Fronting two oceans, Panama offers a connoisseurs choice of beaches, both on the mainland and on islands just offshore.
Cross the Canal from Panama City, over the Bridge of the Americas, onto the Pan American Highway and you are beachward bound.
From Punta Chame to Farrallon stretch 40 miles of sun-blessed Pacific beaches for surfing, sunning, swimming snorkelling and senorita-watching. The nearest of them beaches, not senoritas is 50 miles up the Panamerican Highway from Panama City.
From that point on, nothing but beaches. Mostly white sand, some sparkling ebony black, shot with myriad colors in the ebbing waves. Punta Chame, Nueva Gorgona, Playa Coronado, Turiscentro San Carlos,
El Palmar, Rio Mar, Santa Clara, Farallon all have facilities for stopping over.
Several tour agencies run day trips from Panama City to beach resorts. Should you (1) suffer a disinclination towards group tours, or (2) lack your own or a rented car, low-fare buses swarm up the Pan American Highway from the terminal in Albrook. They drop you near the Pacific beach of your choice.
Surfboards get by as carry-on baggage. How much carrying- on can be brought to fruition on a surfboard is a matter that has long bemused this publication in its ceaseless striving for balance.
Close to the capital shimmer the shores of a number of contrasting islands:
CONTADORA - (See Focus on the Pearl Islands) complete with hotels, casino, golf course, tennis courts, convention facilities and an air shuttle from Albrook airport.
SAN JOS�- With its own landing strip is home to the exclusive Hacienda del Mar.
TABOGA - (See Focus on Taboga Island) remains the fragrant Island of Flowers with the pedestrian width streets Pizarro knew. Call: (507) 264-6096 or 261-0350 for launch schedules.
TABORCILLO - A secluded Island resort once owned by John Wayne.
AZUERO - Further afield in Panama are beaches that are shoreside shrines of solitude. The Azuero peninsula from Chitre to Punta Mala and around to Tonosi is girt by long, lovely strands where the horizon and all of time are your private fief.
CHIRIQUI - While Chiriqui is mainly known for its mountainous regions, it also has glorious beaches. Las Lajas, an hour from David to the east on the Panamerican Highway, is popular with Chiricanos.
A few miles to the west of David is La Barqueta Beach, 28 km long. Hotel Las Olas Beach Resort is located here and is a perfect place for exploring and enjoying the beach.
On the island of Boca Brava, 10 minutes by boat ($ 1.00 per person) from the coastal community of Horconcitos, a small cabin resort and restaurant is run by Yadira and Frank Kohler. Day trips encouraged.
ISLA GRANDE - The main beach is on the landward side of the island which lies a few hundred yards offshore. On the other, more secluded side is the elegant Bananas Hotel, ideal for a Caribbean sojourn.
Out on the reefs, good spear-fishing and snorkelling. Plus maybe the odd Piece of Eight.