We’re Going to Panama

For the first time in a long time, we’re taking several weeks off this Christmas. Totally off. No email access, no cell phones, no working from camel-back, nothing. We’re going to Panama. After a couple of days in Panama City, we’re spending about three weeks in the Bocas Del Toro province. It’s a region on the Caribbean side of the country, comprised of land plus a bunch of islands.

We’re going to stay in two different properties–a kind of mini eco-lodge and then we’re renting a house. I don’t have a lot of expectations for the trip. I hope to swim and snorkel every day, read a lot of books, sleep a lot and not think about marketing or social media or the web for a while.

Panama was on the short list of places we considered living in before we chose Malta. I’ve had two really enjoyable trips to Costa Rica, it’s more northerly neighbour, so I’m optimistic about a third trip to Central America. I should learn a few more words of Spanish, beyond cerveza and langosta.

Our flight returns via New York, so we’re going to spend a few days, including New Years, in Manhattan staying at my aunt’s place in Soho. Yes, that’s going to take some creative packing. We may just ship a box of clothes to New York.

Have any of you, my dear readers, been to Panama? Any recommendations? Warnings? Tales of adventure?

Incidentally, any time I tell people our plans, they immediately reference a certain Van Halen song:


  1. Oh wow! You’ll have an awesome time! I love Panama.

    My favourite adventure there was the historical train ride to part of the canal. The scenery was absolutely unbelievable. Highly recommended.

  2. There is a town in Panama called Colon, and there is a reason it is called the asshole of the world besides just the name.

  3. I don’t know Panama (never been) but I do know Spanish so I will make sure to give you and Julie an arsenal of phrases 🙂

  4. Panama is pretty neat, but be careful! I was there photographing a big action sports event, and we were at a function in the ruins of old Panama City – a big dinner and outdoor performance by the national symphony. Well, a few of the athletes and I decided to take some photos in amongst the ruins and a security guard wanted to follow us. Figuring they just wanted to keep an eye on us in their historic ruins, we didn’t mind. At one point I needed to go get more film for the camera, and started to walk around the back of one of the buildings towards our car. The security guard started yelling at me and I tried to brush him off saying “film! film! I’m just getting film!”. I soon realized he was saying “Banditos! Banditos!” Turns out, bandits were known to hide out in the treeline next to our cars, waiting for unsuspecting touristas like me to wander too close!

    But otherwise, Panama City, the Canal, and the surrounding area was pretty neat. Lots of cool stories.

  5. Diane and I were very seriously considering BDT as a retirement spot a couple of years ago. Sounds like it’s pretty safe (well, comparatively) and has a large expat community. There were the usual bug and water issues, but if you survived Malta you’re probably ok.

    Soho, on the other hand, is a whole ‘nother deal. Get your shots.

  6. You should try to find and read “Zone Policeman 88” by Harry A. Franck – it was a bestseller in 1913. Harry was a popular travel author at the time, and he agreed to be a census-taker in Panama during the building of the canal. They eventually transferred him to the canal zone police force. It’s a fascinating look at the Panamanians of the time, and includes tons of photos of the country (and the canal construction). You can often find this book – and others by HAF – on sites like ebay or abebooks, or in your local used bookstore. If all else fails, you can also download the text from Gutenberg (http://www.gutenberg.org/etext/4786) but then you’d miss out on the wonderful photos.

  7. You guys always go on the best trips – we still have to find a time to get you on my travel podcast to talk about some of your adventures.


  8. I was going to suggest the San Blas islands, but looks like you’ll be somewhat further north.

  9. I was in Panama City and Bocas del Toro 4 years ago at the same time you are going. It is SO gorgeous there! I was fortunate to be visiting a friend (native Panamanian) who is very dialed into the art scene in Central & S. America so I definitely had a chance to explore ‘off the beaten track’. In Bocas, we stayed in a funky little B & B on stilts over the water…don’t remember the name at the moment but you can’t miss them a short boat ride across from the main part of town. Also, you have to take a boat to the place famous for the tiny red tree frogs…there is a bar in the middle of the jungle run by an American ex-pat that makes the BEST rum blender drinks I’ve ever had!! Have fun!

  10. Good stuff Darren. Sounds like you have a good trip planned. Mind you, I’d recomend that you take time out to learn a bit of Spanish though given your obvious attraction to Central and South America.

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