All posts filed under: Panama

Panama City Views

John Muir once said, “In every walk with nature one receives far more than he seeks.” A hike up Ancon Hill is an activity that I recommend to people of all ages, both residents and visitors of Panama. It takes about 45 minutes to reach the top of the hill, where the bird’s-eye views of Panama City are truly unmatched. Also, If you’re lucky enough you’ll be able spot a sloth or two, as wildlife is abundant in this tropical jungle. At the top of hill, the highest point of Panama City, there is a symbolic Panamanian flag that was hoisted in 1977 when Panama signed the Panama Canal Treaty with the United States; to handle over all operations of the Canal to the Panamanian government at the end of the 20th century. The hill is popular among joggers and hikers. I was there about a week ago with my family on a Sunday. I hadn’t been to Ancon Hill since I was 12 or 13 years old on a school fieldtrip. Our assignment was to take pictures of as …

8 a.m in the Caribbean

Isla Grande – which translates to “Big Island” – is, ironically, a tiny and charming island off Panama’s Caribbean coast.  The island welcomes you with it’s warm and crystal clear waters, as well as hundreds of seductive palm trees, lush vegetation, and unique animal species. Isla Grande is uncommercialized. Do not expect boutiques, big stores, or fancy restaurants. Parts of the town are dirty and unkempt. Zero WiFi. There are only two hotels in the island, although some home owners do rent theirs on sites like AirBnB. From Panama City, it’s a smooth two hour drive in the newly built highway to La Guaira, located in the Colón province. Before arriving at La Guaira you will see the colonial fortifications of Portobelo, including the famous canyons; this historic city was an important port for the Spaniards between the 16th and 18th century. It was named “beautiful port” by Christopher Columbus, and was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1980. For our mother and daughter getaway, we decided to stop for lunch at a restaurant in Portobelo called El …

The House on the Hill

Growing up in Panama, I spent most of my weekends and summer vacations in my grandmother’s rustic beach house. The land where it’s located is about 10,000 square feet of lush vegetation and steep hills. Not so far one can see the Pacific Ocean. I remember clearly those hot summer days running around the estate with my brothers and cousins from dawn to dusk, when our parents would summon us back to the house worried we might encounter a snake in the dark. I remember my father rising early to plant trees and pick up different herbs. A cilantro tea each morning. Simpler times, indeed…  The contrast between the city, chaotic and densely populated, and the interior of the country is radical. Real estate developers and the hotel industry are responsible for more and more new luxury resorts and beachfront communities each year. Little by little, the landscape is tarnished. We are losing more and more of the virgin nature. My grandmother’s beach house is not completely abandoned, but it’s true that as her grandchildren …

Pleasure in the Pathless Woods

Corruption can be defined as the abuse of power for private benefit. This is one of the biggest challenges in Latin America and a pressing problem in Panamá. When I think about some of the economic and social repercussions of corrupt government officials, images of families living under the poverty line in zinc sheet houses come to mind, contrasting with sky-high towers and luxury sports cars racing the streets of Panama City. Inequality, injustice, poverty. Corruption has negative repercussions not only on society and the economy but also the environment. The issue of deforestation is another important environmental challenge that is affected by government corruption, specifically by resource exploitation and a lack of protection for tropical forests. Panama is home to an abundance of flora, fauna, and natural resources. Protecting the environment ensures clean air and water for humans; it also benefits the country’s ecotourism, which in turn helps boost the economy. This is where Ecovenao comes in. Located about 220 miles from our capital Panama City is Playa Venao, a popular surf spot in …

Into the Jungle

Gamboa is a small town only 45 minutes away from Panama City, overlooking the Panama Canal and surrounded by hundreds of acres of the magnificent Soberania National Rainforest. This land was once a jurisdiction of the U.S. Army (back when the Canal was still controlled by the U.S.), and today is one of the most unique and enchanting destinations for nature lovers in the region. The Gamboa Rainforest Resort offers luxury and adventure for its guests. Some of the tours available include a two hour aerial tram that takes you up through tree tops providing the most breathtaking views and of course, always with friendly monkeys, sloths, and birds popping in to say hi. Kayaking or fishing on the Panama Canal is another popular activity.  The hotel’s pool is stunning, and the spa is an absolute treat. My last visit to Gamboa was a last minute improvisation – we showed up without booking anything in advance and were told all tours and activities were sold out for the day. We were given a map of the rainforest and …

Camping Experience: Magic at La Yeguada, Panama

  December is my favorite month, not only because of the food, holidays, and celebrations, but because I get to catch up with old friends who I’ve missed throughout the year. And it was over a happy hour one scorching afternoon here in the city of Panama that an old friend of mine invited me to a camping trip at La Yeguada, a forest reserve located in the Veraguas province of Panama. As an innate adventurer and lover of nature, I have always wanted to go. My only worry was, of course, that I’d never camped before. The name La Yeguada, however, already seemed to promise a memorable experience, one I would never forgive myself for missing had I said no. Her family – including parents, siblings, aunts, uncles, cousins, and friends they invite – have been going to La Yeguada every January for 15 years now; it is a big group, of all ages, and everyone is an expert at camping. The forest reserve protects the lake at La Yeguada, which provides hydraulic power …

Island of Flowers

Only 20 km from Panama City, and nicknamed the island of flowers, Taboga Island is truly a charmer, and a must for anyone visiting the country.  There are several different ferry companies taking you from the port in Amador to Taboga and back; for my last visit there I took the Calypso ferry departing at 9:30 a.m which is only $20 round trip. It’s a thirty minute ride passing next to enormous cargo ships that are on their way to the Atlantic Ocean through the Panama Canal. Quicker than you realize, you arrive at Taboga Island: colorful, friendly, and truly relaxing. When I was kid, I frequented Taboga with my family a lot; its proximity to the city really makes it the perfect weekend getaway. However, if you’ve only got a day to spend, Taboga is also perfect  since its area is under 5 square miles. (Happy Tiki tip: try to avoid Sundays and weekends/holidays in general if you can, some of the beaches can get really crowded!) The houses in Taboga are colorful with bougainvilleas growing against …

Tropical Geometry

Tógo is a lovely boutique bed and breakfast located in Panama’s Pacific coast, with the most lush and tropical interior decoration. I have been there twice, it is one of my father’s favorite places to stay when looking for some peace and tranquility close to the sea. Panama City gets hectic, but we are lucky to have paradisiacal, turquoise beaches just an hour’s away. The B&B is colorfully decorated, with yellow and green couches, pillows made out of “Molas” (hand stitched embroidery designed by the Kuna Yala indigenous community), dozens of little Panamanian ornaments hanged on the walls, and the most vibrant paintings. Tógo is also home to five pets: two dogs and three cats, which get along “just fine”. Breakfast is a bowl of fresh fruit (pineapple, watermelon, papaya, and banana), followed by warm bread and home-made marmalade (raspberry or grape – your pick), eggs to your taste, and pancakes if you wish. If you are not sold yet, scroll through the photos I took of this tropical haven – opened in 2009 – and its …