Panama: Where Michael Douglas, Catherine Zeta Jones and Other A-List Celebrities Like to Vacation

Go for the Canal…Stay for Everything Else. That’s what the New York Times is saying about Panama. The publishing giant’s travel section listed Panama as number one out of 45 Places to Go in 2012. Michael Douglas and Catherine Zeta Jones don’t disagree. They are on vacation in Panama this week with their family.

International Living has been writing about Panama as a must-see destination for many years, and the country has just been named as the second best place in the world to retire in IL’s just released Global Retirement Index.

This week, local news sources were buzzing about Michael and Catherine’s visit. The A-list couple apparently flew with their children, Dylan and Carys, for a tres chic event on a private island called Simca in the Chiriqui region.

Other celebrities have been visiting Panama to enjoy some incognito time for years, too.

On January 9, one publication sported a photograph of decorating mogul Martha Stewart with Panamanian President Ricardo Martinelli, who were also at the party, which was apparently thrown by Jean “Johnny” Pigozzi, the wealthy investor, photographer, philanthropist, art collector, turned fashion impresario who just turned 60. Pigozzi founded The Liquid Jungle Lab, a tropical marine research station located on the vast Simca Island, also known as Isla de Canales de Tierra.

Angelina Jolie and husband Brad Pitt visited recently to view the Frank Gehry designed Bridge of Life Museum, currently under construction in the Amador neighborhood of Panama City. Jolie reportedly returned to attend the exclusive party that brought Catherine Zeta Jones and Michael Douglas here.

Football player Jeremy Shockey is often spotted in Panama and former U.S. President Jimmy Carter has confessed to our staffers that Contadora Island is one of his favorite getaways (the same island that hosted the Shah of Iran when he was in exile). And how much did John Wayne love Panama? An entire island has been themed-out in his honor. Located just across from the town of Punta Chame, Taborcillo Island belonged to the actor before he passed away, and was purchased and developed into a western-themed resort when sold by his estate.

But it’s not just the rich and famous who enjoy a vacation to Panama. Because of the low cost of living, travel in Panama can be very affordable. Panama is a tourist wonderland just waiting to be discovered. The country’s expansive rainforests are among the richest and most complex on the planet. Panama boasts two full coasts of pristine palm-lined beaches, vast national parks and reserves, eco-systems ringed by mangroves, and primary rainforests.

And thriving Panama City has great shopping, theater, jazz clubs, casinos, bars, and night clubs, so there’s a lot to keep you entertained. There are also plenty of hotels to suit all budgets.

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