surrounded by steep, lush mountains to the north, east and west, and situated only 3.3 miles (7.3 km) south of Bocas del Toro province, Boquete’s combination of cool, brisk temperatures and rich, fertile soil serves as an ideal setting for coffee growing - all three of Panama's largest and most famous coffee manufacturers have operations in the region. As well, the comfortable climate is ideal for outdoor enthusiasts who enjoy rafting, hiking, mountain biking and birding.
Complete with a wide variety of hotels and restaurants, Boquete can satisfy both backpackers and more demanding, upscale travelers alike. Near to the Costa Rican border, and less than one hour from the provincal capital of David, Boquete is well worth a visit!
The Boquete tourism office resides just outside of town, on top of the ridge before you descend the town - off to the right side.
- Tel: 720-4060
- Hours: Tues. & Wed. 8:00 a.m. - 4:30 p.m. | Mon., Thurs. & Fri. 8:30 a.m. - 6:00 p.m. | Sat. & Sun. 9:00 a.m. - 6:00 p.m
Getting to Boquete
By bus from David: Buses depart from the main bus terminal in David every 25-30 minutes between the hours of 6:00 a.m. - 9:00 p.m., and cost approx. $1.20 p/p one-way. Signs at the terminal should make it easy for you to find the correct bus, which more often than not are of the large, school bus style type. Upon arriving Boquete, the bus will stop just in front of the park, which is centrally located and within walking distance to just about everything. (If you wish to be dropped off at the tourism office you'll have to notify the driver, but keep in mind that from there you'll have to walk into town, and that's quite a distance particularly if you have luggage) Buses returning from Boquete depart between 5:00 a.m. - 6:30 p.m., and depart from the opposite side of the park.
At 14,400 feet, Baru Volcano is Panama's highest point. The trip to the top of this volcano is an adventure for the fit and reckless only, as the road to the top is anything but a road; it is steep, muddy and relentless. The portion of the road that departs Boquete is paved, or mostly so, and then changes to a dirt, rocky road at the entrance to the park. There is no fee to enter the park, and camping is permitted in designated areas, with no limit on the amount of time you spend in the park. Temperatures at the top are very cool, particularly during the dry season months (December - March) when the cool temperatures are accompanied by high winds. Sweaters, jackets, and long pants are highly suggested, in not mandatory. If you plan to spend the night you would be foolish not to bring cold weather gear - people have died on Baru because they weren't properly prepared. Some trails exist on the top, leading to either side of the crater. Other trails to smaller craters also exist, however, it is recommended that you make any attempt with the assistance of a guide.
Getting to Baru Volcano
There are three options for those interested in getting to the top: (1) Walking - the hike will last approx. 5-6 hours, and that's providing you are in very good condition. During the rainy season the trip make take longer due to wet, muddy road conditions. (2) Car Rental - you can rent a truck in Boquete to take you there, but there is no guarantee that you will ever arrive, as they often have to turn back. It is said that these trips can cost as much as $150.00 for the day, assuming you can find somebody willing to rent you a vehicle for the trip. (3) Quadra Tracks - this is the quickest and most economical way to reach the summit, as these smaller, off-road vehicles can maneuver around the deep pits and holes that litter the road.
Just north of Boquete lies a privately funded botanical garden, which resides on a private estate. The trails are very well maintained and crisscross throughout the front and backyard, offering terrific photographic opportunities. Virtually all of the local plant species are represented here, very neatly arranged for pleasant viewing. Well worth a visit.
- Hours: 9:00 a.m. - 4:00 p.m.
- Cost: Free
Getting to Botanical Gardens
Walking: continue north on the same road that passes through the center of town. The walk should take about 20-30 minutes.
Hidden Waterfall (La Casacada Escondida)
Reaching 200-300 ft. in height, this beautiful waterfall is located just north of Boquete and well worth a visit. The trail leading up to the waterfall is lined with lush folliage, which makes for a wonderful 1/2 day hike. Off to the right side, there are large boulders you can climb to get an elevated view.
Getting to Hidden Waterfall
You will need to get on the bus that reads "Alto Quiel", which departs from the center of town. The bus ride lasts approx. 15 minutes and costs less than $2.00, and will drop you off at the trail's entrance.
From here, proceed along the dirt/gravel road and not the paved road, the latter being the start of the Los Quetzales Trail. Relatively flat, the trail narrows as it enters into the forest but remains very easy to follow, with just a few gradual hills along the way. The trail hugs the river from beginning to end, and you'll need to crisscross back and forth over it a few times before reaching the waterfall. Most of the crossings are narrow and some have bridges in place to help you get across. Along the trail you'll find many short paths that lead to the river's edge.
The end of the trail opens up into a large basin where you'll find the towering waterfall off to the left. The entire hike takes approx. 1 - 1-1/2 hours each way, depending on how fast you walk.
Los Quetzales Trail
The Los Quetzales trail unites the two communities of Boquete and Cerro Punta, and is one of Panama's most popular hikes. Cerro Punta resides on the western slope of Baru Volcano, whereas Boquete is situated on the volcano's eastern side. The trail cuts through some of the province's most pristine, protected forest, offering spectacular views of the surrounding valley. On both ends of the trail there is a National Park's office, where you'll be asked to sign in and pay $3.00 per person to enter. The overwhelming majority of those who complete the hike depart from Cerro Punta and not Boquete. Departing from Cerro Punta The road leading from Cerro Punta to the ranger station begins as a paved road and later turns into a dirt/gravel road. The paved section gradually climbs as it passes through private agricultural farms, whereas the dirt/gravel portion is steep and winding. There are few signs along the main road pointing to the Los Quetzales trail entrance, just one that is situated right at the entrance point. In spite of this, the trail should be easy to find, as locals should have no problem pointing you in the right direction. There are no public buses that service the Los Quetzales trail, rather you'll either have to walk or take a taxi to the ranger station. The walk from the trails entrance to the ranger station could take anywhere from 1.5 - 2 hours. There are taxis for hire that can take you to where the paved road ends, leaving to walk the remainder. As well, there are some 4x4 taxis that can take you right to the ranger station. For those who prefer to conserve their energy for the trail the latter might be your best option.
The hike begins with a relatively flat section as it heads to the lookout ledge (mirador), which is approximately 35-50 minutes from the ranger station - just prior to reaching the mirador trail there is a short, relatively steep section. The trail to the mirador breaks off the principal trail on the left side, and proceeds for a very short distance before reaching its end. Here you'll find a stable, wooden platform, from which you'll enjoy spectacular views looking east towards Boquete.
From here you'll have to retract back to the principal trail before continuing. From this point the trail generally heads lower, with some steep sections along the way. Most of the steep sections have secure, wooden staircases with handrails to assist you. After approximately 40-50 minutes of walking you'll come across what appears to be a camp ground. It's a rather large open area with open views to both sides, with benches and tables. It's a good spot for a break.
The trail continues to descend, offering some stunning views of the valley below. There are some very steep sections along the way, cutting through the dense jungle and rock face. In the steeper sections you'll once again find wooden staircases with handrails. As well, to ensure proper footing, round wooden steps have been placed along the trail's path. At some point, as the trail nears Boquete, the trail runs into the Caldera River, which will run alongside the trail right to its very end. Depending on your physical condition and interest in the local flora and fauna, it might take anywhere from 2.5 - 4 hours to descend from the lookout to the park headquarters in Boquete. The trail departs the forest and continues for approximately 30-50 minutes along a dirt road, which handles vehicle traffic. This road descends and ascends as it winds through several privately owned farms.
Upon departing the National Park Headquarters you'll have to walk to the principal road that services the town of Boquete, which should take approximately 50-70 minutes. Since the park headquarters has no telephone service, it's virtually impossible to arrange for transportation from the park itself. Once you reach the primary road, turn left and continue walking (At the point where the trail reaches primary road there is no public bus service available. However, if you walk along the main road for about 15-20 minutes, you'll reach a point where bus service begins, and from that point it will cost about $1.00 to return to Boquete.) You could also get lucky and hire a taxi that happens to be passing by.
Departing from Boquete If you enter the park from Boquete you can hire a 4x4 taxi to take you to the park headquarters, thus eliminating this portion of the hike.
(Note: If you wish to make the hike and hire a taxi to take you only to the trail entrance it's important that you take the proper trail. The trail sign that's situated along the roadside actually directs you to the wrong trail. Off the main road there are two trails that lead to the right. You HAVE to take the first trail and not the second. The correct trail will have a long, steel tube that runs along its left side, that will continue for some time until you reach a sign that reads "Proyecto de Riego". At that point stay left and continue walking. If you find yourself walking along the initial stages of the trail and don't see the metal tube you have selected the wrong trail.)
1) Warning: before leaning on the handrails we highly recommend you first grab it and test its sturdiness. Several of the handrails on the trail are weak and unable to support excessive weight. This is particularly true of the steep portion between the lookout and Boquete.
2) The trail itself is very well marked and one should have no difficulty staying on the trail. Several of the signs cite distances, which appear to be erroneous, so don't pay any attention to them.
3) An ample supply of water is highly recommended, particularly if you plan to hike your way to either of the park's two headquarters rather than take a taxi.
Throughout the trail there various resting stops, complete with tables and benches. We ask that you kindly take out all that you bring in. In spite of the fact that there are garbage bins in select areas, it's very difficult for the park system to retrieve any garbage that is left inside the park. Please bring out what you bring in!
San Ramon Waterfall
Approximately 150 ft. (50 m) high, and in two different parts, the San Ramon waterfall sits just off to the right side of the Caldera River, a short distance out of town. During the rainy season its quite impressive and well worth the trip.
Getting to San Ramon Waterfall
If you're walking, continue north along the principal road that passes through Boquete, you will see the church on the right side as you exit town. At the first intersection make a left and follow the sign for Bajo Lino/Bajo Alto. When you reach the next intersection make another left, there will be a sign pointing to Los Naranjos. At the next intersection, where you will see a bus stop, make a right and follow the sign for Bajo Mano. Shortly thereafter, you will cross a large, steel bridge. Continue on this road and when you reach the next intersection make a left - you will see a sign pointing to the waterfall, which is just further up the road off to the right side. The walk should take about 1 hour, perhaps a bit longer. The scenery is beautiful and well worth the time spent walking.
For those who prefer not to walk, you can hire a tax for about $1.50 - $2.00 one-way - the ride is only 10-15 minutes.
Resding on private property just north of Boquete, these thundering waterfalls reside on private property, so special permission and an entrance fee is required - $10 p/p. Several of the local tour operators in Boquete offer organized tours to the falls, we suggest that you consult with them.
Getting to the Mysterious Waterfall
To reach this waterfall you'll need to take the same bus (Alto Quiel) as mentioned above (see Hidden Waterfall). From the bus stop, proceed along the paved road as though you were starting out on the "Los Quetzales Trail"; there is a round tube that hugs the left side of the road. Walk for about 20 minutes until you see a small house off to the right, and just behind it a steel bridge. After crossing the bridge, stay to the right and follow the trail uphill. The path soon turns into cement and the climb becomes rather steep. Upon reaching the top, proceed through the gate and you'll find yourself on an open plateau. The trail turns downhill, bending to the left behind the small house, and then quickly back uphill en route to the first of the three waterfalls.
Rafting & Kayaking
Due to its mountainous topography and abundance of rainfall, Chiriqui's western most province offers visitors class III and IV commercial whitewater rafting and kayaking along its Chiriqui Viejo and Chiriqui Rivers. There are three major outfitters that offer rafting and whitewater rafting excursions.
White Water Rafting & Kayaking Companies
[ Google Map ]
Isla Grande, just 1.5 - 2 hours from Panama City, currently serves as weekend destination for urban Panamanians and tourists alike. While its beaches are not as spectacular as those found in Bocas del Toro or San Blas, the verdant green mountains, crystal clear water and Caribbean style atmosphere are inviting and still relatively undiscovered. The island's couple of hundred inhabitants make a living from fishing and growing coconuts, in addition to servicing the hundreds of visitors that have come to enjoy the island's natural beauty. There are no roads on the island, in fact, most of the island is inaccessible. Rather, the town itself is spread along the island's beach front, which on foot can be covered in just a few minutes. A well defined path stretches from the public beach on the far left to the far right side. Numerous small eateries, bars, markets and street vendors line the town's walkway. For those seeking accommodations, there are many fairly basic but comfortable cabins that reside just off the main path.
It's possible to hire boats for snorkeling, diving and sightseeing trips to nearby islands. Overall, Isla Grande is a peaceful place to spend a couple of days swimming, snorkeling, swinging in a hammock, eating seafood and enjoying the tropical climate.
Getting to Isla Grande
Buses to La Guaria depart Colon regularly but only those buses that read La Guaria reach Ila Grande. If you're traveling by bus from Panama City, there's no need to travel all the way to Colon. Get off in Sabanilla, where the REY supermarket is, and then catch a local bus heading to La Guaria. Once in La Guaria, you'll need to take a water taxi to Isla Grande, which is just a few minutes away.
[ Google Map ]
The ruins in Portobelo, declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1981, are dispersed over quite a large area, complete with cannons and stone walls, some in surprisingly good shape.
The first set, straddling the main road just as you enter into town, overlooks the Bay of Portobelo and is a terrific place to start. A large row of cannons line the left wall, and to the right a large open courtyard. Just off the right side of the road, nearly in front of the ruins, is a path that leads to the top of an adjacent hill, where wonderful views of the ruins and nearby town can be appreciated.
Further up the road, off to the left and just behind the customs house, is another section of ruins. Extending out into the Bay of Portobelo, there's a long row of cannons to your left that run the full length of the ruins, and to the right an open courtyard.
Just across the bay, and divided into three distinct parts, you'll find additional ruins worth visiting. There is stone trail that leads from the lowest fort, which resides along the water's edge, to the middle one, which is rather close and can be see from the lower section. It's an easy, short walk along a stone trail. To visit the third and highest fort, you'll have to hike along a wide, steep trail. The upper fort has no views of the lower sections, but has stunning views of Portobelo and surrounding areas. In order to visit these particular ruins you'll need to take a water taxi, which can be hired at the dock that resides just after the first set of ruins you encounter as you are entering into the town of Portobelo.
Getting to Portobelo Ruins
From Colon, buses to Portobelo depart throughout the day. As well, you can take any bus that reads "La Guaria", which passes by Portobelo en route to Isla Grande (see below). If you are traveling by bus from Panama City, get off in Sabanilla, which is about 15 minutes before reaching Colon - there's a large REY supermarket on the corner. The same buses that depart Colon for Portobelo and La Guaria pass by here. From Sabanilla, the trip takes about 30-60 minutes.
San Lorenzo Ruins
[ Google Map ]
Declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1981, the San Lorenzo ruins are perched high on a cliff overlooking the Chagres River, offering spectacular views of the entire coastline. While smaller in size than the ruins at Portobelo, San Lorenzo is different in that it has numerous caverns on the lower level which you can explore.
The San Lorenzo ruins are located inside a National Park, which contains numerous walking trails. If you wish to view the Chagres River, turn left at the intersection just before reaching the ruins and follow this road downhill to the water's edge.
(Note: there are no public restrooms or stores inside the national park, so bring everything you need, i.e. water.)
- Hours: Mon. - Sat. 8:00 a.m. - 4:00 p.m. | Sunday 8:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m.
- Cost: Adults - $5.00 | Students (with ID) - $1.00
Getting to Fort San Lorenzo Ruins
There is no public transportation to the San Lorenzo ruins, the public buses only go as far as Gatun Locks.
Taxis charge $60.00 - $70.00 for a round-trip visit to San Lorenzo from Colon, which should include ample time to view the ruins. If you are on a budget or prefer to walk, you can take a taxi to the entrance of Fort Sherman and walk from there - approximately 6 miles (9.5 km). From Gatun Locks, the ruins are nearly 14 miles (21.9 km), way too far to walk. There are numerous signs along the road pointing to San Lorenzo, so if you decide to walk you should have no problem finding your way.
Come and explore Panama’s largest walk through aviary, over 100 feet long with over twenty different species from the hummingbird to the toucan and many more. Experience the life cycle of butterflies in our butterfly enclosure, one of 20 different enclosures in the park. As you walk through the park, gaze at all the different plants and trees providing fruits and shade for all the different animals, from the capybara to the howler monkeys. Discover Panama’s wildlife through your five senses. Let the sound of the birds be music to your ears. Let the sight of so many vibrant colors brighten your day. Let the aroma of the lemon and mango trees remind you of a tropical zest. Feel the touch of a spider monkeys hand. Best of all, tell your friends and families about the majestic experience that Safarick’s Zoologico has to offer.
- Tel: 435-6900
- Hours: 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. (Closed Tues. & Wed.)
El Valle de Antón
[ Google Map ]
Just 1.5 - 2 hours from Panama City, El Valle de Antón is a wonderful place for a day trip or weekend getaway.
Panama's Tourism Institute (IPAT) maintains a small office in El Valle de Antón. The small booth resides on the corner just in front of the public market, they should have maps of the local area and most popular tourist attractions.
- Tel: 983-6474
- Hours: 7:30 a.m. - 3:30 p m. (Closed Mon. & Wed.)
Getting to/from El Valle de Antón
Mini-buses depart daily from the Albrook Bus Terminal (tel: 314- 6862) between the hours of 6:30 a.m. - 6:30/7:00 p.m. The trip takes approximately 2.5 hours and costs $4.25. Buses heading to Panama City from El Valle (tel: 983-6446) depart daily from 3:45 a.m. - 4:15 p.m. For those who wish to remain in El Valle after 4:15 p.m. but still wish to return to Panama City, you can take a local bus to the Panamerican Highway as late as 6:30/7:00 p.m., and from there catch another bus to Panama City.
For those driving, most of the trip is along the Pan-American highway - it takes approximately one hour to reach the turnoff for El Valle. When you see the sign for El Valle de Antón, make a right and continue for the remaining 17.4 miles (28 km). The trip from Panama City takes about 1.5 - 2 hours.
Butterfly Haven features a flight house of over 1500 sq feet containing approximately 250 tropical butterflies, including the Blue Morpho - the most beautiful butterfly in all the Americas. There is also a lifecycle education exhibit and both areas include a guided tour at no cost, if desired.
The mission of Butterfly Haven is to have visitors experience an enhanced appreciation of nature.
A major draw to El Valle, for both foreigners and locals alike, is the Sunday market. Apart from vegetables, fruit, plants and flowers, you can buy handicrafts such as wooden bowls, paintings on wood, hammocks, molas, baskets and ceramics. The market takes place in the center of town, under the roof of the recently rebuilt central market.
Hot Water Springs
Located just off the main road, the hot springs consist of five small pools, one of which contains therapeutic mud. The other four are just warm, hot springs.
- Hours: Mon. - Friday 8:00 a.m. - 12:00 p.m. & 1:00 p.m. - 5:00 p.m.
- Weekends: 8:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m.
- Cost: Adults - $1.00 | Children - $0.50
Waterfall "El Macho"
The "El Macho" Waterfall stands 210 ft (70 m) and is located just minutes from town. Open daily, visitors can choose between two different trails, one being longer than the other. During the rainy season the waterfall is quite impressive, with a large pool forming at its base, though you are not permitted to swim.
- Tel: 983-6547
- Hours: 8:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m.
- Cost: $3.50 - long trail | $2.00 - short trail
Getting to El Macho Waterfall
From the central market, continue along the main road, passing the church, until you cross over the bridge, and then turn right at the intersection. Continue along this road until you reach the waterfall, which is off to the left side. If you're walking, the trip shouldn't take anymore than 20-25 minutes - there are several signs to guide you. If you prefer, you can take one of the mini-buses that read "La Mesa", as they pass by the waterfall - these buses depart every 30 minutes, or thereabout. Or, you can hire a taxi for a few dollars.
El Nispero Nusery & Zoo
The El Nispero Plant Nursery & Zoo is much more of a nursery than a zoo, this in spite of the fact that they have several animal species represented there. Visitors will appreciate the very well maintained trails and extensive array of tropical plants, which include the country's national flower - El Espíritu Santo.
The Zoo is also the best place in El Valle to observe the famous golden toads. Most of their natural habitat has either been destroyed or is inaccessible, so it's virtually impossible to view them in their natural habitat, if they even exist. A new frog exhibit, which is managed by the Smithsonian Institute, has one large showcase for the famous golden toads and an additional 10-15 smaller exhibits for other frog species. It's very well presented and offers visitors a wonderful opportunity to see these fascinating reptiles up close.
- Tel: 983-6142
- Hours: 7:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m.
- Cost: Adults - $2.00 | Children 3-12 years of age - $1.00
Getting to El Nispero Zoo
Just before reaching the central market, turn right at the Police Station. Continue straight for one block, until you reach the fire station on the right side, then turn right. Continue along the same road until you reach the Zoo's entrance, which is off to the left.
Managed by the Association of Orchid Producers from El Valle and Cabuya, this facility concentrates on conserving endangered native orchids and promoting ecotourism and environmental education. Here you'll find a wide assortment of different orchids, in particular endemic species like orchid "El Espíritu Santo", which happens to be the National Flower.
- Tel: 983-6472
- Hours: 8:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m. 7/week
- Cost: Adults - $2.00 | Students - $1.00
Getting to the Orchid Nursery
As you're entering into El Valle, you'll see black signs pointing to the Nursery.. Just after passing the Texaco station but before reaching the central market, turn left and follow this short road to its end.
These particular trees have a trunk that is square at their base, and which gradually becomes round as it ascends, taking on the look of a normal tree. There aren't that many trees to see, perhaps a half dozen or so, but it is worth a quick look if time permits. The unmarked trail begins from behind the Hotel Campestre. In the event that you can't find the trail, just ask someone at the hotel and they will gladly assist you. It shouldn't take any more than 10 minutes to reach the trees.
Cerro Gaital Natural Monument
Just north of El Valle de Anton and forming part of the volcano's rim is Cerro Gaital, a vibrant cloud forest offering outstanding views and terrific birding opportunities.
From the park's entrance, your hike begins with a mild uphill climb on a flat, grassy, and often muddy substrate. After a short walk, you'll turn left at the sign and proceed up the stairs to the trail's starting point. The trail, known as "Sendero Convento" is a simple loop that measures 1.5 miles (2.48 km) in length. The trail is mostly uphill and very well maintained, with three not so comfortable resting areas along the way - they're all off to the left side. After reaching the trail's end, you'll need to continue a bit further to reach the lookout (El Mirador). Once there, you'll find a relatively stable wooden platform on which to stand, offering terrific views of El Valle and the Pacific Ocean - weather permitting. You can return on the same portion of the trail, or descend on the other portion, thus completing the loop.
The trail sign reads "2 hours", but most will reach the lookout in less than 45 minutes.
(Note: Cerro Gaital is often covered in clouds, and during certain months of the year you should expect heavy winds and rain, so it might be a good idea to take a wind breaker, rain gear or sweater with you. Furthermore, the weather is very unpredictable and can change quickly, so don't be fooled by how it looks from town. There are no stores nearby, so bring whatever you need, i.e. food & water)
Getting to Cerro Gaital
Cerro Gaital is located further up the same road that passes in front of the El Macho waterfall. There are public buses (look for small mini-buses that read "La Mesa") that can drop you off very close to the park's entrance - it's just a few minutes walk from the bus stop. You can walk from town or even from the El Macho waterfall, but it's a very long hike. As well, he upper section, which winds through numerous poultry farms and private residences, has several unmarked roads making it easy to get lost. If you do decide to walk, you will need to reach the "Alemi Toledo" poultry farm (there is a bus stop on the corner), and then turn right and walk along the gravel road until you reach the park entrance. Cerro Gaital is open Monday - Saturday and costs $5.00, but it's not uncommon to find the ranger station closed.
A 20 - 25 minute walk from town, the Petroglyphs (Piedras Pintadas) are located near the base of the same trail that leads to the Sleeping Indian "La India Dormida" (see below). All of the writings can be found on one large vertical rock face.
Cost: $1.25 - Adults
Getting to the Petroglyphs
From the central market, continue along the main road, passing the church, until you cross over the bridge, and then turn left at the intersection. Walk until you reach the first corner, then make a right - there is a sign pointing to the "piedras pintadas". Cross over a small bridge, then continue straight until you reach the entrance off to the left side. They're open from 7:00 a.m. - 6:00 p.m. every day. The path to the petroglyphs is cemented, so it's a very easy walk and shouldn't take but a few minutes to reach them.
The Sleeping Indian (La India Dormida)
The Sleeping Indian, who acquired her name based on local legend, is a chain of hills who's formation resembles the shape of just that, a sleeping Indian. And like Cerro Gaital, these hills help form part of El Valle de Anton's volcanic rim.
The trail, which begins at the Petroglyphs, is mostly uphill and comprised primarily of dirt, clay and stone. Shortly after passing the petroglyphs you'll reach the first of two waterfalls, "Chorro El Escondido", which sits just off the trail's left side. Though not very high or strong, it's positioned in a well protected cove and there's a nice pool where you can swim. Shortly after resuming your climb, you'll make your way over a cement bridge, and just a bit further ahead you'll reach the second waterfall "Chorro El Enamorado", which is larger and has two distinct sections - unfortunately you'll find no place to swim here. Further ahead, you'll pass a very large boulder off to the right side of the trail, and just after that you'll need to turn left up a steep incline - look for the sign pointing to "La India Dormida", you'll find it up high on a tree trunk just off the left side of the trail. (Note: this same trail you're on continues for quite some time, so make sure you turn left at the appropriate spot, otherwise you'll find yourself a long way from where you want to be.) This next portion of the trail is noticeably steeper, and soon you'll find yourself walking along a barbed wire fence with wooden posts - this is a private farm off to the left. At the top, turn left and stay on the trail as it hugs the farm, this will lead you directly to the Sleeping Indian. Look for a section with hand railings and wooden steps, then you'll know for sure you're heading in the right direction.
(Note - shortly after turning left at the top of the barbed wire fence, there is an intersection in the trail, with one trail that leads downhill and to the right. You can also take trail if you prefer, just follow the trail until you reach the next intersection, and then turn left. Regardless of which route you take, the trail comes up on the backside of the hill, which is very open and has stubby grass.)
Once you reach the top, there are a series of trails connecting the adjacent hills. You'll have terrific views of the town of El Valle, Pacific Ocean and surrounding valley - weather permitting. As with Cerro Gaital, the wind and rain can be quite strong, so wear appropriate clothing.
If you'd prefer to hire a guide, you can do so at the base where you pay to enter.
Cost: Adults - $1.25
Escudo de Veraguas
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Perhaps Central America's most beautiful island paradise, Escudo de Veraguas is Panama's best kept secret. Situated just 10 miles off the Atlantic coast, east of the Valiente Peninsula, this horizontally shaped island is surrounded by white sand beaches and crystal clear turquoise waters. Inhabited only by small communities of Indians. This remote and undiscovered island is as close to Tahiti as you'll find in this part of the world.
The northern side of the island is spectacular, with small, shallow bays and inlets running the length of the island. Numerous small islands sit just off the coast, many of which are frequented by brown boobies and other tropical birds. Strips of white sand beaches line the coast, ideal for swimming and snorkeling. The southern side is less tropical in it's appearance, but still beautiful. There are white sand beaches and jagged points that reach out into the surrounding waters.
Getting to Escudo de Veraguas
This is not going to be cheap! From Bocas del Toro, it's at least 2 hours by boat depending on weather and water conditions. Most tour operators do not offer tours to Escudo de Veraguas due to the costs and difficulties of organizing such a trip, but if you have enough people willing and able somebody will take you there. Normally, trips to Escudo are made during the dry season months of July - October, when the seas are more calm and predicable. Unfortunately, there is really no other point along the Atlantic coast from where you can depart, unless you find a way to get to Calovebora, and from there you'd have to hire a boat from the local indians. However you get there, you will not find a more spectacular island in Central America.
The Panama Canal
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Situated just 10-15 minutes north of Panama City, Miraflores Locks contains two chambers and is the Canal's southernmost set of locks. A visitors center, complete with museum, restaurant/bar, souvenir shop and auditorium resides just in front of the locks' control tower, providing visitors with close-up views of the locks and vessels during transit. Visitors have the option of viewing the Canal from the roof, offering scenic views of Miraflores & Pedro Miguel Locks, Miraflores Lake, Centenary Bridge and surrounding area or, the second level, which has comfortable, shaded seats. Pamphlets and other printed material about the Canal are available upon entering the visitors center.
- Tel: 276-8427
- Hours: 9:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m
- Cost: Adults - $15.00 (includes entrance to museum & movie presentation)
(Note: most northbound traffic in the Panama Canal arrives Miraflores Locks very early in the morning, with most vessels clearing the locks long before it opens to the public. Southbound vessels do not begin arriving until midday, or later. So, if you want to see vessels inside the locks' chambers during your visit, we recommend you arrive between 2:00 p.m. - 5:00 p.m. In addition, the restaurant/bar stays open long after the Visitor's Center has closed, providing a unique opportunity to see the Panama Canal during evening hours.
As well, all visitors arriving by car must park in the lower parking lot and use the elevator or stairs to ascend/descend. After passing through the security gate, cross over the bridge and stay to your left.)
Getting to Miraflores Locks
Buses to Miraflores Locks depart regularly from the Albrook Bus Terminal, and take only 15 - 20 minutes. Metro buses that read "Miraflores" will take you all the way to the visitor's center, whereas Metro buses that read "Forestal" will only drop you off along the main road that passes in front of Miraflores Locks (From the main road, you'll need to walk about 5-10 minutes in order to reach the Visitor's Center. Cross over the train tracks and continue walking until you arrive at the entrance/security gate. After passing through the gate, continue walking until you cross over the steel bridge - the Miraflores Dam will be off to your right. Then, stay to your left and proceed until you reach the large staircase/elevator that leads to the main entrance.) Metro buses to Miraflores Locks depart every 30 - 45 minutes.
As well, you can get on either of the "Saca" buses that read "Gamboa" or "Paraiso", which depart from behind the Burger King at the Albrook Bus Terminal. These buses depart throughout the day, approximately every 1 - 2 hours. To ride these buses you'll need a different bus card, which too can be purchased at the terminal. Make sure to notify the driver when boarding that you would like to be dropped off at Miraflores Locks.
If you're traveling on any bus other than the one that reads "Miraflores", make sure to notify the driver when boarding that you would like to be dropped off at the entrance to Miraflores Locks. To return to the Albrook Bus Terminal, you can ride one of the Metro buses that reaches the Visitor's Center, or walk to the main road and get on any one of the local buses that passes by.
Taxis charge $8.00 - $10.00 from the city district.
Pedro Miguel Locks
[ Google Map ]
Pedro Miguel Locks resides just north of Miraflores Locks, on the northern most part of Miraflores Lake, and contains only one chamber. Unlike Miraflores, there is no visitors center, however, there is a large parking area in front of the locks allowing visitors to get an close up view of the vessels as they enter into and out of the single chamber. There are bathroom facilities here.
- Hours: All Day & Night
- Cost: Free
Getting to Pedro Miguel Locks
Buses to Pedro Miguel Locks depart from the Albrook Bus Terminal, and take only 20-25 minutes. Metro buses that read "Forestal" will drop you off along the main road that runs just in front of the locks.
As well, you can get on either of the "Saca" buses that read "Gamboa" or "Paraiso", which depart from behind Burger King - the ride costs just $0.35. Make sure to notify the driver when boarding that you would like to be dropped off at Pedro Miguel Locks. The bus stop is situated directly in front of the Locks, you'll just have to cross the street.To return to the Albrook Bus Terminal, get on any one of the local buses that passes by.
Taxis charge about $10.00 from the city district.
[ Google Map ]
Gatun Locks, which has three chambers, provides arguably the best opportunity to view the Panama Canal in operation. Southbound and northbound vessels can be seen throughout the day, allowing visitors to follow the vessels as they navigate between Gatun Lake and the Caribbean Sea.
Situated just in front of the Locks'' control tower is a large, comfortable viewing area, where bilingual speakers are always present to narrate and answer any questions you may have. There is also a small souvenir shop at the entrance.
- Hours: 8:00 a.m. - 4:30 p.m. 7/week
- Cost: Adults - $5.00
Getting to Gatun Locks from Colon
There are no pubic buses that will take you directly to the entrance of Gatun Locks, but you can take one that passes nearby - the bus stop is just down the road from the entrance, a 2-3 minute walk. All buses depart from the Colon Bus Terminal and cost $1.00.
Taxis charge $5.00 - $7.00 from Colon.
Panama Canal Transits
Partial and full transits through the Panama Canal are offered regularly. Partial transits include a trip under the Bridge of the Americas, through Miraflores and Pedro Miguel Locks, up Gaillard (Culebra) Cut, under the Centenary Bridge, and on to Gamboa where you'll disembark. Full transits continue northbound from Gamboa through Gatun Lake, passing Barro Colorado Island (Smithsonian Institute) to your left, through Gatun Locks, and then on to Colon where you'll complete your tour. Most partial and full transits depart from Panama City, however, on occasion your tour will consist of a southbound transit, in which case you will be transported, by bus to Gamboa or Colon where you'll begin your tour.
Panama Canal Transit Companies
Amador Causeway (Flamenco Island)
[ Google Map ]
The Amador Causeway, once the home of a US Army base, has quickly become one of Panama’s most popular tourist destinations. Comprised of three small islands and extending 2-3 miles from the mainland, the causeway offers visitors wonderful views of Panama City, Bridge of the Americas and commercial vessels as they commence or complete their transit through the Panama Canal. The walking path that runs the full length of the causeway is tiled with red brick, and lined with tropical trees and comfortable benches. Open and well maintained, the path is popular with pedestrians, roller bladers, skate boarders and runners, particularly on weekends.
The northernmost portion of the Causeway is home to TGIF’s Country Inn and Suites, Figali Convention Center, and the Balboa Yacht Club, which has a long pier and fleet of private yachts anchoring along the Canal. As well, the newly completed Biodiversity Museum, which was designed by world renowned architect Frank Gehry, is now open to the public. If you don't want to walk, there are bicycle, carriage and scooter rental shops.
As you head south along the Causeway, the first island you reach is Noas, which is home to the Smithsonian’s Naos Laboratories and Marine Exhibition Center, also known as Punta Culebra (tel:212-8793). Resting along the Panama Canal, Naos Island has a small commercial center, hotel, and several restaurants. As well, the launch to Taboga Island departs from Naos Island (see Taboga Island) - just before reaching the entrance to Punta Culebra turn left. Further south along the Causeway is Perico Island, which resides off to the left and inside Panama Bay. Here you’ll find a very large commercial center, complete with retail stores, bars, restaurants and art galleries. Continue along and you’ll soon reach Flamenco Island, the largest and last of the Causeway’s three islands. Off to the left you’ll find a Bennigans Restaurant, and just behind that a marina. Further ahead there’s a large shopping complex, containing numerous bars, restaurants and tourist related businesses. To the left, towards the water, there’s a second marina and commercial center, where you’ll find numerous souvenir shops and restaurants.
The Causeway is a must see for anyone visiting Panama. With gentle breezes, spectacular scenery and fine dining, the Causeway has something for everybody.
Getting to Amador Causeway
Taxis charge about $5.00 - $9.00 from the city district, depending on where you want to be dropped off.
Metro buses to Amador Causeway depart hourly from the Albrook Bus Terminal, look for the bus that reads "Amador".
[ Google Map ]
Rising approximately 654 feet, Ancon Hill towers over Panama City and offers visitors unparalleled views of the surrounding area, including Casco Viejo, Panama City, Panama Bay, Panama Canal Administration Building, Albrook Airport, and the southern most portion of the Panama Canal, i.e. Miraflores Locks, Pedro Miguel Locks, and the Causeway. Ancon Hill has two different lookout areas. For views of Casco Viejo, Panama City, Panama Bay, and everything else that resides south of Ancon Hill, walk up the steep hill just off to the right as you reach the top. For views of Miraflores Locks, Panama Canal Administration Building, and everything north of Ancon Hill, turn left at the top and walk to the lookout area just beyond the parking lot.
- Hours: 8:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m. 7/week
- Cost: Free of Charge
Getting to Ancon Hill
There is no public transportion to and from Ancon Hill, so most people take taxis. A one way trip to the top costs approximately $6.00, but if you pay them by the hour they'll wait for you until you're done.
By car, the road that leads to Ancon Hill begins just behind the Panama Canal Administration Building. Upon your ascent, near its base, you’ll need to check in with the park station. From here onward, the road is narrow and only permits one-way traffic, so you might be forced to wait for a descending vehicle to clear before receiving authorization to proceed. Park officials are in constant communication with each other to assure that you have clear passage in either direction.
For those who prefer to walk, you can also reach the top by accessing the public staircase that's located just to the left of "Mi Pueblito". Turn off the main road as though you were going to enter into "Mi Pueblito", but rather than turning right to enter into the complex, continue along the paved road as it bends to the left - the staircase is located off to the right side just before reaching the end of the road. Follow this staircase up to the park station mentioned above, and then just follow the winding road to the top.
Aqua Bus City Tour
The Aquabus City Tour is absolutely the newest and most exciting way to experience Panama City. The AQUABUS is the only amphibious vessel in Central America and it provides a once in a life time opportunity to view Panama City from land and sea. It is a very unique vehicle that drives through city streets and then plunges into the Bay of Panama and the entrance to the Panama Canal providing for a fun and unforgettable journey.
Barro Colorado Island (Smithsonian Institute)
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The Smithsonian Institute offers daily tours to Barro Colorado Island, which is the largest forested island in the Panama Canal Waterway and home of the Smithsonian Biological Station.
- Tel: 212-8951
- Tours: Tues., Wed. & Fri. - departs 7:15 a.m. | Saturday & Sunday - departs 8:00 a.m.
- Cost: Adults - $70.00 | Students - $40.00
Bridge of the Americas
With an elevation of 364 ft. (118 m) and width of 5,007 ft. (1,669 m), the Bridge of the Americas connects the two land masses separated by to the construction of the Panama Canal. Built by the United States, at a cost of $20 million dollars, the Bridge of the Americas now forms an integral part of the Interamerican Highway, connecting both North and South America.
Prior to it's construction, ferry service was provided for approximately 30 years, and was the principal means of transportation between the eastern and western portions of Panama. Even today, docks on both sides of the canal are clearly visible and serve as a reminder of what once was.
With gravel in hand, the ceremony celebrating the commemoration of the Thatcher Ferry Bridge, as it was known at that time, took place on December 23, 1958. At this ceremony, United States Ambassador Mr. Julian Harrington and Panamanian President Mr. Ernesto de la Guardia Jr. were present, as well as numerous other dignitaries. The actual physical construction began on October 12, 1959, and took nearly two and one half years to complete. Inauguration took place on October 12, 1962, during which time gold metals and other commemorative items were distributed.
While it is currently referred to as the Bridge of the Americas, it was originally named after Mr. Maurice H. Thatcher, who cut the tape during the inauguration services. Few if any now refer to the bridge by this name.
On the western side of the bridge, and just off to the right side of the road, you’ll find a look-out area. From here, one can get a reasonably good view of the bridge, with Ancon Hill and Panama City in the background. As well, you can look north and see a bit more of the Panama Canal, towards Miraflores Locks. This is the only look-out area near to the bridge, and you are not permitted to walk across the bridge or stop while driving over it.
We also recommend visiting the the Causeway/El Amador, which, prior to the transfer of the Panama Canal in 1999, was a US Army Base. From the Causeway, which begins near the base of the Bridge of the Americas and runs along the Panama Canal, you will have a broad view of the bridge and the vessels passing under it.
For more information regarding the Bridge of the Americas, we recommend you visit the Panama Canal Museum in Casco Antiguo, as they have plenty of written literature and numerous photographs reflecting back on the construction phase.
Getting to the Bridge of the Americas
Metro Buses depart the Albrook Bus Terminal every 30 minutes for “El Amador”, and cost $0.25, though you must have a proper Metro card - cash is not excepted.
By taxi, from downtown Panama City, it shouldn't cost any more than $5-6 to get to the Causeway/El Amador, unless you ask to be dropped off at the far end near the marina and shops (Isla Flamenco), in which case it will probably cost $8-10.
Casco Antiguo (Viejo)
[ Google Map ]
With it’s picturesque buildings, restaurants, expansive balconies, churches, ruins and museums, the historic community of Casco Antiguo has become one of Panama’s most popular tourist destinations. Once the commercial center for the Americas, Casco Antiguo has since lost its economic importance with the expansion of Panama City, but the area is currently experiencing a renovation. Many of the old, Spanish style architectural buildings have been restored, as had the red brick road that runs throughout.
Among the many meaningful structures you’ll find the Metropolitan Cathedral, Municipal Palace, Church of San Francisco, National Theater, Hotel Colonial, French Park, French Embassy, ruins of the Convento de Santo Domingo and Arco Chato, in addition to numerous governmental buildings and residential houses with beautifully maintained exteriors. Casco Antiguo is also home to numerous upscale restaurants, bars, boutiques, and eateries, in addition to several souvenir shops. As well, there are street vendors that congregate just in front of the French Embassy, by Las Bovédas, where they sell paintings, shirts, etc. Visitors to Casco Antiguo should visit the Panama Canal Museum, which is situated in front of Cathedral Park.
Getting to Casco Antiguo
There are no public buses that service Panama Antiguo. You can get there by walking along the Cinta Costera, which runs along the water's edge just off Balboa Avenue. The path hugs the water the entire way, offering wonderful views of the city and the park like surroundings. Taxis charge approximately $2.50 - $4.00 from the city district.
Metropolitan Natural Park
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The Metropolitan Natural Park, encompassing approximately 265 hectares, is situated just outside the city district and serves as a wonderful retreat for those interested in escaping from the neighboring city. It is the only park in Latin America with a natural forest located within a metropolitan capital. The park has four trails, all of which are well maintained, easy to find, and offer the visitor something different. Printed material is available in both English and Spanish, as are more complete maps at an additional cost. Bilingual guides are available upon request, providing sufficient notice is given.
- Tel: 232-5552
- Hours: 6:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m. 7/week
- Cost: $2.00
Getting to Metropolitan Natural Park
There are no public buses that service the Metropolitan Natural Park. Taxis charge approx. $3.00 - $4.00 from the city district.
Panama Viejo Ruins & Museum
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Panama Viejo (Old Panama), is situated just northeast of downtown Panama City. The city was founded by Pedrarias Davila in August of 1519, and is the oldest Spanish settlement on the Pacific. At one time a thriving city, Panama Viejo benefited from the Portobelo trade fairs and most notably from Spain’s great bullion lifeline (shipments were said to pass through Panama while en route from Peru’s silver mines to Europe). Quickly, the city became a major center for merchants and landowners, with a population that presumably reached 10,000 by the mid-17th century. Destroyed in 1671 during Sir Henry Morgan’s invasion, the city was never rebuilt. Declared a Historic Site in 1976, the ruins or Old Panama enjoy government protection, and have been administered by the foundation Patronato Panama La Vieja since 1995. Many of the structures have descriptive text in Spanish and English to assist tourists.
The Panama Viejo Museum is located just east of the ruins, along the water's edge. The museum is rather small but has several nice artifacts, paintings, and photos of the area that makes up Panama Viejo.
- Hours: Tuesday - Sumday (8:30 a.m. - 4:30 p.m.)
- Cost: Museum - $4.00 | Museum & Ruins - $6.00 | Museum, Ruins & Mirador -$7.00
Getting to Panama Viejo
Metro buses that read "Panama Viejo" pass by the museum and ruins. The bus stop is located just before reaching the museum, and from the museum you can walk along a gravel path to the ruins.
Taxis charge approximately $3.00 - $5.00 from the city district.
Sightseeing Panama Bus Tours
Sightseeing Panama is an international company that offers bus tours of the Panama Canal and Panama City. Your ticket allows you to HOP ON and HOP OFF at any one of their many stops for a specified period of time. Stops include Albrook Mall, Panama Canal, Museum of Biodiversity, Flamenco Island (Causeway), Casco Antiguo (Viejo), Multicentro Mall, Panama Viejo and Multiplaza Mall.
Statue of Balboa
[ Google Map ]
Situated along the newly redesigned Balboa Avenue (Cinta Costera), the Vasco Núñez de Balboa Statue is a historical monument paying tribute to the Spanish adventurer and first European to glimpse the Pacific Ocean, in 1513. Holding the Spanish flag in his left hand and a sword with his right, the Vasco Núñez de Balboa statue overlooks Panama Bay and is surrounded by benches and well manicured plants and flowers. The statue was sculpted by Miguel Blan and Mariano Benlliure and later donated by King Alfonso XIII of Spain. With representatives of some 15 Latin American countries present, President Belisario Porras inaugurated the monument on September 29, 1924.
(Note: there is no parking adjacent to the statue, but you can get to it by using the nearby overpass; there is ample parking space just across the highway)
Getting to the Statue of Balboa
Any Metro Bus that runs runs along Balboa Avenue (Cinta Costera/Albrook) will pass by the Statue of Balboa. Taxis charge approx. $2.00 - $3.00 from the city district.
[ Google Map ]
Located just 30 minutes outside of Panama City, Summit Gardens provides visitors with a opportunity to view many of the animal species found in Panama and throughout the Central & South American region. The facility has a small portion allocated for plants and orchids, however, the majority of the 700 hectares are dedicated for recreation and animal viewing, with tapirs, monkeys, scarlet macaws, and numerous other animal/bird species present. Signs point to areas of interest, connected by narrow, well maintained trails. Trail maps are provided at the park entrance when you enter.
Summit Gardens has two unique offerings, the Harpy Eagle Museum and Jaguar Exhibit. The Harpy Eagle Museum has interesting facts, illustrations and photos of these magnificent birds of prey, which happen to be Panama’s national bird. A captive Harpy Eagles is on display outside, just behind the exhibit, and can be observed throughout the day. The other exhibit, better known as "Jaguar World", is a small enclosure where visitors can view these powerful cats up close.
- Tel: 232-4854
- Hours: 9:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m. 7/week (Harpy Eagle Museum: 9:00 a.m. - 4:30 p.m.)
- Cost: $5.00
Getting to Summit Gardens
Buses to Summit Gardens depart from the Albrook Bus Terminal, from just behind Burger King - look for the buses that read "La Saca". You need to take one that reads either "Summit" or "Gamboa", as they both stop directly in front of the Summit Gardens. The trip lasts about 25-30 minutes and costs $0.55. When you want to return to Panama City, there is a bus stop across the street.
Buses to Summit Gardens depart from the Albrook Bus Terminal, and take only 25-30 minutes. Buses that read "Gamboa", and depart from behind Buger King, will drop you off along the main road that runs just in front of the facility. While the buses will normally stop here, it would be a good idea to notify the driver when boarding that you would like to be dropped off at Summit Gardens.
By car, take the same road that leads to Miraflores and Pedro Miguel Locks. Continue past the Centenary Bridge, and shortly after passing under train tracks turn left - on the far corner of the intersection you’ll see the Soberania National Park Ranger Station. Keep on this road for just a few minutes, the entrance to Summit Gardens is off to the right.
Taxis charge about $15.00 from the city district.
Pipeline Road - Soberania National Park
[ Google Map ]
Arguably Panama’s most famous birding destination, Pipeline Road is situated inside Soberania National Park, which itself is located within the Panama and Colon provinces. The park, measuring 48,287 acres (19,541 hectares) in size, was established in 1980 and contains numerous trails, one of which is Pipeline Road; there are several other trails nearby. Measuring approximately 10.5 miles (17 km) in length, the road is very well maintained and has a base composed primarily of dirt and stone. There are very few open areas that offer expansive views, most of the trail is lined with thick forest. As well, there are no benches or seats along the trails. The first 5 miles (8 km) are relatively flat and provide for easy walking. As well, there are several small bridges you’ll need to cross, all of which are very safe. The second half of the trail has more hills, some of them fairly steep, but the road itself is in good condition.
The park ranger station is open daily between 6:00 a.m. - 4:00 p.m., and the entrance fee is $5.00 p/p - if you enter the park before 6:00 a.m. you will be asked to pay upon departing. A map of the park may or may not be available, so be sure to ask for one. Pedestrians can enter or leave the park at any time, there is a door to the right side of the ranger station that is never locked. Vehicles, however, can only enter after 6:00 a. m. You can, upon request, stay overnight inside the park, which costs $10.00 p/p in addition to the entrance fee. Your vehicle can also stay overnight inside the park.
(Note: if you plan to drive on the road to the park’s interior section it is recommend that you do so in a 4x4, rather than a passenger vehicle, particularly during the rainy season. Bring water, as the only place to purchase water inside the park is at the Rainforest Discovery Center—see below)
Getting to Pipeline Road
Buses to Gamboa depart from the Albrook Bus Terminal, behind Burger King. The buses do not reach the park’s entrance, rather you’ll need to get off at the last stop and walk from there. From there, follow the dirt road that runs along the canal. A bit further along, the road turns to the right and you’ll see a sign pointing to Pipeline Road (Sendero Oleoducto). Follow this road a short distance to reach the park entrance. All in all, it’s a very easy 20-25 minute walk. The bus ride costs less than $1.00 and takes approximately 45 minutes. Monday - Friday the buses depart from 5:00 a.m. - 9:00 p.m. On weekends and holidays, the buses depart from 6:00 a.m. - 9:00 p.m. The last bus returning to Panama City departs Gamboa at 10:00 p.m.
By car, you’ll need to drive to the town of Gamboa, which is a bit further down the road from Summit Gardens, perhaps 10-15 minutes. Cross over the Chagres River Bridge, then continue straight along the paved highway until you enter into the town of Gamboa. You’ll pass a large crane off to the left, and shortly thereafter the road forks. Stay to the left and continue along this dirt/gravel road following the signs that point to Pipeline Road (Sendero Oleoducto).
Taxis charge about $30.00 from the city district.
Rainforest Discovery Center (Pipeline Road)
Just off Pipeline Road, approximately 1 mile (1.6 km) in from the park entrance, is the Rainforest Discovery Center. The facility offers visitors a 130 ft. (40 m) observation tower and network of trails. Ideal for birders and nature lovers.
- Tel: (Panama Office): 264-6266 | 264-6267
- Cost: $30.00 p/p
[ Google Map ]
Relatively clean and quiet, Isla Taboga contains a network of well maintained cement paths, many of which are lined with very colorful orchids. Small eateries and grocery stores line the main path, where you can purchase soft drinks and a variety of food dishes. The roads are narrow, and were not designed to accommodate automobiles; - there are no vehicles on the island. Aside from the network of trails that crisscross along the water’s edge and up into the hillside, there is one trail of importance on the island for hikers.
Known as "Cerro de las Tres Cruces", this trail takes you all the way to the top of Taboga Island where you’ll find an observation area offering panoramic views of Taboga Island, the neighboring islands, and on a clear day Panama City, El Amador and the Bridge of the Americas. As well, you’ll see numerous species of sea birds gliding and resting along the southern side of the island where the Taboga Island Wildlife Refuge is located. The hike to the top can take approximately 1 - 1.5 hour(s), depending on your physical condition and interest in the local flora and fauna. Virtually the entire trail, most of which is wide and well maintained, is uphill aside for a few small sections. There is very little if any canopy cover along the trail, and depending on the time of year you make the journey the vegetation can be somewhat sparse. The southern portion of the island is much more sparse than the northern part, all of which is clearly visible from the observation area. Blue Morpho butterflies, small lizards and a host of different bird species can all be seen while hiking up the trail. The trail begins just a short hike from town, just follow the cement trail until it ends and the dirt road begins. Continue until the road forks, then turn right.
Some of the island’s interesting attractions are the museum, Church of San Pedro, and altar honoring the Christ of Buga, which contains a small garden exhibiting a profusion of colorful flowers. On the back side of the island lies the Taboga Island Wildlife Reserve, which serves as a refuge for a variety of different sea bird species, some of which utilize as a refuge for reproductive purposes during the months of December - July.
Kayaking, swimming, fishing, snorkeling and scuba diving can also be enjoyed. As well, there are numerous boats that can be rented for fishing and scenic tours.
Getting to Taboga Island
Ferries to Taboga Island depart from the northern side of Noas Island, the second of the three islands that make up Amador Causeway. It is known as "La Playita de Amador", and the pier is located just before the entrance to the Smithsonian Institute’s facility, on the left side. For more information regarding departure times and prices, we recommend you visit the Barcos Calypso website.
Metro buses to Amador Causeway depart hourly from the Albrook Bus Terminal, look for the bus that reads "Amador".
Other Panama City Attractions
San Blas (Comarca Kuna Yala)
[ Google Map ]
The Comarca of Kuna Yala(San Blas) stretching from the Gulf of Kuna Yala eastward to the Colombian border, and is comprised of over 360 distinct islands and a relatively thin stretch of mainland that runs along the Atlantic coast.
Most of the Kuna Indians live on the mainland near river mouths, or on the islands, of which only 40 +/- are inhabited. Formerly a part of Colombia, the Kunas have inhabited this region of Panama for hundreds of years, and were, in fact, there to greet the first European explorers to discover the Americas in the early 1500's. Despite relentless pressure and persuasion by various European explorers, and later the Panamanian government, to adopt a more westernized lifestyle, the Kunas have, for the most part, succeeded in preserving their culture and distinct way of life. While Kuna history recognizes 4 distinct revolutions, it was the fourth, celebrated in February, 1925, that lead to the creation of the current Comarca. Since then, the Kunas have enjoyed self rule.
Upon arriving the Kunas settled mostly along the coast, where raw materials were abundant and accessible. However, due to malaria, yellow fever and other tropical diseases, they found themselves seeking shelter on the small islands that dot the coastline. Still dependent on the mainland for its natural resources, frequent trips to the mainland were made in search of food, water, wood, and other necessary materials; limited, somewhat, by the size of their dugout canoe. Now that the tropical diseases have been eradicated, there is a growing number of Kunas settling on the mainland, or at least on the islands closest to the mainland, rather than on the islands themselves. Once admired for their isolation and protection, the islands, due to their lack of natural resources, are becoming a less desirable able option. This is particularly true for the islands situated furthest away from the mainland, most of which remain uninhabited today.
A quite, reserved, hospitable people, the Kuna's are overtly proud of their culture and traditional, simple way of life. Transportation from island to island, or even to the mainland, is usually accomplished by hand carved dugout canoes, often aided by large sheets that serve as sails. Under the hot, tropical sun, hours can be spent traveling from one island to another. Women spend a large portion of their day performing daily chores, which often includes knitting colorful molas to sell to visiting tourists. The men pass the time fishing, tending to cocoa trees, gathering needed material, and performing other routine tasks. All in all, Kunas are an accommodating, loving people, and appear determined to keep their subsistence lifestyle intact. This in spite of numerous external forces that, over time, have had a dramatic impact on Kuna life.
Perhaps the most significant of these was the introduction of air travel to and from the Comarca. Once an isolated archipelago, Kuna Yala now enjoys daily service to any one of its 10-15 airstrips that reside along the Atlantic coast. Improved accessibility has brought with it the introduction of western influences, and too, has afforded Kunas the ability to visit Panama City and other areas of the country. This has had a direct and dramatic impact of daily life in Kuna Yala. Kunas, like the rest of us, have taken a liking to jewelry, walkmans, clothing, cell phones, etc. On some of the more populated islands like Porvenir and Cartí, it's not uncommon to see youth wearing sneakers, baseball caps, shorts and t-shirts. This, in fact, is the norm not the exception. Traditional dress is somewhat limited to the elder women, as most men exhibit almost no traditional dress at all.
Other western influences are clearly noticeable on the more inhabited islands. Tin roofs are replacing thatched roofs. New governmental buildings and schools are constructed of cement not wood, as are piers. Outboard marine motors are replacing paddles and sails. The impact is undeniable, and irreversible. Many of the elderly are overtly concerned about the changes that have taken place over the last 2-3 decades. Many of the outer island, however, have managed to preserve the traditional lifestyle so often associated with Kuna Indians.
Most visitors to the region start their journey in Porvenir, which is situated at the western most part of the Comarca. There are numerous islands in the area, many of which have hotels that cater to budget and upscale travelers. Many of these hotels are not listed or even advertised, but operate by word of mouth. Most offer simple packages, which includes meals and one local tour per day to neighboring islands. There are numerous other hotels further east along the coast, however, one would have to coordinate travel to those areas. Daily flights from Panama City to Kuna Yala depart 7 days a week.
The Kuna Museum, located just off the waters edge on the island of Cartí, is open to the public. While most of the items in the museum (paintings, carvings, pottery) have bilingual descriptive notes displayed below them, a 15-20 guided tour of the museum is offered and included in the cost of admission ($2.00). The museum offers visitors a in depth look into the Kuna Indians culture, religion, and history, and is a worthwhile visit for anybody visiting the area.
Colorful and intricately sewn, molas are an important part of the traditional dress of the Kuna woman. Depicting the local culture and customs of Kuna Indians, and more recently western influences, molas are sewn by women in a variety of sizes, colors and patterns, and used by Kunas to protect themselves from evil spirits. Made from store-bought fabrics and consisting of multiple layers of reverse appliqué, molas were used originally for blouses, but also serve as tablecloths, mitts, wall decorations, and, of course, tourist souvenirs. Prior to obtaining fabric from seafarers and traders more than a century ago, Kuna women used natural dyes to paint body tattoos.
A traditional Kuna hut is square, with a thatched roof. Mangrove wood, due to its thickness, durability and strength, is used primarily for structural support. Thin white cane, which too is gathered on the mainland, is used for the walls and doors. Surprisingly, there is little if any bamboo used for construction purposes. The expert craftsman that they are, Kunas, with the help of the entire community, can construct homes and community structures with surprising speed. In spite of the heavy rain, the interiors of these structures are very dry and stable, most with dirt floors.
The local economy is now more dependent on tourism that the traditional products such as cocoa, which the Kuna's trade with Colombia. In fact, very little if any new cocoa trees are harvested anymore, as it's economic important has drastically declined over the years. With independent tourists and cruise ships now visiting the area, Kuna's have adjusted their lifestyle to accommodate the ongoing changes.
Santa Catalina (Veraguas Province)
[ Google Map ]
Situated in the Veraguas Province, along the country's pacific coast and just west of the Azuero Peninsula, Santa Catalina is synonymous with surfing. As well, it serves as a gateway to Coiba National Park, which offers intrepid travelers world class scuba diving, snorkeling, white sand beaches, in addition to numerous other outdoor activities. Once a small fishing village off the beaten track, the town of Santa Catalina is still relatively small, but it's growing quickly.
Arguably Panama's most famous surf spot, local and international surfers frequent Santa Catalina to enjoy its consistent and powerful surf, not to mention its relaxed, laid back atmosphere. Budget hotels, surf board rentals, and surf camps offering all levels of instruction, help ensure a steady flow of surfers in search of the perfect break.
Santa Catalina has two beaches, Estero Beach and Santa Catalina Beach, but which is which? Well, it all depends on who you ask. The road that leads into town, if you follow it to its end, will take you to the ocean's edge, which on most maps in referred to as Catalina Beach. Some call it Town Beach and others Estero Beach, but regardless, there is no surfing done here. Rather, it is most frequently used by dive/tour operators as a departure point for trips to Coiba National Park. There are several small islands just off the beach, one of them being Santa Catalina Island.
The second beach, most commonly referred to Santa Catalina Beach, is located just a few minutes east of town, but oddly enough the maps have this labeled as Estero Beach. If you ask any local or surfer where Santa Catalina Beach is, they'll send you here. The beach itself is long and crescent shaped, with just one small section that extends outward, about midway to its end. To get there, you can either walk along the road that runs from town (turn left off the main road in front of the supermarket) or, if the tide is low, you can walk along the rocky coastline that separates both beaches. The rather uneventful walk along the road takes approximately 10 minutes, whereas the walk along the coastline could take 20-30 minutes, or more. If the tide is out, normal sneakers or sandals will do, as the rocks are round and smooth.
The town of Santa Catalina covers a short distance, and the road is lined with residential homes, hotels, restaurants/eateries, dive shops, fishing outfitters, and numerous tour agencies. There is only one intersection, near to the ocean, and on the far corner you'll find the local supermarket. But don't expect too much here, this is a small market for last minute items only - most of the shopping is done in Soná or Santiago.
Getting To Santa Catalina
There are no direct buses to Santa Catalina from Panama City. There are, however, direct buses to Soná, which take approx. 4.5 - 5 hours. These buses depart throughout the day and stop briefly in Santiago before continuing on to Soná. From Soná, you'll need to take a mini-bus to Santa Catalina, which takes an additional 1.5 hours.
You can also take a bus from Panama City (tel: 507-314-6230) to Santiago (998-3818), which takes approximately 3.5 hours. The buses that service Santiago are larger and more comfortable than those that travel directly for Soná. From Santiago, you'll need to catch a mini-bus to Soná, and then another mini-bus to Santa Catalina.
If you're driving to Santa Catalina, take the Panamerican Highway until you reach Santiago, turn left at the Shell station (Ave. Central) Follow this street for approximately 2 miles, passing the church on the left side. At the second crossroad, turn right and continue until you reach the next Shell station - just before reaching Soná (approx. 25 miles). At this station, turn left and follow the sign to Santa Catalina. After approx. 28 miles, turn left in El Tigre de los Amarillos, following the sign for Santa Catalina, Lagartero. Continue along this road until you reach the intersection, then turn right and stay on this road until you reach Santa Catalina. The trip from Panama City to Santa Catalina takes approximately 6 - 7 hours.
Canopy Tours & Zip Lining
Bocas del Toro Province
- Isla Bastimentos
- Bastimentos Sky Zipline
- Boquete Tree Trek
- El Vall de Antón
- Canopy Tour Zip Line
- Río Pedra
- Panama Outdoor Adventures
Fresh Water Fishing
Gatun Lake and the Chagres River are ideal destinations for any fishing enthusiast looking to catch peacock bass, tarpon or snook, as well as other less popular fresh water fish. With a countless number of small bays, inlets and channels, Panama provides for terrific fishing opportunities, whether you're using live bait or lures. Furthermore, its lined with lush, verdant rainforest, so the setting couldn't be better. Common sightings include howler and white-faced capuchin monkeys, iguanas, and an endless number of aquatic bird species. There are two primary points of entry, Gamboa and Arenosa.
The small, quaint town of Gamboa, a 30-40 minute drive from Panama City, resides right along the Panama Canal and is home to the Panama Canal Dredging Division. Just prior to reaching Gamboa, and before crossing over the Chagres River bridge, you'll find the Gamboa public boat ramp off to the right, which is open daily from 5:00 a.m. - 6:00 p.m. The dock lacks public bathroom facilities and running water, nor are there any stores near by - the nearest store is in the town of Gamboa, a 15-20 minute walk. Along the road, just outside the gate, is a large, public parking lot where you can leave your car. The facility is used by locals for personal use (fishing, jet skis, etc.), and by commercial outfitters that offer fishing and sightseeing tours.
Fishing tours can be organized at the Gamboa public dock, but it would be best to do so prior to arriving. Most fishing boats require a minimum of 4 passengers, so unless you arrive in a group you'll find it very expensive. Normally, fishing gear can be rented along with live bait (minnows). The most popular fishing spots tend to be in the area surrounding Barro Colorado Island, which resides just off to the west side of the Panama Canal - it takes approximately 35-35 to get there by boat, depending on motor, weather, etc. The fishing in and around the Chagres River is also very good.
The picturesque town of Arenosa is located on the far western shore of Gatun Lake, approximately 1.5 hours drive from Panama City. The town has a few modest restaurants overlooking the lake, as well as a few stores where you can purchase soft drinks and other food items. The area surrounding Arenosa is very flat and open, thus more susceptible to the wind. The fishing spots aren't nearly as secluded and sheltered as they are near Gamboa, but they're no less beautiful and peaceful - just different. Fishing rods and live bait are also available upon request, but we recommend you organize your visit prior to arriving. Arenosa is a very small town, and while there are several locals with private boats for hire, finding them on short notice could prove difficult.
Regardless of your destination, fresh water fishing in Gatun Lake is a memorable experience and a wonderful way to spend a day during your visit to Panama. You won't be disappointed, the lake is well stocked and nobody comes back with an empty bucket.
Freshwater Fishing Outfittes
Golf Courses & Resorts
Bocas del Toro Province
- Changuinola Golf Club
- Chitré Golf Club
- Playa Coronado
- Coronado Golf & Beach Resort
- San Carlos
- Vista Mar Golf & Beach Resort
Rafting & Kayaking
Chiriqui, Panama's Northwestern province hosts Panama's growing sport of whitewater rafting. Due to its mountainous topography and abundance of rainfall, Chiriqui's rivers offer class III and IV commercial whitewater runs. A limited number of companies provide a variety of excursions modeled to fit the season and level of experience.
The following is a list and brief explanation of some day trips.
Bajo Mendez Section (3.5 hours) - Class III & III+; Considered to be the forgiving river to its counterpart, the Palon, this section involves big water with plenty of room for maneuvering. Long wave trains and wild scenery make this river a perfect starting point for the first-time rafter.
Barrigona Section (2.5 hours) - Class III; Perfect for beginners and families, this section offers a glimpse of what whitewater can look and feel like. The Barrigona features a few exciting class III rapids while the rest of the stretch is filled with continuously moving water that will keep you on your toes. A shorter trip, the Barrigona gives the rafter 2.5 hours of milder rafting and vistas of Chiriqui's pretty stretches of plains and gentle rolling hills.
CHIRIQUI VIEJO RIVER
Palon Section (4 hours) - Class IV; Perhaps some of the most beautiful and classic rapids in all of Central America, this section is only run during the low water months of December through April. Intrepid first-timers and seasoned rafters will undoubtedly hail this river as a world class run with it's non stop rapids, technical maneuvers, deep canyon gorges and it's spectacular tropical jungle scenery.
Sabo Section (2.5 hours) - Class III; Lush and verdant forest borders along this lower section of the Chiriqui Viejo River. Big rapids dominate the first half of the Sabo section while the second half levels out to allow participants a chance to enjoy the surrounding wildlife and scenery. Feast your eyesCormorants, Kingfishers and Iguanas abound!
White Water Rafting & Kayaking Outfitters
- I Sail Panama Colombia
- Sailing Cartagena - San Blas, Panama
- San Blas Sailing
- Panama Sailing Adventures
- Colombia - Panama Sailing
- Panama Sailing School
- Panama Sailing
- Skip the Darien Gap
- Panama Yacht Adventures
- Odin Sailing Panama
- Panama Sailing Tours
- Yacht Latina
- Bocas Sailing
- Sailing Koala
- Sailing Blue Sky
- Blue Sailing
- The Pearl Islands Sailng
- PC Sailing
- Cartagena Sailing
- Ave Maria
- Coolrunning II
- Sailing San Blas Islands
- Sailing Albatros Feliz
- Coiba Sailing Panama
- Captain Rick's Panama Sailing
Bocas del Toro Province
- Boca Chica
- Boca Brava Divers
Bocas del Toro Province
Los Santos Province
- Playa Venao, Pedasi
- Beach Break Surf Camp & Hotel
- San Carlos
- Panama Surf School
- Santa Catalina
- Oasis Surf Camp