Bordering both the Caribbean Sea and the Pacific Ocean; snuggled between Columbia and Costa Rica, lies the beautiful tropical paradise called Panama. Panama is located on the narrow and low Isthmus of Panama. The Isthmus of Panama, which historically is known as the Isthmus of Darien, is the narrow strip of land that lies between the Caribbean Sea and the Pacific Ocean.
If you are interested in enjoying the features of a beautiful tropical getaway, look no further. Although Panama is a small country, it has a great variety of attractions, exotic tropical rainforests, mountainous terrain great for hiking, beautiful white sand beaches and not to mention a vibrant nightlife and full service resorts with high speed internet so you can feel close to home.
Panama also has a surprisingly diverse population; exotic languages and beautiful people. With the diverse population comes a diversity in language; Spanish is the official language, but other languages are spoken. Panamanians are some of the friendliest people in the world and most of them speak at least some English. The country remains relatively safe when compared to other Central American countries so you can feel perfectly safe and at peace in the tropical oasis.
Panama has six colorful Indian tribes each of them live in sovereign territories where they preserve their own fascinating culture and way of life. Many live in accessible locations and are happy to share their life and culture with visitors.
When to Travel - Weather
Panama is known for being one of the finest tropical climates in the Caribbean. The weather is pleasant and inviting all year round and is usually categorized on the basis of rainfall. The rainy season takes place between October and November while the dry season falls between December to mid March. The rainfall received during the rainy season varies with location, with the Caribbean coast experiencing much heavier thundershowers than the Pacific coast. Take this into consideration when planning your getaway.
The Days are hot and nights are much cooler. Temperatures usually range from 32 degrees Celsius (90° Fahrenheit) during the daytime to 21 degrees Celsius (70° Fahrenheit) in the evening. It’s also a great way to catch up on your tanning. So if your vacation plans surround outdoors activities, the best time to visit is during the dry season.
It is common however to experience light showers during the dry season but bear in mind it helps with the lowering of humidity. Overall, the weather generally encompasses of sunny beautiful beach days and cool, tranquil dinner nights.
Cuisine and Drinks
Panama has a vast amount of ethnicities which influences the cuisine greatly. You are able to sample fine foods from different walks of life such as French, Japanese, Italian, Thai, Middle Eastern, and Chinese food. Panamanian cuisine is an overlapping mix of African, Caribbean, indigenous, and Spanish influences. They facilitate a variety of tropical fruits, vegetables, and herbs.
Chicha is the common name for juice, and the variety of fresh fruit juices in Panama is a tasty and refreshing elixir on a hot day. Try a fresh coconut on ice if you will. Panama is also known for its high-quality coffee, with Café Durán being the most common brand among others. You can try sweeteners such as their traditional condensed milk to give your coffee that extra kick in the morning.
Are you familiar with the phrase when in Rome do as the Romans do? Well when in Panama... Enjoy an ice cold beer on one of the more humid days. Beer is the one of the more preferred beverage of choice. There is a wide variety of brands such as Balboa, Atlas, Panamá, Soberana, and Cristal.
Popular Sights of Panama
Panama has the most accessible exotic nature in the world. For example, the Panama Canal Rainforest is one hour from the international airport. As a narrow land bridge connecting two continents, it has national parks covering 5 million acres. There are many places to explore in Panama and plenty sights to see:
Isla Taboga is Panama’s favorite escape out of the city to bathe in its sandy beaches, ride Jet Ski’s, speed boats and fishing charters. It is located about 20 kilometers from Panama City. Isla Taboga has a charming village with the second-oldest church in the western hemisphere, a few narrow streets with a few restaurants and great views to Panama City from the top of the Island.
Playa Las Lajas is a beautiful beach that extends for more than 13 km (8 miles) along the Gulf of Chiriqui on the Pacific Coast. With little current and perfect water temperatures, Las Lajas is ideal for swimming and bodysurfing. Rural shacks and cheap restaurants can be found on the beach at the end of the road.
The Pearl Islands feature lush forests surrounded by white sandy beaches. Contadora Island is the most developed of the Pearl Islands, with several resorts and an airstrip. Visitors can charter private yachts to cruise and explore the islands.
The island of Coiba is the largest island in the park, as well as the largest island in all of Central America. More than 800 species of marine life are present in the area. The park is known as one of the best places to enjoy snorkelling and scuba diving on the Pacific Coast.
The San Blas Islands is the best place to explore the rich culture of Panama’s indigenous people, the Kuna. The Kuna people view this area as their own but are warm and welcoming to visitors. They allow visitors exclusive use of the island for the day.
Santa Catalina, located on the Chiriquí Gulf, doesn’t offer a lot in the way of amenities, but its beautiful beach surrounded by jungle forests which makes it an ideal destination for those who wish to enjoy Panama’s natural beauty.
Sendero Los Quetzales, near the small town of Cerro Punto, is one of Panama’s most beautiful trails. The 9 km (5 miles) route starts east of town and takes between four and seven hours. The trail winds through the cloud forest of Parque Nacional Volcán Barú and follows the Río Caldera, crossing it several times en route. It ends in the mountains above Boquete.
The Amador Causeway connects the three islands by the entrance to the Panama Canal to the mainland. From the causeway, there is a terrific view of Panama City, and the Bridge of the Americas. Many Panamanians like to spend their weekends jogging, riding a bicycle or rollerblading down the causeway, or having a meal or drinks in one of the many restaurants and bars on the islands.
For the thrill seeker, Panama has world class rafting, kayaking, rappelling, surfing and jungle treks you can enjoy. Mix and mingle with the locals and indigenous people and experience their culture, making your vacation the trip of a lifetime.
The Balboa is, along with the United States dollar, one of the official currencies of Panama. One Balboa is divided into 100 cents. Since 1904 one Balboa equals one US Dollar and since then, the US Dollar has legally circulated in Panama. Currently there are Panamanian coins that have the same weight, dimension and composition of the coins used in the USA (1, 5, 10, 25 and 50 cents). Panama also has its own $1 coin. For paper money, only the US Dollar is used (there are no paper Balboas).
If you're visiting from outside of the US, such as the Eurozone, you will have to exchange currencies. Regardless of where you're from, you will be able to extract $500 per day from ATMs with a Debit Card and Credit Cards are widely accepted in most places. Please note that travellers checks are not accepted there.
There are several places that you are able to exchange funds. The first is the Banco Nacional de Panama counter at Tocumen International Airport. At the airport, there are also several currency exchange offices as well as in Panama City.
To get the most out of your money for those who do not reside in the US, check the exchange rate as soon as possible so that you give yourself the biggest possible window to get a good exchange rate. Secondly, you should check what exchange rate you're offered from different bureaux de change. If all fails you can sign-up for a currency newsletter such as Pure FX's newsletter. They'll send you an email alert when the best exchange rate becomes available. Great head start into planning your trip.