Panama located in Central America is fast becoming a favorite tourist destination resort for many North Americans and that includes senior travelers. The country is blessed with year round warm weather, dense rain forests, relatively inexpensive tourist attractions and, of course, there is the Panama Canal.  For a first time visitor to Panama, the first stopover is Panama City.  Most airlines from North American fly into this capital city.  For seniors who want to explore Central America, Panama is a great introduction to the region because it is one of the safest countries and it offers a well developed tourism industry.  Panama city is just like any other modern metropolis in North America.

A must-see for anyone visiting Panama is the Panama Canal of course.  If you are not arriving by cruise ship, there are many tours to the Panama Canal, Miraflores. Many cruise lines now offer cruises through the Panama Canal as well as a stop in Panama city.  Do take the excursion offered by your cruise ship into Panama. Full or partial transit through the Panama Canal depends on what ship you travel with and its ports of call.

While the city is beautiful, there is lots to see beyond the city.  Besides doing a tour to the Panama Canal, one can take a guided walking tour of Panama city.  There’s a historical district known as Casco Viejo that’s worth seeing if you are interested in history and architecture.  Many guide books can help you do this on your own.  You can also hire a taxi to take you on a tour of the city – negotiate a rate before you get in the taxi.  Dining is inexpensive and delicious especially if you love tropical fruits and seafood.  Try the fresh ceviche made of raw fish cured in lemon juices and spices, a traditional Panamanian dish.

When in Panama, visit the Mira Flores locks. If arriving by cruise ship, do take the excursion into Panama. Photo: W. Rojda
When in Panama, visit the Mira Flores locks. If arriving by cruise ship, do take the excursion into Panama. Photo: W. Rojda

You can also choose a resort package at one of the many resorts.  Panama has superb resorts and hotels in areas located all over the country.   In Panama City, there are magnificent four and five star resorts as well as plenty of budget options. For the budget-minded tourist, there are lots of decent resorts in Panama where you can find an all-inclusive rate which includes your flight, hotel, food and drinks. The best rates for beach hotels and resort areas are mostly found outside Panama City such as Boquete, Bocas del Toro and the San Blas Islands Panama.

The country also has some of the nicest eco tourism hotels and resorts which offer all inclusive travel packages.  A few good resorts to ask your travel agent about include the Gamboa Rainforest Resort, the Playa Blanca Resort and the Intercontinental Playa Bonita Resort and Spa. Some of these resorts and hotels are located in the heart of dense rainforests surrounded by water and magnificent mountain scenery (the Gamboa Rainforest Resort). If hiking and birdwatching are activities you love to do, you’ll discover an abundance of nature and tropical birds to spot.  The majority of resorts in Panama offer a variety of activities for the tourist from hiking, cycling, swimming, fishing, water activities and visits to the rainforests. At the end of the day when you need some relaxing and rejuvenation, many of the resorts also offer spa services.

For travel to the more solitary San Blas Islands, most accommodation could be described as “rustic” but there are a few upscale hotels with most of the amenities available in North America. To reach the islands, you would fly from Panama City and then take a boat to whichever island you plan to stay. Flying to the San Blas Islands is the fastest and most comfortable way of traveling there.  Recommended for senior travelers – buy a packaged tour to the islands which includes the flight.  If you buy a San Blas Islands tour which travels by vehicle and then by boat, the rugged terrain is a very bumpy ride along the way.

Once there, most of the individual islands of the San Blas archipelago will be reached by boat.  The San Blas Islands will give you the feeling of having escaped to a tropical island, offering solitude and the chance to experience the stunning beauty of the islands.  Some of the islands are very small with white sand, palm trees, a few huts and that’s about it – taking as little as 10 to 15 minutes to walk around.  If you love fresh seafood and solitude, this is the place to go.  You’ll also experience some of the best seaside sunsets you’ll ever see.  It goes without saying, bring your camera.

While one can visit Panama anytime of the year, it gets very hot during the summer so when determining the time to travel, find the season that is most comfortable for you.  There is also the rainy season to consider.  During May and June, the tropical rainy season will present short bursts of rain and then recover to a day of sunshine.  Other months such as September and October, it will pour heavily with rain.   The best time to visit Panama is during the months from November to April.  To find the perfect Panama vacation, best to book early and use the services of your travel agent who knows best about Panama for seniors.

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