- Written by Dan
Outpost Travel Planner: Panama
By Timothy Hellum / Photo by Daniel Zedda
The Outpost travel planner with the what, where, when, why and how of all things travel to Panama
When To Go
Hotel prices and airfares tend to be higher during the dry season because the weather is generally more pleasant, so your ideal time to visit will depend on whether you want to avoid wet weather or busy hotels.
Panama’s international airport is Tocumen International Airport (PTY), which is 35 kilometres from downtown Panama City. Unfortunately, Air Canada does not fly to Panama and there are no direct flights with any airline from anywhere in Canada. You can, however, easily get a connecting flight via many cities in North and South America with another airline, including Panama’s own Copa Airlines. Keep in mind that there is a $20 US departure tax on all international flights, which is only payable in cash. If you are staying more than 30 days, you will also need a tourist card, which costs $5 US and can be bought from the airline or on arrival in Panama.
In Panama City, taxis are usually safe and reliable and will get you around town for no more than a few Canadian dollars. Hotel taxis, however, will cost you much more than the city taxis. For farther distances, there is an inexpensive bus system to all the accessible parts of the country and a good domestic flight network comprised of 117 airports. For example, the best way to reach Darien National Park is to fly from Panama City to El Real, which is the closest town to the park.
In the outlying regions of Panama, especially around the San Blás and Bocas del Toro archipelagos, boats are the primary mode of travel. You can hire a local boatman to take you to many of the islands or coastal regions here.
What to See and Do
The Panama Canal is probably the most famous and significant canal in the world. The man-made waterway stretches through virgin forest for more than 80 kilometres through the country and connects the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. It has been the main port in this region since 1914 and is used by more than 13,000 ships every year.
Travellers can see the canal up close by taking a mini cruise along the route, followed by a stop at the Miraflores Visitors Center, located a few minutes from downtown Panama City.
Tropical Islands and Rainforests
The name Panama literally translates to “abundance of fish and butterflies,”so you can expect plenty of nature and outdoor activities. On the Caribbean coast, you’ll find tropical islands ideal for scuba diving. On the Pacific coast, beaches are easily accessible and water sports, such as windsurfing, are common.
However, the rainforest is probably the main attraction for anyone travelling to Panama. An adventure travel company like Adventures Incorporated, www. adventuresincorporated.com, can help you organize an unforgettable jungle trek no matter your level of experience.
There are 16 national and municipal parks, the largest of which is Darien National Park at 1.4 million acres of tropical rainforest. It is the largest protected nature area of Central America and the Caribbean and has been declared a Biosphere Reserve of Humankind because of its rich biological diversity—from jaguars to the harpy eagle—genetic value and the indigenous peoples that continue to live there and practice their ancestral customs.
Most famously, the Camino Real, a legendary trail forged by the Spanish in the 16th century to transport Incan treasures, runs through the rainforest in the Chagres and Portobelo National Parks.