Learn Spanish in Latin America

Panama

Country Information

Turquoise sea around the islands of Bocas del ToroPanama is hardly known as a tourist attraction. This is quite strange considering what this Central American country has to offer. Tropical rain forests with jaguars and cougars. No less than 1600(!) islands. White sandy beaches with palm trees and a deep blue sea. If you want to learn Spanish on a Caribbean island in the middle of the jungle, Panama is the place! This long stretched, relatively small country has a staggering 3000 kilometers of coastline. The inland consists of a mountain range. From here, on a clear day,  it is possible to see both the Caribbean Sea and the Pacific Ocean.

Panama is sparsely populated. The capital Panama City is only a few miles away from a deep jungle that has over 940 different species of birds. There are still parts of the rain forest that are practically impossible to visit. In the Caribbean Sea there are two large Panamanian island groups. The San Blas islands with its Kuna population and the ‘Bocas del Toro’ archipelago. The Kuna get their livelihood from trade in coconuts and they make beautiful molas (textile products that are unique to these islands). It is a very impressive place to visit, but one needs time and money to do so. Bocas del Toro however, is easily reached by boat or plane.

Panama’s main tourist attraction is the Panama Canal; its strategic position has made it a powerful Canoe trip near Bocas town, Panamapolitical instrument. It took 33 years to complete. A French company started the project in 1881. It was thought they had enough experience after working on the Suez Canal. After two years, 22.000 workers had died from malaria, and they went bankrupt. An American company took over, eradicated malaria in Panama, and finished the job. On August 15, 1914 the first ship sailed through the Panama Canal. The US was in control of the Panama Canal until December 31st, 1999. In the 1st day of the year 2000 the Panamanian government took over. At this date the US also closed its permanent military bases, so now Panama is completely independent. From the millennium on Panama seems to cope very well without the American presence. Panama is, together with Nicaragua, one of the safest countries in the region.

Activities Panama

•          Especially for men: A trip from Panama City to the Panama Canal (women are usually less enthusiastic about this trip, and I can personally vouch for this!).
•          All beach activities such as: surfing, diving, snorkeling, sailing and water-skiing.Surfing on Bocas del Toro, Panama
•          Horseback riding.
•          Mountain biking.
•          Visit the San Blas islands with its Kuna Indians.
•          Visit Boquete (1000 meters) at the foot of the Barú volcano (3475 meters).
•          Go hiking in a national park.
•          Transport: bus or cheap domestic flight.

Location Information

Bocas del Toro

Bocas del Toro is the name of the province, the capital and the island archipelago. The city of Boca del Toro lies on the island Isla Colón. There are only 2500 inhabitants. It is quite easy to take a boat and go to other islands, some of which are deserted, and have beautiful, empty beaches with palm trees. Here a few examples of beautiful beaches:

CareneroAlso Carenero a restaurant over waterBeaches in paradiseTurquoise waters around Isla Zapatilla

The nearby coral reef is a paradise for divers and snorkelers alike. Swimming, diving, kayaking, mountain biking or hiking through the jungle are just a few of the possibilities.

Bocas has gone through quite a development the last few years; each year more and more restaurants and bars appear but it has still maintained its relaxed Caribbean atmosphere. Besides, in just a few minutes you are outside of the village and you will hardly encounter anybody. There are several small restaurants, mostly on the beach itself, that offer simple but delicious meals, consisting mainly of fresh fish. There are a couple of bars where travelers meet where one can have a nice cocktail or a cold beer. There are some establishments, mainly filled with locals, where you can play pool and practice your Spanish.

Activities Bocas del Toro

•          Mountain biking.
•          All beach activities such as: surfing, diving, snorkeling, sailing and water-skiing.
•          A visit by boat of one of the mostly deserted islands here.
•          Go dancing on Caranero (1 minute by boat from Bocas).
•          Enjoy the nightlife.

Boquete

Turquoise waters around Isla ZapatillaBoquete located at an altitude of 1060 meters above sea level, nestled in a beautiful green valley, has at totally different climate than the rest of Panama. It never gets too hot and the air is fresh and clear. The village has no more than 7000 inhabitants and is surrounded by coffee and citrus fruit plantations, as well as cattle farms. In this authentic, agricultural village you will get to know the day to day live of the Panamanians. There are markets and indigenous people in their traditional dress.

Each year in January, for ten days, they hold the ‘Feria de las Flores y del Café’. This is a coffee and flower exhibition with many different activities. It attracts people from all over the world. Boquete is an important place for the coffee and flower production of Panama. The Guaymís women wear colorful dresses and are commonly seen in the village.

The National Park Barú offers some great hikes to the top of the volcano or along the volcano to Cerro Punta. The Barú volcano has an altitude of 3745 meters and has 7 craters. The national Park Barú is ideal for hiking, mountain climbing and camping. At the top of the volcano, on a clear day, you will be able to see the Caribbean as well as the Pacific coast. The area has some animals that are not very commonly seen like the tapir, the jaguar and the puma.

Selecting beans by hand, yes this is expensive coffee!And more selectingOldfashioned tools at the coffee plantationThese beans are ready for exportation

Activities Boquete

  • Take a coffee tour (see photos above).
  • Visit “Mijardinessujardin”, a beautiful garden with particular plants and flowers.
  • Visit “El explorador” just outside of Boquete.
  • Visit the museum in Boquete with pre-Columbian artifacts found in the surroundings.
  • Drink the world famous Boquete-coffee in one of its cafe’s.
  • Hike in the rainforest outside Boquete and see the waterfalls and cliffs on your own or with a guided tour.
  • Climb Vulcan Barú: but be aware this is something for people in good condition; the total duration of the hike is 11 hours.
  • Visit a rodeo.
  • Bird watching, there are many rare species, for instance the quetzal.
  • Fish for trout in the river.
  • Horseback riding.
  • White water rafting and kayaking are great in this area due to the great diversity of rivers.
  • Splash in one of the hot water wells or in the swimming pool in the village.
  • Visit small villages around Boquete such as: Volcán, Cerro Punta (for the world famous horse stables or to fish for trout) of Guadelupe to see the orchid nursery.
  • A lot of excursions are offered. A few examples: horseback riding tours, canopy tours (you will glide down three kilometers of cable in the rain forest and above and alongside rivers and waterfalls), long and short hiking trips with guide and wild water rafting. The rivers around Boquete form a paradise for wild water rafters because of the great variety in difficulty.

Travel tip:
Combine Puerto Viejo or Turrialba in Costa Rica and Bocas del Toro or  Boquete into one journey. The prices are the same on each school.

Panama city

Skyline Panama City Panama City is located on the Pacific side and consists of an old part with colonial buildings named Casco Viejo and a super modern part with countless skyscrapers. Panama City offers some excellent shopping. There are many bars and restaurants that would not look out of place in major metropolitan cities like New York. Of course you can also find some simple typical Panamanian shops and eateries just a little bit further out of the center. A strange contrast! People mostly move around in taxis, which are cheap to take, so it is very easy to get around within the city. It is quite special that, even in the middle of the city (Cerro Ancon ) you can find protected natural areas with lots of wild life. Soberana National Park is a rain forest easily reached from Panama City. Here you can hike in the jungle.

Activities Panama City

  • Take a tour of the Panama canal.
  • Hike Cero Ancon, you can start the hike just from the hostel or the school.
  • A night out in many of  the bars and discotheques of the city.
  • Visit the old part of town and take a guided tour of the old colonial buildings.
  • ‘El Valle’ a picturesque village in the middle of a volcano, which erupted over 3 million years ago. It is located at an altitude of 1000 meters and has beautiful natural surroundings with waterfalls and a local artisans market. With the bus from Panama City you can reach this village in about one hour and a half.
  • Chagres National Park is the home of the Embera Indians, which still have their traditional way of life, you can easily book a tour to get there.
  • Take a water taxi to a small island just off the coast named Isla Taboga, for a day of relaxing at the beach.
  • The school offers a tour to the San Blas islands with 2 nights in a simple hotel, all meals and transportation included for only $150: highly recommended!
  • Go shopping and stock up on designer cloths at an excellent price!

Go back to the homepage to see how our site is build up into Spanish Courses, volunteer work, and travel with or without Spanish courses. Or go back to the page with the description of Spanish courses in the different places in Panama.

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