With all this on offer, plus better and better facilities and real enthusiasm from Panamanians to show off the very best of their country, Panama is a fabulous choice for adventurous travellers.
Nearly 30% of Panama's land is protected in national parks, forest reserves and wildlife sanctuaries, which provide great opportunities to see the country's great wealth of flora and fauna. Panama's contorted shape and its location at the southernmost range of many North American species and the northernmost range of many South American species creates a melting pot rich in animal and plant life. There are around 950 species of birds (more than in North America and Europe combined), plus 220 mammals, 354 reptiles and amphibians, and more than 10,000 species of plants.
But it's not only the nature that pulls you in. Panama has a fascinating history as a Spanish colony and transit route for the conquistadors' riches from Peru, often plundered by pirates, with some evocative sites to visit. Panama City combines a colonial past with a brash modernity that springs from its new standing as Latin America's leading trading centre. Next to the city, the Panama Canal, the key to this success, is a truly amazing engineering achievement, and the trials and tribulations of building it make a remarkable story that lives long in the mind.
There are few countries where tribal communities of indigenous peoples survive with such fortitude, struggling against the odds to preserve thousand year old cultures and a future for their children. The largest, the Kuna, have a degree of autonomy over their homelands, which include the beautiful islands of the Kuna Yala (San Blas) archipelago. They warmly welcome visitors for a taste of their paradise at delightful simple lodges purpose-built by the communities.
With 1500 islands and 1000 miles of Caribbean and Pacific coast it's easy to find a white sand beach to get away from it all, or some great places for snorkelling, diving or surfing.