- White-water Rafting & Kayaking the Chiriquí and Chiriquí Viejo Rivers:
- Depending on which section you raft, these two rivers produce serious white water ranging from technical Class III to Class V, some portions of which are so difficult they’ve been named “Fear” and “Get Out If You Can.” There are plenty of tamer floats on Class II rivers, such as the Esti, for families and beginners. Virtual solitude, beautiful views, and lush surroundings are part of the tour, too. Contact Chiriquí River Rafting (tel. 720-1505) in Boquete or, for kayaking, Panama Rafters (tel. 720-2712).
- Zipping through the Treetops on a Canopy Adventure: It's all the rage in Costa Rica, and now Panama has joined in to offer this adrenaline-fueled and exhilarating adventure. Participants climb high to a treetop platform, where they are strapped into a harness and then descend quickly using a pulley attached to a cable. Part of the experience is observing wildlife, mostly birds, from different vantage points in the forest. Both Canopy Adventure (tel. 264-5720), in El Valle, and Boquete Tree Trek (tel. 720-1635), in Boquete, offer canopy rides.
- Surfing Bocas del Toro: There are plenty of surfing hot spots along the Pacific Coast, especially at Santa Catalina, but Bocas is where surfers find everything from beginner-friendly waves to monster, Hawaii-style waves that reach more than 6m (20 ft.). What’s special about Bocas, too, is that the water is clear blue, allowing you to see the reef as you race over it, and it has lots of lodging options, restaurants, and thumping nightlife, unlike in Santa Catalina. Another perk is that the Caribbean tides fluctuate only .9m (3 ft.), whereas the Pacific’s fluctuate five times that amount. The waves here are powerful beach breaks, and long, barreling reef point breaks; for organized tours, contact Panama Surf Tours (tel. 6671-7777).
Diving around Isla Coiba: This national park only recently opened to the traveling public—a notorious penal colony that closed here in 2004 kept tourists away, and now the park’s virgin waters rate as the best diving site in Panama. Isla Coiba is often described as the Galápagos Islands of Panama, and although the snorkeling is outstanding, diving gets you close to pelagics such as white-tipped sharks, sailfish, turtles, manta rays, dolphins, and so much more. Coiba is home to one of the largest coral reefs in the Pacific Coast of the Americas.
- Trekking the Camino Real: Centuries before the Panama Canal, the Spanish built an 80km (50-mile) cobblestone path to transport looted gold from the Pacific to galleons waiting in the Caribbean Sea. You can trace their path, much of which still exists in stone, in about 3 days, beginning with a canoe ride up the Chagres River, an overnight in an Emberá Indian Village, and a tramp through earthy jungle full of birds and wildlife to Nombre de Dios, near Portobelo. Lodging is in tents, and the return trip is by railroad to give you an idea of how revolutionary the railroad's construction was to increasing coastal access. Ancon Expeditions (tel. 269-9415) is the company to call.
- Reeling in a Billfish off the Pacific Coast: Panama’s Pacific Coast is legendary for sport fishing, and anglers can battle monster species such as marlin, sailfish, and tuna in the Gulf of Chiriquí and the Gulf of Panama. Near Piñas Bay, the Tropic Star Lodge has broken more International Game and Fish Association world records than anywhere else on the planet. There are a handful of fishing lodges at Boca Chica, near David, and as many live-aboard fishing operations that use charter yachts or barges as home base.
- Kayaking in the Kuna Yala Comarca: Considering that diving is prohibited in the Kuna Yala, kayaking fills the "sports void," and offers travelers a way to intimately explore the mangrove swamps and the undeveloped beauty of the tiny islands this region is famous for. Along the way, kayakers stop at traditional Kuna communities for cultural tours, land-based hiking, and snorkeling. Xtrop (tel. 317-1279), or "Expediciones Tropicales," is the company to call; they are a well-respected company and the only outfitters with special permission from the Kuna chief to kayak in the Kuna Yala. They employ local guides.
- Bird-Watching by Dugout Canoe on the Mogue River (Darién Wilderness): The tour outfitter Ancon Expeditions offers a bird-watching and nature adventure near Punta Patiño that takes travelers up the Mogue River in a motorized dugout canoe, winding past dry forest and ancient mangrove swamps for an absolutely authentic jungle experience. From here, it's off to find the harpy eagle, Panama's national bird, and then spend the night with Emberá Indians in one of their rustic communities. For more information, contact Ancon at (tel. 269-9415).
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.