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When I was loosely planning my Latin American adventures, I had a vague idea that I’d end up in Panama. Flights in and out of the capital were cheap, and I’d heard rumors of a chilled-out island scene in Bocas del Toro. Frankly, though, I didn’t know or think much about it — after all, Panama gets none of the buzz that it’s Central American neighbor Costa Rica does. It’s kind of the red-headed step-child of the bunch — when’s the last time you heard someone planning a one-stop vacation to Panama? So I had no way of knowing that this skinny little thing of a country — unlikely little Panama! — would be my favorite destination of the whole trip.

Panama MapOur route: (1) Panama City, (2) El Valle, (3) Isla de Coiba, (4) Boquete, (5) Bocas del Toro

That’s right — I’m crazy for Panama. My country crush started almost immediately upon landing in Panama City, a Havana-Miami mashup that I could barely tear myself away from. And the love affair continued with our brief but toucan-filled stopover in El Valle onto our off-the-grid getaway to Santa Catalina and Isla de Coiba National Park. There, diving in the shark-infested waters and lazing on the untouched beaches of the reserve, there is where I really felt things kind of got serious. Soon after, I was shouting from the virtual rooftops, “It’s Panama time!” to anyone who would listen. And we hadn’t even joined up with the country’s true backpacker trail yet.

Our next stop, Boquete, is one of Panama’s worst-kept secrets, and as we hiked waterfalls, chased rainbows, rode horses and soaked in hotsprings, I could see why people had a hard time keeping it to themselves. And Bocas del Toro, the destination that stole my heart? Don’t even get me started on that bliss-fest. As we island-hopped away the final days of our 4.5 weeks in Panama, I wondered how I’d manage to sum up such a special country.

Luckily, as usual, Anders made things easy for me. He made a video that still gives me the chills when I watch it (despite the amount of unflattering faces I make throughout, and yes, we’re having a chat about that!). I can’t think of a better way to introduce my Panama coverage to Alex in Wanderland.

Now that you’re primed on my new country crush, get ready for all kinds of gushing Panama City posts coming up this week. I’m willing to bet it won’t be long until you’re crushing as hard as I did.

Kudos to Anders for another great video! Now, which Panama destination are you most looking forward to reading about?

Bonus question! I’m feeling a bit torn right now. On one hand I really love blogging chronologically and I know a lot of you have mentioned how much you enjoy it too. But on the other, now that I’m back in the USA I’m excited to share some of what I’m up to in a more timely manner (read: Mardi Gras!). Would you prefer if I wrote chronologically straight through Panama and then onto Costa Rica and then onto my Stateside adventures, or would you be into it if I shook things up a little bit and interspersed my Central America coverage with some more recent stuff? Looking forward to hearing your thoughts!

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83 Comments...
  • Anders
    March 10 2014

    Unflattering faces? Beautiful girl!

  • Melanie Fontaine
    March 10 2014

    Love the video! Makes me pumped to read more about Panama! I definitely wouldn’t mind if you wrote about your adventures in New Orleans now already – I think I would like the diversity that it brings! ๐Ÿ™‚
    Melanie Fontaine recently posted..A Morning in York

    • Alex
      March 11 2014

      Yeah, and I feel like big events like Mardi Gras are more fun to read about closer to the time? I always feel like my blog delay is showing big time when I’m posting about NYE in, say, February!

  • Rachael C
    March 10 2014

    I prefer the chronological posting. I find I lose interest if there are too many varied locations, I don’t get the sense that I am “there” and following with you on the trip. But it aint my blog! And I am a fan no matter what ๐Ÿ™‚

    • Alex
      March 11 2014

      I hear ya, and I get that feedback a lot! I’m glad to hear people don’t get bored of reading about, say, Ecuador for a few weeks straight though!

  • Taylor
    March 10 2014

    I’m most excited about hearing about Boquete! I have a thing for waterfalls. ๐Ÿ™‚ The video by Anders was awesome, I enjoyed watching it. I have never even had Panama on my radar because all I have ever heard about it was the canal, and since it’s man-made, I was never to into visiting… But Ander’s video and your description so far have made Panama quite appealing. Oh! And I enjoy your mixing up of blog posting! ๐Ÿ™‚
    Taylor recently posted..Costa Rican Adventure: Part 2

    • Alex
      March 11 2014

      Believe it or not the canal is AWESOME! So is all the natural and cultural stuff Panama has to offer, but dang, that canal is cool ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Becky L.
    March 10 2014

    I’m so happy you feel this way and wrote this post to tell the world! I honeymooned in Panama – yes, a one-stop vacation – and we constantly had to explain to people why we chose it (especially as we are fairly accomplished travelers). It’s an amazing place. Anders’ video is a perfect advertisement – the country’s tourism bureau should pick it up. It highlights some amazing things we somehow missed. How did we possibly skip towed snorkeling and couples yoga??? Arg! Thanks again, Alex. As for chronological posting: I’m dying to hear more about the rest of your Panama and Costa Rica travels, but you won’t lose my blog-love by interspersing other fun. ๐Ÿ™‚

    • Becky L.
      March 10 2014

      P.S.
      After I submitted that comment I realized my avatar photo is from Panama – Isla Zapatillas.

    • Alex
      March 11 2014

      Amazing! So, what made you choose Panama for your honeymoon? And where did you go? As someone who kind of stumbled upon it’s greatness I too am curious, ha! I mean I know why you loved it, but it’s interesting to hear why people choose the less obvious destinations. And OMG Isla Zapatillas. Amazing.

      • Becky L.
        March 12 2014

        I think you nailed it with your post and a previous comment reply: DIVERSITY! It had everything we wanted in a honeymoon stuffed into one tiny country: adventure, culture, history, and leisure. Rain forest, cloud forest, volcanoes, Pacific AND Caribbean beaches, city life, country life, wildlife… and yes, the canal. It is seriously a feat of human ingenuity and the history is fascinating – I highly recommend reading David McCullough’s “Path Between the Seas”. Incredible what people went through.

        And practically speaking, for a Californian, the cost and duration of flights as well as the small time-zone difference meant maximal fun, minimal travel headaches.

        As for your other question – where did we go? – it sounds like we did a similar route as you, minus Isla Coiba because of time and expenses. Panama City, Soberania National Park, the canal, El Valle de Anton, Boquete, and Bocas del Toro (we stayed at the open tree houses at La Loma Jungle Lodge).

        Can’t wait to read about your adventures there!

        • Alex
          March 12 2014

          Sounds like an amazing honeymoon! And yes, we did a lot of things similarly… I even had lunch at La Loma ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Ron
    March 10 2014

    I suggest that you mix it up but not because of want I want rather I think that is more fun from a writing perspective.

    So share however it makes you productive or happy. The audience is important but your blog continues to grow so you must be doing it right.

    If I read more about Panama today or next week makes no difference. One way or another I will enjoy the ongoing story.

    • Alex
      March 11 2014

      Thanks Ron, loved this sweetly supportive comment ๐Ÿ™‚ And either way, there’s some underwater goodness coming up soon!

  • Caity
    March 10 2014

    Wow! Well done Anders! This video is electric, exuberant and full of energy! It embodies your words so excellently! Can’t wait to read more about Panama and your latest adventures..in whatever order you want!!

    • Alex
      March 11 2014

      Thanks Caity ๐Ÿ™‚ I can’t remember the last time I was so excited to blog about something!

  • tammyonthemove
    March 10 2014

    Awesome video Anders! Makes me wanna go to Panama. I’d prefer chronological posts, simply because your posts always make me want to find out what happens next on your adventures so badly that I can’t wait for a long time. ๐Ÿ™‚ But do whatever you feel Alex. It is your blog!
    tammyonthemove recently posted..The day I hung off a 50m high building

  • Breanna
    March 10 2014

    Well, I think I want to explore panama now. Thanks for that! In all honesty I’m interested to read about all of your travels so whichever order you put them in will be fine!

    • Alex
      March 11 2014

      Thanks Breanna! I guess maybe I’ll just see what I’m in the mood to work on week to week ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Alexandra
    March 10 2014

    Have been so looking forward to your Panama posts! Trying to decide between Nicaragua and Panama for our next trip- I’m sure you will help decide. Love the video, nice work Anders!

    • Alex
      March 11 2014

      Ah, we heard sooo many amazing things about Nicaragua on the road it kind of tears my heart out I didn’t get there! It is high on my radar for a return trip back soon.

  • Tyrhone
    March 10 2014

    Dude that video was ridiculously good, I want to go there! Maybe it would be less jarring not writing chronologically if you related it by writing in the past tense and connecting it to your present? Best of both worlds!
    Tyrhone recently posted..Sunrise over the Caribbean in Playa del Carmen (video)

    • Alex
      March 11 2014

      Anders is such a good editor, isn’t he? Totally self-taught as well, which amazes me. One day he was like, “I’m going to learn Final Cut,” and I was like “Good luck dude, I took a college class in it and it is super hard.” And then two weeks later we had this.

  • Joella J (J in Beijing)
    March 11 2014

    I need to get to Panama! I’ve been to South America and North America but somehow never Central. I had a Dutch friend who went on holiday to Panama and finally left Bocas three years later… So I hear it’s pretty good! With your blog-I reckon you should post in whichever way feels right for you! But if have had to choose I’d say mix it up. Mostly just because I’m nosy and I like to know what people’s most recent adventures are as well as read about their awesome previous ones.
    Joella J (J in Beijing) recently posted..Cultural Weekends in Beijing: Art, Literature and Trucks full of cups

    • Alex
      March 11 2014

      Ha, a lot of people seem to get stuck in Bocas in that way. And having spent 11 days there I can totally see why!

  • becky hutner
    March 11 2014

    what a great way to intro a country! i esp love the text treatment in the video — do you know what font anders used?

    as for the order of your reportage, i say do you what you feel! i will read no matter what (well i guess there are exceptions to that. like if you decided to devote this site exclusively to birding. not that i have anything against birds…).
    becky hutner recently posted..Fashion โ€˜Round the World: What people wore in Jan โ€™14

    • Alex
      March 11 2014

      Again with the LOL-inducing comments… ah, birding. Funny enough our one night in El Valle was at a birding lodge and I loved chatting to people about their birding obsession. The passion was amazing! Oh and as for the font, I just sent Anders a message asking him to chime in!

      • Anders
        March 12 2014

        Alex don’t YOU know what font I’m using!!?… Meloriac

  • Panama looks amazeballs. I love that you write chronologically, it’s what makes your blog stand out from a lot of others, including mine. I’m still playing catch up on past travels and incorporating what I’m doing now- which confuses people. I can’t wait to be doing it chronologically! Plus. if people follow on twiter, fb, or IG they can see a little sneak of yours stateside adventures!
    Rachel of Hippie in Heels recently posted..Don’t Miss Out: Luxury Nightlife in Singapore

    • Alex
      March 11 2014

      I have never really tried to incorporate my pre-blogging adventures mostly because they were before the advent of digital cameras! Which is kind of a bummer because my Belize trip (which I planned at age 14 — my parents were strangely supportive) was blogging GOLD.

  • Janice Stringer
    March 11 2014

    love the video and the scuba diving – these are my favourite posts!
    Janice Stringer recently posted..Body Surfing. Why Life Can Be Sweeter Without A Board.

    • Alex
      March 11 2014

      SO much scuba goodness to come, Janice! We did a four day diving trip to Isla de Coiba. It was quite the trip!

  • Corinne
    March 11 2014

    Love it all…photos, videos…and now I can’t wait to get to Panama!
    Corinne recently posted..Singapore Airport and Why It’s So Awesome!

    • Alex
      March 11 2014

      Go go go, Corinne! There is something for everyone there.

  • Kat
    March 11 2014

    Personally I would prefer everything in chronological order but I can understand how you might want to intersperse your US travels with your more far-flung destinations to keep your American readers interested. As someone who hasn’t spent much time in the US, I find your home country posts just as interesting as everything else.

    • Kat
      March 11 2014

      Also, I like the introspection that comes from posting about something a little after it happens – I think it allows you to write about things with a more well-rounded perspective, and perspective is one of the things I love most about your blog.

    • Alex
      March 11 2014

      I’m happy to hear that, Kat! Yeah, my US travels never get quite the same attention but I have some pretty exciting destination on the books this time around, so I’m hoping things will be different this summer ๐Ÿ™‚ We’ll see!

  • Doug
    March 11 2014

    Thanks so much for hanging with Scuba 6 Diving while you were in guys! I wish I could have met you both but I’m in Germany preparing for a white-water spring in the Alps.

    Have a blast in your travels and get ahold of us if you ever come back tis way!

    • Alex
      March 11 2014

      Thanks Doug! Sounds like you have some pretty exciting stuff going on ๐Ÿ™‚ Hope I will be returning to Panama soon!

  • Dad
    March 11 2014

    Love the embedded videos. Was that a train you were riding with great views from the upper deck or a bus?? The last stop look really cool.

    • Alex
      March 11 2014

      It was a train! It goes from ocean to ocean, crossing the entire continent in just over an hour. It was such a cool experience, I have a dedicated post coming up soon about it.

  • Steve
    March 11 2014

    Great video. I would never consider Panama as a place to visit. I am looking forward reading more of your adventures.
    Steve recently posted..GoEuro

    • Alex
      March 11 2014

      I’m hoping to change your mind (and many others who I suspect feel the same way!) with these posts, Steve ๐Ÿ™‚

  • tony
    March 11 2014

    great video anders! and I really like the inclusion of a map to outline your trek through panama!

    • Alex
      March 11 2014

      Thanks Tony! I’m trying to include more maps when possible — it seems they are always popular!

  • Kevin Long
    March 11 2014

    Great Video and Post. I really like this. Keep it up….

    • Alex
      March 11 2014

      Thanks Kevin! Welcome to Wanderland ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Alexandra
    March 11 2014

    We almost chose Panama this year but decided on Belize instead. I prefer chronological posting, it definitely separates you from other travel bloggers and is one of the main reasons I enjoy reading your blog. We get to follow your entire trip through from start to finish.

    • Alex
      March 11 2014

      Thanks Alex, I will keep that in mind! Opinions seem pretty split but I have loved hearing everyone’s feedback.

  • Rika | Cubicle Throwdown
    March 11 2014

    Anders is sure clever with that GoPro, I always love his videos! I really need to get to Panama while I’m here in Central America. Also, I wouldn’t mind reading bits of what you’re doing now interspersed … I remember you doing that before a few times, with something in the first paragraph like “I’m in ____ now, but here’s a post from my trip ____” etc., you know, just so we can keep track of where you are (in the least creepy way possible).
    Rika | Cubicle Throwdown recently posted..Roatan Rent: What $400/month Gets You

    • Alex
      March 12 2014

      Haha ๐Ÿ™‚ Yeah I did that I think when my Hawaii coverage was dragging on FOREVER and so I shook it up with a little Vegas and holiday action.

  • Silvia
    March 12 2014

    I love how enthusiastic you get about places- Panama really does sound awesome! I think I’m in the midst of a similar experience in Iran. I just got here, but ohmygoodness, already crushing super hard on this country! And I like the chronological postings because it feels like I’m on this journey with you.
    Silvia recently posted..Postcards from Northern Laos

    • Alex
      March 12 2014

      It’s so great when you feel that chemistry with a new place! It’s kind of hard to describe in writing because it’s like having a crush on a person… how hard is THAT to explain? Enjoy Iran!

  • Rekha Devarapalli
    March 12 2014

    More Panama pleassee…
    Rekha Devarapalli recently posted..Duck Creek Village, Utah

    • Alex
      March 12 2014

      Coming right up! ๐Ÿ˜‰

  • Lauren
    March 13 2014

    I definitely want to hear what’s going on with you in the US… Chronologically is cool if you can keep it real-time but I know that’s almost impossible to do! It’s really fun to know what you’re up to at the moment; in my opinion it gives your posts a different color if you write them when you experience them. So that’s a vote for mixing it up!

    • Alex
      March 13 2014

      Omg real time is just so impossible! Ha. Sometimes I get there, like at the start of my Peru trip… but I very quickly fall behind again. And clearly not because I’m not writing (I get unsubscriptions every day from people who say I’m posting too often) just because I’m doing too much! I will probably close the gap a bit again this summer while I’m at home, but I have no doubt it will widen back up again when I hit the road. Sigh!

  • AnneMarie
    March 13 2014

    I love Bocas!! I went there maybe 10 years ago and I’m still swooning over it!

    I found your post while researching our upcoming Peru Trip- We’re doing the Inca Trail and Amazon this summer, and I’ve loved, loved, loved reading your adventures! Thank you, what a delightfully fun blog to stumble upon!

    Quick Question: Did you worry about Malaria or Yellow Fever while you were there? Did you get vaccinated at take malaria meds? CDC recommends them but I wonder if they’re really necessary. I’d love to hear your thoughts.
    AnneMarie

    • Alex
      March 14 2014

      Hey AnneMarie! I never take malaria meds, but I did get a yellow fever vaccine before arriving in Peru. I got it through my local county health department and it was pretty cheap.

  • Abby
    March 14 2014

    In the same boat re: older travel vs timely posts. SO glad you loved Panama! I’ve always wanted to go back there and spend some more time.
    Abby recently posted..Daydream of the Week: My new neighborhood

  • Anna - The Blonde Banana
    March 15 2014

    I’ve been thinking about planning a trip to Panama and now I think I will! There are direct flights from NY and not too expensive…. Maybe next winter I’ll plan an escape from the freeze!
    Anna – The Blonde Banana recently posted..Visiting Blarney Castle & Kissing the Blarney Stone in Ireland

    • Alex
      March 16 2014

      And just five hours! I’m amazed it isn’t more popular among New Yorkers, actually!

  • Ngaire
    March 17 2014

    Wow this is just what I needed to see, Panama is on my list coming up on the way to Costa Rica, but I didn’t think there was much to see there, your video definitely changed my mind! Beautiful!
    Ngaire recently posted..Photo of the Day, March 16: Mt. Sinai, Egypt

    • Alex
      March 17 2014

      I’m so happy to hear that, Ngaire! We are slow travelers but we spent over a month there!

  • Sarah
    March 17 2014

    What a beautiful video! I am so looking forward to hearing more about your experience in Panama- I am a 19 yr old Spanish student about to leave for Boquete/Bocas in April for 5 months of study! Your blog is inspring

    • Alex
      March 17 2014

      Hey Sarah, I went to and loved both those places! ๐Ÿ™‚ Stay tuned for about a billion posts about each!

  • Kristen Noelle
    March 19 2014

    Anders’ video skills are sickk. All of the underwater action looks like so much fun!

    • Alex
      March 21 2014

      Yeah he’s amazing! And the best part… totally self taught!

  • Aditi Giasotta
    March 19 2014

    Sweet video and love the music! I am supercharged for a future trip to Panama!!
    Aditi Giasotta recently posted..Women in Travel Summit

    • Alex
      March 21 2014

      Yay! So glad to hear that. Panama needs a lot more love!

  • Caroline
    March 19 2014

    I love the video – Panama is definitely high on my list of places to visit! Looking forward to reading more of your coverage

    • Alex
      March 21 2014

      Thanks Caroline! I have so much to say… we’re going to be talking about Panama for a long time!

  • Jen
    March 21 2014

    It looks incredible! I want to go right now!

    • Alex
      March 22 2014

      Absolutely love to hear that Jen ๐Ÿ™‚ Panama is waiting for you!

  • Rebecca
    March 23 2014

    I’m with you – it’s a fantastic country! Did you get a chance to see the Panama Canal locks?
    Rebecca recently posted..Bali sunsets

    • Alex
      March 23 2014

      Is it legal to leave without seeing them? ๐Ÿ˜› I did! Post coming up Monday.

  • Camels & Chocolate
    April 24 2014

    Somehow I missed this post before, but I LOVE this video! Seriously, Panama tourism needs to hire you two as its official ambassadors =)
    Camels & Chocolate recently posted..The Ultimate Nashville Vacation

    • Alex
      April 25 2014

      I tried sending them some of my posts but didn’t get a response ๐Ÿ™‚ Ah well!

  • Harlan
    May 26 2014

    I was glad to see the video of where I was born and raised. It’s been too long since I’ve been back to wonderful Panama. I miss it. I’m glad you have fallen in love with it too.

    • Alex
      May 28 2014

      So glad you enjoyed the video Harlan and it gave you a little taste of home! Maybe time for another visit ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Thuc Do
    December 7 2015

    I’m late to the party but man, that video is unreal!!!!! I want to go to Panama now.
    Thuc Do recently posted..KAYAKING LANE COVE RIVER, Lane Cove National Park

    • Alex
      December 9 2015

      Thank you so much! I adore Panama — I’d love to go back again!

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