Panama #1 Place to Go in 2012
"It's been 12 years since Panama regained control of its canal, and the country's economy is booming. Cranes stalk the skyline of the capital, Panama City, where high-rises sprout one after the next and immigrants arrive daily from around the world. Among those who have landed en masse in recent years are American expatriates and investors, who have banked on Panamanian real estate by building hotels and buying retirement homes. The passage of the United States-Panama free trade agreement in October is expected to accelerate this international exchange of people and dollars (the countries use the same currency)."
-New York Times, January 2012
Panama: The coolest Caribbean spot of the moment
“But it turns out Panama is somewhere you won’t want to leave. And savvy backpackers, surfers, hippies, and eco-chic A-listers are quietly turning it into a new Caribbean hotspot with a Spanish skew, a place of Rasta-run beach huts, of strong community cultures, of gallery forests that emit a palpable twilight thrumming. It’s got world-class break, and white sand as fine as dust motes."
-Condé Naste 2012 Cover Issue
"Think of Panama and you might be reminded of a hat (actually from Ecuador), a Canal or a hapless fraudster who faked his own death (canoe-man John Darwin).
But there's a lot more to this sliver of land between Costa Rica and Colombia. In an area smaller than Scotland lies a cosmopolitan capital, miles of pristine coastline on two oceans, unique indigenous cultures, adrenaline-fuelled adventure and steamy jungle with wildlife galore.
Down-town Panama City feels like a mini-Miami, a skyscraping hub of international finance, shopping malls and sophisticated nightlife. There's so much construction underway that the locals joke that the country's national bird is the crane."
-The Daily Mail, February 2012
"But it is Panama's wild nature that is increasingly drawing in tourists, and the most popular destination now is Bocas del Toro, a group of 68 Caribbean islands 32km from the Costa Rican border, where primary rainforest meets the sea. Beautiful beaches, surf breaks and a backpacker scene attracts independent travellers to Bocas Del Toro town on Isla Colon, while nature-fanatics head to several ecolodges on the nearby islands and promontories, which have opened in the last few years."
-The Guardian, May 2012
"At the crossroads of two oceans and two continents, Panama City is a dynamic metropolis. Thats never been truer than it is today. Everywhere in this steamy, tropical town are foreign investors talking shop in upscale cafes, expat fortune-seekers toasting their fates in wine bars, cranes stalking the rooftops of a skyline that seems to grow before your eyes. Right now, there are more than 30 skyscrapers under construction- among them the Trump Ocean Club and The Panamera, which will be Latin America's first Waldorf-Astoria Hotel (both are set to open later this year). All of this building and hype has local residents calling Panama City the "Dubai of the Americas" They're only half joking."
-New York Times, April 2011
Frommers describes Panama as deliciously free of crowds- and what better endorsement do you need? Even if your based in Panama City, a range of outdoorsy activities including watersports in both the Caribbean and Pacific, bird watching and hiking can fill a vacation. Mountains, rainforests,and beaches are plentiful, creating a spectacular setting for vacationers regardless if you want to break a sweat or just relax by the waves..food and transportation are very affordable. Lonely Planet estimates travelers can get by quite comfortable on $60 a day. Regardless of whether you want to scrimp or splurge, the possibilities are affordable.
-USA Today, April 2010
Going to the Birds
Perched at the top of a hill in the rainforest 30 minutes outside Panama City,Canopy Tower can be described only as a place where everyone falls in love with birds. Birder, bird watchers, non-birder- it doesn't matter because the birds are all here, right in front of you at eye level. It is impossible not to be drawn in. My mom and I saw scores of avian species buut also howler monkeys sloths, tamarins, all kinds of bat and butterflies- as well as freight ships making their way through the Panama Canal.
-Newsweek Magazine, November 2010
Exotic Panama, that sunny nation in Central America, gateway between the Pacific and Atlantic oceans-has almost everything: year-round sun, first world amenities, bird-filled rainforests, a dollar economy and easy flights from the US. Panama City is considered safest of all Central American cities, with worldly buzz because of the Canal and a World Heritage Site.
Wherever They Lay Their Hat
Mick Jagger, Donald Trump, and Brad Pitt- not to mention 007- have a soft spot for Panama, says Teresa Machan, so the rest of us may be surprised to find that its charms are remarkably affordable.
-The Telegraph, October 2008
A Day in Panama City
"Roberta and I headed for our first morning in town to the city's outstanding quarter of colonial gems, the Casco Viejo district of 17th century Spanish charm. Preserved as the conquistadores left it, Casco Viejo vies with Old Havana and the Old San Juan in authenticity-but it is beginning to leave the others behind with the restored beauty of its courtyards, and the sparkling tiles and marble that line many of the cafes, restaurants and shops that occupy these historic structures. Just as Panama City's downtown across the bay is transforming itself into a totally unexpeected, skyscraper-packed Hong Kong, Casco Viejo is in the process of being restored into the most tastefully attractive area of the city.
The tourism of Panama is centered not simply in Panama City, but to a far greater extent in the picture perfect, uncrowded beaches (with several large resorts) just outside Panama City and in the renowned San Blas Islands, Pearl Islands, and Bocas del Toro offshore islands as well as in the mountain stretches of Boquete, housing rain forests, coffee plantations, and Embera and Kuna Indians- a superb setting for tourism.
Just as Americans began flocking to Costa Rica a decade ago, they're now going to what might become the new hot spot of Central America, Panama. You should consider a trip."
-Houston Chronicle, November 2007
Spirit of the Isthmus
"What I didn't know then is that all those beaches are also unique and fragile. Panama has one of the richest ecosystems on the planet. "It is Mecca for tropical research," says Hector Guzman, a scientist stationed here with the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute at Naos Marine Laboratory. 'All the theories of tropical evolution originate here.' He tells me how three million years ago, North and South America were not attached by Central America. The Gulf of Mexico and the Pacific Ocean were one body. Panama used to be hundreds of tiny islands that came together through a geological process. This closure brought much change in climate and in rainfall. 'It all happened right here,'" Guzman says.
For tourists, this means more birds than Costa Rica, more sharks, more whales, more coral reefs. The place is such an important ecological site that Frank Gehry has designed a museum to celebrate its biodiversity.
New York Times, November 2005
When you get off the plane in Panama City, you have to decide just what it is you're looking for, because Panama is full of possibilities. Panama is really three countries: glitzy, supermodern Panama City; the cool, inscrutable, slow-moving interior (including jungle and cloud forest); and the varied, surfable, fishable coasts—backpacker-land. Like so many places that are at the center of their geographical area, Panama is a dream factory. It is not a dull place of sure bets; it is not a superproduced place, as Costa Rica has become. Many dreams have been made in Panama, and many shattered, but it is a country that has always offered infinite potential. Panama is an opening gambit, and it opens the traveler up.
-Travel and Leisure, November 2005
Panama, Naturally Part Wild, Part Urban and Chock-ful of Life.
"The trip proved better than I ever imagined. On my hike in Metropolitan (rainforest park in Panama City) which was spectacular despite my skittishness, I met a Florida family at the top of Cerro Mono Titi who helped change the course of my week. As I took in the summit's sweeping views of city and jungle, I said to no one in particular, ''There's so much more here than rain forest."
The teenage boy replied, ''You just figured that out?"
Panama is Central America's southernmost country… Its nine provinces offer a diversity of landscapes, from banana plantations to coffee fincas, coral reefs to mountainous highlands. Unlike Costa Rica, Panama has not yet become a price-inflated eco-circus with billboards targeting tourists..
-Boston Globe, October 2005
Hot Times in Panama-16 Beautiful Untouched Islands and the Most Beautiful Woman in the World
Panama is one of the world’s rare places where in a matter of hours you can go from the wild untamed nature of the Pacific Coast to the laid-back influence of the Caribbean. The two coasts of Panama are different types of Paradise. The country is now considered "hot" form both an investment standpoint and for recreation. Retiring Americans are snapping up land and investment is taking place. From what I saw Panama stands poised to be the next Costa Rica.
Islands Magazine, Cover Story, June 2005
Is Panama City the Next South Beach?
I had seen ads touting Panama City as the next super-swanky Miami, and I was prepared for velvet-roped lines and South Beach-style snobbery. Heck, Jenna Bush was clubbing here just before I arrived. So not having to deal with a waiter with an attitude was a relief.
But I can see why it gets the Miami comparisons. The city tucked on Panama Bay offers a hip urban vibe and a distinctive skyline. It has sunshine, seafood and shopping opportunities galore. And although Panama is part of Central America, its rhythm and stylish Latin inhabitants have a Caribbean flavor.
But ultimately, the beauty of Panama City is that it hasn't become Miami yet. It's much more welcoming and manageable. And now is the time to go -- before the Panama Canal gets its third set of locks, before Donald Trump finishes his 65-story tower and before the prices shoot just as high.
Casco Viejo is a neighborhood that offers the best of Panama City -- past, present and future. In 1671, after pirate Henry Morgan burned the original city to the ground, the King of Spain chose this boot-shaped peninsula to rebuild.
Although Casco Viejo fell into disrepair in the 1950s, today it is enjoying a revival. The two worlds meet on its labyrinthine streets: Elderly women hang laundry on wrought-iron balconies as construction workers transform dilapidated convents into swanky loft-style condos.
The Washington Post, February 2007
Panama City, Panama
Panamanians joke that the McDonald's franchises and glass skyscrapers make Panama City the "Miami of the South," except that more English is spoken here. But about six years after United States troops pulled out of the country and ceded control of the Panama Canal, the city is asserting itself as a tourist destination, not just a scenic overpass for an engineered waterway. Fashionable hotels now dot the cosmopolitan skyline. Crumbling colonial homes are being polished into bohemian gems. Emerald rain forests woo eco-tourists.,, For now, anyway, Panama City hasn't been overrun by tourists.
New York Times, September 2005
Making Fantasy Real in Panama
The Panama Canal. I hadn't expected to be so spellbound by this marvel of engineering and courage, so fascinated that its early 20th century design still works so well. I stood on deck all day watching the dance of line handlers, the electric "mules" towing the vessels, the gigantic doors on the locks (still the originals).
Wildlife and life in the wild.
Next morning we climbed into a motorboat to explore Gatun Lake, crossing the shipping lanes into the lagoons along the lake's edges. I was glad to be here in spring, with its flowering trees and courting birds -- a biological rush hour. And Cahill knew his stuff. We saw not only the primates and sloths, but many species of birds. Banners of black-bellied whistling ducks skittered away at our approach. Green herons and wattled jacanas strode the water's edge. Caciques fluttered out of their pendulous, woven nests. An osprey perched on a snag, munching on a fish.
Loud cracks, like pistol shots, rang out. "Golden-collared manikins," said Cahill. "The males snap their wings together to attract females."
At dusk, swinging in the hammock on my balcony, I heard howler monkeys roaring in the distant hills and the racket of parakeets settling into nearby trees. Below, the swimming pool had become the dominion of bellowing bullfrogs and swooping bats.
San Francisco Chronicle, May 2006
The Press About Boquete
The Costa Rica Experience Moves Next Door
Tucked in the highlands near the Barú volcano, in the western Chiriquí region of Panama, Boquete is emerging as one of Central America's latest eco-tourism destinations.
Surrounded by green mountains topped by misty, craggy peaks, Boquete offers plenty of outdoors adventure, like hiking, climbing, bird-watching and white-water rafting. And thanks to a 3,000-foot elevation, the area's microclimate deducts 10 crucial degrees from the incessant lowland heat.
Wispy clouds meander overhead in the morning, but release their grip by midday. It's warm in the daytime, bracing at night, and perfect for growing bananas, potatoes, onions, tomatoes, strawberries and coffee — Chiriquí's main crops.
But unlike most eco-tourist hot spots, Boquete draws people not just to its natural beauty, however lush it may be, but also to its snowbird enclave. In the last two decades, a thriving community of North American baby boomers have built homes in and around town. Attracted first by the Napa-like weather and low cost of living, and then by the lax real estate laws—not to mention potable tap water — several thousand foreign families now own homes in Boquete, according to Tom Byrne, a 39-year-old developer who moved there from Ireland.
And while Boquete's real estate market was once dominated by porch-swinging retirees, the latest wave of arrivals tend to be younger couples in their 40s and 50s. Many are opening so-called hobby businesses — restaurants, touring companies, bed-and-breakfasts and wellness spas — geared for tourists.
While tourism is still light, at least when compared with Costa Rica next door, that is changing. Boquete "is like Costa Rica 15 years ago," Mr. Byrne said.
The comparison is apt, but not entirely accurate. Like the popular mountain towns Monteverde and La Fortuna in Costa Rica, Boquete is capitalizing on its forests, rivers and abundant wildlife.
But development in Panama is following a more upscale track. Tourists arrive in rented S.U.V.'s from David, Panama's fourth-largest city, and stay in the high-end hotels hidden off the main road and perched up in the hills.
-New York Times, August 2007
A Town in the Mountains of Panama is a Flower Gardener's Dreamscape
-San Francisco Chronicle, January 2007
Tucked in the cool highlands of the Chiriqui province, an hour's flight from Panama City, lies a slice of Shangri-la called Boquete. This idyllic place, I was told, offered tumbling trout-filled streams, mountains clad in lush rain forest, abundant orange groves and coffee plantations, and a picture-postcard town resplendent in flower gardens.
Coffee fiends were paying $15 a cup for the privilege of trying Panama Esmeralda coffee at a Vancouver cafe last week. It cost $8 for a cup in Los Angeles. At Peet's, a half-pound of roasted beans will be selling for $24.95.
All the buzz - and I don't mean the caffeine - comes because of Esmeralda coffee's exotic flavor. It's so striking, the Esmeralda won the title of world's best coffee for the last three years and recently sold for $130 a pound in an online auction.
Amenities like high-thread-count sheets and aromatherapy massages have cemented Boquete's reputation as a counterpart to Bocas del Toro, Panama's epicenter for Caribbean-style carousal. Whereas the coast is ideal for the partying singles set, there's nary a nightclub pushing beats into Boquete's fresh night air. After sunset, when most of the tourists have retreated to their luxurious hotels and hillside B&Bs, the town square is as quiet as a church.
Morning is when Boquete springs to life. Most days, a steady stream of blue rafts can be spotted bobbing down the Chiriquí Viejo, Gariche and Dolega rivers.
For those who want to remain dry, there are tours of the Kotowa coffee plantation, which claims Panama's oldest coffee mill, for $22.50. Visitors hike through rows of coffee trees, meet the pickers and, of course, sample fresh brews in the mill's cupping room.
Panama also offers magnificent bird-watching. The forests in and around Boquete are home to a dazzling array of quetzals, toucans and parrots.
But for adventure-seekers, there's only one way to appreciate Boquete's natural beauty: "tree trekking" or zip-lining. Boquete Tree Trek . After a bumpy uphill ride in the back of a pickup truck, nervous tourists are strapped into harnesses and sent on free-falls through the dense jungle canopy — 12 times.
Then it's back to the hotel for a hot stone massage. And maybe a nice bottle of red wine with dinner. But you'll want to turn in early and sink into the crisp white sheets as a gentle mountain breeze lulls you to sleep. There's plenty to do in the morning
San Francisco Chronicle, September 2007
The Press About Wildlife And Birding in Panama
Wherever we went, we kept our binoculars and a spotting scope handy for birding. More than 900 species have been counted in Panama, which hosts migratory species from both continents. I loved the names of some birding spots -- Explosives Division, Secret Police, Dredging Division -- at canal and government sites.
We spent a morning walking along the famous Pipeline Road, where 385 avian species have been spotted in one day. A few parties of other birders were there, too. We shared scopes to scrutinize birds I'd never heard of: yellow-bellied elenas, violaceous and slaty-tailed trogons, cinnamon woodpeckers. Every now and then we caught glimpses of agoutis and coatimundis scurrying across the road. Once an iridescent blue morpho butterfly, big as a saucer, flitted through the leaves.
Gatun Lake, Panama A terrible, hoarse roar echoed through the forest. Howler monkeys. In a large tree hanging over the water, a dozen of them leapt up from their naps, fidgeted through the branches and glared down at us. We peered back and added them to our list of jungle spottings for the day: red-naped tamarins and white-faced capuchins, three-toed sloths, wattled jacanas and a 50,000-ton, blue-and-orange container ship.
Not the usual fare in most deep-jungle nature preserves, but in Panama, where the world's best-known waterway slices through miles of primeval rain forest, economy and ecology are irrevocably intertwined. The result is pristine rain forest teeming with wildlife that is both protected and accessible because without it, one of the world's grandest engineering projects and one of its busiest waterways could not function.
San Francisco Chronicle, 2006
The Press About El Valle de Anton
Farther up the slope, we reach El Valle, a town that sits inside a crater created 3 million years ago when a huge volcano blew its top. Today El Valle is one of the largest inhabited dormant volcanoes in the world. The town's fresh air, leisurely pace and cooler temperatures make it a popular weekend retreat for Panama City's elite. (Signs along the road tell the story: "Door to Paradise" and "Villa Nirvana." Nature lovers rave about the region's hiking trails, waterfalls and horseback riding.
But the main "activities" we encounter are relaxing and eating. New Panamanian friends have arranged lunch on the patio of La Casa de Lourdes, a Tuscan-style mansion with an idyllic poolside restaurant and terraced gardens. Surrounded by Panama's leisure class, we follow their lead and order a bottle of wine. It goes well with a table full of fresh Panamanian and Creole seafood dishes accented by spice rubs, mango salsas and yucca, the ubiquitous root that locals mash, fry and even toss into cakes.
The Washington Post, February 2007
The Press About Colon
The Caribbean side has a completely different feel: steamy and edgy, with a history of conquistadors and buccaneers; Columbus came calling in 1502. The Spanish built forts here to protect the looted Inca gold headed for Spain, but British pirates managed to sack the towns anyway.
San Francisco Chronicle, May 2006