Panama is an impressive country and while tourism has grown, the country remains relatively unknown.
Some of the big tour package companies sell vacations here but the real experience in Panama is had by venturing into the country, into the cloud forests and on to the water.
I’ve been to Panama a few times and once stayed for a few days in Guna Yala, formerly known as the San Blas Islands. We were flown in by light aircraft with our guide and kayak equipment (folding sea kayak) making pit stops at various small island airports along the way.
The flights from Panama city’s domestic airport depart very early which I thought was really unnecessary. After all its not like there are huge crowds waiting to go places. So I asked the pilot why. He explained to me “we must fly early to avoid the updrafts as the sun heats the sea and the air”. “Good to know” I agreed.
When we arrived finally to our small island base we stayed in a tiny wooden building in the middle of a small village. Everything was built on sand. The temperature was hot and the humidity was high and the sun set early. By 7:00 PM the entire village went dead quiet. So we tried going to sleep, but we started to notice it was not as quiet as we first thought and we started to notice sounds of people talking, rustling around, and movements on the sand street outside the wooden slats that made up the walls of our quarters. Small village, nothing is private. It was pitch black. We eventually got to sleep.
We awoke and had a simple breakfast before exploring around the village where we found ladies selling the famous molas they had made. We bought some and then we went kayaking.
You had to be there. We glided above coral reefs on glass calm water about the temperate of your average bath in Canada. Led by our local guides in a motorised tender and our kayak guide Nemesio we landed on a small sandy beach and stayed the better part of the day swimming and exploring. Before sunset we headed back, slightly sun-burnt, to some cool beers and fish with rice.
It’s hard to measure the rest of our trip to Panama against this experience. The video below is a promotional production but it gives some impressions of Panama from some travel agents.
If you have an interest in visiting Panama, contact me and I can give you some ideas and get either a pre-made tour or a custom private tour, or a little of both. Be aware that Panama, like many countries, does not require or enforce strict licensing of tour operators.