Category: Panama

Magnificent but Remote Panama Beaches

People often visit Panama but only see Panama City which does not have nice beaches. But leave Panama City and there are very nice beaches tucked away in hard to access places. Many people make a tradeoff of quality for accessibility. Some do it without knowing the options. So here’s the lowdown.

In Panama City itself, two beaches are worth a mention — Veracruz beach and Playa Bonita. Both are on the banks of the Canal and neither are particularly good. About two hours away by fast ferry are the beautiful beaches of Contadora. Still most tourists drive to the beaches around Playa Blanca (about one and one-half hours west of Panama City) because of their all-inclusive hotels. The beaches are not ideal due to strong undercurrents and cold Pacific waters.

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Sold Down the River?

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I admit, I am conflicted. Should indigenous tribes change their way of life to satisfy tourism demands when tourism is their main source of income?

I’m in one of seven Embera indigenous villages located in the Panama Canal water basin. These native tribes live in the jungle on the banks of the Chagres River that feeds the Canal, without electricity, plumbing, nor cell phone service. Accessible by dugout canoe in one hour from Panama City, this is the only part of undeveloped Panama that can be easily reached from developed Panama.

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Tale of Two Churches

Jesus icon in Atalaya church

Two fascinating early American churches in close proximity to each other are in easily accessible Panama, a lot closer than Europe.

Atalaya, Panama, about a half-hour drive west of Santiago, is home to an annual pilgrimage for Panamanians from around the predominantly Catholic country. Like many of the religious ceremonies throughout Latin America, it has a rich history and is fascinating to witness.

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$100/lb. Coffee!

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 In international competitions, the best coffee isn’t a brand you know because these best coffees are grown and roasted in small quantities and do not sell to the mass market.

I wanted to understand what makes an award-winning coffee, so I visited a high-quality coffee farm in the highlands of western Panama, close to Costa Rica. Usually black coffee has a slightly bitter taste to me. Not so for the coffee made at Finca La Milagrosa (Miracle Farm) run by proprietor Tito Vargas, in Boquete, a town favored by ex-patriates for its cool climate despite being in the tropics and close to the equator.

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2 Sizzling Hot Spots

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       Havana versus Panama City skyline

Sometimes I think it’s interesting to compare travel destinations. Today, I thought I’d compare Cuba and Panama. Traveling to either in a package will cost about the same, except that it may be cheaper to fly to Panama from Dallas since you currently have to fly to Cuba through Miami.

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Widened Panama Canal Has Many Challenges

See this link http://nyti.ms/28WDnIe

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Panama Is a Huge Success Story

This article is dead on…Panama isn’t the Panama Papers. Contact me if you have questions about Panama, as that is my expertise.

http://www.forbes.com/sites/steveforbes/2016/05/10/the-real-story-about-panama/#15c6f5b6757a

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Feel Molafied

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Feeling molafied is actually a made-up thing. In Panama, you see the mola everywhere–to the point that you have been overrun with them, thus “molafied.”

The mola is a distinctive artisanal product of the Kuna Yala (or Guna Yala) indigenous group that inhabits the San Blas island archipelago in the Atlantic Ocean near Colombia, technically a part of Panama, but actually an autonomous region. The mola is the most recognizable product of Panama other than, perhaps, the “Panama hat,” which in reality is from Ecuador.

If you travel to Panama (and you should) you should try to get to the San Blas islands, difficult as it is. If you can’t get there, at least visit the store I will describe. Here’s the story.

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Deadly Important

Grave up close

First discovered in 2011, scientists, including some from the National Geographic Society, are just beginning to uncover graves and a huge burial city near Nata, Panama, about three hours west of Panama City. The mosquito infected area sits in a triangle bordered by the Pacific Ocean and two rivers. On many busy days, archaeologists from institutions around the world are at work excavating on-site. On other days, such as the day I visited, the archaeologists are busy in a Panama City lab analyzing massive amounts of excavated material.

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Peek up the Canal

Lock closed

          Having visited the Panama Canal every year since 2008, I am continuously impressed by how the massive outdoor operation is run. When the Canal was given to Panama to operate at the end of 1999, the conventional wisdom was that it would be run into the ground by banana republic operators after efficient US management since it opened in 1914. In truth, the ACP, as the Canal is known in by its Spanish-language acronym, may be one of the best run international enterprises, surpassing US management.

There are canal locks in many places in the world. Many of these locations are in the US. So why do people flock to Panama to see its canal? A 2015 visit to the impressive Iron Gates locks on the Danube River helped me focus on why the Panama Canal is so much more impressive.

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