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Eastern Panama Travel Guide

  • Photo: Simon Dannhauer / Shutterstock

Plan Your Eastern Panama Vacation

The eastern provinces of Guna Yala and the Darién are Panama at its most pristine, with spectacular scenery, wildlife, and indigenous cultures that have barely changed since the first Spanish explorers arrived here more than five centuries ago.

The region's riveting tropical nature ranges from the colorful diversity of Caribbean coral reefs to amazing birdlife of the rain forest. The traditional

Guna (formerly Kuna), Emberá, and Wounaan communities that live here offer a fascinating alternative to the modern world. The combination of nature and culture provides the ingredients for unforgettable journeys, on which you might imagine you've traveled back in time or perhaps to the very ends of the Earth. Yet most of the region's lodges lie within a 60-minute flight from Panama City, which is often followed by a dugout canoe trip over aquamarine waters or up a jungle-shaded river. And the flights themselves take you over vast expanses of pure jungle. When it comes to Guna Yala and the Darién, more than in any other part of Panama, the adventure begins with the trip here.

Nevertheless, true adventure has its price, and it's not for everyone. This region's remarkable but remote attractions lie far from the nearest paved road, convenience store, or ATM, and may require that you put up with conditions you wouldn't stand for at home. Tours and accommodations can be expensive; for the cost of a suite in Panama City you may have to settle for a thatched hut. You may also have to deal with insects or less-than-fantastic food, but the prize is exposure to splendid scenery, and unique indigenous cultures. Your adventure may include boat trips to breathtaking islands, jungle hikes, snorkeling over coral reefs, or witnessing ancient rituals. And at night you'll hear only the calls of jungle critters, or the slosh of waves against coral.

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Top Reasons To Go

  1. Indigenous Cultures Eastern Panama's indigenous Guna, Emberá, and Wounaan villages are amazingly traditional, colorful places that provide visitors with unforgettable cross-cultural experiences.
  2. San Blas Islands The islands of Guna Yala have ivory beaches shaded by coconut palms and washed by turquoise waters—scenery fit for the covers of travel magazines or the daydreams of snowbound accountants.
  3. Ocean Treasures Guna Yala's crystalline sea holds countless coral reefs awash with living rainbows of fish and invertebrates, whereas the white-sand shallows of its islands are idyllic spots for a tranquil swim.
  4. Spectacular Wildlife The eastern provinces' lush rain forests, mangrove estuaries, and cloud forests together hold more than about 500 bird species, and everything from crocodiles to capuchin monkeys.
  5. Fabulous Fishing More than 250 sport-fishing records have been set in the sea south of the Darién, which is accessible from one of the world's best fishing lodges.

When To Go

When to Go

It rains almost every afternoon from May to December in the Darién, though the rain lets up a bit in July and August. Most people consequently...

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