Las Lajas Beach, Chiriqui
One of the goals my family set out when we moved to Panama in August was to explore as much of the country as we could. So far I think we’ve done pretty good, having been to Gamboa, Boquette, Pedasi, San Blas and seemingly every little nook and cranny between Chame and Santa Clara. With my 11-year-old son on Christmas break from school, my wife and I decided we should take a road trip to visit Bocas Del Toro and venture over to Costa Rica to extend our tourist visa. One of the good things about Panama is that it is relatively easy to get around, especially if you have a reliable vehicle. When we planned our drive to Bocas we didn’t want to drive there in one day. So, we looked for a place about halfway; somewhere we could relax for a couple of days and enjoy another part of Panama. After some research, we decided on Las Lajas Beach.
The small quaint town of Las Lajas is about three and half hours down the Pan American Highway towards David (it is 75 kilometres from David) and close to San Felix. Look for a blue sign on the highway to indicate the exit for Las Lajas and San Felix (turn left off the highway for Las Lajas). You will also see a large entrance sign with “Las Lajas” on it as soon as you leave the highway. If you are looking for groceries or other supplies there is a well-stocked store at the highway exit and another good one in Las Lajas.
The town itself is about three kilometres off the highway with the beach about 15 kilometres beyond that. The only tricky part is once you get into town you will come to an odd fork in the road, which is kind of like a traffic circle – the key is to simply stay right. The road is paved all the way to the beach and signage, unlike other areas of Panama, makes it easy to find your destination. The road that runs parallel to the beach is not paved and can, in some parts, be quite rough.
The destination for our clan of three was the Las Lajas Beach Resort. Having found it online we only had pictures and Trip Advisor to go by, but as it turned out it was everything we hoped for – and much more.
The resort is small, only about 15 rooms, but the property includes a restaurant, bar, pool, and large outdoor space with tables, chairs and bohios.
The rooms are large with high ceilings (with fan), A/C, flat screen TV, a safe and a hammock right outside the door. The white walls of the rooms are decorated with hand painted Panamanian mosaics, which add color and life to the room. The room we stayed in had three beds, two doubles and a single.
One of the keys to this resort’s seeming success is its price point: $99 per night for two people. ($115, including taxes for three of us).
We stayed there January 2nd and 3rd, so it was not only high season it was still considered a holiday.
By far the best feature of this resort is the stunning beach, literally steps away from your room. An expanse of green lawn gently slopes right onto the white sand. Wide and flat as a football field, and stretching for miles on end, it definitely has that “wow” factor.
It has a gentle rolling surf that never stops. But it’s not so gentle that you can’t have fun – it’s the perfect size and strength for swimming and boogie boarding. I didn’t come out of the water once with sand stuck in every orifice of my body because a wave had tried to plant me at the bottom of the ocean!
The entire staff at the resort were impeccable. They always had smiles, all spoke English, and made every effort to make our stay enjoyable.
The food at the restaurant serves three meals a day. It was very good. Most notable were the fish tacos, the Steak Diana (hard to find good steak in Panama), and the huevos rancheros I had for breakfast. The menu ranged from $6 to $10 for lunch items and $8 to $12 for dinner. The portions were large and we felt like we received good value for the money.
The bar was fully stocked and the beer was very cold – enough said.
We enjoyed the resort so much that on our way back from Bocas we stopped and stayed another two nights. And, to cap things off, as we were sitting at a table in the restaurant having lunch I spotted something out in the ocean. It was far off, but it became clear that it was a couple of whales. We left the table and walked a bit closer to the water and proceeded to watch the whales swim across the horizon for the next 20 minutes.
Las Lajas may not be the sexiest tourist destination in Panama, but after just a few short days visiting it has jumped to the top of our favourite places.
If you are interested in visiting Las Lajas there are different options for accommodations. There are B&Bs both at the beach and in the town – Casa Laguna is very close to the beach. Campgrounds are nestled along the beach, some of which have little huts for rent. You can also find hostels, such as Lajas Club, which provide private rooms.
A new housing development called Sol Y Mar has both condos and houses available to rent. If being on the beach is not a priority you may want to check out Hotel Finca Buena Vista, which provides rooms with a spectacular view of the surrounding mountains and valleys. Paradise Inn is an option if you want to stay close to town.