A lot of Central American countries are wonderful to visit but are often overlooked in favour of their Caribbean island neighbours. This is somewhat understandable given that the Caribbean ranks among the world’s most beloved tropical regions, and draws countless tourists with its gorgeous isles and crystalline blue waters. For a unique experience in the same general region, you can always detour to Central America and stop off in Panama, which has pristine beaches to rival your all Caribbean island dreams. Here are a few fun Panamanian towns you might just want to check out.
With over one million residents, Panama City is far and away the most populous city in the country, and therefore one of the most exciting to visit. It’s the capital of Panama and is known for a variety of things, from being situated on the Pacific side of the Panama Canal, to retaining landmarks from colonial ages, to being used as a set for films like Contraband and Hands Of Stone. It’s a large, fascinating city to explore. Pty.Life‘s handy guide of the top things you must do when visiting Panama City points to attractions like the Panama Canal, local football (which has been given a boost due to the fact that Panama is in the 2018 World Cup- their first World Cup qualification ever), the old colonial neighbourhood of Casco Viejo and markets like Mercado de Mariscos and the Artisan market at Cinco de Mayo.
Bocas Town gives you an entirely different experience than Panama City, showcasing the sheer variety of the country. The aforementioned pristine Caribbean island beaches? They exist in abundance in Bocas del Toro. Gorgeous beaches, clear waters, relaxing, snorkelling, diving and surfing are all yours for the taking here. Starfish Beach on the main island of Isla Colon is a must-see. As the name suggests, there’s a good chance the bottom of the sea will be covered starfish, a treat for the eyes.
Colon is one of the larger cities outside of Panama, and has some similar attractions. In fact it even has its own interesting history for film lovers to enjoy. The James Bond franchise has trotted the globe about as much as any other in cinema. For just a few highlights, Casino Royale put Karlovy Vary Spa on the map as one of the coolest movie casino sets, and The Man With The Golden Gun made such great use of an island in the Philippines that they renamed it James Bond Island! Colon hasn’t been made quite as famous, but it was the site for some of the scenes from Quantum Of Solace. Some of the island’s old town locations and picturesque views were actually used to fill in for Port au Prince. Additionally its attractions include the Canal, Gatun Lake (where you can actually fish and swim), and the gorgeous ruined forts at Fuerte San Lorenzo.
Colon has a bit of a reputation as being on the dangerous side, so tourists are advised to leave it off their itineraries. if you do decide to go, exercise caution
If Panama City and Colon give you a taste for the history and an urban taste of Panama, and Bocas Town is your slice of Caribbean paradise, Boquete is best as a destination for adventurers. Located in the Chiriqui Highlands (and near the Baru Volcano National Park), it’s a town where you’re hard pressed to find a background that isn’t visually stunning. The main highlight is the Baru Volcano hike, where dozens of people climb each day in the hopes of reaching the summit just in time for sunrise. It’s worth the effort, if you can pull it off!
Rosie Bell is an international travel writer, author of the book “Escape To Self”, and content editor for Club Elsewhere. Follow her on Instagram @TheBeachBell.