Bocas, Boquete, and the Big Ditch
Time-pressed travelers to Panama will be forced to focus on the “must-see” destinations, which for most people means the Panama Canal, the Caribbean islands of Bocas del Toro, and the cool highlands of Boquete.
It’s possible to visit all three in about 10 days, but that leaves little time for lazing, and lazing is a top draw of the highlands and islands. Decide if you’re more of a mountain or a beach person and, if possible, consider adding an extra day or two there. Those with only a week should cut out either Bocas or Boquete.
Tour the canal, spending enough time at Miraflores Locks to see a transit or two and explore the visitors center. Cross the canal at the Puente Centenario (Centennial Bridge) for views of Gaillard Cut.
If time allows, visit the former Canal Zone townsites of Balboa and Balboa Heights. Try to squeeze in visits to Panamá la Vieja and Casco Viejo to get a sense of Panama City’s rich, colorful history. Stay on for dinner in Casco Viejo.
Transfer to Boquete. Explore the town, hike or bird-watch along Sendero Los Quetzales, take a coffee tour, go river rafting, or just enjoy the gardens and the changing face of Volcan Barú throughout the day. The truly fit can plan a night ascent of Barú, arriving in time to catch the dawn and a view of both oceans.
Transfer to Bocas. Take a boat tour around Isla Colón and snorkel the clear waters of Cayo Crawl or Cayos Zapatillas. Surf, splash, or lounge around Playa Bluff or the north-shore beaches of Isla Bastimentos. Enjoy the nightlife of Bocas town or simply a tropical evening breeze blowing across the sea.
© William Friar from Moon Panama, 3rd Edition