When reading travel literature about Panama you will often come across a the slightly ambiguous term “the interior”. The interior of course simple refers to the interior of Panama, the countryside, consisting of the provinces of Veraguas, Los Santos, Herrera, and Cocle.
These regions are often skipped over by visitors who head straight to Bocas or Boquete, however, when you miss the interior you’re missing the heart of Panama. The interior holds the key to much of the history and culture of Panama and is the location of some amazing yearly festivals not to mention the infamous Carnaval celebrations. To see if there are any events during your time in Panama go here.
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What to See:
Now because we’re talking about various provinces you can pick and choose how to arrange your trip; were to go and what to skip. However these are a few of the sites that should be part of your itinerary listed by town.
Santa Catalina, Veraguas region. 5 hours from the city Home of the National Park Coiba great for diving and snorkeling . Santa Catalina offers great surfing, hotel and hostels at affordable prices. You can go straight from the city to Santiago /Sona and then on to Santa Catalina
Penonome (El Cope)
Omar Torrijos National Park
Iglesia de Santo Domingo de Guzmán
Museo de Arte Religioso Colonial
Sarigua National Park
Casa Mueso Manuel F Zarate (994-5644) – polleras, mascaras
Iglesia de Santa Librada
Refugio de Vida Silvestre Cenegon de Mangle (Cenegon de Mangle Wildlife Refuge)
Museo de la Nacionalidad
Sitio Arqueológico Cerro Juan Diaz (cementerios precolombianos)
Isla Las Cañas
As of now the only way to arrive to these provinces is by land. Previously last year Aeroperlas Airlines was offering weekly flights to Pedasi but has since canceled them until further notice. Truthfully though we highly recommend arriving by land, especially by rental car, it allows a certain freedom during your travels and you can enjoy the changing landscapes as you drive through the country. However you want to permit yourself an itinerary of 8-10 days so you’re not feeling rushed.
You can rent a car at the nearby Albrook Airport. We always recommend booking online ahead of time as to ensure the availability of the car and a better rate. For most places mentioned in this post a standard economy sized car is fine except where mentioned. Make sure that you have a decent map on hand, for the most part you will stay on the Interamerican Highway but you keep in mind that road signs are not common in Panama. The drive is about 3-4 hours.
For those who prefer not to drive you can take public transport, there are direct buses to Chitre, Los Santos, and Las Tablas. To get to Pedasi you can take a minibus for $2 or a taxi for $25-$30. The buses that go to the interior have comfortable seating. However we always stress bringing a jacket with you inside the bus and perhaps some headphones because most likely the driver will be playing music at slightly deafening volumes. The bus drive to this region is about 4-5 hours.
Where to Stay
This list comes from our personal experiences and those of our guests. Also if you’re planning this trip be sure to check in with the various hotels about your itinerary since they can give you the most current information on local events and sights.
Posada Cerro La Vieja (Chiguri Arriba-Penonome) – A beautiful eco-resort in the mountains with accessible rates.
Hostal La Qhia (Santa Fe)- A charming guest house with private rooms.
Posada del Mar (Las Tablas) – A small B&B on the beach run by a Canadian/Panamanian couple.
Casita Margarita (Pedasi)- #1 B&B in the area with a very helpful staff.