In 2-3 days
Spend a day exploring Panama City. A must-see is the famous Panama Canal — the easiest way to visit the canal is to go to the Miraflores Locks, on the north-eastern edge of Panama City. Wander Casco Viejo’s
winding and historic streets and visit the ruins of old Panama Vieja,
destroyed by the murderous pirate Henry Morgan in 1671. Clear your
lungs with a stroll around the city’s surprising rainforest national
From there, catch a flight out to the Caribbean islands around Boca del Toro and San Blas for some beach downtime serious relaxtion, or surfing, diving or snorkelling if you’re feeling active.
In a week
Follow the Panama City and Boca del Toro itinerary outlined above.
Spend a extra night or two on the Caribbean coast, taking time to really indulge in the laid-back Caribbean vibe. Round out your trip with a safari into the remote Darién wilderness, home to untamed jungle, misty
cloudforests, a wealth of fauna for wildlife buffs, and rare orchids. Alternatively, board a chicken bus and head to Panama’s Pacific coast. Hang in the surf town of Santa Catalina.
In two weeks +
After checking out Panama City, use your extra time in the palm-fringed islands of the San Blas Archipelago instead of rushing off within a few days (as you’d be forced to do with the one-week itinerary). Here, you can live with the native Kuna Indians. Fiercely
independent and 40,000-strong, the Kuna have long maintained and
defended their traditions of fishing, farming and trading coconuts with
the Colombian schooners that ply the waters.
While there is little in the way infrastructure for tourism, a few
resourceful Kuna have developed low-key family-run resorts on some of
the islands. By staying with a family, you are naturally involved in
the happenings of daily life and are accepted as guests in the village.
Many of the Kuna are no taller than 5ft and it is believed that they
are the smallest humans after the Pygmies. With their nose rings of
gold, legs and arms covered in beads and wearing traditional clothing
of a zillion different colours, they are outrageously photogenic.