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Interview with one of our local partners in Panama

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Panama is the bridge between two continents and the divide between two oceans. There are mountains in the northwest, tropical wildernesses, forests and beaches scattered across the entire country, and the people are welcoming and ever-smiling. We caught up with Annie, one of our local experts in Panama, to find out more about her incredible country.

What is life like in Panama?

Panama offers a delightful combination of amazing history, diverse cultures, close biodiversity and national parks and, in Panama City, modern cosmopolitan living. It also offers a lot of adventures for families, with great legends and stories that will stick with you for evermore.

My fondest memories are always related to getting out into the great outdoors. I remember the weekends spent with my parents, exploring new destinations and going on picnics at San Lorenzo Castle on the Atlantic side of Panama. I’d sit there and imagine the time when pirates roamed the Caribbean. Still today, every time I go to Portobelo or San Lorenzo, I remember my mother’s stories about Sir Francis Drake and Henry Morgan attacking the Spanish fortifications.  She was very passionate about history, and as a kid I just loved going on adventures with my family.

Portobelo, Panama

What is your favourite place in Panama?

My favourite place is Boquete and the surrounding highlands of Chiriqui. This region offers excellent hiking, alongside birdwatching and fantastic opportunities to observe wildlife. The weather is lovely; it’s like spring all year round and Boquete is a charming town from which to set off on a hike.

I love that I can relax in hammock overlooking the Baru volcano or always explore a new trail with amazing local guides in the region. I also love going there to indulge in fantastic new cuisine cooked by amazing local chefs! Coffee is also a must-try there – Boquete’s beans are always within the top three of the world.

What three words most represent Panama for you?

  • Diversity: Panama is a diverse country with Indigenous groups and Latin American subcultures, with influences of Spanish conquistadores. It also became a melting pot with the introduction of the Transcontinental Railroad and construction of the Panama Canal.
  • Happy: Panamanians are happy people. When you visit the country, you will make not just great memories, but also good friends.
  • Green: the natural environment in Panama is incredibly lush, and even close to the city, we have amazing national parks.

What is the Panamanian culture like?

Here in Panama, we are a true melting pot of Afro-Caribbean, Latin American, and European cultures. The gastronomy of Panama in particular reflects the beautiful and diverse heritage. From simple and delicious ceviche sold at seafood markets, to exquisite recipes influenced by our local Indigenous groups, to modern and eclectic fusion cuisine, you won’t get tired of our food culture.

Do you know any cool facts about Panama that most people wouldn’t?

Just a few:

  • The national flower is the Holy Ghost orchid, a tiny specimen that seems to have a small dove in its centre.
  • Panama boasts more bird species than the USA and Canada combined.
  • At its narrowest distance, only 50 miles of land separates the Atlantic Ocean from the Pacific in Panama.
  • In Panama, you can watch the sun rise in the Pacific and set in the Atlantic.
Panama coastal landscape with palm trees at sunset

Do you have any top tips for anyone visiting Panama?

  • Plan your trip with plenty of time to spare, especially if you intend to travel during the high season.
  • Consider a guided tour to better immerse yourself in the local culture and support the destination.
  • Learn some Spanish!
  • Respect the country and people (and always ask for permission if you want to take a picture).
  • Avoid the crowds of all-inclusive holidaymakers and opt to stay at more personalised, boutique hotels.
  • If you want to save some money, avoid travelling during peak time.

What experiences should people travelling to Panama definitely not miss?

  • Take a historical city tour: walk through Panama la Antigua and learn about the pirates, conquistadores and the Panama Canal era, with a guide who will give you extra-insightful information.
  • In Panama City, walk or bike the Cinta Costera, visit the seafood market, and try some fresh ceviche.
  • Spend at least one or two nights in an Indigenous village or community.
  • Take a sailing trip!
  • Try some of the best coffee in the world in Boquete.
  • Kayak or boat around the Panama Canal.
  • Ride the Transcontinental train towards the Atlantic side in one day.
  • Enjoy the local gastronomy (tasajos, empanadas, carimañolas, yucas fritas, and amazing local seafood).
San Blas Islands landscape in Panama

Make it happen

If Annie has inspired you to travel to Panama, then don’t hesitate to get in touch with our local experts – they will get to work on planning your perfect, personalised itinerary.

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