A Day Trip Outside Panama City

While planning our trip to Panama City, I knew I wanted to spend at least a day outside the city, so we could see other parts of the country. Panama is known for having beautiful Pacific and Caribbean beaches, so we decided to head to the beach for some relaxation. Most visitors looking for a day trip will visit either Isla Taboga, which is a 30 minute ferry ride from Amador Causeway, or Isla Contadora, which is a 1.5 hour ferry ride. X, who spent 4 years in Panama in his teen years, suggested we head Playa Santa Clara, where he and his family spent many weekends.

The drive from Panama City is roughly 1 hour or 1.5 hours depending on traffic. Santa Clara is a long stretch of white sand beach along the Pacific coast of central Panama. There are portions of the beach where you pay an entry fee and pitch your own tent or bring your own beach chairs. There are also portions of the beach with restaurants, hotels, and beach cabanas.

We decided to set up base at Hotel Restaurante Las Veraneras, which is a hotel and restaurant that also has cabanas for rent. It felt very much like a local spot, which suited us just fine. It definitely made the entire day affordable – we paid roughly $60 for 6 drinks, the cabana for the day, and lunch. The water is warm, mostly calm, and the sand is soft. It was certainly relaxing to just lay in a cabana with a hammock for the day.

We opted to stay elsewhere, since we wanted to visit El Valle the next day, on the way back to Panama City. We stayed the night at the Buenaventura Golf & Beach Resort, which was a beautiful resort with a nice pool and facilities. Look at the gorgeous lagoon view from our room!

The next morning had us driving the windy road to El Valle de Anton, a town that is located inside the flat, wide caldera of the inactive El Valle volcano. Located at 600 m, its high elevation means it is cooler than the rest of the country and also filled with cloudy, misty green valleys. It was a really beautiful drive and we explored the sleepy town for the day. Some popular attractions include the Chorro El Macho waterfall, some hot springs, and a butterfly sanctuary. We spent our day wandering the El Valle Sunday Market, which actually runs all week long between 8am – 4pm and is an excellent spot for Panamanian handcrafts.

We also visited the APROVACA (Asociación de Productores de Orquídeas de El Valle y Cabuya), a non-profit organization established to conserve and protect native orchids. The conservatory has hundreds of plants, not just orchids. It’s $3 per person for a tour and it’s basically a mini-botanical garden with the sheer amount of greenery inside the facilities.

Our little two-day trip outside of Panama City was really fun – and relaxing. It was great to get out of the hustle and bustle of the city and just enjoy the winding roads and lush landscapes of Panama.

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