Lately I’ve been planning a trip to Panama, and have been asked several times, “Why Panama?

Well I’ll tell you why. Panama is much more than a canal, it is a tropical, jungley country full of two-toed sloths, vibrant birds and toasty warm waters good for snorkeling or surfing, depending on the beach.

The real kicker is that Panama is often overlooked as a vacation spot, it’s really quite similar to any other tropical country along the Ring of Fire. Jungle + Volcanoes + Pretty Water = Vacation, right? It’s just like Hawaii, just cheaper and less English.

Anywhoo, hubs and I won’t have long in Panama before we plan to move on to El Salvador. Island hopping, as it were. Or isn’t. Whatever.

We’ll be using our time wisely: efficiently and cheaply. I did have grand plans to somehow make it to Bocas del Toro, arguably one of the most beautiful parts of the country, attributed to its clear blue waters. But it’s expensive both in time and money to get there, as well as one of the most popular tourist destinations. I may be a gringo, but I plan on avoiding tourists.

So I hunted down other (clear) waters, found off the coast of Las Tablas, a 4 hour bus ride (and $10-$15) from Panama City. The actual Pacific coast of Panama is generally not-clear, but near Pedasi in Las Tablas – just a 30 minute boat ride – will bring you to Isla Iguana.

Photo by Vladimer Shioshvili

Am I right or am I right? That’s worth a trip. This is the site of future snorkeling and gallivanting with the native iguanas, the island’s namesake.

Since we can’t spend all of our limited time in paradise (well we could…but I like variety), we’ll also be visiting El Valle – a little town in a dormant crater in inner Panama. It’s jungley and lush.

Photo by Nathan 2009

Photo by fveronesi1

Did I mention the birds? Apparently there’s great bird watching in Panama. I sound old. But look at the pretty bird!

So that’s why one wants to visit Panama. You can drive from the Pacific to Atlantic Oceans in 1.5 hours, snorkel in pretty turquoise waters and hike through the jungle. Es bueno!

I’ve hardly even mentioned the canal, which I am looking forward to seeing. Have I told you that in college I wrote a very loooooong opinion/research paper arguing that the Panama Canal should be expanded to fit the new and larger ships of today (which by the way, it did end up getting expanded…or rather…it’s in the process of being expanded). Anyway, I called it. Let it be recorded.


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