The sky is a piercing blue, with a few wisps of white that could hardly be called clouds. Small boats and yachts bob in the marina, and birds and bees swoop and buzz around the trees and flowered hedges that line the walkway.
A capuchin monkey is in a tree just a few steps from where I sit. I stay still for as long as I can—I am enjoying looking at him and don’t want to scare him away. Surrounded by lush rainforest, I could almost forget that I am in Panama City.
Those gleaming towers by the Panama Bay…how they sparkle at night. They are the reason visitors are often astonished to see such a modern looking city in Central America.
Just off of Panama’s Dry Forest Coast, Las Tablas is Panama at its best. It’s located on the Azuero Peninsula, a region renowned for everything from colorful Carnival celebrations to artisanal textiles, pottery, and leatherwork.
A country with surprisingly varied landscapes, Panama is so much more than its modern, cosmopolitan capital city. There are mountain towns boasting cool climates, pine-covered hills, and sweet, Swiss-style cottages framed with bright bursts of bougainvillea.
White sand beaches with bright green palms, ringed by turquoise waters… Glittering swirls of volcanic sand, slender white sea birds soaring above, and dramatic coastlines… Tiny islands that look like little pearls against a backdrop of deepest sapphire blue…
My first year in Panama City—known to locals by its airport call letters, PTY—I started my mornings with a 15 cents cup of strong, dark coffee. For breakfast I would buy a little bag of fried plantains or corn fritters (torrejas de maiz) for 25 cents.
When Toni Munoz, 53, visited Panama in 2014, she did what no one should. "I came just to look around, but I ended up buying a house!" she says. Conventional wisdom says it's best to visit a couple times and maybe even rent for a while before buying but Toni's spur-of-the-moment decision to buy in the beach resort of Coronado turned out to be a good thing. "I just fell in love with the community," she says.
It's easy to see why, in Panama, the Pacific coast is generally more desirable. The region is accessible and it gets half the rainfall of the Caribbean coast. That's why the Pan-American Highway is where it is.
To sit on a porch in the tiny mountain town of Cerro Azul is to experience true serenity. That's how I feel as I relax in an old Adirondack-style chair, gazing at hillsides carpeted in green. A single pick-up truck is the only vehicle that trundles past. Though I don't know him, the driver gives me a friendly wave. Earlier in the day I took a mini-hike to a hilltop mirador (lookout point) and caught far-off glimpses of both the Pacific and the Caribbean. Now I sit sipping my coffee and watching a pretty blue tanager swoop around the garden.