(does not include Panama City)
●Panama Travel Unlimited – Calle 1era; 011-507-395-5014; panamatravelunlimited.com; offers San Blas trips and can act as middleman.
BOCAS DEL TORO ARCHIPELAGO
Sights & Sites
●Humedal de San-San Pond Sak – wetland reserve.
●Isla Bastimentos – main settlement is historic West Indian town, Old Bank (origins in banana industry); Gali-Gali, Bocas del Toro Province’s distinct Creole language, spoken here, combining Afro-Antillean English, Ngobe-Bugle, and Spanish; home to Ngobe-Bugle village, Quebrada Sal, separated from Old Bank by huge jungle swath.
●Isla Carenero – few 100 meters from Isla Colon; takes name from "careening," meaning to lean ship on 1 side for cleaning or repairing; on Careening Cay in October 1502 that ships under Christopher Columbus’ command were careened and cleaned while he recovered from bellyache.
●Isla Colon – archipelago’s largest and most developed island; home to provincial capital; colorful, wooden house town by United Fruit Company in early 20th Century.
●Parque Internacional La Amistad – huge park; largest single protected area in Costa Rica that continues across border into Panama, where managed separately; Panamanian side is 2070 square kms; backbone is Cordillera de Talamanca, including Chirripo massif peaks; combined with 2 adjoining national parks and various biological and indigenous reserves; huge biological corridor part, protecting tropical habitats; UNESCO-declared Biosphere Reserve and World Heritage Site; nation’s largest population Baird’s tapirs, as well as giant anteaters and all 6 species neotropical cats (jaguar, puma (mountain lion), margay, ocelot, oncilla (tiger cat), and jaguarundi); over 500 bird species sighted (more than half Costa Rica’s total); 49 exist only within biosphere reserve; also 115 species fish and 215 different amphibians and reptiles; also home to 5 different indigenous reservations for Bribri and Cabecar groups.
●Parque Nacional Marino Isla Bastimentos – Isla Bastimentos; Panama’s oldest marine park.
●Coral Lodge – Escribano Bay, Santa Isabel; 011-507-232-0200; corallodge.com; comfortable yet ecosensitive resort on undeveloped coast just north of Kuna Yala (also known as San Blas); 6 thatch-roof bungalows; beautiful ocean views; rooms spare; whirlpool tubs; small crescent beach; good food; January-April (driest but windiest time of year); book room 6 is most private.
GULF OF CHIRIQUI
●Isla Palenque – 45 minutes by boat from David; 011-507-777-9260 or 855-777-9260; amble.com/islapalenque; 400-acre private island; boutique 10-room resort.
●Hacienda del Mar – Isla San Jose; 011-507-269-6634; haciendadelmar.net; boutique resort flanks 2 palm-laced beaches; 17 rustic wooden cottages.
SAN BLAS ISLANDS
●Cabanas Coco Blanco – Kuna Yala; 011-507-6700-9427 or 011-507-6702-7842; very rustic setting; as if you were on Gilligan’s Island.
●Coral Lodge – Miramar; 011-507-317-6754; corallodge.com; set on secluded cove on Caribbean coast near San Blas Islands; 6 overwater accommodations constructed in native Kuna Indian style; octagonal with towering thatched roofs; adequately comfortable but not luxurious, with rattan furniture, air-conditioning, walk-in showers and whirlpool tubs; rays, large groupers, nurse sharks and innumerable tropical fish; manager is licensed diving instructor; tours into virgin forest behind lodge (birds & monkeys), as well as to San Blas Islands, 30 minutes away.