Panamainfo’s Blog



When if comes to a unique and beautiful gift that showcase’s Panama’s culture, history and natural beauty- most everyone goes to the REPROSA’s stores- the  one in downtown Panama City and one in Casco Viejo. In addition to their unique jewelry, REPROSA  is the place to find the finest tagua, carabola carvings and Embera baskets .

Now you can enjoy REPROSA another way.  Treasures of Panama Tour at the REPROSA award-winning factory, just minutes away from the ruins of Panama Viejo.  We just took this tour and loved it. 

An informed guide will demonstrate how the fabulous gold artifacts of Panama’s Museum of Anthropology are reproduced, using virtually the same method as the ancient goldsmiths.

(You can even try your hands at the process!)

 Their showroom also includes some of the best examples of local handicrafts and their reasonably priced jewelry is highly recommended as the “perfect gift” by major guidebooks.

$10 admission includes refreshments and “goodie bag”.

 Tours are daily Monday thru’ Friday at 9.30a.m. and at 2.00p.m.

For bookings, call 271-0033.

Los Angeles Times Article about Panama Tourism

Title: In Panama, a taste of the tropics and a new state of mind

Finally! Panama has not had an tourism article in a major US publication  for over two years.

A delightful Los Angeles Times article with a focus on Boquete and Boca Chica.

Check it out here:,0,5687559.story?page=1

Note that a highlight of the authors trip was a rafting trip on the Chiriqui Viejo which may soon not be possible if the hydroelectric companies cannot be convinced to practice water release as is commonly done in other countries.



Why I Love Scotia Bank for Foreign Residents

Dealing in banks in Panama is not a favorite activity for foreign residents.  But good news: there is one bank that excels at serving the foreign resident community. Many years ago a board member at the American Chamber of Commerce recommended Scotia Bank to us.  Shortly thereafter we opened a savings account and  got a home mortgage from Scotia.   I did not consider putting my bank accounts because their one Panama City  branch was far from where we lived.  But Scotia recently opened a branch near where we live. I am now switching 3 of our checking accounts  to Scotia. I made this decision after having one too many problems with my current bank and not wanting to stand in long lines anymore.

It has been a pleasure to open up these accounts at Scotia. They were geniunely happy to have my business, the personnel was competent and helpful. I speak Spanish but they were ready and willing to speak to me in English if necessary. I was able to set up my new bank account in less than a week with no hassles whatsoever.

Scotia was recently named “One of the top 10 most stable banks in the world” according to the Toronto Financial Post. It’ growing by leaps and bounds in a number of Latin American countries like Mexico. In Panama, Scotia has several branches in Panama City and also one in Boquete.

Scotia accounts can of course be seen online but it will be another year before you can make utility and other payments from your Scotia Bank online account, so I am keeping one account in my old bank until this service is offered. I am told that Scotia will offer credit cards in a year as well.

Cielo Paraiso Resort and Golf Community-Boquete-A Dream Coming True in a Spectacular Setting

Last weekend I had the opportunity to visit the Cielo Paraiso Residential and Golf community just outside the town of Boquete to see the progress they have made. I was quite impressed. Cielo Paraiso is set on  300 hectares of beautiful natural settings of soft rolling hills with majestic mountain surroundings. A number of handsome homes are already  now buil. Tthe owners, Canadians Radeep and Colleen Lal tell me 60% of the first phase is sole.  I toured  several homes and met the happy residents.  The homes are beautifully crafted with all the latest things including one home what had a pizza oven in its chimney. Each luxury home has a large terrace with vast mountain views -you can even see the Pacific Ocean. The temperature is so perfect that no one needs air conditioning.   Homesites are large for maximum  privacy, serenity, and comfort.

The day I visited  they were celebrating the soft opening of the first 9 holes of their golf course and the club house.  The golf course has a rolling course with ponds, and amazing 365 degree views of mountains and even the Pacific Ocean.   The next 9 holes will open in the next 6 months- this championship course  is designed by J. Michael Poellot. Cielo Paraiso owners envisioned a  Paradise where residents could feel surrounded by and  close to nature and  enjoy a luxury home and total safety. Congrats to Cielo Paraiso  because this is what they have already accomplished.

Rancho de Caldera: Fabulous New Luxury Eco-Retreat in Boquete

Just spent the weekend in an important new eco-destination for Panama- Rancho de Caldera Eco-Retreat in Boquete.  A friend had told me it was “fabulous” and she was right. Where to start? Created by American couple Gina and Chris McCall , the setting is idealic with sweeping mountain panoramic views.  The architecture is a delight in a warm, modern style taking advantage of the  the great vistas at every point with dining terrace, conference room and the cabins with all with panoramic mountain views. All the cabins have a 20 foot wall of glass facing the  mountains to the east, allowing for some spectacular sunrise views from the comfort of bed.  Add to that luxury finishings, a spacious balcony and more amenities that I have seen anywhere in Panama including free wireless internet, an  electric massage chair in each cabin, ipod docking stations, comfy furniture, a complete kitchen, lots of  deck furniture  and of course flat screen TVs with Direct TV.

Another big attraction of Rancho de Caldera is the chef- a delightful Frenchman named Claude who fusses over you and makes the most mouthwatering meals.  Claude has 30 years of experience as a chef for cruiselines and top hotels and it shows.  All our meals were memorable.

Rancho de Calderas will soon be open for lunch so if you want to check it out and  have a great lunch with views and pristine nature, go for a lunch.

And this is also a real eco-lodge- Power is provided with a combination of solar panels, hydro-electric generators and wind power. There is a small organic garden and will soon be  an eco-greenhouse with locally grown bamboo to provide vegetables and herbs for the restaurant.

This is the ideal place for a romantic getaway close to nature but with all the comforts you could want and also a great place for a small business meeting or a personal retreat. The resort is about 20 minutes on the Caldera turnoff before you arrive at the town of  Boquete.

Call them at  (507) 772-8040. (507) 6612-2147. (507) 6612-8716.

Our Rafting Trip with John Miller’s Boquete Outdoor Adventures: 80 Rapids in 4 Hours

My family from California recently visited from California and one of the places I took them was of course Boquete. We decided to go river rafting with the John Miller’s Boquete Outdoor Adventures, an outdoor adventure tour operator specializing in custom adventure travel vacations including river and ocean kayaking and rafting. John is a well known American river runner, who fell in love with Panama when he started running river trips in Boquete for 10 years. The 8 of usage 10 to 59, rafted the Gariche River where in 4 hours we went through an incredible 80 rapids. It was non- stop fun. The rapids were just big enough to thrill but not scare. At several points our rafts we got stuck on rocks and the highly skilled team had to get out of their kayaks and manually unstick us. John runs a world class operation- his crew are attentive and well trained, his rafting equipment first rate. We felt relaxed and happy in their in expert hands.The river scenery was beautiful with lush vegetation all around this being Panama’s green season. We all agreed this was one of the best afternoons our life and we are a well traveled family So I ask you- for family fun what does Disney World have on rafting in Chiriqui?

MyTrip to Cocle: Cerro La Vieja Hotel & Private Reserve and founder Alfonso Jaen, Ecotourism Pioneer

I just spent a weekend visiting Cerro La Vieja Hotel (CLV) in a private nature reserve in the mountains of Cocle province hosted by owner Alfonso Jaen and his fine family. Alfonso Jaen along with Carlos Alfaro of Los Quetzales in Chiriqui and Raul Arias de Para of Canopy Tower and Canopy Lodge is a ecotourism pioneer.

From Panama City it took me just 2.5 hours by car to get there and the roads were good (Unlike 5 years ago when I first visited.). CLV is half an hour from the city of Penonome on the Panamerican highway.

For me the ideal “relaxation vacation” is somewhere where I can be completely surrounded by nature and totally “away from it all”. CLV fits the bill perfectly. Cerro La Vieja has the most beautiful mountain views in Panama, what Frommers Guide calls “drop-dead views”. These are panoramic mountain views of strangely shaped mountains that make for a kind of enchanted scene. I enjoyed these views from the hammock on the private terrace of my cabin and also from the common dining room. What could be better at meal time 3 times a day than to enjoy up close views a spectacular mountain right close.

The hotel grounds and the whole reserve are covered by beautiful flowers and trees- Alfonso has been reforesting for many years and it shows- the birds are back big time.

In addition to these mountain views, the reserve also has one of Panama’s most beautiful and accessible waterfalls. Alfonso is finishing up a new more upscale cabin overlooking the fall and planning several more. On our first trip our family enjoyed swimming in the pool at the base of the fall.

Another attraction of CLV is the local campesino population. Alfonso has a close relationship with the local campesinos and the mutual respect and affection is obvious. As we drove around in his large SUV truck he picked up and dropped off people who needed ride along the way and chatted with the various workers employed at the hotel and his organic farm. Alfonso is also a pioneer in organic farming in Panama.

One activity of the new America tour group staying at CLV is that they will visit the home of a typical campesino family and share a typical meal prepared by the family. This is what is called now “authentic’ tourism and it is increasingly popular. Panama could excel in authentic tourism. These Americans see another way of life and get an appreciation for the campesinos life and first hand education about disparities between the US and campesino life in the developing world.

Many talk about sustainable eco and ethnotourism which means preserving both nature and authentic local culture. Alfonso Jaen embodies it. He loves and preserves both nature and the local people and their culture. Because of this and many years of patient work, his efforts to create sustainable ecotourism are now taking off and rightly so.

Panama’s Top Beach Romantic Getaways

Panama’s Top Places for a Beach Romantic Getaway

Note: Our idea of a Romantic Getaway: Romance for us is to get totally away from it all   surrounded by pristine , beautiful nature, yet to have good food and attentive service for all our needs. If the same appeals to you, then read on.

 In no special order:

Coral Lodge: Coral Lodge on the Atlantic coast near the San Blas Islands-  in the middle of nowhere, yet the facilities are fine and  well appointed. We love the “water villas”- over- the-water villas- each with  a Jacuzzi in the bedroom and a private deck with a chaise lounge and chairs. You hear the waves lapping all day and you can jump in the ocean from the deck of your villa for a swim or just stay there all day feeling close to and embraced by nature. You don’t have to leave your villa and  be very happy. The dining room is beautifully done and  you can breakfast on an outside terrace with 365 ocean views. The food is another attraction-mostly famous Peruvian cuisine and excellent.

Start out with a picnic on an island to yourselves: We highly recommend you choose their “San Blas Island  picnic arrival”- after flying in to San Blas , you are taken by  boat to a beautiful tropical island you have to yourselves for a gourmet picnic lunch for two and snorkeling gear to explore. What a way to begin your vacation- It doesn’t get better than this!


Hacienda del Mar- The Pearl Islands

Many regard the Pearl Islands as the most beautiful islands in Panama and Hacienda Del Mar is a private island resort perched on a bluff on one of these spectacular islands. The sands are white, the sea is a deep indescribable blue and area home to world class fishing and some great diving destinations.

We love their Club House on the bluff with its large common areas including the dining terrace with wide open ocean and jungle views. Each meal a tucan comes down from a tree and perches nearby or even jump on our table for some crumbs- to see and experience these gorgeous exotic birds close up is priceless. The pool below is picture perfect. The cabins are tastefully appointed, each with its own view deck  and made of bamboo so you feel comfortable yet close to nature

Calamia Boutique Hotel- Boca Chica, Chiriqui

Conveniently located in Chiriqui province, Calamia is a great beach escape for those who are also exploring the Chiriqui Highlands. In Boca Chica on the Chiriqui coast, 40 minutes from the airport and another 20 minutesby water taxi,  Calamia is a pristine paradise island with privatetwo beaches and nature all around. We loved the large bungalows – all of them have ocean views  and a good size  private terrace for private relaxing.  You can hear the ocean and also from time to time howler monkeys in the jungle nearby. The décor is rustic chique. The dining pavillion has almost 365 views and the food is good with fresh and natural ingredients. The owners live nearby on the island- some greens come from their organic garden. Spa and massage services are also part of the Calamia experience.


Punta Caracol- Bocas del Toro

Punta Caracol is on Boca’s main island situated in a place where you see no other sign of man. The view of their over-the-water cabins  set in the sea are so beautiful they were featured on the cover of  Travel and Leisure. The cabins look simple on the outside, but inside they are as luxurious as an eco-friendly lodging can be, with delightful design details and two stories.  From the deck, all you can see is ocean, mangroves and  mountains in the far distance. The snorkeling is good right from the cabins. The food is good and the dining is also in a outside terrace over the sea with 100% natural views.

Being in Bocas, you there are plenty of activities- you can boat over to take various excursions like diving and dolphin watching or for some  night life  and shopping in the fun, laid back  town of Bocas.

 What are your favorites?



My Diving Trip to Pedasi: Amazing Abundance and Variety of Fish

jennifer diving

Two weeks ago I took a diving trip to Pedasi. It was my first time diving in Pedasi and I had heard that diving in the Pacific was different from the Atlantic in that there are a lot more fish, but nothing could have prepared me for the variety or abundance of fish that I saw underneath the water.

We only went down to about 40 feet and there were so many different kinds of fish that I quickly lost count. There were giant silver mackerels and some in our group saw monster groupers up to three feet long! One person even spotted a mantaray. At one point during our second dive of the day I suddenly found myself surrounded in a circling school of hundreds of silver fish. I was so swept away that I almost lost my diving buddy, until I looked up and saw them trying to sneak into my spot without scaring the circling fish away. We spotted dozens of rock fish hiding in the corals and in the sand. There were little patches of coral with their own little micro-garden with unique small orange and pink fish, dozens of giant parrot fish and even the occasional blowfish putting along. It is said that Panama means “abundance of fish.” We dove around the area of Isla Iguana, and rested on the gorgeous island’s beach between dives.

I highly recommend this trip to diving enthusiasts. You can drive to Pedasi, just make sure you have good directions as it is easy to get lost in the towns in between, such as Chitre, where the roads can be a little bit confusing. The people there are very helpful though and will help you find the main road. Once you get to Pedasi, there are several small hotels and restaurants to eat at- the pizza at Tiestos is pretty good, get the medium instead of the large which is a little doughy, unless you like that. You can rent equipment from Pedasi Diving and Fishing and they will take care of everything from the transportation to the beach, to the boat to Isla Iguana, and even provide lunch, all for a package deal of under $90, which includes two tanks.


Happy Diving!

See if you can spot the Rockfish.

El Valle de Anton: My Favorite Nearby Retreat and A Special Kind of Heaven

In April I did a “personal planning retreat” and then a meeting of the Board of the American Chamber of Commerce in the beautiful mountain valley town of El Valle, two hours from Panama City. El Valle is my favorite place to retreat from the maddening crowd of the city. For starters, I can truly get away from it all in a place of great beauty and tranqulity, without taking a plane or a long road trip.

In recent years El Valle has developed a hotel and services infrastructure to satisfy the discriminating. But let’s start with the magic of the place itself- what unusual, gorgeous mountain views, the friendly peaceful folk, the both quaint and palatial lovely homes and gardens and the fun handicrafts market. One of the best places to enjoy a world-class view is from a table on the terrace of the upscale restaurant Casa de Lourdes looking right up at The Gaital- world-class is the only way to describe that view. The adjacent Los Mandarinos Hotel, now in the capable management hands of Ann from France, has the right accommodations for some real R & R including a Spa and outdoor jacuzzi with those same mountain views.

For birders and nature lovers, Canopy Lodge is the place. You don’t have to take a long walk to see birds – you will see many on the grounds of the Lodge and the decor, setting and dining are a delight. Mandarinos and Canopy Lodge just got chosen by Fodors as top El Valle hotels.

For dining we also also recommend Pinochio’s Pizza- their “4 cheese pizza” is a family favorite.