Introducing Punta Chame
Just before the Interamericana reaches the coastline, there is a turnoff immediately east of Bejuco, which leads to the tiny sliver of a peninsula known as Punta Chame. The road out to the sea winds past rolling hills before opening up to flat land that consists mainly of shrimp farms and mangroves. The brackish water makes farming near impossible, though the environment here is unique to this region, and well worth the diversion.
Punta Chame, a one-road town on a long, 300m-wide peninsula, is getting more vacation homes and weekenders since the road in was paved. To the north of the peninsula, a scenic but muddy bay is popular with windsurfers and kitesurfers from December to April, during trade wind season. Outside of those months wakeboarding is popular. Beaches at Playa Chame on the east coast of the peninsula have lovely tan sand and a wilderness backdrop. The area is notorious for stingrays, so swim with caution and shuffle your feet while walking out.
Guests adore Hostal Casa Amarilla, a French-run B&B also serving exquisite French and Mediterranean cuisine (not to mention homemade pastries) in an open-air restaurant (three-course dinner US$13). Rooms vary and include cute yellow cabins and rustic bamboo lodgings with mosquito nets over the beds.
Panama's first extreme sports resort, Nitro City is pretty much what you would expect in a beach haven bankrolled by energy drinks. Stylish lodgings have sleek decor, stone sinks and bamboo ceilings; pro suites boast their own outdoor hot tub. But the real draw is a circus of adrenaline offerings, from a skate park to mountain and motorbike courses, wakeboarding and kitesurfing (lessons available). Tamer offerings include volleyball and soccer areas as well as a stunning pool replete with island. There's also game and video rooms. Hyperactive teens do well here, and young Panama City weekenders don't seem to mind the US$18-dollar burgers with live rasta-rock backbeat. Still, the management is attentive and there's really nothing else of its kind around. On weekdays, lodging prices fall nearly by half.
To get to Punta Chame from the Interamericana, catch a bus at the stop at the Punta Chame turnoff at Bejuco – a bus to the point (US$1.75) leaves hourly from 6:30am to 5:30pm daily.