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Driving Itinerary west from Panama City?

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posts: 3
reviews: 10
Driving Itinerary west from Panama City?

My wife (who speaks Spanish) and I arrive in Panama City the evening of Dec. 29 (Delta from ATL) and are planning to spend the 30th and 31st in Panama City. After that, we have rented a car (Thrifty/Hyundai/ Albrook/ $420 w GPS) and are driving west, but there seems so much to see and do, I can't figure out what is realistic. We fly from David back to PC the evening of January 10 to catch the 9:15 am flight to Atlanta on January 11. We want to see El Valle, some of the Pacific Coast and Boquete. Is Bocas del Toro too far? Are we making a mistake to have a car this long? What beginner mistakes am I making so far?

Panama City, Panama
posts: 533
1. Re: Driving Itinerary west from Panama City?

No "mistakes" that jump out at me. Once you leave PC having a car to explore is a BIG plus, IMHO.

Bocas - I would skip, but that's just me. I would rather spend the time exploring the Azuero peninsula (Pedasi and Cambutal), the area around Boquete and go over towards Volcan and Cerro Punta. We just spent 45 days in western Panama and found plenty to see and do. Take a look on our blog at the May and June posts http://blog.panamanotes.com/archive for a few ideas.

Have a fun stay.

Steve www.panamanotes.com

Olympia, Washington
posts: 321
reviews: 117
2. Re: Driving Itinerary west from Panama City?

If you only have less than 14 days skip Bocas for this trip. It's a 4 hour drive from Boquete. And there will be enough to see in Boquete and then in the Azuero Peninsula. It's all you'll have time for. The drive from PC to David (which we did with no break) was 6 hours. Then it's another 1/2 hour to Boquete.

The roads are way better than the first time we drove it but don't expect to find lots of great signs and directions on a map. The first time we went to Boquete the directions from our hotel said to get to the town of David, make a left at the KFC in town, then head up the road for 45 minutes, etc. And they weren't kidding. That was the directions. So make one of you the navigator and one of you the driver. That's what we did and it was fine.

We fly now. That drive is a killer. We live in Boquete. It's where we decided to retire. So if you have any specific questions or want specific things to see and do let me know. It will be easier since you have a car. Where are you staying in Boquete?

No mistakes that I see. Good day to leave David. That's the first day of our Flower and Coffee Festival and most of the hotels are already sold out!

posts: 3
reviews: 10
3. Re: Driving Itinerary west from Panama City?

Wow. Thanks so much for the prompt responses - what a huge help. We will skip Bocas and save it for next time. Thanks, Steve, for all the info in your blog. As far as the drive, Florence, we have a peculiar wish to see places by car the first time when possible, and I am paying $9 a day to have GPS. We currently have a reservation at Hotel Finca Lerida in Boquette. Is that nice? We aren't super fancy but we are not penny pinchers either.

Olympia, Washington
posts: 321
reviews: 117
4. Re: Driving Itinerary west from Panama City?

Finca Lerida is incredibly beautiful and a very high end place. You're right about not penny pinching. It's one of the most expensive places here in the city. But the views are amazing. They also have their own restaurant, something most places don't have. They are not within the city limits however. You will pass the main square and continue up the road, past La Posada Restaurant, and go left at the fork in the road. Keep going and the sign for Finca will be on your left hand side. They have a gatehouse where you have to tell the guy your name and reservation information before he will let you on the grounds.

If you want info on Boquete and what there is to see and do in the area let me know. There is more to do here than chat with expats! :) And some pretty good restaurants too. Check out two - for a very nice high end romantic dinner try The Rock and for fun La Pianista for good Italian food (the owner Giovanni is from Sicily). He's married to a Panamanian and been here 18 years.

Willemstad, Curacao
posts: 1,110
reviews: 82
5. Re: Driving Itinerary west from Panama City?

Check if the GPS works while you are in PC. We found out that it didnt and we got lost in PC and also in David finding the road to Boquette. (I was expecting more signs to get to Boquette).

When driving West you might also stop for a day in Altos de Campana National Parq. (it is between PC and Anton de Valle).

posts: 3
reviews: 10
6. Re: Driving Itinerary west from Panama City?

Our itinerary is beginning to come together, but my late start at this is limiting our hotel options. In particular, there is little available on the Azuero peninsula except in Chitre. We have January 3d to the 6th still open and would like a nice beach place on the Pacific between Santiago and Puerto Armuelles. I don't fully trust the hotel sites that claim "beach view" or "beach access." We like to swim and snorkel, relax and eat. Any suggestions?


Panama City, Panama
posts: 533
7. Re: Driving Itinerary west from Panama City?

On the Azuero peninsula. This is where we go when we need a break from Panama City http://www.hotelplayacambutal.net/ it's off the beaten path, quiet, on the beach (with a nice pool), swimming (ocean or pool) and surfing but no snorkeling. Thought the food was pretty darn good.

Closer to Panama City in Santa Clara is http://www.lasirenas.com/index.htm not as fancy, but a great beach and good restaurants nearby.

Take care.

Steve www.panamanotes.com

Edited: 8:02 pm, December 08, 2012
Atlanta, Georgia...
Destination Expert
for Colon, Isla Grande, Portobelo
posts: 2,322
reviews: 10
8. Re: Driving Itinerary west from Panama City?

Forget snorkeling in the Pacific ... unless you like looking at sand in very murky water. The viz in the Pacific is horrible, and there's very little to see.

That's not to say there aren't nice beaches on the Pacific. Follow Steve's advice about Azuero and Santa Clara. I like the black sand beaches and the breakers at Coronado and Santa Clara.

As for GPS's in Panama -- U.S. downloads will not work. That's because Panama's maps and GPS is based on the old military mapping system. You have to be very careful about which maps you download.

Also, you can through your GPS away when it comes to navigating in the city. Your GPS cannot keep up with the detours and changes of direction in the streets -- where what was previously a two-way street has suddenly become a one-way street, and not in the direction you want to go. It also has no sense whatsoever when it comes to keeping your out of those barrios where you don't want to be, no matter what the circumstances or time of day.

In the city -- forget the GPS. Save your sanity and take a taxi.

Panama City, Panama
posts: 5,790
reviews: 79
9. Re: Driving Itinerary west from Panama City?

For a stopover in the Pacific Beaches area, try these options and if they are

full, please let me know as I can pull others out of my sleeve.

See you soon !

In these areas below (three different beaches).....there are good restaurants nearby. Let me know when you pin down your accommodation:

El Litoral B & B, Coronado - see my review (and others)


Villa Botero, Santa Clara see my review (and others)

You can click on the reviews for their website


Manglar Lodge, San Carlos

You can click on the reviews for their website


Hope this helps you get booked. Happy holidays

10. Re: Driving Itinerary west from Panama City?

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