The Republic of Panama is the southernmost country of Central America. It has coastlines on both the Caribbean Sea and the North Pacific Ocean, with Colombia in South America to the southeast and Costa Rica to the northwest. Located on the isthmus that forms the land bridge connecting North and South America some categorize Panama as a transcontinental nation. It controls the Panama Canal that links the North Atlantic Ocean via the Caribbean Sea with the North Pacific Ocean, one of the most important shipping routes in the world.
Several islands are part of the state Panama, on the side of the Caribbean Sea are the Bocas del Toro islands and San Blas, while on the Pacific Ocean are the Archipiélago de las Perlas, Isla de Coiba and the island of Taboga. The total area of Panama is 75,517 sq. km., and the population is about 3.3 million. The capital city is called Panama City.
Panama has a very diverse, mountainous landscape, covered in one half of the country with dense rainforest and in coastal areas with plains traversed by rivers. The highest point in the country is the Volcán Barú, which rises to 3,475 meters (11,401 ft.). A nearly impenetrable jungle forms the Darin Gab between Panama and Colombia. It creates a break in the Pan-American Highway, that otherwise forms a complete road from Alaska to Patagonia.
The beaches on the Caribbean and Pacific coast are a dream, with fine sand and plenty of national parks and rainforest areas to explore. The most popular national park in Panama is the Derién National Park on the Columbian border; it has been declared a UNESCO World Natural Heritage Site. This national park contains an extensive rainforest, a mangrove swamp, sandy beaches and high mountains. The second most popular destination after a visit to Panama City is a beach holiday on the Boca Islands. The archipelago can be divided up into seven large and several hundred small islands, protected by coral reefs and with almost completely still oceans. Another popular destination is the island of San Blas, home to the Kuna Indians, where you can experience unforgettable snorkeling in pristine waters. Even quieter is the ecotourism paradise of Coiba Island south of the city David. The island is mountainous and concealed in rainforest. The Coiba Island area has the largest coral reef in the Western Pacific and is considered one of the top places in the world for "big fish" diving. There is no accommodation on the island, but tours may be available from local operators.
Panama City is the capital and has a population of around 700,000. The old part of town (Panama la Vieja) is located 6 km east of the new town. The old part was destroyed in 1671 by the English pirate, Henry Morgan. It is now a ruin, but worth visiting. The most famous attraction in the new town must be the Panama Canal west of the capital. The city itself is a colorful and vibrant city, with non-stop nightlife, casinos, fine restaurants, open air cafes and world class shopping. International flights arrive at Tocumen International Airport, which lies about 30 kilometers (20 miles) east of Panama City.
Most of Panama is very safe. People in rural areas are generally extremely friendly and very helpful. Most of the city of Colon is though considered dangerous, and some parts of Panama City are a bit sketchy. Bandits, smugglers, Colombian guerrillas and paramilitary forces make the area of Darién Province between Yaviza and the Colombian border along the upper Tuira River unsafe. However, the vast majority of Darién National Park is relatively safe, but it is recommended always to travel with a guide.
Panama's climate is hot and humid throughout the year. The air humidity is high with average daily temperatures of 27 C on the coast. The climate in the mountains is cooler and more pleasant, with daily temperatures only reaching 18 C. The best time to travel is between the months of December and March, as there is less rainfall during this time than the rest of the year. In general it can be said that there is twice as much rainfall on the Caribbean side than on the side of the Pacific Ocean.