Panama has represented for us a journey of contradictions; on the one hand there is Panama City with its skyscrapers and its multi-ethnicity, and is the most important financial center in the world, and on the other hand, the uncontaminated and wild nature of regions unknown to mass tourism.
Why did we choose Panama?
It all started on our last trip to Colombia when we stopped in Panama City for a day. We had 8 hours to get a taste of the city and, luckily for us, we took the right taxi.
Miguel told us about a magical place, so much so that we could only return to Italy, prepare for the journey and return to this land known only as a tax haven. With hindsight I can’t say for sure if I would go back again. I don’t think I appreciated it, but it was an adventure at least.
The first real roadblock was the language – they speak in a mixture of Indios and Latin American idioms. We often found ourselves in difficulty, especially outside the tourist circuits. If like us, you also travel with a child, I advise you to avoid self-directed tours and above all to organize tours in Italy before you leave. Planning them in the moment you certainly spend less, but you risk finding yourself in the hands of people who are not suited to managing families. We don’t normally give advice like this, but in this case I think it’s appropriate.
It is a chaotic city, full of construction sites, skyscrapers and banks of course, everything but quiet and clean. For our stay in the city we have chosen La Concordia Boutique Hotel which boasts an enviable position. The family suite will leave you breathless, I’m sure.
The first day we couldn’t have started better … we went from the skyscrapers of Panama City to the ruins of Panama Viejo, the old capital, today a UNESCO heritage site, represents the first European settlement on the Pacific coasts.
We walked through the historic center, Casco Viajo, among its colonial buildings and its nerve-racking traffic. A jewel between past and present, but we were too busy to let ourselves be drawn in. Such a shame.
Bridge of the Americas
We dedicated the second day to this adventure. Flavio was thrilled to see some exotic birds, monkeys, crocodiles and iguanas. Me, not so much, but the things we do for our children!
We crossed Lake Gatun (an artificial lake) aboard a fast motorboat and then dove into a tropical paradise to have lunch on a houseboat. The place was wild, but it was nice to live so differently from our everyday life. This was all in the shadow of the Great Bridge, of course.
San Blas Islands
On the third day, our journey to the Caribbean coast and the discovery of the archipelago began. In this area there aren’t many hotel facilities, so we spent the next 3 days on the boat. Yes, you got it right, three days and three nights in a beautiful catamaran! The alternative was to experience wild nature (including structures).
It was the first time that Flavio had been on a catamaran and the first few hours did not go very well. However, as time went on it got better and everything was fantastic. The secret is to involve children in activities that keep them occupied and above all, do not let them go into the cabin if the vehicle is in motion.
You can find more sailboat tips here.
In these islands we met the Kuna (local population) and ate fresh fish all different times of the day and night. There is no nightlife, they are rural islands so before going, make sure you are certain you want this kind of holiday. These islands offer breathtaking scenery, white sand and turquoise water, all in a frame of palm trees that touch the water. There ate 378 coral islands. Only 49 are inhabited and few are equipped for tourists.
The most beautiful islands are without doubt Kuanidup, Isla Coco Blanco, Narasgandup, Isla Perro Grande and Isla Perro Chico.
If you want to visit these wonderful islands I recommend going between December and February. There are blue skies, a small breeze and brilliant sea colors.