Panama’s Pacific can hold its own against adventure-travel heavyweights like Costa Rica, giving you the opportunity to spend a lot of time on, in, or beside the water. Tailor this itinerary to your interests: If you’re a sport fisherman, you can arrange a fishing charter in the Chiriquí Gulf; divers and snorkelers can head out for an underwater adventure from Boca Chica, near David. Less active beachgoers might prefer some extra days on the Pearl Islands.
Day 1: Arrive in Panama City
Arrive and get settled in Panama City. If your flight arrives early enough, head to the Miraflores Locks at the Panama Canal, tour the museum, and have lunch here while watching massive tankers pass through the locks. In the late afternoon, tour and photograph the picturesque streets of Casco Viejo, planning your stroll late enough so that you end at Donde Jose? for an elegant tasting menu experience.
Day 2: Explore the Underwater World
Grab an early-morning flight from Panama City to David, and then drive a little over an hour to the Pacific Coast and the tiny fishing community of Boca Chica, where you can set off for a scuba-diving or snorkeling adventure around the idyllic waters and rocky outcrops of the Chiriquí Gulf National Marine Park. Keep an eye out for white-tipped sharks. Have lunch on a deserted island ringed with white sand and turquoise water.
Day 3: Fishing or Whales
Set out early and charter a boat to go sport fishing in the Chiriquí Gulf, unique for the sheer variety and sizes of fish. You could spend a week fishing off the Islas Ladrones, Islas Secas, Islas Contreras, and Coiba, though you’ll have to get your fill of black marlin and bluefin in just a day. If fishing isn’t your thing, sign up for a whale-watching excursion.
Day 4: Descent to the Beach
In the morning, transfer back to Panama City for an afternoon flight to the Pearl Islands from Albrook Airport. Settle into your hotel or B&B on Isla Contadora or book an all-inclusive stay at the upscale Hacienda del Mar on Isla San José. On Contadora, kids get a kick out of renting an ATV or golf cart to zip around the island.
Days 5 & 6: Sun & Fun in the Pacific Ocean
Your first or second day, book an all-day tour to sail around the idyllic Pearl Islands for the outstanding snorkeling and fishing. Teens can join a day class to learn the basics of scuba diving. For young kids, book a ride in a glass-bottom boat to view the underwater world without getting wet. Spend your other day lounging on one of the island’s dozen beaches, especially on the calm-water Playa Larga Beach, a beautiful, quiet strip of sand backed by coconut palms, or Playa Galeón, where you can rent snorkel equipment or jet skis.
Day 7: Flight to Panama City
Depending on your departing flight home, leave early or in the afternoon to make your connection. Remember that Albrook Airport is 45 minutes to 1 hour from Tocumen, so plan accordingly.
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.