The best of... Panama
Latin America expert Angela Sitton went on a luxury tour to Panama and was impressed with the array of activities on offer.
Panama is often overshadowed by the ever-increasing popularity of Costa Rica. The country’s main claim to fame is undoubtedly the Canal, however it has much more to offer than just this. Panama is an ornithologist’s dream and there are many hotels dedicated solely to bird watching. There are the beautiful beaches on the Pacific side, or the Bocas Del Toro archipelago on the Caribbean side. A welcome relief when the weather is hot is the region of El Valle for the dramatic scenery. Alternatively, visitors can take a flight to David and visit the coffee plantations of the Chiriqui highlands in Boquete.
I arrived in Panama City on the Star Clipper and spent a few days exploring the city, staying at the Rui Plaza hotel. If you prefer to stay in the Old Town then “Los Clementinos” is a lovely boutique hotel with 6 beautifully furnished rooms. Or there is the Gamboa Rainforest Resort only 45 minutes from Panama City, right in the middle of the rainforest, on the banks of Gatun Lake in Soberania National Park.
Three days can easily be passed in Panama City – a city tour of the Old Town, a visit to Miraflores Lock, or simply doing a bit of shopping. Outside of the city you can immerse yourself in wildlife visiting Monkey Island, the Discovery Eco Centre or bird watching at Canopy Tower.
A two-hour drive from Panama City is the lush tropical region of Anton del Valle. There are plenty of walks you can take here and again lots of bird watching opportunities. From there, I spent a couple of nights at the beach, in a lovely 5 star resort called the Bristol Buenaventura - an ideal place to relax. If you are short on time then Panama City, El Valle and the beach make a perfect 7-10 night holiday.
Following this I returned to Panama City and flew to David, continuing by road to the coffee region of Boquete. You can take coffee tours here, visit the hot springs or hike the Quetzales trails.
My final destination was Bocas Del Toro, a 3-hour road journey and a short speedboat ride from David. This really is the hidden jewel of Panama. The combination of the stunning Caribbean waters and the relaxed atmosphere of Latin America, makes it a thoroughly relaxing and enjoyable experience. Rather than stay in the main town I took a ten-minute boat ride to Punta Caracol, staying in a water bungalow. This is the perfect way to end a holiday in Panama - relaxing in the sun, snorkelling and swimming.