Panama holidays : introduction
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There is so much more to Panama than the magnificent canal - it is a paradise for wildlife enthusiasts, diving and snorkelling are excellent on both Pacific and Caribbean coasts, and the isthmus is home to seven different indigenous communities who strive to preserve their unique and colourful traditions.
Watching huge container ships and cruise liners making their stately progress through the Panama Canal from a tropical jungle clearing, while a freight train rumbles by on the parallel railroad, is a bizarre and humbling experience. On either side, rainforest echoes with the calls of tropical birds - hinting at the amazing biodiversity beyond.
Panama has some of the best-preserved rainforest in Central America, home to rarities like the quetzal and harpy eagle (Panama’s national bird), and extravagant macaws, parrots and toucans. Mountains, cloud forest, wetland and mangrove support a huge variety of fauna from tiny tree frogs and monkeys to big cats.
The archipelagos of Bocas del Toro and San Blas (run by its native Kuna people) are incredibly beautiful - turquoise seas, white sandy beaches shaded by coconut palms, and coral reefs swarming with fish. Panama City is well worth visiting for its striking contrasts of old and new - quiet cobbled squares and faded colonial buildings against a skyline to match Manhattan.
Climate and when to go
Temperatures are fairly constant throughout the year, but rainfall varies. The rainy season runs from June to November and rains can be particularly heavy on the Caribbean side from September to November. Panama is not affected by hurricanes. The most popular time to visit is the dry season, from December to April, however, diving and snorkelling are best during the rainy season, when there is less wind.
“We had a great holiday, and our favourite place of all was Panama - so much to see and such nice people. We saw the volcano every day in Arenal, and had a really top-class meal at the Tabacón hotel there. We were very satisfied with the way you arranged everything, and with how we were looked after by each local agent along the way.” - JP
“Although this had been an afterthought connected with a route to minimise small planes, this part of the trip was an outstanding success. There was a good mix of excursions from the old town to the colonial, the canal itself and the boat trip on Lake Gatun where we saw many animals and birds. We had the same guide on both days and he was excellent. We also walked into one of the nearby shopping malls so we had a diversity of things to see and do.” - JJ
“All accommodation lived up to expectations, from location, to quirky, to stunning views and charm, cannot complain. The choice of accommodation was excellent. A good varied tour taking advantage of the main points of interest, outlined in my initial enquiry to yourselves, together with accommodation to suit the location and all within the budget. May I take this opportunity on behalf of Steve and myself to thank you and your team for a very successful trip.” - MG
“Suffice to say the trip was fantastic - loved Panama! Thanks for organising a really well rounded trip.” - RS