Only in Panama is it possible to visit the Pacific Coast and the Atlantic coast in such a short time. Just 40 minutes away from Panama City is the extraordinary province of Colón. Located on the coastline of turquoise waters of the Caribbean coast, Colon has a wide variety of attractions — beaches and beautiful islands, fascinating historic sites, the largest free zone after Hong Kong, a modern cruise port, world-class birdwatching, scuba diving and snorkeling, and a spectacular 5-star hotel and convention Center on the Panama Canal.
How to get there
Colón is only 40 minutes by highway from Panama City. There are many agencies that offers transportation from Panama City.
Restaurants near me
The best place to eat is La Torre, on the highway towards Portobelo, 1-2 kilometers before the town and just 1 kilometer after Scuba Panama. It is not very luxurious but has the best food in the area — typical Panamanian seafood — sea bass, ceviche, prawns, and octopus. They also have Patacones, empanadas, seafood soup and raspberry lemonade. As many restaurants in this area are open for breakfast but closes at 7 pm.
In downtown Colon, there are many cheap places to try Panamanian food like Andro´s Café, Nikos, and many others kiosk. You can survive a day spending less than $10 dollars for 3 meals.
What to do
Portobelo: A picturesque village in the bay with ruins of 5 Spanish forts and a Spanish colonial treasure house. In the colonial times of Spain, the house was the center of transport of all the gold and Peruvian treasure taken by Spain from Latin America. Spanish galleons went in and out constantly and held many fairs. Those easy days ended with the arrival of English pirates like Francis Drake who repeatedly looted the treasures of Portobelo and was the cause of their destruction. The ruins of Portobelo are from the colonial times of Spain, and a UNESCO World Heritage site.
Fort of San Lorenzo: a fort well preserved at the top of a promontory where the Chagres River joins the sea. The Pirate Henry Morgan attacked the fort and stole his treasure in 1666. It is essential to go with a tour operator because the fort has no sign or signs to explain its history.
The Customs building: also located in the town of Portobelo, this colonial building is the old headquarters of the Customs offices of Spain when they were importing African slaves to the new world. It has now become a museum — a dedication to the thousands of African immigrants who are an integral part of Panamanian culture and whose descendants constitute most of the population of Portobelo and Colón.
The Church of the Black Christ: formerly known as the Catholic Church of St. John of God. This museum is now dedicated to the patron saint of Portobelo. They teach in their exhibition a variety of ceremonial dresses and religious articles that belong to the statue of the Black Christ, whose figure is surrounded by many legends. It is in the church of San Felipe and is honored with a great festival every October 21.
Birdwatching and nature
Achiote Road (the achiote route): One of the best spots in the world for birdwatching and so easy to get to! An hour and a half from the city of Panama, is a place to visit with a guide on birdwatching, or a naturalist. This was what a recent article in the New York Times said about Achiote Road (the achiote route).
Canoeing in Kayak and rafting
The area is the perfect place to practice canoeing by sea kayaking. Aventura’s Panama offers this outdoor adventure, with a kayaking trip from the gates of Gatun in the Panama Canal, to the lower part of the river, to the historic fort of San Lorenzo.
Panama Adventures also offers a day trip and raft ride from Panama City. Explore the rich flora and fauna of the National Park of Chagres and rivers of class II and class III.
The whole area of the coast has a thick jungle. By driving towards the fort of San Lorenzo, you will be able to appreciate many tropical animals, some of them running off to stay out of the way of your car. A tour guide can give you details about the areas of flora and fauna. Many scientific institutions, such as the Smithsonian Institute for Tropical Research and the University of Florida have settlements in the area.
The Portobelo area offers several good diving spots within which you can include, places where boats have sunk, as well as reefs. Coral reefs near the Isla Grande Hotel are a good place to start. Scuba Panama just outside Portobelo offers complete diving tours services.
Cruise Port: Colón 2000 is a modern cruise port with a customs-free mall. Finished only 5 years ago, it is becoming one of the most popular destinations for cruises in the Caribbean, receiving more than 70 cruises per year. In addition to this, many yachts that come internationally to visit or live are also visited.