April 28, 2020
Official Name: The Republic of Panama
Official Language: Spanish
Location: Central America
Capital City: Panama City
Population: 4 million
Interestingly, the first 80 years after gaining independence from Spain, Panama was actually a part of Colombia. That changed in 1903 when U.S. involvement led to the separation of Panama from Colombia. At that time, the Hay–Bunau-Varilla Treaty between Panama and the United States granted rights to the United States “as if it were sovereign” in a zone roughly that was roughly 10 miles wide and 50 miles long in which they would begin building a canal in 1907. This is what gave the U.S. the right to build, administer, fortify, and defend the Panama Canal “in perpetuity” (having no fixed end date). The U.S. finished that 52 mile project in 1914.
From 1903 to 1968, Panama was a constitutional democracy dominated by a commercially oriented oligarchy which the Panamanian military began to challenge in the 1950’s. Panama is now a Democratic Republic.
Where is Panama?
If a traveler was in Panama, they would find themselves in a Central American country surrounded by water on two sides and two other countries on the other two. Heading west from Panama would place a traveler at the Costa Rican border. By heading southeast, they would reach columbia. The Caribbean Sea is to the north while the Pacific Ocean lies to the south.
Places to Visit in Panama
Panama City is the capital and largest city of Panama. It has a population of over 1.5 million in its metropolitan area. Located at the Pacific entrance of the Panama Canal, it is the political and administrative center of the country. It is also a center for banking and commerce. It was founded on August 15, 1519, by Spanish conquistador Pedro Arias Dávila. Most of the gold and silver that Spain took from the Americas passed through this area. Travelers would never get a full feel for the country without investing some time in this major city.
The town of Pedasí is a fishing village positioned on the south-eastern tip of the Azuero Peninsula on Pacific coast of Panama. As of 2010, it had a population of 2,410 as of 2010.
In Pedasí, travelers will find a public health clinic, two banks, a library, and a handful of restaurants. There are also mini-supermarkets and some small shops. Visitors will enjoy the annual carnivals, beautiful beaches, and being near several of the country’s national parks and reserves. The adventurous types will enjoy things like sport fishing, diving and surfing. The more sedentary types will find plenty to do on the main road called Avenida Central.
The proper name of El Tornillo is the F&F Tower. El Tornillo translates to “The Screw” in english. It is a tall screw shaped building reaching 776 feet in height. It was originally known as Revolution Tower. It has a concrete structure which allows each floor to rotate nine degrees from the floor below it. This design serves to create four small balconies for each office floor.
Also known as “Island of Flowers”, Taboga Island is a volcanic island in the Gulf of Panama. Travelers will find this destination a little over 12 miles from Panama City. The name has its origins in the word “aboga” (many fish). Isla Taboga’s first known settlers were Indian slaves from Venezuela and Nicaragua. An enjoying time can be had while visiting the small town of San Pedro while on the island.
The Coastal Beltway or “Cinta Costera” is a 64-acre land reclamation project in Panama City. Extending from Paitilla to El Chorrillo, the project was completed in 2009 at a cost of $189 million. Travelers will be impressed by the surrounding roadway bridge and pedestrian bridge along with the 1 1/2 mile-long marine viaduct encircling Panama City’s historic and governmental districts.
Isla San Jose
The second largest island of the Pearl Islands is called Isla San José. The privately owned island has an area of 17 square miles. The total island population of the island was 10 during the 2000 census. On the other hand, there are thousands of wild pigs and deer running about. With it’s rugged, rocky shoreline and over 50 beaches, Isla San Jose is surely a sight to see. ONe thing you should note though, there are tales of unexploded military ordnance strewn about. If you do decide to go, Isla San Jose is served by the San Jose Airport.
Puenta de las Americas
The Bridge of the Americas is what Puente de las Américas translates to in english. It was originally known as the Thatcher Ferry Bridge. It is a road bridge that spans the Pacific entrance to the Panama Canal. In essence, it connects the north and south American land masses! There are, however, two other bridges that cross the canal; the Atlantic Bridge and the Centennial Bridge. Travelers will find this bridge at Balboa, which is near Panama City. Architecturally keen visitors will note that the bridge is a cantilever design where the suspended span is a tied arch with wide access ramps at each end, and pedestrian walkways on each side.
The Volcán Barú also known as Volcán de Chiriquí is an active stratovolcano and the tallest mountain in Panama. It is a prominent site on the skyline reaching over 11,000 feet in height. Lying a little over 20 miles from the border of with Costa Rica, it is also the 12th highest peak in Central America. A traveler would be able to see both the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea from its peak on a clear day. The small town of Volcán sits at the base. Visitors can enjoy the atmosphere of the town when visiting the Volcano.
The aforementioned Isla San Jose is part of this group of islands. Isla del Rey is the largest and only island larger than Isla San Jose. More specifically, the Pearl Islands are group of 200 or more islands and islets (many tiny and uninhabited) lying about 30 miles off the Pacific coast of Panama in the Gulf of Panama. The most known island among the group is Contadora Island which is famous for its resorts and large homes. Fun Fact: Politically aware travelers might find it interesting that, in 1979, the Shah of Iran briefly took exile on Isla Contadora.
Gulf of Chiriquí
The Gulf of Chiriquí is famous among travelers and naturalists alike due to the fact that whales can be seen there throughout the year. From May to November, there is a migration of humpback whales from the icy waters of the arctic to the warm waters of the Gulf of Chiriquí. The gulf encompasses Coiba National Park and Golfo de Chiriquí National Park. There are dozens of islands within the Gulf of Chiriquí. The farthest one from mainland Panama is Montuosa. Visitors who enjoy fishing will be delighted by the fact that the gulf includes one of the most famous big game fishing areas, Hannibal Bank, which can be found just 13 miles east of Isla Montuosa.