A Call of Nature: Family Adventure Inside Panama’s Hidden Heart
Join us today as Shameema & Niladri Sarker take us on a tour of beautiful Panama.
A dictatorial regime in Panama had hidden its secrets under the rug for too long. But it didn’t take the rest of the world to realize the vastness of the country’s closely guarded treasures.
Nowadays, Panama is a family-friendly destination that rivals neighboring heavyweights like Costa Rica and Belize in its natural bounties, and actually overtakes them in its affordability. Further, it’s one of the few countries in the western hemisphere shining as the beacon of conservation and ecotourism.
Perhaps the coolest feature of Panama that makes traveling there so effortless is that almost all of its natural wonders and wildlife habitats can be seen by a short 15-minute taxi drive from its namesake cosmopolitan capital. We’ve taken our family on vacation in cities as well as in the midst of nature, but nowhere have we seen anything like switching from natural marvels to engineering marvels in a span of a few minutes. This, by itself, should give you the peace of mind to visit Panama.
By the way, the best mode of transportation within Panama City is by renting a car. Traffic is great, especially when you compare with some of the other Central American countries with which it shares its border.
Unbeknownst to most, Panama has the largest rainforest right after Brazil’s Amazon, and you can see all of that just by staying right in the heart of the concrete jungle that is Panama City. But you have manmade wonders in the city as well.
Arguably one of the wonders of the world, the Panama Canal is still one of the greatest marvels of human engineering and ingenuity. Even though it’s more than a century old, after the most recent expansion it now supports the transit of humongous ships traveling between the Atlantic and the Pacific. Kids will love to see this in action, and it is definitely worth it.
A world class museum not too far from the city’s downtown is Biomuseo, which will be quite a magnet for kids and kid-minded adults of the family. It’s goal is to promote world biodiversity with many exhibits and interactive activities, and the kids can easily be tied up here for an entire day.
The Smithsonian isn’t too far from this either, and here you can visit the marine habitats where kids can actually touch the spiny, spiky, and squishy life forms of the sea: sea stars, sea urchins, and sea cucumbers.
If you’re short on time, congratulations, because Panama effortlessly ties it up in a package for you. You have your choice of visiting two excellent nature reserves, or you can do both. Your first visit should be paid to the impressive Parque Natural Metropolitano (also known as the Metropolitan Natural Park). It is considered as the “lungs” of the multiethnic Panama City, where you can meet sloths and numerous other bird species of Central and South America in their natural habitat.
And don’t worry if you missed out on some of the animals at the Metropolitan, because the stunning Soberania National Park is nearby. Here, you can feast your eyes on such rare gems as the jaguar, eagles, macaws, and a few species of monkeys. But the highlight here is the parade of leafcutter ants that you’ll come across on the rainforest floor. Did you know that these ants use freshly cut leaves as fertilizer to grow crops, in this case, fungus? Then, the cultivated fungal gardens become the only food source for the ant larvae.
Close to the downtown you’ll find another oddity – Casco Viejo or Old Town – that has preserved both its historical allure and authenticity. A late afternoon family stroll should be all you need to rejuvenate your spirits.
If you’ve seen pictures of Panama City, then you’ve almost surely seen the beautiful Amador Causeway, which is a tight strip of land connecting the capital with Amador Islands. From here, you get breathtaking views of Panama City skyline. Simply being here would feel absolutely fabulous, but if you’re tired of walking, you can choose to bike or rollerblade, the rentals being available right on the side street.
An adventure of a lifetime awaits you if you’re traveling from July through January, but this if you’ll just care to travel a bit. Considering the piece of land that you’ll be going to is nothing short of paradise, that might not be a terrible proposition. This is in the Azuero Peninsula where Fundación Tortuguías helps release baby turtles. During this time, you should be able spot the hatchlings emerging from their eggshells. The entire family can partake on this occasion, when thousands of baby turtles make their way back to the sea. Some of the species here are endangered, so not only will be appreciating Mother Nature in all her glory, you’ll also be actively promoting for her well-being.
Of course, from here you can also choose to sail through the lush tropical islands of the Caribbean, or book a whale-watching tour, or simply relax on the wide-open gorgeous beaches.
In the end, Panama is still a largely unexplored place begging to be explored, something you should be able to reasonably manage even on a short family vacation. And when you consider that the nation is extremely safe, very convenient, quite affordable, and gives you plentiful beach time both on the Pacific as well as on the Atlantic shores, there’s really no excuse to not book that Panama trip.
About the Bloggers
GeoBeetles is a family of travel influencers who aim to explore every country on earth, seeking out rare and endangered wildlife, vanishing tribes, and far-flung natural wonders.
Niladri Sarker is a university professor and Shameema Sarker is a senior scientist, both working full-time jobs while exploring the world with their three children as they balance work and family obligations. They encourage others to travel, to broaden their horizons, and to become responsible planetary citizens.
Experts at weaving stories from their family adventures in a vibrant yet natural manner, they work as brand ambassadors, collaborating with businesses, hotels, cruises, airlines, and travel-related products as they share unique content with their tens of thousands of social media followers.
You can connect with the GeoBeetles on their website and social media:
Hi! Chrissy here. Thank you for reading! I love hearing about small town adventures and small town history! If you have a small town getaway you’d like to share, please use the content submission form.