Monday, January 21, 2013

Warm up in Panama, perfect for teens

Let's face it.  By January, those of us living in the Northern parts of the planet are getting pretty tired of the dark and the cold.  A winter getaway boosts our Vitamin D levels to help us beat those winter blues, naturally.

If you are looking for a new destination that is both family friendly and affordable, why not give Panama a try?

We found daily flights routed out of the major airline hub of Houston, TX which connected daily to our home airport.  Though long in travel time, the direct routing and good connections actually reduced our time spent in transit.  We landed in Panama City, but in the next couple of years international flights will become available at the new airport closer to the resorts, now under construction.  A taxi service offers at the airport shuttled us safely across the (very busy) city to the resort area of Decameron.  Resorts by Sheraton, Riu, Hilton and all the majors offer many economical choices, several 5* with inclusive options, depending what your family craves.  Most are located on uncrowded sand beaches where searching for shells is just as enticing as playing in the gentle waves.  There are also privately owned condos and houses available, and grocery shopping is easy.

Rent a car

We had no troubles with driving in Panama.  The highways are mostly new, and though can get crowded with trucks and buses, it is easy to navigate and enjoyable to explore.  Once in Decameron, there are a couple familiar rental agents to choose from, without the stress of driving through the unbelievable traffic of Panama city (we saved that for the experts!)  If you have a smaller group, or prefer to leave the driving to others, the local bus system is every efficient and economical, but a basic knowledge of Spanish would make it easier.

What to do with teens?

Ziplining through the jungle canopy was at the top of our list.  When in Hawaii a couple of years ago, Katie was too young to participate and has never let us forget it.  This time, she sailed above the trees and over the waterfalls with the guidance of our guides.  We drove up to the mountaintop to El Valle de Anton - Cocle province, a beautiful scenic drive in itself.  The tropical rainforest was lush and musical with birdsong. 

If your teens are into extreme sports, then a visit (or even a stay) at Nitro City is a must. We enjoyed our late lunch in the chilled atmosphere of the outdoor patio and watched as a quad towed wake-boarders across the infinity pool. Skateboarding, jet skiing, kitesurfing and a realm of other outdoor adventures are available, and the pool tables and video games entertain on rainy days.  Though we didn't choose to stay long, our teens were happy to have visited even for a short time.

Diving with whale sharks in the right season (November to Feb) and world class surfing (Feb - May) are other options unique to Panama.  A few hours to the village of Santa Catalina.  A day trip to the island of Coiba offered top notch snorkeling with the biggest fish in the sea, followed by a geography lesson at the National Park on Coiba, the island that was once a penal colony and is now one of the best diving locations in the world.  We managed to swim with sea turtles, schools of fish of every size and color, and even spotted a seahorse while floating in the calm, clear waters of the Pacific.

A trip to Panama would not be complete without visiting the Canal.  The Panama Canal museum had an interactive exhibit where visitors can steer their ship through the locks, controlling the throttle and the wheel in an attempt to not smash into the sides and sound the alarms... it was great fun, like a shipping game of Mattel's "Operation."  Next, in Panama Viejo (Old Town), a follow-up visit to the international version of the canal museum explained the construction of the major shipping channel from another perspective.  The contrast allows visitors to see two sides of the same story, a valuable lesson about history in itself. 

With the best of beaches, history, sports activities and cultural exposure, Panama offers families a safe, relaxing winter getaway at affordable prices.  Oh yeah, did I mention beer costs about 70 cents... #goLearn.

1 comment:

  1. Please let me know if you're looking for
    a article writer for your blog. You have some
    really good articles and I believe I would be a good asset. If
    you ever want to take some of the load off, I'd absolutely love to write
    some material for your blog in exchange for a link back to mine.

    Please send me an e-mail if interested. Many thanks!

    My web site: View my web page