A tropical island with only one road and no traffic, Isla Taboga is a pleasant escape from the rush of Panama City, only 20km offshore. With the addition of an annual festival and boutique lodgings in the works, it's becoming more of a destination. Named the ‘Island of Flowers,’ it is covered with sweet-smelling blossoms much of the year.
Parque Nacional y Reserva Biológica Altos de Campana
This obscure and relatively unknown national park is a favorite of both local and international bird-watchers. Common sightings include the scale-crested pygmy-tyrant, orange-bellied trogon and chestnut-capped brush-finch; rare avians including the slaty antwren, the white-tipped sicklebill and the purplish-backed quail-dove are occasionally spotted here.
Officially known as El Valle de Antón, this picturesque town is nestled in the crater of a giant extinct volcano, and ringed by verdant forests and jagged peaks. Like Boquete, El Valle is a popular weekend getaway for urbanites in need of a little fresh air and scenery. With an extensive network of trails, it’s a superb place for walking, hiking or horseback riding.
Parque Nacional Coiba
With the exception of the Galápagos and Isla de Coco, few destinations off the Pacific coast of the Americas are as exotic (and difficult to access) as this national park centered on the 503-sq-km Isla de Coiba. Although just 20km offshore in the Golfo de Chiriquí, Coiba is a veritable lost world of pristine ecosystems and unique fauna.
Golfo de Chiriquí
The undisputed gem of the Chiriquí lowlands is the Golfo de Chiriquí, home to the Parque Nacional Marino Golfo de Chiriquí, a national marine park with an area of 147 sq km protecting 25 islands, 19 coral reefs and abundant wildlife. The marine park also protects the 30-sq-km Isla Boca Brava, a lovely little island with hiking trails and beautiful outer beaches.
With sparkling white sand and towering coconut palms, this is a great destination if you want to lounge about for days without having to worry about someone stealing your stretch of sand. Santa Clara itself was once little more than a sparsely populated fishing village edging between patches of dry tropical rainforest and the vast blue expanse of the Pacific.
Reserva Natural Punta Patiño
On the southern shore of the Golfo de San Miguel, 25km from La Palma, is this private 263-sq-km wildlife preserve owned by ANCON and managed by the organization’s for-profit arm, Ancon Expeditions. The only way to reach the preserve is by boat or plane. Landing on the tiny strip of ocean-side grass that’s called a runway in these parts is definitely part of the experience.