Tours and Places
Quite nicely done
The new Palma Royale Hotel in Bocas del Toro, comfortable and stylish inside and out
The four story hotel is a completely new structure whose timeless
look already blends in well with the town.
Tropical furnishings and décor bring a luxurious Bocas feel inside the rooms.
How do you come to realize a life-long dream? New Bocas del Toro hotel owner, Bob Martz, phrased it nicely: “Well, we don’t do it for food,” he said, “I guess growing up in South Dakota it just seemed like owning a hotel in the Caribbean one day was the best dream to have.” If his new hotel is any measure, Bob dreams big.
He swears that he “doesn’t work here”, but Bob can be often seen sitting unassumingly in a rattan chair at an outdoor table of the Under the Palm Restaurant on the ground floor. The gorgeous new hotel is currently the talk of the town. Finished with all-natural materials (stone, bamboo, dead coral), painted in rich colors and bursting with tropical flowers in every room, the Palma Royale Hotel is fit for a king.
Open, airy and luxurious areas inside suites include the kitchen, dining and sitting areas.
The singular penthouse as well as many of the 14 studios and suites overlook their own corner of Main Street, with the ferry dock and outlying islands in clear view. The Super Gourmet store is conveniently next door. Every detail on the property, from the bathroom tiles to the craftsmanship in the wooden railings on the exterior balconies off every room to the reflective German windows, oozes with proof that no expense was spared when building this masterpiece. The hotel boasts Bocas’ second-ever elevator.
Overlooking the Bocas ferry from the penthouse.
Affordable luxuryThe room rates are low. A two bedroom penthouse for $265 a night includes two bedrooms, two full baths with rain shower or jacuzzi tub, a gigantic flat screen television, kitchen, living area with a wraparound balcony and a dining nook. Other rooms, all with ocean views, cost $145 and include either two beds or a kitchen. Bottom floor garden view rooms cost $80. Every room has whole bean coffee, a grinder and coffee pot.
The option to begin or end the Panama City leg of a trip to Bocas at Trump Ocean Club will be available in 2011. Contact the Hotel Palma Royale at 757-9979, 6681-4076, 6951-5715 or visit.
Pacific beaches and nearby mountains, a complete destination close to the city
Panama’s Pacific coast is blessed with lovely beaches framed by a mountain backdrop. Rapid growth in recent years has changed these Pacific beaches near Panama City from a choice weekend getaway spot for Panamanians into an international beach resort destination. Many are calling this spot the “Gold Coast” of Panama.
Along the Inter American Highway, the first beach is just an hour from Panama City. A little ways on is the beach metropolis of Coronado, complete with supermarkets, a hospital and anything one could need on vacation. The beaches stretch on, dotted with big-name hotels as well as quaint owner-operated lodgings.
A walk along the beach will often lead past the front of a fishing village. Tourism is now acting as a major motor in the area’s economy, but the fishing tradition carries on strong, much to the delight of tourists. Sighting a fisherman casting his net in the surf is a memorable experience.
Just up the hill from the coast is El Valle, a mountain town and resort area right in the middle of an ancient volcano crater. Filled with bright flowers and rich vegetation, its idyllic spring-like climate is perfect for hiking to see petroglyphs, a hot spring mud bath, or simply relaxation in an eco paradise. El Valle’s fertile soil supplies rich nutrients to grow the excellent produce that is on sale at the town’s renowned open-air “mercado”.
Back down on the beaches many of the hotels here are all-inclusive resorts where guests need not leave the grounds in order to have every need met. The option is there though to take part in day activities like sport fishing, scuba diving, shopping excursions or a trip to a working coffee farm.
With all the new development here, it would seem as if Panama City had extended west. There is more to do and see every day. With its golf, wind surfing, horseback rides and beach club parties, the beautiful and diverse Pacific coast of Panama has quickly become a world-class beach destination.
New lodging in Campana
Posada Loma Grande is a new tourist lodging facility located in Campana National Park, perched high above the windy hill that leads down to Coronado from Panama City on the Inter American Highway. Five kilometers from the main road, the “posada” offers six rooms from $80/double up to $180 for the entire family. A lookout from the property is at 695 meters above sea level, from where, on a clear day, one can see the miles of coastline.
Trails lead right into the national forest and all of the conveniences of Coronado are a stone’s throw away. Currently the hotel is open from Thursday to Sunday only. The website,is forthcoming and the owners report that they will open seven days a week starting in November when the high season begins. Call 836-7179 or 6450-3089.
Panama’s #1 attraction
A front seat Canal view at Miraflores visitor center
The Miraflores Visitor Center is the busiest of all tourist attractions in Panama. It offers a front-seat view of the Panama Canal. The center is located on the eastern side of the Miraflores locks and is just 15 minutes away from downtown. Hundreds of people visit every day.
You can get there by taxi. It is customary for the driver to wait for tourists to finish their tour and return them to the city. Set an hourly rate for this service, $10 or $15 is standard. There is also a bus service available from the Gran Terminal at Albrook.
Miraflores RestaurantLocated on an upper level and overlooking the locks, the restaurant offers breathtaking views of ships in transit from indoors or outside on the terrace. There is an a la carte menu with Panamanian fusion food. The buffet is popular for business meetings. The restaurant has a room for special events that can host up to 150 people.
Visiting HoursEvery day: The Miraflores Visitor Center is open 365 days per year, during the following hours.
Tickets: from 9:00 a.m. - 4:30 p.m.
Exhibition halls, snack and gift shop: 9:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m.
Restaurant: 12:00 p.m. - 11:30 p.m.
PricesNationals: adults $3.00, seniors $1.50, students and children $2.00
Foreigners: Adults: $8.00, seniors $4.00, students and children $5.00
For more information visit www.acp.gob.pa or call (507) 276-8325 or (507) 276-8449, fax at (507) 276-8469, or e-mail email@example.com.
Right in front of the center ships are transiting the Canal through the hydraulic locks system seeminghy almost close enough to touch. Tourists learn about the operation of the Panama Canal, the history of its construction, its role in world trade and the importance of its watershed. There is a large theater with spoken presentations on how the waterway works. A virtual tour takes tourists the entire length of the Canal.
There are three observation terraces, two snack bars, a gourmet restaurant, a souvenir shop and a hall for special events. Most areas are available for rent.
In the exhibition hall, there are historical pieces that were used in the construction of the Canal as well as equipment, interactive modules, videos, mechanical models, and other attractions that teach the importance of this water source and its flora and fauna.
The Bocas del Toro Section
Much to do in island paradise
Bocas del Toro is an exciting destination for surfers, sunbathers, and nature enthusiasts. Located in the northwestern part of the isthmus, the pristine island archipelago is teeming with activity and diversity, above and below the water. Those who visit Bocas del Toro always want to come back, again and again.
Bocas is one of the most popular destinations in Panama, with something for every budget and taste. Upscale accommodations or on-a-shoestring digs are available in downtown Bocas Town or out on remote islands.
The unique Caribbean flavor here comes from a mix of Ngobe Indians, Afro Antilleans and Spanish settlers who congregated on this island paradise. The distinct style of Bocas is seen in the art, food, architecture and cultural traditions of the province.
How to get there
From Panama City: By plane fly Air Panama (www.flyairpanama.com) or Aeroperlas (www.aeroperlas.com) from Albrook Airport in Panama City. By car take the Inter American Highway west to Gualaca (404 Km), turn to the right and go over the central mountain range (Cordillera) to Chiriqui Grande (95 Km) then in Punta Peña, the road to Almirante, where ferry or water taxi service to Bocas town is available. A bus to Bocas costs $20 from the National Transport Terminal adjacent to Albrook Mall. By road, the trip is an all-day affair.
All in a day in Bocas
A day could go like this: Sunbathing with starfish by morning, a zip line tour through the rain forest canopy in the afternoon, a waterfront dinner at sundown followed by drinks and dancing at night. Sneaking in an appointment with a masseur from the UK or a yoga instructor from the US is optional.
Excellent underwater vision around the coral reefs that are protected by the surrounding archipelago make Bocas a diver’s Mecca. Reefs range from a depth of 10 to 60 feet. Shipwrecks and other attractions round out the experience.
Dolphins and birds
Local boat operators are experts at taking tourists to see the dolphins jump in Almirante Bay. For birdwatchers, there is an entire island, fittingly named Bird Island, a wildlife reserve and bird sanctuary.
The “capital” of the islands is bustling little Bocas Town, with restaurants, cafés and bars galore as well as a dance hall where locals and tourists dance the night away together.
Chef Mike’s Sunday English breakfast
Chef Mike Thomson of The Lemon Grass alongside his most popular Sunday brunch item, the Full English Breakfast.
Zoveida blends up fresh tropical juices at Lemon Grass... her secret ingredient: red grapes.
Chef Mike Thomson of The Lemon Grass Restaurant and Bar on Main Street, Bocas del Toro makes his menu up as he goes along. “You never know what’s going to be available out here,” says English-born Thomson, who goes to the markets each day before constructing the menu for his second-floor eatery overlooking the turquoise sea.
Sundays are a tradition at Lemon Grass for the also ever-changing brunch menu. One of the favorites that he tries to have available on the short menu is the Full English Breakfast ($10.00). Eggs, bacon, sausage, grilled toms (a half tomato with Parmesan atop), fried bread, beans and toast. It tastes like home, say British travelers, only with better weather. The Crab Cake add an option shouldn’t be passed up.
You could call 757-9630 to make reservations, but they might think you’d just gotten off the boat. In laid-back Bocas, going with the easy-paced flow is half the enjoyment!