While on our recent vacation in northern Costa Rica, we met some fellow travellers at our luxurious resort on the Bay of Papagayo. They regaled us with stories of their last trip which was to Panama (immediately south of Costa Rica). Unfortunately other than their names Bob and Joanne, we do not know their address or E-mail and so can't get bin touch with them for more information on Panama. As we fell in love with Costa Rica, my wife and I are dreaming of another trip down to this lush Central American country. This time, we'd like to head to the southern part of the Ticos' 'paradise' and perhaps also cross the border into their neighbouring Panama. As we love to lounge on sandy beaches , tour the rainforest, and see live volcanoes erupting, it seems an ideal travel itinerary. If you've recently been to Panama, we'd appreciate comments and suggestions you may have about places to stay, places to visit, places to eat and drink, as well as any impressions you have of Panama City and of the beaches on the Pacific coast.
Hi CurtieJoe. We have been to Panama. We actually sent my 85 year old father there alone in November. Panama is beautiful. And, like I say on all Central America posts...GET THERE NOW! It is becoming touristy. We stayed at the El Panama in the city. Quite nice. My father just stayed at the Intercontinental. He liked it however, he felt it was more of a business class hotel and didn't feel it catered to tourists. He didn't feel they were that friendly. He took the day transit through the canel. If you do this, you have to book way in advance because it only goes through the canal once or twice a month for the full day transit. We also went to the San Blas Islands and stayed on Kwadule Lodge. (they don't run it any more. See my posts under strange foods!) We also stayed at Bananas Resort. Nice chalet style lodge on the water. My father stayed at Gamboa and loved it. I hear mixed reviews. He felt it really catered to the tourists and met alot of nice people.
Panama beaches are similar to Costa Rica...darker sand. I recommend working with a Panama travel company to have personal transfers as opposed to group travel. I recommend Elegant Adventures (Janet) or Panama travel Net (Paul). I can give you more info if you would like. I have been researching Coral Lodge, Punta Caracol and Hacienda del Mar for a repeat trip back for us.(though the reviews are quite mixed from other web sites and actually travel providers.) I have heard great things about Tropical Suites in the Bocas del Toro. Hope this gives you a start and I would love to answer any questions you have.
What a great wealth of wonderful information on Panama! I am very grateful for the names you've provided not only on suggested resorts and hotels but also for the Panamanian travel companies like the Panama Travel Net and Elegant Adventures. Very helpful. Also interesting for you to have included some of the impressions and views of your father. Once our plans for the next trip down to Costa Rica are a bit more fleshed out, I'll be in touch with you again for further information. But, you've given us a very good head-start. Thanx.
If you're feeling adventurous and enjoy sailing, check out www.sanblassailing.com/. The San Blas Islands look like an undiscovered paradise. They are administered by the native people who live there, the kuna yala....who have wisely put limits on certain kinds of tourisim development, in an effort to preserve the unique character of the islands.
Thanx for the interesting photo. I figure it's showing the San Blas Islands and one of the sailing boats available for charter in Panamanian waters. The weblink you also provided could be somewhat clearer on what's available but does provide an idea of the kinds of excursion that one could take advantage of. Have you been down that way?
Hi Curt. I have been to the San Blas islands and had a great time. I didn't know there were sailing companes to explore the area? The islands are home to the Kuna Indians. They are famous for their colorful molas. Its quite interesting when you visit because one of your stops is to meet the village chief! Our guide took my husband and I to meet him and his other associates. We introduced ourselves. He looked us over and gave a nod that it was ok! It was kind of cool! Try to get to this part of the world before it becomes too developed!
Sounds to me like the San Blas islands in Panama are a terrific travel destination. Next time my wife and I travel to Costa Rica, we'll make a point of looking into extending our itinerary to include these marvellous islands. And, hopefully, we'll also find out what the "colourful molas" you mention are and perhaps even meet one of the village chiefs, like you did. Fascinating!
I've been through the Panama Canal twice on cruises, but haven't not spent time there. I'd love to do the sailing, as it seems like a great way to reach some less explored places, and the snorkelling is said to be amazing. Panama City can be reached non-stop from NYC....so I would love to do even an extended long weekend there sometime.
The Coral Lodge is another place to consider staying in the San Blas if sailing is not for you : www.corallodge.com
I agree with Bonnie that this is someplace to visit before it gets spoiled by development.
This is Pelican Island, one of the 365 (one for each day of the year!) Blas Islands in Panama along the Caribbean coast.
They're home to the Kuna people who;ve lived in this tropical paradise since time started. What I'd give to be there visiting them now, as snow flurries flutter outside my Toronto window in mid-April! I imagine staying at the exotic Coral Lodge and basking in the warm sunshine and crystal clear turquoise waters with my wife. It'd be heavenly!
Hi Curtie joe. Just an FYI. Natureair from Costa Rica now has flights to Bocas del Toro in Panama. Might also be a nice add on for you when you go to CR. Bocas is a little more "funky" than most beach destinations. I also am looking into Coral Lodge in the San Blas Islands. I have been talking to some companies and the property sounds wonderful. They actually have bungalows over the water! (don't see that too much outside of the South Pacific). It is a very small property and sounds like it is managed quite well. They recommend transfers using their service from Panama City. When you arrive in the area, they actually take you to a Kuna village to meet the elders and also view their way of life. They do this because the flight arriving in the area arrives so early in the morning so they have this tour before you check in. PS- if you are looking at the molas, don't do what my husband did. He said, "do you have any with fish on them." Well, everyone ran into their homes and can out with HUNDREDS of molas. Now, at this point, we can't say "Oh, we were just looking!" So, if you arrive visit our home, you will see lots of fish molas framed on the wall!