Sandra Padinger works at our partner agency in Panama City and helps us to work out your dream trip through the tropical paradise of Panama. Fantastic sandy beaches, dense jungle and mighty volcanic giants can be discovered here. So it’s no wonder that Sandra moved to Central America after studying tourism. In a short interview, she tells you what she loves about Panama and what you absolutely have to experience on your trip.
Sandra, what is special about Panama for you?
For me, Panama is a land of contrasts and offers something for everyone. From the modern city with many skyscrapers to villas and poorer districts in between. The beaches on the Pacific side tend to have darker sand, while those on the Caribbean side have white sand. On the one hand the metropolis of Panama City and on the other hand Bocas del Toro with a Caribbean flair. In between tropical forests, islands and an exotic fauna.
What is your idea of the perfect “Panama trip”? Are there certain places that you absolutely have to see?
In Panama I would always recommend a trip by rental car, as you can explore the country at your own pace. Since Panama is very extensive, I would start with the rental car in Panama City, then first drive into the mountains to El Valle de Anton and then to the Azuero peninsula. In Santa Catalina, Las Lajas or Boca Chica there are wonderful sandy beaches where you can really relax before I would drive back inland to Boquete. Here, in the middle of the lush rainforest, nature lovers get their money’s worth. I would then end the trip through Panama in the island paradise of Bocas del Toro. From here it is best to fly back to Panama City by plane to save yourself the long journey.
For me, the trip to Isla Coiba should not be missing on any trip through Panama. The biodiversity that you see on this snorkeling excursion cannot be seen anywhere else in Panama. Here you can meet many colorful fish, stingrays, turtles, dolphins and sharks (don’t worry, they are vegetarian). Depending on the travel time, you can also meet whales (July – October) and maybe also the Señor Tito, a 5 m long crocodile. There are also different species of birds here, if you are lucky, monkeys and many other animal species.
An equally special place for me is Boquete. The most expensive coffee in the world is grown there. This special geisha coffee tour is a must on any trip through Panama.
What do you think of a pure beach holiday in Panama?
Personally, I think it’s a shame when you only spend your vacation in Panama in an all-inclusive resort and don’t see anything of the country’s diversity. Panama has so much more to offer than “just” the Panama Canal. The best way to get to know Panama is by renting a car.
What are the advantages of booking my Panama trip with a tour operator?
Customers get everything from a single source and have a direct contact person before, during and after the trip. Especially with communication problems, it is good to have a German-speaking agency on site that can provide quick support in the event of problems during the trip.
What about sustainability in Panama? Are there any projects that I can support as a traveler?
Unfortunately, sustainability is not a big issue in Panama at the moment. There are some initiatives such as the fact that there are no more plastic straws in restaurants or that plastic bags are no longer given out in the supermarkets. During the year, events are held to collect the garbage on the beaches and since last year there are barriers at various rivers that stop garbage so that it does not get into the sea.
We work with the Waved Foundation. This means that every customer who travels with us automatically donates 3 USD to Waved and thereby supports public schools in rural areas. This money is used to finance English classes, swimming lessons and surfing classes.
Which foods or drinks should you definitely try on a trip through Panama?
What you definitely have to try is a ceviche. It’s a fish or shrimp pickled in lemon juice. I can also recommend fried plantains, so-called patacones, and fried yuca. These are often offered here in Panama as a substitute for french fries. A raspado is crushed ice that is scraped off a large block of ice and refined with syrup. Otherwise you have to drink a Seco or Ron Abuelo with lemon or Coca Cola on your trip through Panama. A pleasant refreshment at the end of the day!
What should you watch out for when traveling through Panama? Are there customs, usages and traditions that should not be violated?
In the case of photos of locals and Indians, these must be asked in advance. Often money is required for this (Guna Indians). The Panamanians are very proud of their country, their customs and their customs and therefore one shouldn’t talk badly about them or belittle them.
When is the best time to fly to Panama?
I think July is the best month to travel to Panama. July is already part of the low season and so it is less busy at this time, the prices are lower and it is still nice with little rain.
But I also think the rainy season in Panama is very beautiful. During this time everything is green, everything is growing and thriving. The mornings are mostly sunny with blue skies. In the afternoon the thunderclouds come up, then the world goes down for a moment and then the sun comes out again. Every time I am fascinated by the thunderstorms here in Panama. It often happens that the massive clap of thunder sets off the alarm systems of the cars. It can happen that you stand in the Casco Viejo in bright sunshine and a downpour is passing over the city center.
How Safe is Panama?
Panama is a very safe country. Of course you have to follow certain rules. Do not walk around lonely streets at night, do not carry valuables around openly and so on.
Do you have to be afraid of poisonous animals in Panama?
Yes, there are poisonous animals, but whether one should be afraid of them is another issue. It is important to keep your distance and not try to touch the animals.
When hiking in the rainforest, you have to walk carefully through the forest. As a rule, the animals warp when they hear someone approaching. If you walk through the forest with your eyes open, you can see them too. I love to photograph these exotic animals. From a safe distance, of course. It is best to have an experienced guide with you who can tell you something about the animal.
We would like to thank Sandra for the interview and look forward to organizing a dream trip to Panama for you.
Are there special projects that our guests can support with donations?
For almost two years now, we have been supporting the German-run, non-profit foundation “Waved Foundation”, which advocates more education for children in smaller public schools. They are also very active during the times of the coronavirus, but of course they also suffered from the crisis.