I booked my trip to Panama through Expedia and I found the most affordable package with Copa Airlines. Copa Airlines is a Panamanian airline, the process from web check-in, choosing my seats, and skipping long lines was seamless. I was extremely impressed! I was also very surprised that I didn’t panic like I normally do during take-off and landing (yes, I fear flying, especially on long flights). The flight was smooth and I felt very comfortable and safe (major key, safety is a plus)! I landed at Tocumen International Airport and was truly astounded by how advanced the airport was. Our package also included our stay in Sortis Hotel & Casino in Panama City. Check out my review here! The total package for 6 days started at $890, not including taxes & fees.
I normally book package deals for short trips, especially when I travel in groups. Recently I learned Expedia has a rewards program and members can earn up to 2 points per dollar on flights, hotels, activities and vacation packages. I have already booked a few trips with Expedia and learned I had roughly $90 in points sitting on the backend of the site, via their points system I was able to book our transfer from the airport and hotel at no additional cost! As we drove to our hotel we were very astonished by the cities architecture and buildings, all of that was great, but what we were most excited about was starting our trip and experiencing some of the REAL Panama!
San Blas Islands
San Blas is known to have more than 300 islands and caves and approximately 50 islands are inhabited. The residents of the islands are the Kuna People. Kuna’s are self-governed and this aspect allows you to notably see the different cultures and structures between the Panamanian government and the indigenous people. In Panama, it is important to bring your passport everywhere which I will discuss more in a later post, however, Kuna’s are very territorial and crossing to different parts of the Island can be difficult unless booked through their own self-governed routes which includes taxes. Regardless of that, I admired the scenic beaches, soft sand, and local food. Our visit included food at Iguana Island and a natural pool stop.
Located in Panama and Colombia the Emberá’s, also known in historical literature as the Chocó or Katío Indians are an indigenous people of Panama and Colombia. We took roughly two hours to reach the Emberá Dura village. One hour by land, and another by canoe (boat). The experience was one I will never forget. I learned about what the Emberá men and women do for a living and in their community, the importance of La Botanica (natural health remedies for illness and death), ate, and shared dances with their community. When I learned more about their botanical and natural health remedies I couldn’t stop thinking about how natural health remedies for many illnesses are so embedded in the Latinx and Afro Latin culture. Till this day my mother can name mostly all the natural leaves and its remedies which comes from the history of our ancestors, santeria, and the famous medicine man in many of our communities who was known to be the traditional healer in a community of indigenous people.
It is important to know that science at times does not have all the answer. Our ancestors knew that.
We also hiked until reaching an unmanned waterfall. I decided to take a hike in Panama because I never did it before and wanted to test my strength and endurance. I also read Panama has one of the most biodiverse national parks with a wide array of animals so I decided to get out of my comfort zone and get down and dirty! While I was concerned about my safety this was one of the biggest hikes of my life, I made sure to be organized and brought all the necessary items needed which gave me a lot of security.
You can do it!
Casco Viejo, San Felipe
On our last full day, we decided to explore the town of Casco Viejo. Casco Viejo, San Felipe is considered the old city. Colonizers settled in Casco Viejo in the 1600s and later it was destroyed by pirates. For many years Casco Viejo was known to be a community for the people of Panama and businesses were owned by locals who lived in the community. Now the city is known to be a tourist location full of rooftop bars viewing Panama city, and restaurants, while its ruins are the main attraction. Many Panamanians who lived in Casco Viejo were displaced by the gentrification of Casco Viejo.
You will never be disappointed in starting your adventure in Panama.