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Although it isn't treated with the same reverence as neighbouring Costa Rica, Panama has many similar natural attributes with the added advantage of fewer tourists. The country has numerous national parks, including the Parque Internacional La Amistad which it shares with Costa Rica and the Parque Nacional Coiba which is a haven for those wanting to observe the region's marine life. In the Archipiélago de las Perlas, it is entirely possible to find your own private beach for an afternoon or two but unfortunately, word got out about the archipelago of Bocas Del Toro and the usual throng of luxury resort developments has followed. Still, there are plenty of areas on the islands that retain their natural beauty and charm, so visit now, before they are entirely overrun.
On the mainland, stop by Boquete for a coffee boost before continuing on to an afternoon of hiking or soaking in the hot springs leading up to Volcán Barú. Alternatively, you could drive toward Almirante to catch some breathtaking views of cloud-covered hilltops and green valleys. To get a glimpse of Panama's indigenous tribes head to the Comarca de Kuna Yala on the Caribbean coast, or stay closer to Panama City where you can see one of the world's most important trade routes at the Panama Canal, and stroll through the plazas at Casco Viejo, a walled colonial city built in the 1600s.
Try a sancocho (stew) or carimanola (fried yucca with meat and eggs) to get a sense of the Panamanian culinary flavours while you sip a seco, rum, or local beer.
Panama's international airports are at Panama City (PTY), Bocas del Toro (BOC), Changuinola (CHX), David (DAV), Colon (ONX), Jaque (JQE), and Chitre (CTD.) Copa Air offers direct flights from Canada to Panama City, while most other airlines such as Continental, American, Delta, United, and Air Canada fly via a US city. Direct flights may be cheap if you book well in advance, but for a last-minute trip, a one-stop flight is a cheaper alternative.
Panama remains dry from December to May on the Pacific coast, which is also its peak tourist season. The Caribbean coast has some amount of rain throughout the year — short bursts that are interspersed by hot, humid weather. October and November are the wettest months of the rainy season which lasts from June until December.
The mountain areas get very cold during the night, so even in the summertime, warm clothing is a must. The range of activities to be pursued in Panama means that the best time to visit really depends on what you want to do, but to avoid paying peak-time fares, book your trip for the period between May and September and make sure you carry an umbrella.