Easily reached from the Pan-American Highway, about a 2-hour drive west of Panama City along the Pacific Coast, is Farallón village’s long stretch of white-sand beach, commonly referred to as Playa Blanca, located in Panama’s Coclé Province. Little visited for the longest time due to its proximity to a now-abandoned Panamanian military base, the once simple fishing village transformed at the start of the 21st century following the opening of a grand resort by Colombian hotel chain Decameron. Today, the small yet tranquil area is the hub of Panama’s beach development, seeing steadily-sprouting condos and residences, new resorts and 18-hole golf courses – all positioning Playa Blanca as one of the country’s top destinations. But despite the rapid development, Playa Blanca still retains its small village charm, where a Sunday morning market with handicrafts can be found in the town’s center. In addition to a good offering of lodging choices, the warm Pacific waters are clean and safe for swimming. Visitors can enjoy a range of activities including sailing, jet skiing, horseback riding and more. Predominantly beach breaks, with no dangerous rocks or corals, Playa Blanca and Coclé’s other white-sand beaches make for popular surf spots during good swell as well.
While the sands are pristine during sunny season (Nov-Apr), green season brings black sands to the beach, carried from El Valle by rivers. About an hour drive away, the quiet mountain town of El Valle de Antón sits in the second-largest volcano crater in the world – for centuries, home to Indians from the surrounding mountains. Created some million years ago, the fertile, 5- by 3-mile crater is ringed by mountains, dense cloud forest, beautiful flowers and an eternal spring-like climate. The town offers a range of accommodations and services, the main draw for visitors being the variety of flora and fauna found in its protected forests, including an abundance of birds and the near-extinct Panamanian golden frog. Activities are equally bountiful, including canopy tours; varied hiking and horseback riding trails; birdwatching; the impressive Chorro El Macho waterfall; and Sunday’s bustling handicraft market, where you can purchase Ngöbe-Buglé handicrafts, Kuna molas, and Panama hats among other items.