The southernmost country in Central America, Panama offers some completely unique features from its neighbors. With the largest rain forest in the Western Hemisphere outside the Amazon Basin, the land bridge that Panama forms with South America makes it party to wildlife not found anywhere else in Central America. Panama is also home to one of the most modern capital cities in Central America, Panama City, a major banking center with heavy American influence. The Caribbean coast features some excellent getaway islands like Bocas del Toro and the fascinating San Blas Islands with a high concentration of indigenous populations.
Panama is bordered by Costa Rica and Colombia to the west and east and the Caribbean Sea and the Pacific Ocean to the north and south. The long rainy season is from April to January and the climate is always tropical: steamy with late afternoon showers and temperatures averaging 27ÂºC â€“ 30ÂºC (80ÂºF â€“ 85ÂºF) year-round.
Some highlights not to miss in Panama include:
Panama City is surprisingly modern in comparison to other Central American capital cities. With a strong American influence due to the Panama Canal, you will notice some similarities to American cities in the companies represented, the sheer size of buildings along the city line, and service attitudes â€“ this might just be the only place in Latin America where restaurants bring you a free glass of water with ice when you sit down.
The Panama Canal, a short bus ride from downtown Panama City, is an engineering marvel and a huge part of the Panamanian economy and history.
One of the highlights of Panamaâ€™s Caribbean coast is the group of islands near the border with Costa Rica, Bocas del Toro. This archipelago is one of the fastest developing places in Central America and home to six large islands and dozens of little ones.
The San Blas Archipelago is a group of Caribbean islands north of Panama City and home to one of the most independent and politically organized indigenous communities in Central America, the Kuna.
Budget independent travel is alive and well in Panama, but a well-organized custom private tour is perhaps the best way to see Panama in style.