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Things are changing quickly in Panama. Though it existed off the radar of international travelers and investors for many years, those days are coming to an end at remarkable speed. In fact, Panama celebrated its millionth international visitor last year, quite impressive for a tiny country of just over three million people. It seems that everyday, a new retirement community breaks ground, a new restaurant opens its doors, or a new beachside luxury resort is in the works. Escaping much of the tourism boom all too familiar to Costa Rica, likely because of the Noriega years, Panama is proudly making a name for itself as the next-must-see destination in Latin America. Rapidly emerging from under Costa Rica's shadow, Panama has a geography similar to that of its neighbor to the north, including pristine rainforests, gorgeous beaches, mountain villages, and, as an added bonus, a thriving, cosmopolitan city often compared to Miami. However, and this is the best part, traveling in Panama is still relatively inexpensive, but how long this will remain the case is anyone's guess.

Panama claims a history rich with Spanish conquistadores and colonists, pirates, gold-miners and adventurers, canal engineering, international trade, and mass immigration from countries as close as Jamaica and as far away as China. The pastiche of European and African cultures blended with the country's seven indigenous groups has had a tangible effect on Panama's architecture, cuisine, language, and folklore.

Given Panama's compact size and diversity, visitors here can take part in wildly different experiences without having to travel very far. The growing expat and retirement community, as well as the large number of Chinese, Colombian, and Venezuelan immigrants, make Panama a fascinating country to visit.

And now that the dust has long settled after the infamous Noriega era, political stability has taken hold and offered hope for the country's future. This section will help you understand a little more about Panama's history, people, and culture.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.