On August 15 of this year, the Panama Canal will celebrate its 100th year of fully operational existence, and a story that stretches back much further. Connecting the Caribbean Sea to the Pacific Ocean, the canal saves vessels a lengthy voyage around the southernmost tip of South America.
It is entrenched in history, and not only serves as an integral world trade route, but also as a symbol of innovation and commerce and a reminder of the sacrifices many made to build it.
Cayman Airways offers flights from Grand Cayman to Tocumen International Airport just outside of Panama City twice weekly, and is offering great deals for travel between June 12 and September 1, 2014, with airfares starting at $189 each way + taxes and fees. Many will visit to see the infamous canal, but the country is much more than the canal and the (surprisingly) Ecuadorian hats that bear Panama’s name.
The three hour flight from Cayman delivers travelers to a near central point in the length of this long, thin country, from where they can choose to explore two very different coastlines and a enjoy a diversity of activities and scenery.
Panama City, the country’s capital, is a diverse melting pot of cultures and has been compared to Miami or Hong Kong due to its cosmopolitan nature. Modern skyscrapers and the imposing Bridge of the Americas which spans the Pacific entrance to the canal, share the city with historical sites such as Panama Viejo (Old Panama), The Inglesia de San Jose and the Teatro Nacional.
Panama’s scenery is as diverse as its history and people. The country caters to everyone, with white sandy beaches and island archipelagoes, lush rainforests and a central mountainous spine. The two very different coastlines that border the country, and the diversity of the landscape in between, provide striking scenery and wildlife such as monkeys and sloths, as well as a smorgasbord of activities to enjoy.
The Pacific coast is marked by surfing and sport fishing opportunities and contrasts with the coral reef diving opportunities and powdery beaches of the Caribbean side. Landlubbers can enjoy ziplining through rainforest canopies, hiking and mountain climbing or simply relaxing on white sandy beaches.
About 34 percent of the country’s land is protected under the National System of Protected Areas in order to conserve the country’s diverse biological richness which is said to include more than 10,000 species of native plants, 1,500 types of trees, over a thousand species of birds and miles of coral reefs. This paves the way for many eco-tourism opportunities, defined by The International Ecotourism Society as “responsible travel to natural areas that conserves the environment and improves the well-being of local people.”
Many different eco-tour adventures are available throughout the country, including a Panama Canal boat tour, national park visits, visiting indigenous communities such as the Embera Drua by dugout canoe, or hiking the Anton Valley.
Bocas del Toro
Bocas del Toro is a 1,793 square mile province made up of both the mainland and an archipelago of offshore islands to the northwest. Consisting of nine islands, and a population of 9,883 people, the archipelago is an eco-tourists dream, home to both a UNESCO World Heritage site and Panama’s first National Marine Park. Sandy beaches and lush rainforests supply opportunities to surf, dive, snorkel and hike. Many take a short plane hop from the mainland to the main island town of Boca del Toro, and then use water taxis to visit other islands in the archipelago.
To book a ticket to fabulous Panama this summer, visit caymanairways.com or call 949-2311.