A tropical island with just 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, it's growing as 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 birdwatchers. 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 huge extinct volcano, and ringed by verdant forests and jagged peaks. El Valle is a popular weekend getaway for urban dwellers in need of fresh air and scenery, and is also a North American retirement community.
Parque Nacional Coiba
With the exception of Ecuador's Galápagos Islands and Isla de Coco in Costa Rica, few destinations off the Pacific coast of the Americas are as exotic as this national park covering 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 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 just over 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 a long white-sand beach and towering coconut palms, Santa Clara, the first of three settlements on the so-called Costa Blanca (White Coast), is a great destination if you want to lounge about for a few days without having to worry about someone stealing your stretch of sand.
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. It contains species-rich primary and secondary forest, and is one of the best places in Panama to spot harpy eagles.