Welcome to Panama! With Costa Rica to the west and Colombia to the southeast, Panama tends to get overlooked by travelers. People flock to Costa Rica in massive numbers for waves to ride and hippie vibes, and Colombia for the cute towns, arepas, and perhaps the beautiful women. So, what does Panama have to offer? Not only are there many things to do in Panama that sets it apart from its neighboring countries, but it's cheaper than Costa Rica too!
If you're already traveling through Central or South America, it's important to note that while Panama is easily accessible via bus from Costa Rica, it is not safe to travel from Colombia to Panama on land. As an alternative to those visiting from Colombia, you can sail the San Blas Islands in reverse or hop on a quick flight over.
Boquete is a pretty and quaint town up in the mountains of Panama. The big draw to Boquete is the spectacular hike up Volcán Barú for sunrise, but it's also worth checking out The Lost Waterfalls and an awesome natural basalt rock climbing wall. While we didn't have much time in Boquete, it's a hiker's dream and I'd love to spend more time exploring the area.
Bocas del Toro
Bocas del Toro is located off the coast of Almirante, Panama. You can reach Almirante on a one-hour flight from Panama or an overnight bus. If you're visiting Boquete (as we did), it's easier to catch the bus from Boquete or David (the town, not the person). If you're coming from Costa Rica, you can fly from San Jose, or take the Caribe Shuttle directly from Puerto Viejo to Almirante (I highly recommend the latter since Puerto Viejo is amazing in and of itself). That said, Bocas del Toro is only accessible via speedboat from Almirante and is one of my favorite places in the world. I promise that it's easier to get to than it might sound.
As you get deeper into the islands, you will steadily see the ever-changing shades of water turn from blue to patchy spots of turquoise. By the time you arrive on Isla Colón, the main island of Bocas del Toro, the water is unbelievably crystal clear. From there, you have numerous islands that you can check out that just take a couple of minutes to reach by boat.
From the Panama Canal to Casco Viejo, Panama City was lovely. You'll find flower-filled balconies, colorful houses, and a very relaxing vibe in the old town. While it takes a bit of time, I recommend walking along the boardwalk from the heart of Panama City to Casco Viejo.
San Blas Islands
While there are numerous things to do in Panama, sailing the San Blas Islands should be highest on the list. The San Blas Islands experience is a 5-day sailing trip from Panama to Colombia through some of the most remote islands between the two countries.