The decision to come to Panama City may have been motivated by business, but now that you’re there, you can start to settle in and think about getting to know the country. This latin playground (“Miami, but with more English”), with its glittering modern skyline nestled up against the cobbled stones and historic buildings of a colonial port, is an incredible destination in itself, but if you’re ready to get out of the urban jungle and experience the lush tropical mountains and valleys beyond, Panama City is the the perfect gateway city too. Here are our top picks for short trips that will give you a taste of the country.

Escape the heat: Perfect if you’re sharing the driving, around 6 hours from the city you’ll come to Boquete, a dream destination for lovers of outdoor adventure. You could spend four or five days here, filling your time with hikes, whitewater rafting, horseback riding, and coffee plantation tours. The picturesque town is nestled in a green mountain valley, with a beautiful river running through it. Well-known for its cool, fresh climate and unspoiled natural environment, it’s the perfect refuge from the skyscrapers of Panama City.

A Weekend of adventure: If it’s unspoiled crystal blue ocean and white sands you’re after, then do everything you can to get yourself out to the San Blas islands, or “Guna Yala” in the native language. You’ll need to drive about two and a half hours over the mountains to the Atlantic coast of Panama, where a Guna boatman will ferry you out to the archipelago – over 365 islands, most uninhabited, perfect for snorkeling, eating lobster caught by the locals, and lying lazily under palm trees.

Border-hop: Bored of the beach? Take a trip over the border (an 8-hour drive) to the picturesque village of Puerto Viejo de Talamanca on Costa Rica’s Caribbean Coast. You can stay in town and have a bite to eat, before exploring La Isla botanical gardens, taking a boat to the island of Manzanilla, and doing some hiking and monkey-spotting at the Gandoca – Manzanillo National Wildlife Refuge. At night, you’ll hear steamy calypso and reggae music flowing from bars, so be prepared to drink and dance all night.

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