Panama Travel Guides for Backpackers

An afternoon in Taboga Island

Taboga is a small island in Panamá Bay just 30 min by ferry from Panamá City. Is the perfect place to spend some hours or even a day or two. If you can choose, go during the week as it is so close to the city on weekends the island gets very busy and full of locals and it is difficult to find a spot at the beach. How to get there The most common way to get to Taboga is by ferry. The company the opérate in this route is Taboga Express, the ferry leaves from  Isla Flamenco at the end of Amador Causeway. You can just put “Taboga Express Fast Ferry” either in your GPS or in the mobility app of your choice. The round trip costs $20 and it takes 30 min to get there. The ferry leaves every day at 8am, 9:30am, 11am and 3pm; the from the island there are ferries back to the city at 8:45am, 10:15am, 2:30pm, 4pm (there is one extra time od departure Saturdays, Sundays and holidays). What to do on the island There are a few people offering tours at the pier when you arrive if you want to do a guided tour. You can visit the village and get to know more about the island history, the importance of the island for Panama´s development and how Taboga was a base for the US military during the World War II. If you feel adventures there are a few hiking trails at the island that you can do: Cerro de la Cruz, Cerro del Vigia and Sendero de Las Tres Cruzes. All the hiking have a moderate level and you may get to a dirt road and even claim thru loose rocks, be prepare and take a lot of protection from the sun and lots and lots of water. In all the trails you will get a great view of Taboga and Panama City from the top. Cerro del Vigia is the one with the best view, the 300 meters provides a 360 degrees view and it is possible to see Panama City to Punta Chame, Coronado and other beaches, the islands of Otoque and Bona, and the boats of the bay. And of course staying on the beach is the main attraction, the island has a few beaches that you can choose from and you can also rent chairs and umbrellas. The ocean is blue with almost no waves which makes a perfect place to relax. If you are planning on spending most of your day at the beach, make sure to get there soon, the tide rises fast and in the early afternoon there is almost no sand. Practical tips Make sure to bring a lot of water and sun protection. Also, bring something to eat, the island has a few restaurants but its all very simple. You can go any time of the year thanks to the tropical climate in Panamá, but during the raining season (May to […]

Playa Venao, Pedasí, Panamá

Panamá is known for Panama City being the most developed city in Central America or for the Caribbean islands visited by many tourists, but the beaches at the Pacific side of Panamá are worth a visit as much as the ones in the Caribbean side. Playa Venao is one of those beaches, at the Azuero Peninsula with an incredible landscape is the perfect place for those who love to surf and being in contact with nature. How to get there Playa Venao is located at 34km southwest from Pedasí and 370km from Panama City, if you go by car it will take you around 5h to get there. Be aware of the last 1h30min, especially during the night, the road is not well lit, and you may need to divert some animal on the way. A few hotels and hostels like Selina Hostel and Beach Break have a transferred service from Panama City, you may want to check that out, it’s more expensive but you won’t need to drive all the way there. Another option is to go by bus, but there isn’t a bus that goes from Panama City straight to Playa Venao so you will need to take a bus from the Albrook Bus Terminal and go to either Chitré, Pedasí, or Las Tablas. From there you can take another bus to Playa Venao or negotiate the ride with a taxi. It takes a little longer but it’s cheaper. Here to stay This depends on the type of accommodation you are looking for and your budget. Playa Venao has from the simplest hostel to fancy hotels and you can even rent a house if you prefer. The good news is that most of the hostels are right at the beach, in the sand to exact. So, my only advice here is that you choose one of those hostels, you will be right at the beach and the city center, where you will find a small supermarket and a few restaurants are very close. What to do Playa Venao is mostly known to two things: being a surf point in Panama and being a spot for electronic music lovers. Playa Venao is one of Panama’s most well-known surf spots, if you are a surfer passing throw Central America this is a mandatory stop and if you are looking to learn how to surf Venao will not let you down, there are a few places where you can rent a surfboard and even get surf lessons. About the electronic music, Playa Venao is the stage for the Sonica Venao Festival and the Radio Venao Gathering, and even if you miss one of those it’s likely that in others National Holidays you will be able to find an electronic music party either at El Sitio or Selina Hostel. Besides that, you can also do ecotourism, sport fishing, horse riding, visit a close island like Isla Iguana or Isla Cañas, and of course enjoying the beach.  

Las Perlas, Isla Contadora – Panama

The Pearl Islands (or in Spanish: Las Perlas) is an archipelago in the Pacific coast of Panama, around 48Km into the Gulf of Panama. Compose of more than 100 islands, but most of them are tiny and uninhabited, the most famous are: Isla Contadora, Saboga, Bayoneta, Pacheca, Mogo Mogo, Gibraleón, Casayeta, Casaya, La Mina, Galera, Viveros, Cañas and San Telmo. The archipelago is considered one of the best places for sport fishing in the world, this is due to the quantity and diversity of marine species. And it is also a famous point for whale watching in Panama. Due to the structure of hotels, markets and restaurants the most visit Island is Isla Contadora. How to get there There is one way to get to the Isla Contadora, by ferry. There used to be a daily flight by AirPanama but apparently, they don’t do this route anymore. There are two companies that do Panama City to Isla Contadora, Ferry Las Perlas that leaves from the Trump Ocean Club International Hotel & Tower Panama and Sea las Perlas that leaves from the Muelle Flamenco Marina, Isla Flamenco Causeway. Both companies have ferries that leave once a day in the morning and come back in the afternoon, which means that you can go just for the day if you don’t have much time. The round ticket is around $90 per person and the trip’s duration is about 1h30min each way. How to move around the island The most common transportation on the island are the golf carts. You can rent it by the hour or for 24 hours, if you are spending the night there this option makes more sense, in my opinion, if you want to explore the island. There are a few places in the main street that you can rent it, some hotels can do it for you, and some hotel or rented houses already have the cart included. The island is quite large and has a lot of ups and downs, besides that the roads don’t have a sidewalk which makes very difficult to explore the island walking, but you can also rent a bike if you are looking for a more cheaper solution. Main beaches The beaches are not hard to find, and you can get a map to help you. At the north side of the island is Playa Caracol, maybe the hardest one to get to since you have to hike a little bit but is one of the least crowded ones and is also a scuba diving spot; Playa Ejecutiva, maybe the smallest beach on the island; and Playa Galeon, this beach is the dropping off and boarding of the ferries. On the east side of the Island is the most famous beach Playa Larga, this was where I spent most of the time, just because it was easy to get to and very close to my hotel. And is also an alternative dropping point for the ferries.  Very close you can find the […]

Top 4 Tours in Bocas del Toro

Bocas del Toro is an archipelago in the Caribbean side of Panama, almost in the border of Costa Rica. The main Island where most of the hotel, restaurants, and markets are doesn’t have a beach, but all the tours leave from the main island, Bocas Town. Besides visiting neighboring islands, here are the top 4 tours you can and should do in Bocas del Toro: Cayo Zapatilla Without a doubt the most beautiful island in Bocas del Toro. With many shades of blue and white sand beaches, this island is a Caribbean jewelry. Cayo Zapatilla is composed of two islands, Zapatilla I and Zapatilla II both part of the Bocas Marine National Park, the second one being the most visited. The tours usually leave in the morning and last around 8 hours, returning in the middle of the afternoon. The value can vary, but it can be up to $45 per person. The island doesn’t have much structure, so be prepared to stay for a few hours in the sun, also bring water and something to eat with you. You can choose to have lunch on the island or to have lunch on your way back in Cayo Coral. Cayo Coral and Bahía de Los Delfines If you go to Cayo Zapatilla, you will probably stop at Cayo Coral and Bahía de Los Delfines on your way back, those two stops are included in many of the tours in Bocas del Toro. Cayo Coral is usually the stop for lunch at the tours and, most importantly, a great place to do snorkeling. The variety of corals is amazing, just be careful, once you are in the water keep your body floating horizontally, the corals are very close to the surface and really sharpened. Bocas del Toro is known for having great biodiversity and if you are lucky you may even see some dolphins on their natural habitat at the Bahía de Los Delfines. Playa Estrella In a free translation, the name would be Star Beach, that’s because you will find a transparent sea with a lot of starfish by the beach. The beach is amazing and beautiful but during busy days it can get crowded and takes away a little of the paradise touch from the beach. The good news here is that you don’t need to hire a tour to get to Playa Estrella, you can but you don’t need to, you can choose a cheaper way and go either by bus, taxi or rating a bike (the best option in my opinion). Isla de Los Pájaros Isla de Los Pájaros is one of the most unique in Bocas del Toro, but you will need a little bit of luck since the island is in the middle of the open sea and if the ocean is too agitated the tour will be canceled. And in the Caribbean, rainy days happen with a high occurrence so if you get lucky and the conditions are favorable, do not think twice.

San Blas Islands – How to get there and practical tips

If you are looking for a beautiful natural destination, with untouched nature, a unique local culture, and the Caribbean Sea as a bonus, this is the place for you. San Blas is an archipelago composed of over 360 small tropical islands in the Caribbean, and are the territory of Kuna Yala, in Panama. Besides having one island for every day of the years, don’t get too excited, each island in San Blas is the territory of a Kuna family and not all the Guna people accept tourist in their islands. How to get there The easiest way is for you to book a tour from Panama City, hat’s the capital of Panama and the main airport is Tocumen International Airport. You also can go by boat from Colombia, but since I only went to San Blas from Panama City, that’s the one I’m going to share with you. You will need to book a tour either with the Guna people, an agency, with your hotel or online. Your tour needs to include (to go and came back) transportation from the city until the port and the boat ride from the port to the island, and the accommodation in the island. Don’t worry they book it all together in the packet. Once you booked your tour, a driver will pick you up at the scheduled time and drive you in a 4×4 car to the port, the trip takes about 2 hours. Don’t forget to take your passport with you, when you enter the Guna Yala region they are going to ask for it. Once you get to the port, a boat will take you to the island that you’re staying, the boat that will take you isn’t a big boat so there is a very good chance that you will get wet, putting your things in a plastic bag it’s a good idea. The boat ride will depend on the island that you are staying at, but usually takes 30 – 45 min. How much is it The transportation varies from $40 to $50, both ways. The rest depends on the island, type of accommodation and how many days you are saying. Accommodations You can go just to spend the day and come back on the same day, but you can also sleep in one of the islands. The accommodations available are camping ($), a cabana ($$) or a Sailing boat ($$$). Take into consideration that not all islands have cabanas and the structure is very simple, and to book the accommodation in the sailing boat you will need to book online with the boat owners. How many days to stay You can stay there as long as you want, I recommend staying 2 days/1 night. I would not recommend going and coming back at the same day unless you only have one day, I think is a very tiring trip and you don’t get to enjoy the peace and quiet of the place. As the islands don’t have a […]

Best Rooftops in Panama City

Panama City is a vibrant and exciting metropolis and can be difficult to choose between the variety of bar, parties, and restaurants especially if you don´t have time to go to all of them. Here I´m going to help you with the best rooftops in the capital of Panama, which I believe are the best way to drink, eat and party: with a view! And don´t worry, the warm climate all year long makes Panama City a perfect city for rooftops and the countless skyscrapers assure that you will get a great view either of the ocean or the city´s skyline (or maybe both). For every occasion there is a different rooftop, there are my favorites, you only have to choose: To enjoy the Sunset Panaviera I realize that in almost all rooftops you are able to enjoy the sunset, but the Panaviera is the perfect place in Panama City to get the full sunset experience overlooking the city and the ocean. So even if you choose to go there for the drinks, make sure to choose a day with a clear sky and to get there in time for nature´s show. Panaviera is the highest pool bar in Panama City, located on the 66th floor of the Ocean Sun Casino, the old Trump Tower. You may feel some discomfort on you hears as you go up the elevator. At the edge of the bar is a gorgeous infinity pool, but don’t get too excited, unfortunately, you can´t get into the pool. Location: Calle Punta Colon, Punta Pacifica, Panama City, Panama Instagram: @panavierapanama Dining with a view Lazotea The good news here is you can swim at Lazotea´s pool! Located on the rooftop of Hotel Casa Panama, at Casco Viejo´s entry, Lazotea´s view is privilege with the city skyline and the ocean. The rooftop is the outside part of the restaurant which makes the perfect place to have dinner with a view. Of course, you can also choose to have a sunny lunch or a happy hour, I prefer to go at night since the sun and heat are very strong in Panama at noon. Live music performances are very common at night, so Lazotea is the perfect combination of food, drinks, and music. Location: Ave Eloy Alfaro, San Felipe, Casco Viejo, Panama City, Panama. Instagram: @lazotea_rooftop Party with an open sky Salvaje Salvaje is one of the newest rooftops in the city, opened earlier 2018 is the hottest rooftop in Panama City right now. It’s located at the historic district of Casco Viejo, right next to Lazotea. Besides the amazing view, during the weekend you can enjoy the party until 3 am. The only downside is that it gets really crowded on the weekends, but it´s a nice place to spend your night. Location: Ave Eloy Alfaro & Calle 11, Casco Viejo, Panama City, Panama Instagram: @selvaje_restaurant For drinks Tantalo Located on top of the Tantalo Boutique Hotel, Tantalo was the first rooftop bar in Casco Viejo. If you are […]

Bocas Del Toro, Panama… A little Slice of Paradise

Although I had only four days to spend in this country, my experience in Bocas del Toro set Panama high on my list of favorite places I have visited! During my study abroad program in Costa Rica, a group of 35 of my fellow international students and I took a bus and crossed the border to Panama for a long weekend! Since we needed an extension for our visas, we had a great excuse to take a trip into this little slice of paradise! In just a few days there, I was able to experience so many amazing things and make some truly unforgettable memories. Here are just a few of the amazing things I recommend for visitors to do there: 1. Go Snorkeling or Scuba Diving: While staying in Bocas, one thing you definitely should not miss out on is the opportunity to go snorkeling or scuba diving! There is no shortage of scuba and snorkeling tours available to visitors. During my snorkeling experience, I had the chance to see various types of colorful fish surrounded by beautiful corals. 2. Swim amongst the Starfish: One of my favorite places I was able to visit during my trip in Bocas del Toro was definitely Boca del Drago (Starfish Beach), which (as you can guess by the name) is full of starfish! With its crystal clear tranquil waters, visitors can relax or swim right amongst the starfish. If you are looking for a place to relax and enjoy nature, this is definitely the right place! Relaxing in the turquoise waters surrounded by bright orange starfish, fresh coconut in hand, what could be better? 3. Explore Red Frog Beach: Another amazing beach to explore is Red Frog Beach! I would particularly recommend this one if you are interested in spotting wildlife and experiencing Panama’s breathtaking nature. As the name suggests, this beach is known for being one of the best areas in Panama for spotting these gorgeous poison dart frogs! The beach itself is incredibly beautiful, boasting bright blue waters and surrounded by thick rainforest. The tide here is much rougher and not as ideal for swimming – although it makes for a great body surfing spot! In addition to the beach, visitors can easily explore the jungles where they can search for bright red poison dart frogs! 4. Experience the Amazing Nightlife: Of all the places I have traveled, I would have to say that Bocas del Toro was the most fun because of the amazing nightlife! During my stay, my fellow study abroad students and I stayed in Isla Colon (the main and most populated island of the archipelago). There, visitors will find an endless supply of incredible restaurants, bars, and clubs! My favorite place was called Barco Hundido, which had a vibrant dance floor with a variety of music from pop, reggae to salsa and bachata! They also have a super cool section where visitors can take a dip in the sea, which of course (after a few drinks) […]

Is a stopover in Panama City worth it?

If you ask someone from North or South America if they have been to Panama City, the most common answer is “Just the airport”. That’s because Panama has become the main hub between those two continents, and most flights that connect them stop in Panama City. The truth is Panama City is a fast-growing city with a lot of nice places to visit and it should keep you entertained for at least a few days. I’ve been living in Panama City for six months now, and in this post, I’ll try to summarize and present to you only the must-see locations in the city, then you can decide for yourself if stopping in Panama is worth it – SPOILER ALERT: It totally is! Panama Canal First of all, I’m going to talk about the Panama Canal, it’s not a pretty tourist location but it has a huge importance to the local and global economy and even if you are not interested in engineering the Canals history and seeing a boat passing by it’s pretty cool (and if you are interested in engineering I don’t even have to tell you that this is a mandatory stop for you). The Panama Canal is basically an artificial waterway that connects the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, and this shortcut allows ships to pass throw in much less time that they would have to without it. The Panama Canal was open in 1914, and its construction carries a lot of Panama history and was honored by the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) as one of the Seven Civil Engineering Wonders. From the city the Miraflores is the visitor center close to you, that’s in the Pacific side of the Canal, and you can see boats going from the Pacific Ocean to the Atlantic, and vice-versa, depending on the time of the day. Travel tip: you can look it up on their website which time the boats are passing by and plan to be there in time to see a boat pass throw the sluice gate. Casco Viejo Next up is my favorite place in the city, the Casco Viejo or Casco Antiguo. The Casco is a historic neighborhood that was built after the old city was destroyed (we are talking about that latter, don’t worry), and today it’s full of stores, museums, old churches, restaurants, hotels, and nightlife. It definitely deserves a visit during the day and during the night. At daytime, you may lose yourself in the narrow streets and enjoy the colonial architecture. If you are looking to buy some souvenir, like the famous Panama hats you are going to find a lot of store and tents of handicrafts along the way. At night you can choose between one of the many restaurants, bars or even a nightclub. My recommendation here is that you choose a restaurant with a rooftop so you can enjoy the view of the city at night. Travel tip: Keep in mind that Panama is in Central America and […]

Bocas del Toro, Panamá. A great place to travel with friends

Travelling with friends is one of my favourite things to do in the world, especially when you’re not only going to a beautiful place but also a place where you can meet people, have fun and above everything, go to the most amazing parties ever. I think that a great place that has all this is Bocas del Toro, Isla Colón in Panamá. I went there last year (From the end of December to the beginning of January) with a group of friends and I totally recommend it. How did I get to Bocas del Toro Well, as every blog on the internet is going to tell you, there are many ways to get to the island. I am going to tell you my experience. At the middle of the year, I started organizing the trip with my friends. We live in Argentina so we learnt that we needed to get to Panamá city first because there were no direct flights to Bocas del Toro, but when we checked the availability, there were none. One important recommendation to take into account is that if you want to travel to the island by plane make sure to buy your plane tickets early because there are very few flights. Moving on, we needed a plan B, so when we arrived in Panamá City we took a bus to Albrook and there we took another bus to Almirante (8 – 9 hours). Finally, when we arrived at Almirante we took a boat to Bocas del Toro. Yes, the journey was much longer, but on the bright side it was also cheaper than plan A and the fact that we were among friends made it easy going. Another recommendation: If you choose plan B, then you should know that every bus, as well as every boat, has its own schedule, so make sure to check on that before the trip. Where did I stay There are many options when talking about lodging, but when travelling with friends, every single person you ask recommends the same place: Selina, Isla Colón, and I will be no exception. I stayed there and it was the best experience ever. Every one of our age (21 – 23 years old approximately) stayed there, so it was a great place to make friends or meeting with people that we have already known (Believe it or not that happened a lot, especially being Argentinian people)   Things to know about Selina: It has a Gorgeous restaurant with an amazing ocean view, where it has a pool table to play whenever people want and a bar which is open all day until late at night and has happy hour. At night the most fun parties take place in here with excellent music that makes you want to dance all night. The hostel also has different activities such as yoga, surf lessons, surfboard rental, canoes rental, etc. Upstairs it has the most beautiful terrace where you can read books, listen to music and chill out. What places did I […]

Best Things To Do in Panama City

Why Panama City? Panama has it all; the people – you are going to find tourists and residents from all over the world-, the food – the mixture of cultures creates a huge variety of gastronomic options -, the beaches, the old and the new, progress and culture; all in one place. Welcome to summer land. Panama is in the middle of the American continent; and because of this strategic location, they are considered to be the “hub of the Americas”. You can find direct flights from almost every big city in the continent and some major European airports, which is extremely convenient since we all hate layovers. Besides this, the Panamanian currency is equal to the US dollar which avoids the conversion calculations and makes budgeting and keeping track of the expenses much easier. Oh, and if by now you are still not convinced, it is always sunny and hot in Panama – they do have a rainy season but there are no major storms, and rains usually last a couple of hours max. Places to Visit Panama Canal The one thing every tourist goes to visit. The Panama Canal was opened in 1914 and since then it has been considered one of the 7 wonders of civil engineering. Regardless if you are a fan of landmarks of modern engineering, the Panama Canal is a must; not every day you get to cut a continent in two and impact world commerce and economy. The most famous visitor center to see the locks is Miraflores visitor center, they open daily (including holidays) from 8 am to 6 pm, have restaurants and snack bars and a 3D short film that explains the Canal’s history from its beginning to present. This has a cost of $15 for adults and children up to 6 years old have free entrance. Make sure to ask when is the next boat passing through so you can go to the terrace they have on the 4th floor and see the locks in actions. If museums and learning from history is your thing, then you should check out the “Panama Canal museum” (located in Casco Viejo – read below), where you can learn in details the history of the Canal’s construction, began by the French and finished by the American; and all the challenges they went through when building it. The audio exhibitions are available in Spanish and English and the museum opens from Tuesday to Sundays from 9 am to 5 pm. PD: if you are doing a layover in Panama longer than 6 hours you are allowed to get outside of the airport and there are buses that take you the Miraflores visitor center and back. Casco Viejo It’s a classic for Latin American countries to have these hidden and preserved “old cities”, why? Goes back to their history. In these towns, you get to see a leftover from the old European architecture and style. Panama’s “Casco Viejo” – or old town, is very special. The old town […]

Panama: A Visit to Anton Valley

El Valle de Anton, also known as Anton Valley, is an active community and central gateway to many of the environmental features that Panama has to offer. Even more intriguing, is the fact that it is located in the crater of a volcano that erupted thousands of years ago. After seeing it repeatedly listed among the top attractions in Panama, I added it to the list of places to visit one day during my long stay in Panama. That day came soon enough, and the experience was both more and less than I expected. Getting to Anton Valley Anton Valley can be reached easily by bus from almost anywhere in Panama. Group and private tours are also available through cab drivers and professional tour companies. It is also possible to embark on a solo self-guided/self-paced tour. In addition to the town itself, some of the main attractions in Anton Valley include a zoo, hiking trails, waterfalls, thermal springs, and a souvenir/produce market. With the exception of the market, entrance into each of the venues cost a small fee with or without a tour guide. For my own convenience, I decided to utilize a Coronado based cab driver to conduct a personal tour for the same $65 that I was prepared to pay for a shared tour. Most of the professional tours that I located online departed from Panama City which was about ninety minutes and 40 miles out of the way for me. The driver picked me up sometime after 9:00 am and soon enough, we were in the nearby town of San Carlos and started trekking up a 16 mile, steep, curvy, narrow roadway that would eventually descend into Anton valley. I am not sure how high up we got, but at some points it felt as if we were on the same level as the other mountain tops in the near distance. The Community of Anton Valley Officially, the tour began in Anton Valley’s very small and attractive town center which seemed to include all of the services and businesses that a small community might need. It was shortly after 10:00 am on a Friday, but in the town center and along the main road, most businesses and restaurants, appeared to be closed. Weekends, especially Sundays, are said to be their peak visiting hours. Even by car, the drive between sites took several minutes. It also rained on and off, so hiking or biking alone would have been extremely challenging for me in such unfamiliar terrain. Going from point to point, we passed farms, homes, and a lot of greenery that looked like as if they had never been touched. Many of the homes along the route seemed more like retreats – gated, far from the road and with the ever-present mountains in the background. The Zoo Our first stop was the zoo, entrance fee $5. In a tropical climate such as Panama, I expected the zoo to include a wider range of wildcats, more species of monkeys, and maybe even animals that I have never […]

San Blas: The Caribbean Paradise in Panama

Paradise is the word that describes San Blas. An indigenous territory on the Caribbean coast of Panama, with its own laws and even own border control. Kunas, the local indigenous, are the bosses here, not the Panamanian government. The Kuna People More than 300 islands constitute the archipelago, but only 36 of them are inhabited. In each island, the only people who live there are the members of the local family. For the days you will stay there, you will share the island with them, and they will fish your food and prepare it for you. They will also take you by boat wherever you want to. At the first sight they are a bit serious and introverts, but in my theory, it is just a facade shyness, with day and time to end. After they get used to you, it is possible to get a smile from one or two of them, and after a few days, get ready to listen to many stories. The Kuna Yala have resisted Spanish assimilation and have maintained their native language, but it is still possible to communicate with them in Spanish and among the younger ones there are English-speaking individuals. Curious thing: you can see a very controversial symbol in the Kuna flags: the swastika. This was adopted in 1925 as the flag of the Kuna revolution when a peace agreement was signed with Panama, and, being a very old symbol, has no relation with the Nazis. Fish delivery Choosing the Island For my 3 days stay, I chose Isla Franklin, or, to use its indigenous name, Tuba Senika. Choosing the island is the first important step in your planning. It must be understood that, for the most part, the islands are tiny and seem to have been designed by some kid cartoonist, with only a heap of white sand and a solitary palm tree. Despite its small size, many of them are shared among 2 or 3 families. This means that the facilities can become somewhat confusing and restricted. I would recommend you search first and ask for directions at your hotel in Panama City. Although Tuba Senika was shared by 2 families, I found the best references about them and, in fact, I was extremely happy with the choice. Accommodation Price The price is modest, ideal for backpackers who travel on a tight budget. It costs around $ 25 per person for the night in a four-bed dormitory or $ 75 for a private double cabana. The accommodation is in thatched huts with a wooden structure. The floor is an extension of the beach: white and soft sand. You need to shower yourself with the sea water (which comes from a pipe over your head, but it is still sea water) and there is no electricity available to guests, except for the illumination. Meals are served in the morning, afternoon and evening, and are announced with the call of a shell turned into a bugle. Some […]

Top 5 things to do in Panama City

Panama City When thinking about traveling to Central America, I cannot stress enough how much you should consider visiting Panama. It’s truly a beautiful country. Due to it being a part of the US in the early 20th century, they still use the American Dollar as currency, besides their own, Balboa, which is worth 1:1 when compared to the USD. This makes getting around really easy since you won’t have to look around for places to exchange your local currency for an obscure one. Sometimes you might get change in form of USD and Balboas, but don’t let this confuse you, as stated before, they’re worth the same. Before getting any further, if you plan on renting a car, you should be aware that the people in Panama City are very aggressive drivers, and unlike many other cities, the city barely has stoplights, so you might find yourself having to fight other drivers to make a turn or cross an intersection. Another way to move around is using the local taxi service or an Uber. If you wish to use the local taxi service ask beforehand how much it would cost you to get to a certain location. This way you can compare their fees to an Uber fee and make your choice. While I did travel in Uber most of the time, there were a few occasions where local taxis turned out to be much cheaper. Now let’s start with the top 5 places you should see when visiting Panama City Miraflores Visitors Center (Panama Canal) Pretty much like everyone else, when I hear the world Panama I instantly think of the canal, I mean who wouldn’t? it’s Panama’s most famous tourist attraction. I was eager to visit and see it in person for the first time, and truth be told, it was underwhelming. The canal itself was a little boring in my opinion. I did get to see how the locks work, it is interesting seeing a vessel lifted up by the water so it can continue its route, but that’s it, there’s nothing much more about the canal other than that. If you would like to see it by yourself I’d suggest checking an online ship tracker to see what time the ship would cross. A ship crossing Panama's Canal. However… There’s more to see at the Miraflores visitors center. A small movie theater which talks about how the canal was built, the place also has several exhibit halls, which display Panama’s biodiversity. Several of the artifacts and processes that took part in building the canal are also on display at the center. The thing that I found the most interesting was a computer where you could look up names of the canal construction workers through the years. The computer where you can look up employees who worked in the canal construction. How to get there: If you’re in a big group it’s better to organize a guided tour, […]

Panama: a journey through paradisiac beaches and historical heritage monuments.

Hello everybody,  This is the story of the 17 days trip of a surfer’s couple through Panama. Most of the time we spent at Santa Catalina, a small beach-side town on the Pacific coast of Veraguas, we also knew Panama City, the capital of the country, famous for its dense skyline of mostly high-rise buildings as well as for its historical heritage.      A tropical, beautiful and cheap destination in Central America There was a special purpose for our trip to Panama, it would be our first international trip travelling together. We begun our travel virtually while planning each detail of the trip and our main challenge on the planning process was to make the trip the longest possible with the low budget we had available. After some web research and some tips taken with friends who had already gone to the same destiny and it was done, we were the most excited with our flights and accommodation booked and the money in cash to spend 17 days travelling through Panama. Panama is located in Central America, and even though we were going during winter (mid-september) the temperature was pretty warm, however we would expect hot and rainy weather. We arrived in Panama city after two flights (Fpolis- Porto Alegre and Porto Alegre-Panama city) by Copa Airlines that last together 7,5 hours. Arrival in Panama City When we got at the airport, we picked up our luggage and went straight to the immigration desks. In Panama we brazilians need to get a tourist visa, which is not possible to be requested previously, then it is granted or not at the country’s entry, we easily had our passports stamped and quickly we were released to catch the shuttle that would drop us off at the Hostel Urraca. We had booked a double room with private bathroom that costed us $70/day(american dollars) where we would spend just that night, because our destiny would be a city called Santa Catalina. High-rise buildings skyline in Panama City The path from Panama city to Santa Catalina. In the next morning we woke up early in the morning, took our luggage after having breakfast and took the road again, this time by bus. A taxi drive from the city centre till the bus station costed around $20 and the bus ticket for a 5 hours travel until Sta. Catalina cost just $16/adult, so if you are a low budget traveller like us, here is a valuable tip: don’t travel this path from Panama City till Sta. Catalina by shuttle (it is heaps of dollars more expensive, the price of this path is $150 by shuttle).Another important tip for whom want to save some money is: in Panama the taxi drivers don’t use taximeter, so be cautious if someone try to overcharge the price of a ride, as they use to do it if they realize you are a tourist, specially if you don’t speak spanish and don’t try to negotiate the […]

Panama: Discovering Bocas del Toro islands

  The incredibble views of Bocas del Toro Even when our time in Panama was short, we had enough time to discover some of the secrets around this paradisiac and beautiful place. Panama is a small country, so you can move from one place to another pretty easy and always in company of the great tropical views and landscapes. Panama is located in central America, and just like the other countries in this area, it has the best weather and the beauty of the Caribbean beaches, the markets are always colorful, they have all kinds of fruits and vegetables, they can basically throw a seed of anything and it will grow, so prepare yourself to take some awesome pictures and to taste some new things. The people are kind and if spanish is not your thing, you can easily find someone who speaks english, they are used to the tourists and you can have information almost everywhere. Bocas del Toro is known as the holiday destination for foreigners and locals, they live of the tourism so, we were told that this is one of the most expensive places in Panama. As backpackers and low budget travelers we were a little bit scared, but we were also curious and exited, so we went.   HOW TO GET THERE Well, Panama is a small country and well connected so it´s really easy go from one place to another. Bocas del Toro Is a group of islands, some of them more touristic than others, but all of them have something special. The main one, and the one that has all the services and tourist activities and information is Colon Island, in order to get there you have to take a Taxi- Boat from Almirante. In Almirante you have 2 options to get to the dock, once you arrive to the bus station, which is in the middle of the streets, there are going to be a lot of taxis offering their services to the dock, they are about 1 or 2 dollars per person, or you can take a 20 or 25 min walk to there if you want to save some money, it´s not far away from your arrival. We didn´t know this, so we took the taxi. Once we arrived to the dock, we bought our tickets to the Island (6 USD each), ant took a nice ride into the ocean. Here is a little secret, when we came back from the Islands, we discovered that you can get to Colon Island for just 1 USD. Cars, mailing, and some other things are constantly going and coming from the Island to the rest of the country, and they do it using the ferry, and guess what, you can get in as well. They have only 2 rides a day, and they don´t have a formal schedule, so ask for them, probably you can save some money, It takes about one our instead of the 20 min that […]

Panama: The little paradise

A country a full of surprises for all the tastes. Panama is a wonderful country full of contrasts they have an awesome gastronomy, and ideal landscapes, Panama have bout oceans and the city you can see part of them and feel the wonderful weather. About Panama Panama is a medium size country in Central America they surface is the 28.640 mi² and they population is the 3.864 million in all territory, the city is Panama City, they people are very kind and friendly, the official language is the Spanish but the citizen speak very well English and always have smiling in the face and are very nice helping the tourist with the location. What to do? Panama is a great for shopping they have an excellent prices and tree times per year all the stores have sales I can say crazy sales because they put all store in sale and the sales go to 50% at 70% even in the mall more expensive is Multi Plaza there are the most expensive brands like Valentino, Jimmy Choo, Roberto Cavalli and others more, one of the best malls and is the most largest is the Allbrook Mall in these mall are tree areas the cheap, not so expensive and the expensive stores but even the expensive stores are very accessible during these day and can buy great quality. Panama to the be a country small you can go to the beach in one hour and stay in the paradise with excellent hotels and resorts with all include enjoy of the amazing weather, practice sports in the water or just take sun baths with great food and drinks, you can spend few days in the beach and back to the city. The best food Panama has the most amazing sea food market and very famous in tired world, and the prices are the best you can eat the fresh and delicious sea food in larger quantities for less  money and exquisite flavor, the road for the sea food market are wonderful the location name is “La Cinta Costera” is bordering the ocean and the view is incredible and very contrasting the ocean and the very big builds were live the most rich people in Panama and stay the more expensive hotels the name is “Punta Paitilla”. In few kilometers you can stay in the famous “Casco Antiguo” there was the old city in now days stay the presidential house and is very cultural rich and have very delicious restaurants with great precis two of my favorites restaurants is “KoKo’s” and “Diablicos”, in “Koko’s” the chef are very young woman and the food are very contemporary and have the dish of the day I recommended so much always is a delicious surprise I was eat a soup of carrot with spinach chips with parmesan all home made the principal dish was a fresh rice, meat Thai style and veggies and come with two drinks I chose vodka with cranberry juice the restaurant are very […]

Panama City: Something old, something new

Cinco minutos! – says our local driver to us for the third times answering the ultimate question about when we leave, and he sit back again to his chair. In this moment we hopelessly realize that in this part of the world time goes by in a different way than we knew it before. Time was not on our side This and other kind of time issues accompanied our whole Panamanian journey. When we took the first sight at Panama City the linearity of time was really questioned: the colonial past and the modern future like good neighbors stand together in the forward-thinking present, and for our European eyes it was hard to decide what we really saw. An oversea metropolis? A big city from the Far East? A Latin-American favella? And these are just a few from the thousand faces of Panama City. Past and Present Through the chain of Chinese vendors, barbers on the streets and the ruined concrete sport courts which reminded us to the City of God movie, hot wind blew the penetrating smell of the fish market, and above all the most bizarre was to see the soaring skyscrapers over the crowded Old Town. In spite of these contradictions Panama City earned to be one of the most cosmopolitan cities of the world. Barbery on the street We spent two days in Panama City when we arrived to the Latin-American continent. Our plane landed in the middle of the night, and after 22 hours of traveling, first we went to the hostel where we had booked rooms from home. Luckily. (Three weeks later when we finished our Panamanian journey it was really hard to find empty places in the hostels of Panama City, so always think a few days forward!) Panamericana Hostel was really nice, especially the roof terrace with panoramic view to the Pacific Ocean. We began the next day here, and after a poor breakfast (bananas with peanut butter) and a Balboa beer, we started to discover the city. The New Panama City Panama city’s rising started in the 19th century when the trade revivened by the freshly constructed Panama Railway, but even twenty years ago it was just a small port city compared to its current state. The dynamic development is due to the thousands of big companies who have replaced their center here to optimizing taxes, and in the last two decades more than 200 skyscrapers, new roads (one above the ocean!) and parks have grown out of nowhere. Today Panama City acts like a magnet for real estate tycoons and wealthy North Americans looking for tropical sunshine and a safe place to their yachts. They often hang on the promenade runs through the coast of the Pacific Ocean called Costanera, which is the most beautiful after the sun goes down. But every day at 10 p.m. all of the skyscrapers fall into darkness. They say the skyscrapers are empty – the offshore companies […]
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