The ultimate guide to Panama!

Panama is world famous for its engineering masterpiece linking the Pacific to the Atlantic. But Panama has a lot more to offer and is probably one of our coup de coeur in Central America! From gorgeous islands with Caribbean vibes, jungles, wildlife-packed cloud forests, exciting white waters, and coffee plantations where the best coffee in the world is grown, join us for our Panamanian adventures ending in the cosmopolitan capital with its rich history, great nightlife, skyscrapers and colonial areas, interesting museums and world-famous Panama Canal. Keep traveling!

Funny quiz: Test your knowledge about our creepy crawlers!

Costa Rica was the first country to realize the value of its biodiversity for the planet, and its economy has been converted into a green economy, promoting eco-tourism. As such, the butterfly garden of Monteverde aims at educating the public about the fascinating world of insects before admiring butterflies in four different gardens representing different climates.

Try to take this short quiz and discover some fascinating fact about creepy crawlers! Keep guessing!

How Panama changed the world

The colourful roof of Panama’s Biomuseo designed by the world-famous architect Frank Gehry rises above the horizon of the Amador Causeway. Located along the entrance of the Panama Canal, the causeway used to be owned by the USA and was left barren after Panama regained its territory on 31 December 1999. Frank Gehry’s Panamanian wife took part in the discussions about what to do with the land, and soon crucial decisions were made to build the extravagant Biomuseo. Keep traveling!

The best ice-creams of Central America!

About 32°C and a bright sun, walking the streets of Panama City. I would kill for an ice-cream! But I must admit that the traditional Central American ice-creams sold in the streets, consisting of grated ice in a plastic cup topped off with a chemical colorant, or the industrial ones packed with sugar are really not tempting to me. That is precisely when I remember my discussion with Maria from Café Ruiz in Boquete and the fact that she supplies a high-end ice-cream store in Casco Viejo, the charming neighbourhood of the capital… Keep traveling!

Casco Viejo’s booming nightlife, Panama City

After three months on the road through Central America, crossing the bridge of the Americas, we arrive in Panama City, our last stop before flying back home. It is by far the most modern and vibrant capital of the eight countries we have visited during this trip: its modern skyscrapers, architectural landmarks, and well maintained parks show its prosperity, mainly due to the business revolving around the canal. When the sun sets on the Pacific ocean, lights colour the skyline, fancy cars take the streets, and dressed-up locals make their way to Casco Viejo, the old quarter of Panama City where its booming nightlife is about to start.

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Tasting the best coffee in the world in Boquete, Panama

“Position your nose inside the cup and inhale. Just close your eyes and smell thoroughly.” My hands are wrapped around a warm coffee cup while I  am distinguishing the elegant flavours. “Now move your nostril along the ridge of the cup and smell again. What do you smell now?”

I am trying to recognize the different scents: honey, a trace of jasmine, a hint of fruits, an orange aftertaste. This coffee is not just a regular coffee: I am tasting the best coffee of the world! Indeed, the Geisha coffee from the mountains of Boquete, Panama, has been acclaimed by worldwide independent tasters as the best, with its price reaching up to $350 for a pound of its unprocessed green beans.

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Explore Santa Fé, Panama, a hiking paradise

The young ayudante holds his balance gracefully when the colectivo (the mini-van turned local bus), sets off to the next bus stop on the winding road. The engine makes more noise as the gradient of the road gets steeper and the view on the rolling hills surrounding us more beautiful. Behind the next curve lays the remote mountain village of Santa Fé, about five hours South-West of Panama City.

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Casco Viejo, Panama

A street cat tries to climb into a bin. On one of the many doorsteps a dog is sound asleep. Kids run around, playing tag while a few teenagers are listening to some music blasting through their phones. Laundry is drying above the sidewalk and a woman has a loud conversation with her opposite neighbour from her colourful wooden balcony. We are walking the streets of Casco Viejo, Spanish for old quarter, in the historical centre of Panama City.

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Delicious ceviche from the fish market, Panama City

Visiting Panama City, eating a ceviche (raw fish marinated in lime) is a must for every food-lover. The freshest seafood in town can be found at the Mercado del Marisco, a huge fish market where all sorts of fish can be bought. Compared to the many markets we visited in Central America, this indoor market place is surprisingly hygienic. Mystery solved when we see the plate explaining it is funded by Japan! Sweet memories of the fantastic Tsukiji fish market

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Live a psychological thriller through transmedia

Often, I thoroughly enjoy reading a book preferably by a local author to put me in the mood before traveling to a country. André Brink and Coetzee gave me my first impressions before traveling through South Africa, teaching me about the contemporary struggles of the rainbow nation. Paul Auster was my dark guide to New York City, Maupin took me through San Francisco and the entertaining mystery novels of Donna Leon had me discover the hidden canals of Venice. I didn’t really have that luxury traveling through Central America, with a hectic schedule prior to our 3-month trip. It is only arriving in Boquete, Panama, that I find myself reading a mystery novel taking me to the landmarks of this country. Keep traveling!

The Panama Canal unlocked

The Panama Canal took global trade to the next level, putting San Francisco only 9 000 kilometres from New York City instead of 22 000 via the dangerous Cape Horn. In a global economy, the canal is also used to link Asia to Europe: if you are sitting in Europe or the east coast of the USA eating a banana from Peru reading this article, or using a cell phone or laptop made in Asia, chances are they went through the Panama Canal. However, the construction of this engineering masterpiece came at a high price. Keep traveling

Bocas del Toro, Panama: The craddle of the Chiquita banana empire

The beauty of the archipelago of Bocas del Toro made quite an impression on Christopher Columbus who discovered it in 1502: Columbus island (isla Colon), Christopher island (isla Cristobal), or the admiral’s bay (bahía del Almirante) are some of the names one can see on its map. Later, the islands developed into ship supply and repair bases, as indicated by their names: isla Bastimentos translates as supplies and isla Carenero as ship careening. Isla Colon is the largest island of the archipelago and hosts the local capital of Bocas del Toro. Founded in 1826, it became the third most important city in Panama until the 1920s. The United Fruit Company, the biggest producer of bananas that is known today as Keep traveling!

A quest to spot the most beautiful bird: The Quetzal trail, Panama

One of Central America’s most picturesque hikes runs between the mountain town of Boquete and the lesser known Cerro Punta in Pamana. Both lay in different valleys putting them a good three-hour bus ride away from each other. They are also linked by the famous 9-kilometre Quetzal trail, squeezed  between two dead end roads, for a total of about 23 kilometres. Given the elevation gain, Keep traveling!

Discover Bastimentos: the secret gem of Bocas del Toro, Panama

Since the archipelago of Bocas del Toro was discovered in 1502 by Christopher Columbus, the island of Bastimentos has served as a base for vessels; hence its name that literally translates as “supplies”. Its fertile soil and tropical climate are ideal for a wide variety of plants to grow plentifully as we are about to discover, setting off for a jungle and beach hike with our specialized guides. Keep traveling!