Panama

PANAMA TRAVEL GUIDE

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Panama is a country on the isthmus linking Central and South America. The Panama Canal, a famous feat of human engineering, cuts through its centre, linking the Atlantic and Pacific oceans to create an essential shipping route. In the capital, Panama City, modern skyscrapers, casinos and nightclubs contrast with colonial buildings in the Casco Viejo district and the rainforest of Natural Metropolitan Park.

 

The ease of travel and a wide array of experiences make Panama one of the most attractive emerging tourism destinations in the world. In just one week, visitors can enjoy two different oceans, experience the mountains and rainforest, learn about native cultures and take advantage of vibrant urban life. The capital, Panama City, is a modern, sophisticated metropolis that resembles Miami and has established commerce, arts, fashion and dining.

 

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PANAMA QUICK FACTS

  • Capital: Panama City
  • Currency: US dollar ($, USD; banknotes only) Panamanian Balboa (PAB; coins only)
  • Area: 78,200 km²
  • Population: 4,177 million (2018)
  • Language: Spanish (official), English
  • Religion: Roman Catholic 85% Protestant 15%
  • Electricity: 120V, 60Hz
 

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PANAMA PUBLIC HOLIDAYS

  • 9 January, Martyrs’ Day
  • 1 May, Labor Day
  • 3rd Sunday in June, Día del Padre (Father’s Day)
  • 15 August, Founding of Old Panama
  • 3 November, Anniversary of Separation from Colombia
  • 4 November, Flag Day
  • 5 November, Colon Day
  • 10 November, 1st Call for Independence in Los Santos
  • 28 November, Anniversary of Independence from Spain
  • 8 December, Mother’s Day

Holidays falling on a Sunday are observed the following Monday.

 

FESTIVALS IN PANAMA

  • Panama Jazz Festival - (January) The week-long jazz festival is one of the biggest musical events in Panama, drawing top-calibre international musicians from jazz, blues, salsa and other genres. Held around the city; the open-air events are usually free.
  • Festival de Diablos y Congos - (February) Held every two years, this festival in Portobelo celebrates rebellious slave ancestors with spirited public dancing, cheeky role-playing and beautiful masks and costumes.
  • Carnaval - (Feb/Mar) Carnaval in Panama City is celebrated with merriment and wild abandon in the days preceding Ash Wednesday. From Saturday until the following Tuesday, work is put away and masks, costumes and confetti come out, and for 96 hours almost anything goes.
  • Festival de la Mejorana - (September) Panama's largest folk festival, held in Guararé, showcases music and dance by the country's many indigenous and ethnic groups.
  • Nogapope - Indigenous Guna people converge on Isla Tigre for three days of tireless traditional dancing. It's visually engaging and fully authentic. Held October 10 to 12, with a three-day fair with art shows and canoe races.
Panama
 

BEST TIME TO VISIT PANAMA

Panama has a hot and humid, tropical climate, with a long rainy season from May to December and a short dry season from January to April. Average annual temperature for the country is 27°C and average total rainfall is 1900 mm annually. However, these statistics vary by region and altitude. Although the rainy season in Panama is one of the longest in Central America it can bring welcome relief from the heat and it rarely rains all day. The rain usually comes down hard for a few hours during the afternoons in the rainy season, leaving mornings hot and sunny. The great thing about the rain is that it leaves the country leafy and green. Unlike its northern Central American neighbours which get dried out and brown during the dry season, Panama never loses its fresh green sparkle and it always looks like what it is – a tropical country.

 

There are some regional differences though. The Azuero Peninsula has a microclimate that makes its interior appear somewhat arid and desert-like on occasion. The Caribbean side of the Continental Divide is also wetter than the Pacific side. A great example of this is that Panama City receives roughly half as much rain each year as Colon. Both cities are on either end of the Canal, Panama City on the Pacific and Colon on the Caribbean - barely 80km apart.

 

  • December to April - High season on the Pacific coast is also the dry season. Best time to hike or dive.
  • Mid-April to early December - Rainy season means low-season travel rates.
  • August to October - Migrating humpback whales in the Pacific; shoulder season in Bocas.
 

PANAMA WEATHER SYNOPSIS

Panama has a hot and humid, tropical climate, with a long rainy season from May to January and a short dry season from January to May. The rainy season is between May and December and brings an estimated 250-700 millimetres of rainfall across the country. Average annual temperature for the country is 27°C and average total rainfall is 1900 mm annually. However, these statistics vary by region and altitude. Maximum mean temperatures across the country oscillate between 31.1°C and 34.5°C. Minimum temperature ranges from 20.1°C and 22.4°C. Occasional severe storms and forest fires in the Darien Gap are common. Climate variability in Panama is driven mainly by the El Niño Southern Oscillation, tropical cyclones, and sea surface temperatures.

Panama

PANAMA TOURIST SEASONS

Most destinations have different times of the year when they’re more or less popular with tourists. 

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SPORT & ACTIVITIES

SNOW SPORT IN PANAMA

HIKING & CYCLING IN PANAMA

The best time for outdoor activities in Panama is during the dry season, from December to April. It can get really wet from May all the way through to November. Roam the coffee-scented hills around Volcán Barú, in the Chiriquí highlands. Chiriquí is home to two of Panama’s most famous hikes: Volcán Barú and Sendero Los Quetzales in Parque Nacional Volcán Barú. While Los Quetzales is more scenic in poor weather, ascents up Barú, which is Panama’s highest peak, can offer views of both oceans on a clear day.

The TransPanama Trail is a cross-country circuit (www.transpanama.org) runs from the border of Costa Rica toward Panama City, but you can hike any three-day stretch for a good taste of Panama's rugged backcountry. More information is available on the website, where you can also download GPS tracks for free.

BEACH OPTIONS IN PANAMA

The beaches in Panama are best enjoyed during the dry season from December to April. It can get really wet from May all the way through to November.

SURFING IN PANAMA

Panama has pretty decent surf all year round. The best time for surfing along the Pacific side is during the wet season from April to November. The Caribbean side is best between December and March, during the dry season, but swells are generally smaller.

The country’s top surfing destination is the Caribbean archipelago of Bocas del Toro, which attracts strong winter swells and surfers from around the world. Although it remains an off-the-beaten-path destination, Santa Catalina on the Pacific coast has some of the most challenging breaks in Central America. There is also uncrowded surfing on the laid-back Caribbean island of Isla Grande and at Playa Venao on the Península de Azuero.

KITESURF IN PANAMA

The season with consistent wind in Panama for kitesurfing is from December until April, which is also the dry season. Punta Chame is great for beginner and advanced riders. Another well known kite spot is San Blas Islands.

For more details on kite surfing in Panama expand this section!

 
 

HEALTH RISKS IN PANAMA

Be aware of possible health risks in 

Panama

Yellow fever - The yellow fever virus is found in tropical and subtropical areas of Africa and South America. The virus is spread to people by the bite of an infected mosquito. There is no medicine to treat or cure an infection. To prevent getting sick from yellow fever, use insect repellent, wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants, and get vaccinated.

Zika Virus - Zika is spread mostly by the bite of an infected Aedes species mosquito. These mosquitoes bite during the day and night. Zika can be passed from a pregnant woman to her fetus. Infection during pregnancy can cause certain birth defects. There is no vaccine or medicine for Zika.

Malaria - Malaria is a serious and sometimes fatal disease caused by a parasite that commonly infects a certain type of mosquito which feeds on humans. People who get malaria are typically very sick with high fevers, shaking chills, and flu-like illness. Although malaria can be a deadly disease, illness and death from malaria can usually be prevented.

Dengue - Dengue is spread mostly by the bite of an infected Aedes species mosquito. These mosquitoes bite during the day and night. About one in four people infected with dengue will get sick. For people who get sick with dengue, symptoms can be mild or severe.

For the latest travel health notices and recommended precautions click

PANAMA TRAVEL COSTS

As one of the richest countries in Central America, costs in Panama are generally a bit higher than most parts of the region. It's comparable to the cost of travel in Costa Rica, another of the more expensive countries in the region. However, if you’re coming to Panama directly from North America or Europe, you’ll still most likely find it very cheap.

 

Panama is not like somewhere like Nicaragua or Guatemala, where the travel industry is almost entirely geared towards more budget-minded travellers. In Panama, there is the potential to indulge in a bit of luxury every now and then. You will still have to be a bit savvy though, particularly in the capital which is a popular shopping destination so it’d be wise to set aside a separate budget for shopping if that’s on your agenda.

 

There are plenty of ways to save money in Panama and lower the cost of your trip without sacrificing too much of the quality.

  • Eat at the local food stands – Meals at local food stalls cost US$ 3 US$4. You can get get rice, chicken, beans, and maybe another side plus a drink.
  • Avoid taxis – Taxis are not metered and it's much easier to get ripped off. Rather use Uber where you can and if you have no other option agree on a price in advance.
  • Drink tap water - In most of Panama tap water is perfectly safe to drink. Get a refillable bottle save yourself a few dollars a day. If you're super paranoid get a portable water filter like we use.
  • Drink beer - Cutting alcohol from your travel budget can make a significant effect on your expenses. That said, beer is a reasonably affordable option.
  • Use Airbnb's - Available across most of Panama it's a cheaper option than traditional hotels and it might give you a bit more space as well.
  • Visit in the rainy season - High season is between January and April when the country is drier. If you travel outside this period you will find considerably better value and along the coastal areas bouts of rain is generally brief.
 

PANAMA TRAVEL TIPS

 

GETTING AROUD

If you can deal with the heat (and the rain!) cycling through Panama can easily be managed, with plentiful lodgings within a day's ride. Cycling within larger Panamanian cities – particularly Panama City – is however, not for the faint of heart. Roads tend to be narrow, and vehicles can be driven aggressively. Also, the frequent rains often reduce motorists’ visibility and will affect you bicycle-tire grip. Panama's Interamericana boasts the best quality in Central America, although some sections have a narrow shoulder. Roads in many of the provinces (especially in Veraguas and Colón) are generally in poor shape – so bring lots of spare parts and plan your route carefully.

 

With a bus you can make it to just about any community in Panama that is reachable by road. Some buses are modern and equipped with air-con, movie screens and reclining seats. These top-end buses generally cruise longer stretches of highway. Most common are smaller Toyota Coaster 'mini-busses', affectionately called chivas. You can make use of these to reach towns on the Península de Azuero and along the Interamericana. Panama City is replacing it's old 'red-devil' school busses with a Metrobus system and riders can obtain swipe cards at Albrook Bus Terminal or main bus stops. Official bus stops are used and the transport is air-conditioned.

 

Panama City's new transportation system is known as El Metro (www.elmetrodepanama.com). The main line connects Albrook with Vía Transístmica, Vía España and Calidonia. The main terminal is across from Albrook Bus Terminal. Fares are paid with the same card used for the Metrobus system.

 

The train trip between Panama City and Colón is a scenic option. It’s considered to be one of the greatest railroad rides in the world and offers spectacular rainforest views and vistas of ships passing through the Canal. As much as it is a tourist favourite, locals will use it to go about their regular business.

 

Taxis are cheap and plentiful, though not all drivers have a good grasp of locations. Before even getting into a taxi, state your destination and settle on a rate. Panamanian taxis don’t have meters, but there are standard fares between neighbourhoods of Panama City. Make sure to ask the staff at your accommodations for typical rates between city sectors - and note that these usually go up after dark.

 

Panama was the first Central American country where Uber launched, in 2014 and Uber is now a solid part of Panama City’s transport infrastructure. Uber is only available in Panama City and David, although drivers can take you all over the country if desired. A ride from Panama City to David will cost from around $350 for the roughly six-hour journey. Rides inside Panama City will cost from around $2 depending on where you’re going. The ride from Tocumen International Airport to Panama City costs around $14.

 

With much of Panama made up of mountains and jungle, the best way to travel long distances is by air. There are a number of domestic airlines offering cheap services to airstrips all over the country, from jungle strips in the Darien to desert islands in the San Blas Archipelago.

 

CONNECTIONS

The principal crossing to Costa Rica is on the Interamericana at Paso Canoas. Guabito on the Caribbean side and Río Sereno in the highlands are less chaotic border posts.

 

Practically speaking, the best way to get from Panama to Colombia is by flying. You can take a boat but it will take a lot more time and will be more expensive. That said, if you have time 5 days of sailing through the San Blas Islands can be a highlight of your journey. Some sailing vessels will even take bicycles or motorcycles, others will not. Some take them for free, others charge a hefty surcharge. Sadly crossing the Darién Gap by vehicle is not possible and you will have to ship your vehicle from Panama which comes with a hefty price-tag.

 

SIGHTS & HIGHLIGHTS OF PANAMA

  • Archipiélago de Bocas del Toro - While away your days sipping coconuts and snorkelling at laid-back resorts.
  • Boquete - Fue up for highland adventures with local mountain-grown coffee in the town of eternal spring.
  • Panama City - Spend the day admiring the faded glory of the old city, Casco Viejo, then revel till sunrise on Calle Uruguay.
  • Comarca de Guna Yala - Cruise white-sand cays, swim in crystal clear waters and soak up the sunrise on a sailboat.
  • Panama Canal - Lay your eyes on this awe-inspiring, engineering marvel.

 

RECOMMENDED ITINERARIES

ONE WEEK

Start by imbibing the rush of Panama City. Visit Panamá Viejo, destroyed in a massive pirate raid. Grab a bicycle and pedal along Cinta Costera, the coastal beltway, to Casco Viejo, the cobblestone neighbourhood with plaza cafes and rooftop bars.

Make a perfect day trip to nearby Miraflores Locks to witness mammoth ships squeezing through the canal. At the nearby Parque Nacional Soberanía you can climb a canopy tower to search for toucans and sloths, or kayak Lago Gatún spotting howler monkeys and sunbathing crocodiles.

Next, fly to Bocas del Toro for four days of relaxing Caribbean vibes. Snorkel the aquamarine waters with tropical fish and coral reefs, and explore Isla Colón by quad bike. As alternative, head for Isla Bastimentos, with its thatched resorts and jungle lodges. If you need an injection of culture, take a chocolate tour on the mainland or visit indigenous groups on other islands.

 

TWO WEEKS

Head over the continental divide to highland Boquete to explore its coffee farms and cloud forests before hitting the expansive beaches of the Pacific coast eventually making your way back to the capital.

 

PANAMA CITY & THE CANAL ZONE

This is the core of Panama, the part of the country where most people live, as well as the economic engine that is driving the country into the future. Panama City gleams like a Latin American version of Hong Kong or Dubai while dozens of ships sit in the bay waiting to pass through the Canal. Escape is never far. Day trip to sandy beaches (Pacific or Caribbean), admire the canal, or explore lush rainforests of howler monkeys, toucans and sloths.

 

A good way to get your bearings around Panama City is with City Sightseeing Panama, whose red double-deckers loop the city. Stops include Multicentro Mall, Calle Uruguay, Casco Viejo and the Amador Causeway. Service is hop on, hop off, so you can explore the sights all you want with hourly pickups.

 

No visit to Panama City would be complete without taking a day trip to its famous water way – just remember that the Canal Zone is much, much more than just the canal. The rainforest surrounding the canal is easily accessed and one of the best places to view a variety of Central American wildlife. The Canal Zone is home to a number of impressive attractions, especially if you’re into wildlife-watching, hiking and birdwatching. On a day trip from Panama City, you could visit the Miraflores Locks and finish at the Parque Nacional Soberanía and the Panama Rainforest Discovery Center. With prior arrangements, you could also take an organized tour of Isla Barro Colorado, one of the world’s most famous tropical research stations, or an Emberá or Wounaan indigenous village on the shores of the Río Chagres.

 

PACIFIC COAST & HIGHLANDS

Crossing the iconic Bridge of the Americas west across the Pacific entrance to the Canal, you soon rise up into the Valle de Anton, an escape from the heat in an extinct volcano crater. The altitude here is marvellous and an easy getaway from Panama City. Moving back downhill you arrive at the beaches of Coronado, with miles of white sands and surf backed by vacation homes and resorts. To truly see Panama’s heart and soul, this may be the best place to look. Dominated by agriculture, these are friendly provinces of laid-back colonial towns, farms and hillside villages. Founded by the Spanish four centuries ago, traditions live on in original colonial architecture, dazzling festivals and exquisite handicrafts. Highlights include Santa Catalina, one of the best surf destinations in Central America, as well as the scenic mountain towns of Santa Fé and El Valle. The Pedasí coast is an up-and-coming destination for off-the-beaten-track beaches and surf.

 

The Sunset Coast is the name given to the west side of Península de Azuero facing the Gulfo de Montijo and Pacific Ocean. The sobriquet is accurate for it is the only place in Panama from which you can watch the sun go down from a beach. Here you'll find long, sandy beaches virtually empty of holiday makers, excellent surfing and the chance to see three species of turtles hatching. There are nature walks in the mangroves and Parque Nacional Cerro Hoya is just down the road. The gateway to the Sunset Coast is Santiago, about 60km north of Mariato. Other important settlements include Malena and Torio, 11km and 15km south of Mariato respectively.

 

Download map waypoints for Panama here: KML / GPX

 

More location information and points of interest are available in the above map

 

CHIRIQUÍ PROVINCE

The western province of Panama is home to some true gems. The high mountains of the Continental Divide provide cool mountain air and rushing rivers and streams. Chiriquí claims to have it all: Panama’s tallest mountains, longest rivers and most fertile valleys. The province is also home to spectacular highland rainforests and the most productive agricultural and cattle-ranching regions in the country. As a result, los chiricanos (natives of Chiriquí) take a particular pride in their province and wave the provincial flag – in every sense – at the slightest opportunity.

 

It's also a land of immense beauty. On the coast, the pristine Golfo de Chiriquí boasts long sandy beaches and a rich diversity of marine life. The mist-covered mountains near the town of Boquete, a favourite of North American and European retirees, is a good base for adventures such as white-water rafting and hiking the flanks of Panama’s highest point, Volcán Barú (3475m). Boquete is also the center of Panama’s coffee industry, which means that a potent cup of shade-grown arabica is never more than a cafe away. The city of David in the lowlands provides the amenities and services, and also a route to the coast, which has many hidden beaches and beautiful islands to explore.

 

BOCAS DEL TORO PROVINCE

With its Caribbean islands dotting a shock of blue waters, Bocas del Toro is all that's tropical. This is Panama’s principal tourist draw and it will no doubt provide some of your most memorable experiences. Until recently, the Bocas were more easily accessed from Costa Rica than from Panama. These Caribbean islands are home to some of the best scuba diving and snorkelling anywhere in Central America. Bocas Town, the capital on Isla Colon, is a great, quirky place to hang out in.

 

The archipelago consists of six densely forested islands, scores of uninhabited islets and the Parque Nacional Marino Isla Bastimentos, Panama’s oldest marine park. The long-time base of Chiquita Banana, the mainland boasts the Parque Internacional La Amistad, shared with Costa Rica. It's also home to diverse wildlife such as the elusive jaguar, traditional Ngöbe-Buglé settlements, and the Naso, one of few remaining American tribes with its own monarch.

 

COLÓN PROVINCE

With an edgy reputation more true crime than travel, Colón rarely makes travel wish lists, but there is more to this Caribbean province than its downtrodden capital. Think pristine beaches and lowland rainforests, colonial splendours and modern engineering marvels. Portobelo, with its growing music and art scene, shows the best of vibrant Congo culture, while the luxury train between Panama City and Colón remains one of the greatest rail journeys in the Americas. With its colonial grandeur crumbling and its neighbourhoods marginalized, Colón is the city that Panama forgot, in spite of vigorous development meant to court Caribbean cruise ships where the last whiff of prosperity was seen during the construction of the Panama Canal. On the city's edge, the Zona Libre (Free Zone) was created in 1948. Generating billions in annual commerce, little benefit seems to trickle down to locals. From close up, it's an island of materialism floating in a sea of unemployment and poverty.

 

COMARCA DE GUNA YALA

A tropical archipelago with one island for every day of the year. With white sand and waving palms, these Caribbean islands cheat no one’s version of paradise. The Comarca is home to the Guna, the first group in Latin America to gain indigenous autonomy. Though they have had contact with Europeans since Columbus sailed these waters in 1502, clan identity is paramount, and many make tenacious efforts to preserve a traditional way of life.

In 2009 the road to Cartí was completed, making the region more accessible than ever and opening up options for day trips. Still off the beaten track, this narrow, 226km-long strip on the Caribbean coast stretches from the Golfo de San Blás to the Colombian border.

Community islands are acre-sized cays packed with bamboo huts, livestock and people. Visitors often prefer the more remote outer islands with few inhabitants. Most areas require landing fees. When visiting the Comarca de Guna Yala, consider how your visit may affect the community and be aware of your surroundings and remain sensitive about your impact.

 

DARIÉN PROVINCE

One of the world’s richest biomes is the 5760-sq-km Parque Nacional Darién, where the primeval meets the present with scenery nearly unaltered from one million years ago. Even today in the Darién, the Emberá and Wounaan people maintain many of their traditional practices and retain generations-old knowledge of the rainforest. If you want to sit in dugout canoes and travel down jungle rivers with indigenous tribesmen, then this is the place to do it. In a stroke of irony, much of the Darién has remained untouched because of its volatile reputation.

 

The road to Yaviza – the most accessible part of the province – has scenes of habitat destruction. Cruising the waterways and hiking trails are the only ways to explore the slow-paced interior Darién and the Pacific coast, where Emberá, Wounaan and African-Darienita cultures coexist. The region's issues are complex. Police checkpoints are frequent because of narcotrafficking. The greatest hazard in the Darién is the difficult environment. Trails, when they exist at all, are often poorly defined and are never marked. Many large rivers that form the backbone of the Darién transportation network create their own hazards. Any help at all, let alone medical help, is very far away. If you get lost, you are done for. To minimize these risks, it’s recommended that you explore the Darién either as part of an organized tour or with the help of a qualified guide. The Darién is not for everyone, but with careful planning and the right destinations, it offers opportunities for intrepid travellers to discover something truly wild.

WHAT TO PACK FOR PANAMA

 
Panama

WHAT TO EAT IN PANAMA

Rice and beans are a staple in Panama and are usually served with patacones (fried plantains), a small cabbage salad and meat. Seafood is abundant and includes shrimp, Caribbean king crab, octopus, lobster and corvina (sea bass). Along the Caribbean coast you’ll also find a West Indian influence to the dishes, such as coconut rice and coconut bread, or seafood mixed with coconut milk. More adventurous palates shouldn't miss pulpo al carbón (grilled octopus). Fresh tropical juices and coconut water (known as pipa) are sold on the street.


Where to eat:

Budget eateries like cafeterías (simple eateries), panaderías (bakeries), stands and market stalls sell a range of filling dishes and set meals from US$ 3 - US$ 6.

 

Don't miss:

  • Panama’s national dish is sancocho (chicken and vegetable stew).

  • Ropa vieja (literally ‘old clothes’), a spicy shredded beef combination served over rice, is also common.

  • Breakfast staples and snacks are tortillas de maíz (thick, fried cornmeal cakes) and hojaldras (deep-fried mass of dough served hot and covered with sugar).

  • For lunch, simple comida corriente is an inexpensive set meal of beef, chicken or fish served with rice, black beans, fried plantain, chopped cabbage and maybe an egg or an avocado.

  • Specialties include carimañola, a yucca roll filled with chopped meat then deep-fried.

  • The most common snack is the empanada (turnover filled with ground meat and fried).

  • Tamales (cornmeal with a few spices and chicken or pork, wrapped in banana leaves and boiled) are another favourite.

  • In Panama City you’ll often see vendors pushing carts and selling raspados, cones filled with shaved ice topped with fruit syrup and sweetened condensed milk.

 

LGBTQ IN PANAMA

In July of 2020, the Panamanian government took an important step forward in support of the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people. Gay unions are still not legal here, but many think this may change relatively soon. That said, Panamanians are more out than ever, though this openness is much more prevalent in the capital than anywhere else. More than in other parts of Central America, you will probably meet openly gay locals, though the culture is generally discreet.

 
Panama
 

WHERE TO STAY IN PANAMA

Book lodgings two to six months ahead during super-peak times such as the week preceding Easter, the November festivals and the weeks surrounding Christmas and New Year. More popular hostels and small hotels usually require reservations in high season.

 

Panama City offers every kind of accommodation. A glut of options means that many high-end hotels offer deals that bring them into the midrange. Boutique lodgings are on the rise. Post urban renewal, old-world charmer Casco Viejo is an excellent place to stay, with many restaurants and cafes within walking distance. Fast-paced modern Panama is best experienced in the overlapping neighbourhoods of Bella Vista, Marbella and El Cangrejo. For those who prefer the quiet life, outlying neighbourhoods have excellent B&B options. These include the former US-occupied neighbourhoods of Albrook, Ancón and Amador, located in the Canal Zone.

 

Bocas del Toro and (especially) Boquete offer some excellent budget accommodations – and there’s plenty of adventure right on the doorstep.

 

Lodging considerations in the Comarca de Guna Yala are vastly different from those on the mainland. Here, a spot in a thatched hut with a sand floor can cost anywhere between US$50 and US$150 per night. The difference has more to do with access, ambience and organization than anything else. Densely populated community islands are more likely to have budget options, but they will not live up to your image of a remote tropical paradise. Resort islands generally have a bigger price tag, but they may not offer many opportunities to interact with locals. Carefully selecting your accommodations on the islands is key, since their remoteness makes it difficult to change your mind. There is only a handful of lodgings on the islands and none on the mainland. Most of these are basic but comfortable. Lodgings generally include three meals (but not drinks), one outing per day (snorkelling or a community visit, for example) and transportation to or from the airport or Cartí, but do confirm ahead. Do your homework and look at some reviews before committing. Consider aspects such as how long it takes to get there (and safety!), access to pleasant nearby beaches and bathroom facilities.

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