From clear turquoise seas to the coffee farms and cloud forests of Chiriqui, Panama can be as chilled out or as thrilling as you want.
I spent two weeks travelling around this beautiful country from the cosmopolitan Panama City to the remote San Blas Islands, to the coffee plantations in Boquete.
Located in the heart of the Americas, Panama is the narrow but crucial link between Central and South America. The Panama Canal joins the Atlantic to the Pacific, wedding east to west in global commerce. Pristine beaches, lush rainforest and big-city nightlife are major reasons to visit this tropical paradise.
Here are some of my favourite experiences.
From rooftop cocktails with city views, to live salsa bands and open air bars under crumbling colonial walls, Panama City nightlight is fabulous. From cocktails at high end bars, where the locals dress to the nines, to dj’s belting out house tunes until the early hours, the city is very much alive at night.
In the day, head to Casco Viejo to admire the 16th-century ruins of Panama Veijo, sit down and indulge in a plate of Ceviche, admiring the views and soaking with the Latin american culture. The colonial architecture gives Casco Viejo a Havana vibe, with its crumbling convents and cobblestone streets. Everywhere you look there are rooftop bars playing an eclectic mix of music genres.
BOCOS DEL TORO
Oh Bocos…this island chain has something for everyone. Incredible beaches, wildlife spotting, snorkeling, surf and jungle to explore. Grab yourself a cruiser and pedal around town, hitting up some of the bars along the way. Many of the hostels sit directly on the water. Spend your days lazing by the water, reading your book and eating fish tacos. What more could you want?
Although I dithered on whether to visit Boquete, but I’m so glad I did. Equal parts adventure hub and mountain retreat, this is a stunning area to visit in Panama. When researching where to visit in Panama, I was turned off the idea of visiting Boquete initially, due to reviews stating it is a magnet for expats and retirees. To be honest it didn’t seem like my cup of tea. However, that is not the experience that I had.
Boquete is one of the country’s top destinations for outdoor-lovers. It’s a hub for white water rafting, zip lining, climbing, visiting coffee farms, soaking in the hot springs or studying Spanish.
And last but not least.
SAN BLAS ISLANDS
The San Blas Islands in Panama are simply paradise on earth! I kid you not, I have never seen anywhere more beautiful. Locally known as Guna Yala, this 400-plus-island archipelago in the Caribbean is an independent indigenous territory steeped in tradition. The Guna people mainly live on the community islands, with the vast array of smaller more deserted islands owned privately or visited by tourists.
With some islands so small that they are mere sank banks in the middle of the ocean, there is little to do here but lay on the white sand beaches, snorkel in the turquoise waters and re-hydrate with a fresh coconut. Paradise on earth.
When to visit
You can travel to tropical Panama all year round, but the driest part of the year runs between January and mid-April.
ATM’s are widely available and you can use credit or debit cards in most restaurants and hostels.
Visas are generally not needed for stays up to 90 days. Check out the GOV.uk for further information on entry requirements.