Hot Springs, Cool Mountains, and Plenty of Time to Explore

My wife, Luz, and I moved from Tennessee to Las Tablas on Panama’s Azuero Peninsula in 2010. It’s a small town in one of the most traditional parts of the country and it’s perfectly located between the mountains and the beach so we have the best of both worlds on our doorstep.

But we like to explore so we’ve also taken day trips and short vacations to other parts of Panama, too.

Bocas del Toro is gorgeous, with its Caribbean waters—turquoise, clean, and transparent. You can see large starfish just from the shore.

Our road trip there takes us over a large mountain through a cloud forest with a cooler climate. The plants are different, the views are wonderful, and there are lots of butterflies and birds to see en route.

Eventually, we come to Almirante and catch the water ferry to the islands. Bocas is an archipelago and the water taxis are great fun.

Luz and I stay at a wonderfully exotic cabana built over the water about half an hour from the main island. A small deck extends from the room with a table and chairs and we can sit out on the deck relaxing…or go snorkeling, fishing, kayaking, or bird-watching.

We dine out on wonderful lobster. There are many restaurants on the main street with a wide variety of food. Bands are everywhere and the tourists come from all over the world.

The streets are lined with vendors selling different crafts including the incredibly beautiful handmade, embroidered fabric pieces made by the Guna Yala Indians from San Blas, another archipelago in Panama.

I have been to Bocas a number of times and have always had a great time. The sights, sounds, tastes, people and culture are wonderfully tropical and the people are warm and friendly.

Boquete is another favorite. It’s located in a valley surrounded by mountains and there is a wonderful river that runs through it.

We love to wander the cafes, bars, restaurants, shops and stores. You can visit the rain forest, go to the top of Volcano Baru in a jeep, go kayaking, or take a zip line.

Sometimes, we head up the mountain to the visitor center that overlooks the town, where you can breathe the fresh, clean air. And if you know where to go, off the trail leading to the mountains, you’ll find the hot springs. Here, we sit in nice, warm pools and let our cares melt away, as we watch the birds and frogs, butterflies, and monkeys.

The rain forest in Boquete is part of the vast Amistad National Park and hosts an incredible variety of birds including the Toucan, red parrots, and the exotic resplendent quetzal with its long almost iridescent tail.

Back in Las Tablas, we have an easy-going life and I make a little extra money from freelance writing and my gardening. I grow orchids and make bonsai and occasionally sell cuttings of some of the many plants I have in my yard to the nurseries in the area.

And I have the good fortune to avail of Panama’s Pensionado program—one of the best in the world. Liz and I get discounts at restaurants, transportation, hotels, entertainment, medicine as well as other benefits. Panama is good bang for the buck!

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