Panama is a long, thin country with infinite coastline on the Pacific and Caribbean, vibrant culture, diverse landscapes and plenty of beautiful destinations waiting to be discovered.
Here are some possible DESTINATIONS
First-time visitors are surprised to learn that Panama has over a thousand islands in both the Caribbean and Pacific Oceans, along with dozens of national parks and reserves. Over 30% of the country is protected. As the meeting point between North and South America, this isthmus nation is home to species from both continents; in fact, Panama boasts greater biodiversity than Costa Rica. All this, and no need for US currency conversion!
Panama City, founded in 1519, was the first European city established on the Pacific Coast of the Americas. This was the base from which Pizarro launched his conquest of the Incas. In the late 17th Century, the famous English pirate, Henry Morgan, destroyed the city. It was rebuilt two years later on a nearby peninsula. Today, the capital’s historic center—declared a Patrimony of Humanity site by UNESCO—is undergoing a loving restoration. In the newer districts, luxury hotels and high-rises dominate the skyline.
More than a dozen rainforest parks have been established within easy reach of Panama City. The Metropolitan National Park, located within city limits, is home to over 200 species of birds, mammals and reptiles. Parque Nacional Soberanía, a half-hour drive from the capital, protects Panama’s national bird, the harpy eagle. A few miles farther away, Parque Nacional Charges is a mountainous region of waterfalls, jaguar and friendly communities of the indigenous Emberá people.
Most of Panama’s beaches and dive spots are found on its Caribbean side. Among these are the islands of the Bocas del Toro Archipelago, situated off the northwest coast. These islands welcome sunbathers with postcard-perfect white sand beaches. Offshore, coral reefs draw divers, eagle rays, nurse sharks and triggerfish.
Portobelo, located just east of the Caribbean canal zone, is as famous for colorful congo dances as it is for great diving. The clear, shallow waters are perfect for snorkeling.
The Pacific coast also holds considerable appeal. Coiba Island boasts one of the healthiest, most extensive coral reef in the eastern Pacific. The park is teeming with marine life, including species of whales, dolphins and sharks. The island's undisturbed tropical forests serve as a habitat for spectacular birds species, such as red and green macaws. Because the island has been used as a penal colony for nearly a century, visitors obtain special government approval before visiting the island. The island was only recently opened to tourists.
The name Panama can be translated as “the place of many fish.” Sport fishermen ply the waters off both coasts. On the Pacific side, you can tackle marlin, tuna, swordfish, wahoo, dorado and sailfish. On the Caribbean coast, tarpon, kingfish, grouper and shark are common catches.
The best time to visit Panama is during the dry season, which lasts from December to March throughout most of the country. Each February, Carnival is celebrated across the nation; if you wish to participate in the festivities, reservations should be made six months in advance. Several other colorful regional festivals are held each spring.