There is a magical quality to the Chiriqui highlands. In a misty land of eternal spring where bright flowers grow at the roadside, the traveler is rewarded with surreal images of surpassing beauty.
They may be of herds of horses galloping wild in the mist on a highland thoroughbred ranch; peaceful vistas of terraced farmland below majestic peaks; shards of sunlight reflecting from gurgling trout streams and rivers rushing through gorges; crags like dragon's lairs and around every bend
in the road- a rainbow.
Chiriqui lies on the Pacific shore of Panama's western province bordering Costa Rica. it is a place to discover. Organized tourism, aside from the occasional bird watching group, has not yet arrived.
Panamanian leisure seekers ascend the slopes of the mighty Volcano Baru at week-ends and keep the few hotels fairly busy, but from Monday to Friday you can take your pick - no reservations necessary. Rejoice in a land where you can almost feel that no tourist has ever trod before.
The high farms of Chiriqui look Swiss in their greenness and husbandry. Homes and haciendas on the slopes yodel Swiss chalet architecture.
Unsurprising perhaps, since a Swiss farming colony arrived there years before the first road. Following them were Yugoslav farmers.
It isn't all mountains. The province has just about everything, from the casino at the comfortable Gran Hotel Nacional in the capital city of David to deep-sea fishing, and white sand beaches which stretch to infinity.
Beaches / Islands
If you love beach vacations, but hate crowds, Panama is the place for you. With more than a thousand islands and coastlines along both Oceans, Panama has countless picture-perfect, uncrowded beaches. Beach and island scenery, diving, fishing, surfing and sea kayaking are world class.
Places to stay include everything from all-inclusive full service resorts, exotic island retreats, beachfront villas to Tahitian-style cabins over the sea.
The San Bias Islands are home to fascinating Indian villages. Panama also has Central America's only seaside golf course.
Along the Pacific Coast just outside Panama City begin a string of pristine white sand beaches with sapphire blue waters. It is hard to think of any other metropolitan city in the world with so many fine beaches nearby. This lovely coastal area of Panama is the preferred location for the vacation homes of Panama's wealthiest
families. It's easy to get there - an hour from Panama City on a modern four lane highway.
The area is home to three major resorts, and a number of smaller lodging options.
There are several vacation/retirement communities. An increasing number of American "snowbirds" and retirees are buying a second home on these Pacific Coast beaches.
Panama's Pearl Island Archipelago played host for an unprecedented third time to CBS's Survivor Pearl Islands series. Just a short distance from
Panama City, the Archipelago consists of 103 islands of lush vegetation surrounded by warm tropical waters.
The island scenery, nature, diving, snorkeling and sportfishing are world
class. Visit the Survivor Island filming locations - the locals have lots of stories to tell.
Beaches & Islands In West Panama
Near the Costa Rican border lies the Gulf of Chiriqui, home to beautiful beaches and islands. On the coastline, the all-inclusive Las Olas Resort is the resort of choice located on 15 miles of privately owned beach. Las Secas Private Island Resort in the tropical waters between the Pacific Coast of the Chiriqui Province and the Coiba Island National Marine Park, consists of 4 primary and 12 small islands. Featured in The New York Times and Islands Magazines, the resort offers an eco - travel vacation in secluded natural beauty with swimming, snorkeling, fishing, whale watching, surfing and kayaking.
Coiba Island National Marine Park
Coiba Island, off the Pacific Coast of West Panama, is the largest island in Central America. An unusual set of circumstances make Coiba one of the most virgin nature preserves in the world. For nearly a century it was the home to a "Devil's Island" kind of penal colony. No one dared set foot on it, thus leaving the area untouched. Today the penal colony is gone. What's left is a fabulous nature reserve for diving, snorkeling, birding, nature observation and sport fishing. Coiba is home to the second largest coral reef in the Eastern Pacific and the best diving spot - "to be found along the Pacific Coast from Columbia to Mexico" according to Lonely Planet Scarlet macaws nest here and humpback whales are seen frequently.
Bocas del Toro
In which exotic location have 12 countries including France, Italy, Spain and Russia filmed their famous Survivor series? The answer is the islands of Bocas del Toro. Bocas is one of Panama's top tourist attractions and with good reason. Where else can you enjoy gorgeous beaches with scarcely a soul in sight fringed by rainforests so fine Lonely Planet Guide calls them "a biologist's fantasy." Add to that the charming, laid back town of Bocas, with a friendly English speaking population, historical ambience, a lively nightlife and you have a Paradise.
In addition to a tourism boom, Bocas is experiencing a real estate boom. Prices for land have skyrocketed but they still represent some of the best buys in the Caribbean. In Bocas, even a retirement income lets you enjoy "the good life" in safe and beautiful surroundings.
USA Today about Bocas del Toro:
Paradise off the Coast of Panama " When Liza Belkin and Brian Steele told
friends they'd be going to some small
Panamanian islands for a vacation in
December, they got only one question:
But once the Palo Alto, Calif., couple arrived at this Caribbean Archipelago dotted with lush jungles, white sand
beaches and protected coral reefs, they had a ready answer. "This is awesome!"
says Steele, 30, a Marketing Executive. Long overshadowed by eco-tourism heavyweights Costa Rica and Belize to the north, Bocas del Toro is starting to emerge as the newest star in the eco-tourism pantheon. Guidebooks and promoters tout the islands as "the Galapagos of the 21st century." Hundreds of species of fish, parrots, toucans, monkeys and sloths live on the islands, which include a 20-year-old national marine park to protect endangered manatees and sea turtles." USA Today. January 2004