Bocas del Toro: Located on the northern Caribbean coast, Bocas del Toro is accessible by water taxis and private boats. This is considered Panama’s top travel destination. The archipelago includes nine main islands, 52 cays, and thousands of islets. The country’s first national marine park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is located here. The array of nature-based adventures is considerable, and includes sailing the island chain, ziplining through the rain forest canopy, scuba diving in biologically diverse and stunning tropical coral reefs, surfing the warm Caribbean waves, or exploring deserted palm-fringed beaches.
Boquete: Boquete is a small town in the western Province of Chiriquí, about 60 km/37 mi. from the border with Costa Rica. The Caldera River runs through town in the green mountain highlands. At some 1,200 m/3,900 ft. above sea level, the town’s climate is cooler than the lowlands. That added to its location and natural environment make Boquete popular with both local and international travelers. Besides tourism, the main industry is agriculture, especially coffee production. Boquete boasts a very lively music and arts scene that includes an annual jazz festival. Some of its landmarks include nearby active Baru Volcano, the tallest point in Panama. Hiking and rafting are popular activities in the area.
Chiriqui Highlands: Chiriqui Province in western Panama encompasses primary forests that harbor orchids and unique endemic wildlife, including the resplendent Quetzal. Indian cultures, bird watching, coffee plantations, hiking and horseback riding are waiting. David, the provincial capital city, offers excellent shopping. The province is also noted for rafting and kayaking adventures, including Class V rapids.
Colon: The Panama Canal transit starts and ends here. Colon has the second largest free-trade zone in the world after Hong Kong. Here you find historical fortresses, shopping and a range of nature activities such as snorkeling, diving and rainforest hiking, world-class birdwatching and beaches with a Caribbean attitude.
Isla Palenque: Isla Palenque is a private island in the Gulf of Chiriqui off the western Pacific shore of Panama, near the border of Costa Rica. Historically, a palenque originally referred to a refuge for escaped slaves. During Central America’s colonial period, indigenous Indians were indentured to work in Spanish mines. Those who could escape found sanctuary in places they fortified with palisades, or palenques. The island has carried that name far back in time, and so this may have indeed been a safe harbor for ex-slaves. Over the last several hundred years, Isla Palenque has remained a secluded preserve. Hundreds of species of plants, including orchids, share the land with wildlife that includes howler monkeys, jungle cats, iguanas, armadillos, porcupines, tropical squirrels, and colorful frogs as well as parrots, pelicans, frigate birds, hawks, herons and egrets.
Panama Canal: The earliest mention of a canal through Panama dates to 1534 when the king of Spain commissioned a survey to discover a shorter route between Spain and Peru. But it took 349 years before the first unsuccessful efforts began. The 82-km/51-mi. canal was completed in 1913, and it remains a vital link in world shipping. A cruise through the canal explores the traditional Embera culture, as well as the wildlife and the ecosystems of the region.
Panama City: Founded in 1519, the city was the first built on the Pacific Coast of the Americas by the Spanish. Within a few years of its founding, it became the focal point for the exploration and conquest of Peru. It also was a primary site for shipping gold and silver to Spain. The Spanish influence is seen in the 17th-century convents and churches. Sights include the original dungeons, a French monument to the 22,000 workers who died trying to build the canal and a canal museum. Amador Causeway connects three islands with restaurants, bike and walking paths, a Smithsonian Institute research aquarium, and a marina. The thriving business district includes shops, restaurants and lively nightclubs and are scattered along the beautiful bay.
Best Time to Go
Panama is a year-round destination with two seasons: wet and dry. It can be rainy anytime, but December to March is the drier time of year.
Day 1: Panama City, Panama
Founded in 1517, the city was an international crossroads, even before the completion of its most standout attraction – the Panama Canal.
Day 2: Panama City
Panama City is a metropolis of modern architecture, a thriving business district, restaurants and lively nightclubs along the beautiful bay.
Day 3 Panama City / Boquete
Boquete is a small town in the western Province of Chiriquí not far from the border with Costa Rica.
Day 4: Boquete
Hiking and whitewater rafting are favorite pastimes in the area, and the area is known for excellent coffee beans.
Day 5: Boquete / Isla Palenque
Isla Palenque is a private island in the Gulf of Chiriquí off the western Pacific shore of Panama.
Days 6/8: Isla Palenque
Outdoor adventures such as kayaking, hiking, snorkeling, fishing, bird watching, sailing and more are waiting on this lush little island. There are also opportunities to explore other islands and the Chiriqui Gulf.
Day 9: Isla Palenque / Depart
Bocas del Toro (3 days)
Accessible by water taxis and private boats, the islands present an array of nature-based activities including jungle hikes, kayaking and scuba diving.
Chiriquí Highlands (3 days)
The highlands are noted for indigenous Indian cultures, bird watching, horseback riding, whitewater rafting and rainforest hikes.
Colon (3 days)
Colon is home to historic San Lorenzo and Portobello fortresses, a state-of-the-art cruise port, and the largest free-trade zone outside of Hong Kong.
$600-$800 per person, per day. Land only, double occupancy.