Despite the fact that David is one of Panama's largest cities, it has surprisingly few attractions to keep a tourist occupied for more than an afternoon -- which is why most use the city as a jumping-off point. Also, the "border town" feel combined with the heat and humidity (David is Panama's hottest city) doesn't exactly encourage you to spend afternoons strolling city blocks. In 2006, the local government began a half-million-dollar renovation of the historic Parque Miguel de Cervantes plaza, and this is one of the rare areas in David that offers shade trees and a respite from the oppressive heat, and vendors sell ice cream, fresh coconut juice, and cold beverages.

Take a stroll down to Barrio Bolívar by following Calle A Norte west of the plaza to Avenida 8 Este. This is "old town," with a couple of blocks that boast the last vestiges of colonial architecture from David's early days. On Avenida 8 Este you'll find the Museo de Historia y de Arte José de Obaldía (tel. 775-1217; Tues-Sat 9am-5pm; admission $1/50p adults, 25¢/15p children), housed within an 1834 building that once belonged to the founder of the Chiriquí Province, José Domingo de Obaldía. It's a humble museum that requires just 15 minutes to see the odds and ends on display, including archaeological artifacts from the Chiriquí area and pieces from the colonial period.

The Nuevo Centro Artesanal de David has a good selection of Panamanian handicrafts for sale, and is located on Vía Boquete, in front of the Autoservicios de Chiriquí (no phone; daily 10am-8pm).

Residents of David escape the heat by heading to Playa Barqueta, about 30 minutes' drive from town. This long, black-sand beach is often breezy, and the ocean can be too choppy for swimming (beware of riptides here). Also here is the Refugio de Vida Silvestre, a nature preserve that is an excellent spot to view wildlife and birds. It is a turtle-nesting site from about August to October. Las Olas Resort is here, and although they have a restaurant, the food quality is uneven -- I'd recommend bringing a picnic lunch.


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