Sabbatical & Experiential Travel to Panama
Holidays & Sabbaticals to Panama – In a Nutshell
This tropical gem is one of Central America’s best-kept travel secrets, an isthmus bridging North and South America in an S-shaped curve. It’s best-known for its shipping canal, which cuts through mountains from the Caribbean Sea to the Pacific Ocean; a stunning feat of engineering. But we visit for the unspoilt San Blas islands, a dazzling archipelago of 400-odd coral atolls, with superb diving and snorkelling. And the incredible wild Parque Nacional Darien, 6,000 sq.km of virgin rainforest and one of the most biodiverse spots on the planet, hiding indigenous tribes, elusive jaguar, thousands of birds and 1,200 species of wild orchid. Zipline through silent cloud forest, visit Chiriquí’s coffee farms and climb Volcan Baru at dawn for a panorama of two oceans. See Parque Nacional Coiba’s pristine eco systems, home to whale sharks and sea turtles. And drink refreshing cocktails in buzzy Panama City. Panama is laid-back and low stress. Be one of the first to discover its charms.
How to Get to Panama
You can travel overland from Costa Rica or sail from Cartagena, Colombia as part of a longer Central or South American itinerary. If you arrive by plane, you’ll fly into Panama City’s Tocumen airport. Flight time from the UK is approx. 14-17 hours, via Europe or the US. If you’re coming from the US, you can travel from various major cities – flight times are approx. 5-7 hours for direct flights. Travel around by private transfers or jump on a ‘chicken bus’ with the locals. These colourful old US school buses give an authentic flavour of local life.
When & Weather – Panama
Panama has a warm tropical climate and temperatures remain constant all year round. The Dry Season falls between December and March; the Green Season is between April to November, but the rainfall is normally concentrated into heavy but short afternoon downpours. Humidity can be high in the rainy season. Temperatures range between 24°C (75°F) and 32°C (90°F).
Who will Panama Appeal To?
The country’s stunning natural landscapes are best suited to:
- Active travellers
- Wildlife lovers
- Beach lovers
- Solo travellers
- Watersports lovers
- Families will be greeted warmly
Eco nature lodges and fincas, beach hideaways and upscale hotels in Panama City.
Off The Beaten Path
- Hike through cloud forest and past Baru Volcano in Amistad National Park. There’s thrilling white-water rafting here, too
- Guna Yala (also called San Blas) is an archipelago of 400-odd tiny coral atolls, territory of the indigenous Guna people
Many are uninhabited, idyllic palm-strewn sandbanks. Don’t miss Isla de las Estrellas, where starfish line the shallows
- Climb Volcan Baru in the misty Chiriquí highlands at dawn. The highest point in the country, from the top on a clear day, you are prized with a panorama of both oceans
- Swing in hammocks on the Sunset Coast of Peninsula de Azuero. This remote area still feels very Spanish, with ladies wearing polleras (embroidered lace dresses) and colourful colonial houses
- Camp overnight on a remote beach in Isla Bastimentos National Marine Park and wake up at sunrise to watch dolphins play in the waves
- There’s pounding surf in Santa Catalina while nearby Isla Coiba is dubbed ‘the Galapagos of Panama’ thanks to its incredible marine life; come to snorkel and dive amongst a kaleidoscope of corals and huge shoals of fish
- Santa Fe, a laid-back mountain village surrounded by lush green rainforest is famed for its farmers’ co-operatives and you can ride horses to hidden waterfalls and tube down rivers
- The peaceful little town of El Valle is set inside a volcanic crater; hike up the Cerro Cara Iguana at sunset for stunning panoramas (and epic wind!)
- Hike through Boquete’s lush rainforest to the ‘Lost Waterfalls’; you’ll see hummingbirds and butterflies dance through the trees
- Playa Bluff is a totally wild beach on Isla Colon that’s a protected hatching ground for sea turtles. You’ll need to hike here
- Humpback whales arrive in the Gulf of Chiriqui between July and October to give birth, having travelled up the Pacific from Antarctica
- You’ll see Bryde’s, minke and pilot whales, too, and large numbers of dolphins
- Sea turtles nest on Isla Bastimentos’ Playa Larga between April and September. This National Marine park on the Caribbean Coast is also home to sloths and howler monkeys; crocodiles lurk in its mangrove swamps
- Birders can train their binoculars on the resplendent quetzal in the highlands, and harpy eagles in the Darien. Almost 1,000 different bird species span this tiny country
- Swim, snorkel and dive amongst mobular rays and whale sharks off Isla Coiba. On land, the thick trees are a refuge for rare scarlet macaw
- Spy miniature golden frogs in the steamy Chiriquí highlands
Panama Experiences you shouldn’t miss:
- Wander through Casco Antiguo in Panama City’s old town
- Travel the gold-rush route by train
- Kayak in the Panama Canal
- R&R on Isla Palenque
- Visit a coffee farm near Boquete to learn the bean-to-cup process
- Island hop around Bocas del Toro; we particularly love the empty Isla Solarte
- Hike through Darien Nacional Parque, a wild expanse of rainforest between Central and South America
Stay at El Otro Lado Private Retreat in Portobelo and get involved with the Portobelo Foundation. The Foundation and El Otro Lado is committed to improving the quality of life of the community through culture – music, dance, art and craftmanship. As part of a stay at El Otro Lado, guests are supporting the Foundation’s non-profit activities and in return receive an immersion cultural experience. La Escuelita de Ritmo, the Carpentry Workshop, the Art Gallery, the Devils and Congo Festival and La Casa de la Cultura Congo are all initiatives driven by the Portobelo Bay Foundation and with which guests can interact and contribute.
Our experienced team will guide you through a number of ideas based on how you would like to experience Panama.
Consider visiting Panama in combination with Costa Rica or Colombia.
Browse our gallery for inspiration and read the sample itinerary below to whet your appetite.
No matter how long you have to travel, we’ll guide you through the planning process to ensure a trip is carefully pieced together to suit your interests, pace of travel and budget.
Contact us to start planning a holiday or sabbatical to Panama.