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Best Beach and Snorkling

USA
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Best Beach and Snorkling

We are planning on going to Panama in later October/early November for 2 weeks. 1 week in the Gamboa/Panama City area and then another at the beach. We have 4 kids ages 6 to 10. We would like to go to a nice beach with some snorkeling (our reference points for good beaches are Thailand and Mexico south of Playa de Carmen to Tulum). The Pacific coast seems weak on good beaches or good snorkeling with the exception of the Pearl Islands. The Pearl Islands however seem to lack decent accommodations or any thing to do "extra" on the island. So that send us to Bocas del Toro which seems to have decent beaches, decent snorkeling and decent accommodations. However, I am a little concerned with safety in Bocas (since the serial killer was caught should be a little safer this week!) and whether or not this is a good area for younger kids. Recommendations on the nest snorkeling and beaches would be great. Also is there anything close by in Costa Rica or Venezuela that has good beach/snorkeling? Thanks!

Las Margaritas/El...
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1. Re: Best Beach and Snorkling

Hi!

Well there isn't any decent snorkeling around the Santa Clara area, you need to go to the Pearl Islands/Contadora.

I didn't find any decent snorkeling in Bocas. I spent 10 days there some years back in October/November and it RAINED for the 10 days solid there, because they were getting the rainbands from a hurricane heading towards Belize/Costa Rica. Panama does NOT get hurricanes, but they get the rainbands up in Bocas.

Maybe check into the San Blas Islands in the Atlantic. There isn't anything by Columbia because of the jungle basically between Panama City and the boarder with Columbia.

Mary

CDY
Medellin, Colombia
Destination Expert
for Panama City
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2. Re: Best Beach and Snorkling

Check out Isla Grande and Bananas resort there is pretty good snorkeling spots very close to the hote - although the beach is cora & rock not sandy.

Panama is not really the destination for decent snorkeling - you will be diasppointed compared to Mexico, basicallly don't make it the focus of the trip.

Mary - not trying to be a pain in the you know what - but it is Colombia ( no u)

But unless you type it alot your instinct is to use a U.

Just a quick correction from here in Medellin.

Orlando, Florida
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3. Re: Best Beach and Snorkling

Agree that if you are looking for a snorkeling trip, you might be looking in the wrong place. Panama and/or CR neither are havens for that sport. I may be nuts but I still think the best beaches for sand and surf are in the Azuero Peninsula area. If you are a surf lover, you will certainly enjoy the waves of Venao, Cambutal and Lagarto beaches, among others. The best place to scuba diving and snorkeling in that area seems to be the National Wildlife Refuge of Isla Iguana. It's a tropical island that lies in the biggest coral reef of the Gulf of Panama. Between June and November you have a good chance to observe humpback whales. Don't try to compare to Caribbean or Mexico's Gulf beach area for diving or snorkeling. If you do go to Pedasi and use that for a base, check out Casaita Margarita

( http://www.pedasihotel.com ) as a wonderful place to stay.

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4. Re: Best Beach and Snorkling

Could you please tell me where that national park is in relation to Santa Clara (Breezes)? Is there anywhere else to scuba dive?

Thank you!

Orlando, Florida
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5. Re: Best Beach and Snorkling

It is an island off the coast and Pedasi would be the best base to visit out of. I'm guessing it is about 3 - 3 1/2 hour drive from Breezes area.....max. But then again, I drive slower than most! LOL. Don't know of other dive spots.

Isla Colon, Panama
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6. Re: Best Beach and Snorkling

Which National Park? The World Heritage Site often compared to The Galapgos: Coiba? The Chiriqui Gulf National Marine Park? Bastimentos Marine National Park?

In Panama you can find both amazing snorkeling and diving... you just have to know where to look for it and take into account that dry season takes place in most of the country from December to April (although in the Caribbean it's different).

During dry season you'll have much better visibility. The cool thing is that in the Caribbean it's a bit different so when it's not good on one side, you can choose the other.

Snorkeling/Diving in the Pacific, from west to east: the Chiriqui Gulf National Marine Park (Secas, Ladrones, Paridas), Coiba, Isla Iguana, Las Perlas.

In the Caribbean: Bocas (north west of Panama) and Colón (Portobelo, Isla Grande) have some really cool places but as someone already said: visibility won't be good when it's raining. So for Bocas (and the Bastimentos Marine National Park), which is in the Caribbean you'll have good visibility in January, February, March, September and October. Not sure about Colón.

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7. Re: Best Beach and Snorkling

Thank you everyone. Are these beaches places that we can drive to from Breezes or do they need to be booked as excursions with a tour group? We will be renting a car and don't mind driving about 3 hours to our destination.

Should we bring snorkel gear or is it available anywhere?

Hopefully I haven't made any spelling mistakes!

Isla Colon, Panama
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8. Re: Best Beach and Snorkling

So the one to drive from Breezes is Isla Iguana National Park. Take your own snorkeling gear and the 30 minute boat drive shouldn't cost you more than $40 round trip.

Last time I snorkeled at Isla Iguana I swam with turtles...

The town to drive to is Pedasí.... a charming charming town.

I would recommend staying at least one night there at Hotel Casita Margarita.

Enjoy Panama and next time do your research before booking where to stay if you want to snorkel or enjoy Panama's nicest beaches.

Salt Lake City, Utah
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9. Re: Best Beach and Snorkling

We just came back from one of our frequent trips. We stayed in Pedasí at Villa Marina, which I highly recommend. I´m not a fan off AI´s, and this place was perfect. From there it was easy access to Isla Iguana. You can rent the snorkling gear at pedasi from the scuba outfit there, but small children gear they don´t have. From the beach near Pedasí you can take a small boat for $60 to Isla Iguana, and the boat will wait around for you. You can take cooler, food, or whatever you need, they´ll help you. There´s nothing in Isla Iguana other that a park ranger place (if the ranger is there they´ll charge admission). Snorkling was decent to very good. Try to go with high tide. After snorkling make sure the boater takes you around Isla Iguana, where you´re almost guaranteed to see whales (we did). Again, I would recommend Pedasi over Breezes, but that´s just me.

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10. Re: Best Beach and Snorkling

Thank you! Unfortunately I'm the most adventurous in my family. I'm hoping to go on my own next summer when my daughter is in camp. If all goes well, I will stay at a few places around Panama to truly experience it :)