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Your guide to Panama
All About Panama
A narrow isthmus on the southern tip of Central America, Panama is the cultural gateway to South America and the geographical gateway between the Caribbean Sea and the Pacific Ocean. Panama City, its stunning capital city, juxtaposes old-quarter Casco Viejo against the shiny, soaring skyscrapers of the modern district — all surrounded by rolling green hills and vast blue ocean studded with tiny islands. The Metropolitan Natural Park, a wildlife refuge threaded through with hiking trails, is just 10 minutes away from downtown. And Taboga Island, a volcanic enclave featuring a rich array of plants as well as white-sand beaches, is easily reachable via a 30-minute ferry ride.
The terrain rises dramatically from white-sand Caribbean beaches to lush mountain jungles. Near the top of the country, altitude-wise, you’ll find Boquete, home to world-renowned coffee plantations, and the Quetzal Trail, one of Panama’s most scenic hiking trails. Leaving from Volcan Baru National Park, it passes through the Talamanca Mountain Range, where you’ll discover rare tropical wildlife including spider monkeys, tapir, and brightly colored frogs.
The best time to stay in a vacation rental in Panama
The lovely tropical climate makes the prospect of securing a vacation rental in Panama appealing all year long. The drier winter months are ideal for hitting the country’s hiking trails or visiting the beaches. Many of the country’s most significant religious festivals, including Carnaval and Semana Santa (Holy Week), occur in March and April. You’ll want to keep this in mind when booking your Panama house rental if you are headed to a city that hosts a big celebration.
Once Panama’s rainy season starts in May, the sunshine is interrupted with short bursts of heavy rain. It is also usually the quietest time of year for tourism, and you may find yourself alone in the country’s national parks or beaches. That all changes, of course, after the rainy season finishes in November and gorgeous, sunny weather returns.
Top things to do in Panama
As the oldest part of Panama City, settled in 1673, Casco Viejo is filled with beautifully restored French and Spanish-style buildings, with a touch of art deco flair. As you stroll down the cobblestone streets, past pastel-colored buildings housing trendy restaurants, upscale bars, and inviting coffee shops, time seems to shimmer between the 19th and 21st centuries. Explore the neighborhood during the day; return after dark for its lively nightlife.
When the 51-mile Panama Canal opened in 1914, it provided a waterway through Central America and reduced the traveling distance between the Pacific and Atlantic Ocean by 8,000 miles. The impact that this had on global commerce is hard to underestimate. The Pacific mouth of the canal is 26 miles outside Panama City, making it easy to visit this engineering marvel and watch as enormous ships rise and descend through a series of locks.
Bocas Del Toro
Lying close to the border of Costa Rica, this collection of islands is Panama's most popular beach destination. Largely undeveloped, the islands are home to lush tropical rainforest. Great snorkeling and diving opportunities abound in the Isla Bastimentos National Park, which is home to a wide variety of Caribbean coral species as well as (gentle) nurse sharks, crab, and stingrays.