Panama's Pacific Coast Beach Guide - Part 1

Published: 24th November 2006
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The history of beach towns along the Pacific Coast in Panama is coupled to the history of the Panama Canal. Most of the population that settled these Pacific beaches came from small villages that now are under the waters of the Panama Canal. They were relocated from their hometowns and settled along the coast so that their villages could be flooded over and turned into the floor of Lake Gatun.

The major problem with the beaches in the area of the canal and just past the canal area is the debris that washes up on the beaches. Part of the debris is from the city itself and another contributing factor are the ships waiting to transit the canal. Recently Panama City began a clean up project for Panama Bay which will include a new water treatment plant and sewage system for the city. Of course, the problem wasn't recreated overnight and it won't be fixed overnight, but at least we begin. This should cut down on some of the debris that washes ashore. However, unless stricter ordinances are put in place and imposed with consistency on the residents and the vessel in the bay the beaches will continue to be trashy.

Panama's FarFan Beach

Across the bridge of the Americas in first position is Panama's Farfan Beach. The roads are a little rough, similar to a forgotten county road in the US, rough road patches and peppered with a some potholes. Even with the road conditions, once you've crossed the bridge it is only a two minute drive to the entrance of Farfan Beach. The first thing you will notice is the barricade that blocks the paved road's approach to the abandoned beach area. The second thing of notice is Panama's Balboa Gun Club positioned directly next to the barricade. The third thing you should notice is the alternate off road paths that have been created to access the beach.

Panama's now forgotten Farfan Beach was once a hot spot as is evidenced by the abandon concrete concession stand that was once complete with toilets facilities. Farfan is a canal beach, from the concession area you can look out to the left and see Panama's Amador Causeway with a clear view of Naos Island and the Smithsonian Institute's Culebra Island. Looking straight ahead you can view large and small vessels anchored just outside the Panama Canal waiting for permission to begin their transit and since the canal is operational twenty four hours day, seven days a week, you are sure to see a vessels at the beginning of its transit.

Since Farfan is no longer managed, tall grass now covers some areas of the once popular beach, from the well worn grooves made by vehicles that drive out to the beach area it is evident that Panama's Farfan Beach still receives it's share of visitors. Even if you choose not to drive off road, it only a short blocks walk past the barricade on the paved road to the beach area.

It's important to note, being a Florida transplant; the beach here is not sandy but mostly volcanic rock. However, it is well worth the time to drive out and see the canal area from this prospective; spend a little time imagining this area in its glory day. I hope there are better days to come for this forgotten recreational area.

Panama's Playa Bonita/Playa Kobbe

Panama's Playa Bonita is also a beach on the canal, it is a little rustic in location. It sits beside the road with just a little pull off spot along an old bridge. The area never had a concession or toilet facilities and the beach area is a steep drop from the road. From under the old bridge a river empties into the canal.

Many of the beach areas in Panama are fed sand and water from Panama's rivers. This is note worthy to swimmers who might encounter the whirlpools they create as the rivers empty their content into the larger body of water.

From Playa Bonita you can see the bridge of the America's and the hill the old Howard Air Force Base is on. The beach was a mix of sand and volcanic rock and was from a Florida transplant perspective, a bit trashy.

A four star resort area has been built on the road to Playa Bonita, InterContinental Playa Bonita Resort & Spa. About ten minutes from the actual area of Majagual, fourty Minutes from Panama City's International Airport Tocumen.

Panama's Playa Veracruz - the local beach

Panama's Play Veracruz is still a busy local beach. There are roughly twelve rancho style concessions along the beach where you can enjoy entire fried sea bass for three to five dollars and beers for sixty cents. Playa Veracruz flows all the way into the beach town of Veracruz.

Veracruz, Panama is located approximately twenty five minutes from Panama City and known for its various fish markets, it is a small fishing village that is made up mostly of lower socioeconomic class level.
Veracruz, once was an attractive area in front of US Howard Airforce base. It's city park once had a concrete concession stand complete with toilets facilities, swimming pools, and sheltered picnic tables. The abandoned structures are still standing in the park area. A small fee was paid to gain entrance to the park. But based upon recent reported incidents by local police Veracruz now rates as a high-crime area.

Veracruz, is nestled between the beautiful Pacific Ocean and the base of lush green mountains. The drive is about thirty minutes to downtown Panama, and only fifteen to twenty minutes to get to Balboa, Panama which has just about everything one could need or want for everyday living.

The former US Howard Airforce Base which is located just in front of the area of Veracruz, and former Rodman Naval Station recently received approved legislation to become a free trade zone for the Pacific making this another area to watch for growth explosion.

Playa Chumical

Veracruz, flows into Veracruz de Chumical. Chumical, has a sand and volcanic rock beach that is cleaner than Veracruz, the homes are larger and better maintained. In this town are fishermen and residents that work in the city. Chumical is the cleanest of the public access beaches since leaving Panama City.

Entrance to the beach can be gained by the various paths the allow access between the houses. There is nothing but open water and islands to be viewed from the coast in Chumical. There are no concessions or commerce on this stretch of beach.

The day I visited I found a delightful sight. Three children playing in a tide pool whiling away the hours in the Panama sun. They stopped long enough to allow me to take their pictures. Their presence definitely added to the beauty of the scenery.

Playita Vacamonte and Vacamonte Port (Vaco Monte)

Playita Vacamonte, Panama sits just outside the official entrance to the Vacamonte Port. It is the smallest of the public access beaches since leaving Panama City. Like Panama's Playa Bonita, this area is a little rustic since it set road side and you have to descend a steep hill to reach the beach area. Parking is minimal but the view is breath taking. The waters here are clean and the Vacamonte Port area is well maintained free from the normal roadside debris.

The Vacamonte Port of Panama is an international port. You will need to show your passport to the guard and enter the area.

Vacamonte Port consists of a few small building and a port of industrial fishing. The port has two wharves and a pier. In the port are all manner of fishing boats whose main commodities are shrimp, shark, tuna, and various local fish. The fish are sold to the general public from 8:00 until 2:00. There's a bank and a restaurant in the port. Shop early if you want small fish for your home, the small fish sell out early.

From Vacamonte International Port seafood is shipped all over the world.

Peurto Caimito

Peurto Caimito, Panama is home to Mariano Rivera, relief pitcher for the New York Yankees. Mariano has a large home just outside of Peurto Camito, and with residents like this it is hard to list Peurto Caimito among the forgotten beaches of Panama, but we can definitely call it off the beaten path. Puerto Caimito is situated at the mouth of the Caimito River, and is a commercial fishing town with a fish meal processing plant and is an old pirate village

Of all the places previously listed Peurto Caimito caught my attention and begged me to stay a while. It's hard to say if it was the signs that hang from the homes along the beach front road that entice you with promises of fresh fish for sale. Or maybe it's the thought of the fishing boat moored behind the house that go out on the rising tide, when the water has sufficiently covered the vast expanse of beach and brings the day's catch to vendors living in the houses. I was also struck by it was the fishermen tending to net repairs and daily maintenance of their outboard fishing boat on the beach. And rusty vessels in the port and as well as the few rusted past use on the far end of town where the road ended at the ship yard. The child in me came out saw I watched a town's child climbing in and out of the rushed out boat hull on the beach. I could have spent the day climbing, exploring, poking, and turning things over.

Peurto Caimito, residents are mostly descendants of the island peoples and a lower socioeconomic class level that live off the sea. They catch sardines or anchovies, they have no refrigeration, so the boats all smell and are sealed with a slime of fish oil.

There is a couple of large ranchitos on the beach with patios facing the beach, music blaring loudly. The beach was easily accessible and was mostly sand. We didn't see anyone swimming or lounging, but was week day and from the positions of the ranchitos I would wager to say to some extent the weekends bring pleasure seekers to the area. The smell of wood cook stoves and signs selling carbon add to experience that was hard to leave behind as my day ended.

If leaving with locals and cheap land with ocean front property appeals to you, it will probably also appeal to you to know that El Chorrera is only fifteen minutes back up the road and has practically everything necessary for living a comfortable life in Puerto Caimita.

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