Panama Surprises

Panama, the “crossroads of the Americas,” has been attracting visitors since the Spanish carried their plundered South American gold across its Camino Real. Even today, it remains a magnet for the shipping industry, as mega-ships travel between the Pacific and the Atlantic through the Panama Canal.

The country’s capital, Panama City, is Latin America’s booming financial center. Here, modern skyscrapers and high-end shopping malls contrast with the ruins of Panama Viejo, the first Panama City, and the colonial buildings in Casco Antiguo.

Beach lovers can kick back with the indigenous Kuna community of the San Blas islands, or party hearty and snorkel in Bocas del Toro. If you’re an adrenaline junkie, try shark diving at Coiba National Park, or go off the grid and hike through the Darien, one of the most remote lands on earth. Finally, return home with a bag of the country’s coffee, fresh from the lush, green plantations of Boquete, high in the Chiriqui highlands.

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Tourism website: Visit Panama

Time zone: UTC/GMT -05:00

Currency: PAB & USD- Panamanian balboa & US dollar

Official language: Spanish

UNESCO World Heritage sites: 5

See more of the country in our Panama photo gallery.

As We Saw It