Panama is fast developing a reputation as one of the primary Latin American holiday and travel destinations. The New York Times named the country as the top destination for 2012, and a stable political system and favourable exchange rates have helped it achieve its potential this year.
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There is plenty to see and do, from exploring the booming hub of Panama City and discovering the famous dam to trekking in the tropical jungle and climbing the volcanic mountains of the interior. After so much action, most visitors choose to spend some time relaxing on a palm-fringed beach before heading back to reality. So if you are thinking of discovering Panama this year, which beach destination should you choose to end your stay?
Number One for 2012 is undoubtedly the Bocas Del Mar in Chiriqui Province, perched on the Pacific coast close to the border with Costa Rica. This is one of Panama’s leading tourist areas, not for pile-them high hotels or luxury resorts for which Bocas Del Toro, on the Caribbean coast is famed, but for the delightful boutique hotels it offers in natural, relaxed surroundings – and the Bocas Del Mar Hotel ticks all the boxes.
The hotel is small by touristic standards, with accommodation spread between eleven chalets, or cabins, located in beautiful tropical grounds around a large pool and leisure areas. The coastal location makes the Bocas Del Mar Hotel the ideal choice for those looking for a relaxed getaway with plenty of daily activity available on their doorstep should they want it. There is a private cove just for the use of the hotel guests, lending it an air of exclusivity without losing its laid-back charm.
The Marine National Park covers almost 15,000 hectares of ocean and islands and is home to a huge array of exotic birds, sealife, reptiles and mammals such as the humpback whale. Take a boat trip to explore the islands, picnic on an isolated beach, explore the mangroves, try your hand at bird watching, indulge in snorkeling and scuba diving or, if you are lucky enough to visit between July and November, don’t miss the chance to join a whale-watching trip and see the magnificent humpbacks in action in their natural habitat. Other water sports include deep-sea fishing, kayaking and funboarding, or back on dry land you can try your hand at horse riding or take a day excursion further afield, to the Volcan Baru National Park, Panama’s highest point or to Boquete for the freshest and tastiest coffee in the country.
One of the charms of the Bocas del Mar, however, is your experience within the hotel itself. Nothing is too much trouble for the staff, who will go out of their way to make your stay as comfortable and memorable as can be. The Belgian owners have taken care to make sure the hotel environment offers the best boutique quality in the area, while the English general manager ensures a service ethos sits comfortably side by side with the laid-back Panamanian charm. A gem just waiting to be discovered.