Length: 15 full days
Route: Herrera, Los Santos, Pedasí, Boquete, Bocas del Toro
This interesting itinerary hits all the attractions, both cultural and natural, and will undoubtedly be an enriching experience for any traveler. The route takes you to countryside villages where the townspeople conserve their customs and traditions. Allow yourself to unwind on a visit to postcard-perfect Caribbean islands that are awash in vegetation and replete with tropical fauna.
- Bocas Del Toro - Colón Island
The "Land of Bananas" is accessible by various modes of transportation from Panama City. Direct daily flights from Marcos A. Gelabert International Airport bring you to Colón Island, in the district of Changuinola in Bocas del Toro, in about 45 minutes.
You can also get there in ground transportation, by bus or rental car. Busses depart daily from the Albrook Grand Station on a regular schedule of 8:00 pm and 12:00 am. Either the Panama- David route or the Padafront line charge approximately $25.00 for the trip. Busses go as far as Chiriquí Grande, and if you decide to stay here to rest you can find lodging at the Hotel Emperador, Hotel Buena Vista, or boarding houses.
To reach the island in car, backtrack a few kilometers to Rampala and then head towards Almirante (63 km. away) and ask for directions to a parking lot by the dock. If you travel by bus, they will drop you off directly at the dock. There you can take a speedboat and arrive at your destination of Colón Island in around 20 minutes. Boats depart from the dock all day from 7:00 am to 6:00 pm.
Once you land on the island you can relax in an environment of singular natural beauty and a tranquil way of life. This is what has allured a variety of cultures, including Europeans and Americans, to make it their home away from home. The Caribbean-style of houses built on stilts and seaside restaurants serving an array of seafood steeped in coastal flavors are a simple way of welcoming you to enjoy your stay.
Entertainment options abound on the Bocas archipelago, from nightlife at open-air bars to island-hopping tours. The natural attractions of beaches, palm trees, birds, and a rainbow of colors play up the region's paradisiacal beauty. Be sure to include a visit to Bastimentos Island National Park, located north of Colón Island, to witness an intact tropical rainforest and a marine ecosystem that encompasses mangrove islets and coral reefs. These preserved natural areas serve as a refuge for amphibians and habitat for marine species such as the Hawksbill Turtle.
A trip to the highlands of Chiriquímeans cool temperatures, coffee, flowers, rivers, trails, and farmland with flavor-packed products such as strawberries. Get ready to see places that will enchant you, starting with the chilled waters of Caldera River that give way to the majestic "Valley of the Eternal Rainbow". Aromatic flowers in motley colors delicately dot the slopes of the towering blue mountains surrounding Boquete, inviting you to go on a hiking trip across the countryside. The scenic views, abundant trails, and pleasant climate, punctuated by a gentle rain that refreshes the fertile land, are reason enough to engage in outdoor activities. This mountainous area is situated about a 5-hour drive from Panama City and 46 kilometers from the city of David on the Pan-American Highway.
Virtual Tour of Highlands
- Herrera: Traverse the Azuero Route
This trip is known as a cultural tour that prominently displays the customs and traditions that reign in the countryside. The proud peasants are famous for extending their hospitality and inviting you to become a part of this great experience. The regional cuisine is prepared simply but showcases the exquisite flavor of the country's interior provinces. This route through the region of Azuero seeks to emphasize its natural attractions, folk culture, antique dwellings, and the history surrounding the villages, all of which the townspeople lovingly exhibit during the local patron saint festivals and fairs.
The Azuero Peninsula is accessible by bus from the Albrook bus station for a B/.8.00 fare. You can also take a flight from the Marcos A. Gelabert International Airport bound for the Alfonso Valderrama Airport in Chitré,located in the province of Herrera. Renting a car is another option that will allow you to go on several trips along the fascinating routes that cross the Azuero Peninsula.
Make a stop at Sarigua and see the phenomenon of salt concentration on the land, influenced by the tides. The Sarigua National Park covers an area of 8,000 hectares of “albina” or semi-desert coastal areas that hold ancient pre-Columbian settlements. Nearby is the very picturesque town of Parita, where the Colonial Plaza flanked by antique houses is preserved and serves as a venue for all the folk festivities the town celebrates.
Continuing on this same route to the province of Los Santos and surrounding areas we can visit more villages where the drum, pollera dress, patron saint festival, delicious meals, and attractions that enrich the senses are of touristic interest. This region can also be reached by taking a bus from the Albrook Bus Terminal in Panama City. The journey takes 4 to 5 hours and the bus fare is $10.00 per person.
Once in Los Santos you can visit the Nationality Museum located in Central Park that shows replicas of mud and thatch homes, a design that kept them cooler. The entire community participated in building these houses, amidst songs, dances, and meals cooked over the wood-fired stove. Only a few of this type of construction remain today in some villages.
Another notable attraction along the route is the town of Guararé, known for hosting the Mejorana Festival. Nearby, the beautiful beaches of El Puerto, Bella Vista, Mongagre, and El Rompío are extensive, flat, and quite safe for children. The capital city of Las Tablas is internationally recognized for its carnival celebrations and festival for their patron saint the Santa Librada, also known as or St. Wilgefortis or Virgin Moñona. Las Tablas also has nice beaches, such as Las Comadres, El Jobo, Uverito, La Candelaria, and El Estero, on the Pacific coast, the majority with restaurants and lodging facilities. If you are interested in trying on the typical costume, La Pollera and Montuno, you will have the opportunity to rent the dress and all its accessories and have a gorgeous photograph taken for an incomparable keepsake.
Continuing in the same direction we find Pedasí, a town that has captured the interest of investors who had faith in its virtue and beauty. As a result, today this place has a large tourism business and appealing residential projects. There are refreshing natural attractions to be explored in the vicinity. Only seven kilometers away is Iguana Island, set in a lovely seascape and site of the largest (40 hectares) and best preserved coral reef in the Gulf of Panama.
Go on historical, religious, and cultural tours, practice extreme sports, explore nature, sample typical dishes, and more.
Breakfast, lunch, and dinner:
Along the Azuero Peninsula route are typical food vendors where you can sample the countryside flavor. Delight in trying a delicious tortilla breakfast, a rich stew, a refreshing tamarind beverage, or a classic dinner known as toldo of chicken and rice served with potato salad.
General Tour Activities:
Tour churches and historic villages
Vista La Pollera and take photographs (in the city of Las Tablas)
Relax on beaches
Purchase traditional crafts and dishes