Exploring the Nature, History, and Culture of Panama

Panama is such a beautiful country with many wonderful sites to visit and growing ecotourism opportunities. It is a narrow country with the Atlantic Ocean on one side and the Pacific on the other, making it a strategic location that has been sought over by various countries throughout history. Today, it has its own independence and the people are very proud of their heritage and mindful of their history. Panama City is surrounded by jungles and mountains with strict restrictions on where populations can reside, so it is a city that is growing higher rather than growing wider. It is the perfect location to stay and to take advantage of all of the opportunities to take day trips to see the amazing locations that the country has to offer. These are the places that we visited and things that we did during our one week trip to Panama.

Ruins of Fort San Lorenzo

Fort San Lorenzo – One of the most famous historical sites in Panama, Fort San Lorenzo is certainly a must to see when going to Panama City. It will bring visions of swashbuckling pirates when the ships travelled through the region loaded with riches. You also travel through a national forest on your way to visit the fort with plenty of wildlife to be found.

Cargo Ships Waiting to Enter the Locks

The Locks of the Panama Canal – The canal is still the greatest source of income for the country of Panama, but ecotourism is certainly on the rise. Watching the giant ships maneuver through the enormous locks as water rises or lowers to allow them to get from one ocean to the other is truly amazing. It is also important to understand the impact of building the canal on the country’s history and its people.

Beautiful Streets of Casco Viejo

Casco Viejo – If you go to Panama City, it is important that you take time to visit Casco Viejo, which is the historic district in the city. Originally established in 1673 by the Spanish, it is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site and home to a variety of historic buildings, churches, restaurants, shops, and hotels. As you walk the streets of Casco Viejo you will find a wonderful mix of architecture that spans the almost 350 years of its history.

Adorable Baby Monkey

Monkey Island(s) – Located on Lake Gutan, which was created by damming the river to allow the large ships to make their way to the canal, are a series of islands that were created as a result of the flooding. The small monkeys were trapped on these tiny islands that were at one time just hilltops in the jungle. Although we generally don’t agree with humans feeding wild animals, it is actually the only way that these monkeys can survive. But make no mistake, they are still wild and can be unpredictable.

Traditional Dance and Music in the Emberá Village

An Emberá Village – Visiting an indigenous village is always fascinating and if you go to Panama City there are tours that will take you to an Emberá village. The Emberá people are tribes that live in the Panama rainforest and still keep their traditional lifestyle. They make a living by hosting tour groups and selling their native crafts which include wood carvings, basket weaving, and jewelry. You can find these crafts being sold in Panama City, but purchasing them in the village will ensure that the money spent goes directly to the families that created them. They are very proud of their traditions and are happy to share them with the people who visit their villages.

The Trail in the Metropolitan National Park Takes You Above the Canopy

The Metropolitan National Park – Located within the city limits of Panama City, the Metropolitan National Park is a wonderful way to escape into nature without having to go far. After spending several days on boats going from one region of Panama to another, visiting the park was a great way to spend a relaxing afternoon. In addition to seeing various wildlife, you will also have the opportunity to see amazing views of the city itself.

Mixed Seafood in a Curry Sauce

The Food of Panama – As one can imagine, seafood is an abundant option since the country sits between two oceans and the Caribbean sea. The food has also been influenced by the Spanish people who occupied the country, the French who started to engineer the canal, and obviously the United States as well. There are many wonderful restaurants to choose from throughout Panama City, but especially within Casco Viejo.

Cityscape of Panama City, Panama

There are certainly other places to see during a trip to Panama, but these locations will give you an interesting sense of the entire country. The culture, history, and natural beauty of Panama are truly fascinating. Although we spent a week in Panama, it is certainly worth more time if you have the opportunity.

Adventures in the Rainforest

We have been fortunate enough to take several trips to Central and South America, including Bolivia, Ecuador, and Panama. During each of the trips, we specifically made a point of getting into the jungle and seeing different wildlife and plants. Each of them was unique in their own ways and we stayed in eco lodges in both Bolivia and Ecuador. Many of these experiences were quite unique and we have many wonderful memories. Here are some of our favorite rainforest adventures that we’ve had during our travels.

  1. Monkey Islands in Panama – One of the most interesting things that we did during our time in Panama was to take a boat passed the famous locks and going to the Monkey Islands. Our boat would pull up to the islands and the monkeys would climb down from the trees to take grapes and bananas from our hands. Under normal circumstances, we wouldn’t do that, but since the monkeys rely on humans for the survival, we felt okay with the experience.
    Hiking in Carrasco National Park
  2. Visiting Carrasco National Park in Bolivia – Our first Amazon experience was during our trip to Cochabamba when we stayed at an eco lodge and spent a day hiking through Carrasco National Park. We climbed into caves with different varieties of bats, blind birds called Guacharos, poisonous frogs, as well as snakes. It was definitely an interesting way to get introduced to the Amazon Jungle.
    Napo Wildlife Center in the Yasuni National Park
  3. Staying at the Napo Wildlife Center in Ecuador – After our experiences in Bolivia, we chose to go even deeper into the jungle during our trip to Ecuador. We spent several days at the Napo Wildlife Center, which is an eco lodge sitting on a lake with caiman, birds, monkeys, and giant river otters. Every day, we would get up early and go into the rainforest to experience different wildlife.
    Paddling in a Small Canoe in the Amazon
  4. Traveling on the Amazon River – We spent time on a motor boat as well as canoe on the tributaries of the Amazon river. After flying into the tiny town of Coca, Ecuador, we took a boat down the Amazon River where we then got out and hiked to get to our canoes. To say that it was a fascinating experience would certainly be an understatement.
    Traditional Dance and Music in the Embera Village
  5. Visiting Indigenous Villages – We went to indigenous villages in both Panama as well as Ecuador and each was a truly special experience. The local tribes are very friendly and happy to welcome you into their village where they share their traditions, art, and lifestyles. We even danced with the local Emberá tribe members during our time in Panama, which was something we will forever treasure. We know that these types of opportunities are dwindling over time, so it is important to take advantage of any chance that you happen to get.
    Parrots and Parakeets at the Salt Lick
  6. Bird Watching in the Rainforest – With over a thousand species of birds in the Amazon Rainforest, the opportunities to see birds a quite diverse. We climbed to the top of the forest canopy in Ecuador to see different colorful birds including macaws, toucans, and parrots. Going the parrot clay licks and seeing so many different parrots feeding on the mineral rich soil was absolutely amazing.
    Canons in Fort San Lorenzo
  7. Fort San Lorenzo in Panama – Going the fort that was captured by the famous Captain Morgan, which is located in the jungles of Panama was a truly educational experience. Whether imagining swash-buckling pirates, canons blasting off of the cliffs, or picturing the ships traveling down the Chagres River, it is something worth making the effort to see when planning a trip to Panama.
    Scarlet Macaws in the Jungle

Obviously we hope to spend more time in different rainforests in other parts of the world. There is such a diversity in the biology of the jungle that it really takes several days to truly get an understanding of everything that there is to see. If you ever get a chance to spend a few nights in the rainforest, we’d highly recommend it as it allows you to see it both during the day, but also at dawn and dusk when the animals are the most active.

Why a Costa Rica Adventure is What We All Need Post-Pandemic?

Today we are featuring a post from our friends at POC (Pacuare Outdoor Center) who provide guided adventures in the amazing country of Costa Rica.

Beautiful Countryside

With a year of being locked up and spending more time on our couches and opening our refrigerators than any other time in our lives, the one thing we all want to do is travel! Costa Rica is a close and comfortable destination to get us back into our groove. Costa Rica is a country that has grown over the last 30 years with a model of ecotourism and adventure for all levels. 

Adventures in the Rainforest


First, Costa Rica is far enough away but at the same time close enough to be a big trip but nothing too crazy. In most hub airports, you will get direct flights into San Jose (SJO) or Liberia Airport (LIR). The flight times from NY are slightly under 5 hours, and the best part is if you are flying from North America, you will not have a drastic time-zone change. Even those who have traveled a lot need to get back into our rhythm at the right place, and taking our first trip in a similar time-zone will have its benefits.

Enjoying the Amazing Views

The People

The second is the people. There are fewer countries on the planet that you will find to be as friendly and inviting as the Costa Ricans. While some of us might be experts on cultures and immersing ourselves in other countries, we have to remember we have been sitting on our couches for a year. As mentioned above, we want to make things easy for us, and traveling around Costa Rica is like being in a country that everyone is your friend. It’s a great place to get our international social skills back in tune.

Climbing Adventure


Finally, this is probably the most important reason why we think Costa Rica is what everyone needs post-pandemic. Costa Rica is pretty much all open-air, no matter where you go. Visiting Costa Rica is about getting outside and enjoying the natural wonders it has to offer. Along with its natural beauties, Costa Rica is a top adventure destination for many different sports like rafting, SUP, canyoneering, MTB, hiking to volcanoes, and the list goes on.

We lost a year of jolting our mind into the “awe-moments” we refer to when traveling. We need a few good awe-moments on our first trip back, and adding some adventure to the itinerary is a great way to make it happen. Costa Rica offers adventures for all different levels, from those looking for a high adventure to a more relaxed birding tour and everything in between.

Beautiful Coastline

Your local adventure experts in Costa Rica are Pacuare Outdoor Center. This is a team of adventure and nature-loving guides that operate set date adventure for small groups throughout the year. You can also customize your own tours, and they will design a package tailored to you and the type of adventure you are looking for.

So there you have it. Your post-pandemic cure for 12 months of not traveling. If you are looking to not change time-zones but still want a big trip then Costa Rica is not too far but located just far enough. Also, we have never been locked up for 12 months before so our social skills might be slightly out of tune in which case the easy option is to travel to the overly-friendly country of Costa Rica, and finally, it’s probably time to get active and involve some adventure in your itineraries and Costa Rica is filled with options for everyone.