With an edgy reputation more true crime than travel, Colón rarely makes travel wish lists, but there is more to this Caribbean province than its downtrodden capital. Think pristine beaches and lowland rainforests, colonial splendors and modern engineering marvels. Portobelo, with its growing music and art scene, shows the best of vibrant Congo culture, while the luxury train between Panama City and Colón remains one of the greatest rail journeys in the Americas.
The region's incredible history encompasses the earliest European explorers. Black roots also run deep, and Colón was the birthplace of today’s ultra-popular punta music (better known abroad as reggaetón).
During the colonial era, these coastal cities ranked among the world’s richest; their gold and silver stores enticed pirates from English privateer Sir Francis Drake to Admiral Edward Vernon. Today the fallen fortresses and cannons embedded in the coral reefs recall the fallen Spanish empire.