Beaches

Guna Yala Known for perfect – and plentiful – postage stamp–size islets with turquoise waters.

Isla Contadora Vacation like a high roller on this island of mansions and gorgeous beaches with a good dose of privacy.

Golfo de Chiriquí The national marine park boasts islands of monkeys, nesting turtles and plenty of patches of sand for you only.

Farallón Within reach of the capital, this wide, brilliantly white resort beach is a natural beauty perfect for long strolls.

Nightlife

Casco Viejo Dart across the cobblestones between underground bars, brewpubs, wine bars and live-music venues.

Bocas del Toro With Aqua Lounge's deckside swings and La Iguana and Selina partying hard, it's the scene of the young and the restless.

Tántalo Bar The best exotic cocktails and rooftop bar rolled into one – you could only do better booking its dominatrix-themed suite.

Boquete Offering comfort and cervezas to expats and locals alike are places like Mike's Global Grill and Boquete Brewing Company, with 10 originals on tap.

Romantic Getaways

Los Quetzales Cabins Cabins tucked into the rainforest canopy, with fireplaces and the mountain air buzzing with hummingbirds.

Casco Viejo B&Bs A hefty dose of pampering with this vibrant old-world neighborhood right out the door.

Archipiélago de Bocas del Toro From secluded ecolodges to thatched beach huts, these resorts can erase the world beyond.

Playa Los Destiladeros This tiny cove seduces with achingly blue skies, a secluded beach of pounding surf and candlelit dinners for two.

Villa Távida Lodge Luxury summit villas surrounded by a waterfall, gardens and shrouded peaks.

Outdoor Adventures

Nivida Bat Cave Trek to this massive Caribbean cavern rife with nectar bats; perfect for a subterranean swim.

Parque Internacional La Amistad True wilderness hiking without the drama of the Darién; access via the highlands or the Caribbean coast.

Sunset Coast Sportfishing Good-value guided trips that take in Isla de Coiba, the Tuna Coast and fish-rich Banco Hannibal.

Volcán Barú Terribly steep, hard, and invariably foggy and muddy, but how else can you view Atlantic and Pacific at once?

Surfing

Santa Catalina It’s all about world-class waves here, and hostels boast front-row seats.

Playa Venao Gorgeous stretches of dark volcanic sand and consistent waves for all abilities.

Playa Bluff Powerful barrels rush this wilderness beach; avoid May to September, when turtles nest.

Playa El Palmar A Panama City weekend break with two surf schools and a white-sand beach as your campus.

Playa Morillo The latest hot spot south of Torio to attract surfers to the Sunset Coast.

Off-the-Beaten Track Destinations

Soposo Rainforest Adventures Step off the gringo trail to sleep in stilted huts and explore remote Naso villages.

Sante Fé Dancing butterflies, swimming holes and giant waterfalls grace this humble mountain town.

The Darién Steeped in indigenous culture and exotic wildlife; with permits required, checkpoints and delays, the real trouble is arriving.

Isla Cébaco Seldom-visited island offering a crowd-free retreat with comfortable lodgings.

Wildlife

Isla Barro Colorado Nature geeks shouldn’t miss this rainforest, the most intensely studied area in the neotropics.

Parque Nacional Coiba Dive with a whale shark, spy scarlet macaws or search for endemic howlers. Wildlife is epic here.

San San Pond Sak Sloths, river otters and the occasional manatee inhabit this little-known Caribbean wetland near Changuinola.

Isla Bastimentos From July to August, loggerhead, hawksbill, green and leatherback turtles hatch on the north shore.

Parque Natural Metropolitano A patch of rainforest amid Panama City. Don’t mind the titi monkeys on the trail!