Panama’s Pacific Side

Isla Contadora, Pedasí, Altos de Campana, Punta Chame, Playa Farallón, the other Playa Blanca, and Buenaventura

Fishing Red Snapper at Isla Contadora

Isla Contadora

Getting There: Take the Sea Las Perlas ferry from Panama City (Flamenco Marina Dock at the end of the Amador) Price: $98 roundtrip for adults, $78 roundtrip for children 5-11
Things to Do: You can do this as a day trip, or stay overnight. I went with my brother-in-law and sister-in-law, and we met some family friends there who hosted us for a night. We spent our days visiting the beaches around the island, and our friends were nice enough to set up a fishing excursion for me! The island isn’t very touristy, and there isn’t a lot to do besides the beaches and local restaurants… but it’s a nice break for a couple of days!

Quincy at Playa del Toro, Pedasi

Located about 5 hours (with minimal traffic) west and south of the city, Pedasí is a fishing village that has attracted several expats and jubilados (retirees). We went a couple of times for a long weekend, as our friends have a casita there that they let us use. We pretty much spent all of our time at Playa del Toro and at Isla Iguana! We did venture into Smiley’s and also into Bohemia for good meals.
Where to stay
I’d recommend Casa Lajagua. I’m biased, but April and Craig (the owners) are friends of our friends, and they’re a very fun and entertaining couple.

Altos de Campana: Sendero la Cruz
This is arguably my favorite hike in Panama! I took all of my friends and family there when they visited- it was about a 45 minute drive from Panama Pacifico (so probably an hour if you’re coming from the city and have to cross the bridge). After you turn off of the highway, it’s about 5km to the park office, where you will pay and sign in. Note: You’ll need to pay in cash, and have either your cedula (for residents) or your passport to sign in. From here, you’ll continue driving on the main road for about 2km, until you see a sign on your right, “Finca No Estoy.” Turn onto this drive and park on the left side. You’ll walk up the road, past the farm gate, and onto the trail on your left. When you reach the table and benches (concrete with orange and red tiles) the trail “Sendero la Cruz” will be on your right. Enjoy the trail! Parts of it are difficult, but it’s worth it- you can see the ocean and Punta Chame from the top/at the cross. Bring lots of water and snacks as it’s very humid in the jungle! There are a couple of forks in the trail, so just always follow the path to the right. One of the forks has a sign (photo below) and at the other fork there is a piece of plastic marking the trail.
More information on the trail here.
Price: Non-residents B/. 5.00, Residents B/. 3.00, cash only
You will need to bring/present your passport at the office.

An especially foggy, eerie morning on the trail

Punta Chame
This is the closest beach west of Panama City that is popular to swim at. It’s an easy drive, and it’s not too Americanized. Be sure to bring everything you need for the day, as there usually aren’t any vendors walking along the beach!

Playa Farallón

Playa Farallón, Pipas, Playa Blanca, and Buenaventura
These are all near each other, and an easy drive from the city. I’d recommend spending a couple of days here (though there isn’t much to do besides be at the beach, unless you’re in Buenaventura and can golf, or go to the zoo). The beaches here are clean, with cabanas for rent and places to get food throughout.

Los Cajones de Chame
We did this as a day trip from the city with some friends- it was about an hour and a half drive, and it was a blast! You can jump from the sides into the river, and there are rocks that are partially submerged that you can lounge on, too. Bring snacks, beverages, etc as there are no facilities here. A 4×4 would be helpful on the last part of the drive, but isn’t absolutely necessary (if you get there and decide it’s too rough, you can definitely hitch a ride with someone there).

Alex jumping into the river!

El Palmar
This is another notable beach for a day trip from the city. It’s easy to get to, with amenities (cabanas, a couple of restaurants, bathrooms). If you had to choose just one of these beaches, this one would be a lower priority- there’s nothing wrong with it, the others are just a bit nicer!

Playa el Palmar

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