Panama’s Pacific coastline is ripe with secluded tropical beauty. While much of the coast remains hidden due to a lack of road access, destinations are reviled as new roads are built. Puerto Armuelles, located in the western province of Chiriquí has always had a road, but a new four-lane highway has recently created some hype for the region.
After years of economic depression, caused by the closure of the Chiquita Banana plantation over a decade ago, the community of Puerto Armuelles is noticing a revival. New businesses opening up, real estate developers are breaking ground, and expats are moving in.
In 2012, the Martinelli administration allocated money to widen the road from the Costa Rican boarder to Puerto Armuelles. The reason for doing so is to service three future projects: a deep-water container port, a cruise ship port, and a marina. The construction plans are also aimed towards connecting Puerto Armuelles to Chiriquí Grande on the Caribbean coast, creating what the previous government had dubbed a dry canal route across the isthmus.
While we are unsure when or if work will begin in the future on these projects, we can say that the new road to Puerto Armuelles is well on its way. With the road project moving along quickly, Puerto Armuelles has seen some economic recovery. The cost of property is on the rise and more jobs are being created. As the town sees growth, more tourists and expats are setting out to see what the tropical paradise nestled on the border of Costa Rica has to offer.
How to get there
Puerto Armuelles is a 6.5-hour drive from Coronado. To get there, follow the Pan American Highway past David until you reach the Costa Rican border. The town of Puerto Armuelles is approximately 1 hour past David. You will start to see billboards about 20 minutes before you reach the boarder town of Paso Canoas. It will not be hard to tell when you have reached Paso Canoas, as the boarder patrol offices stand out. To continue on to Puerto Armuelles, take the last left before the border. Follow this road into the town of Puerto Armuelles.
The town of Puerto Armuelles
The town still holds its tropical colonial charm. From narrow streets to the wooden houses standing high on stilts, there is an old world feeling lingering here. While it may feel like the past, compared to Pacific coast beach towns like Santa Catalina and Playa Venao, Puerto Armuelles offers a lot of amenities. The town has two well-stocked grocery stores, a couple of restaurants, and local shops. There are handful of guesthouses for rent in town and a beachfront inn near the heart of town.
What to Do
Puerto Armuelles is the perfect place for the adventurer at heart. Whether you enjoy fishing, surfing or exploring nature’s greatest wonders, this is a great place to do it.
Puerto Armuelles offers excellent fishing close to shore. With a 300-meter drop in depth minutes from the coast you don’t have to travel far to catch a trophy fish. There are several fishing options in Puerto Armuelles, you can hire a boat from a local, or fish right off the pier in town. If the purpose of your trip is to give deep water fishing a try, Hooked on Panama offers the full deep-sea experience.
Hooked on Panama is located on Punta Burica just 20 minutes from town. Their ocean lodge is located on several hectares of lush tropical land. They have three fully equipped fishing boats, ready to troll for trophy marlin or monster sailfish. June is the heart of yellow-fin tuna season. Anglers at Hooked on Panama have been reeling in giant tuna weighing up to 250 lbs!
For $150 - $250, you can also spend the day on a local’s panga, a smaller fishing boat. Panga fishing trips can be a lot of fun, and because of the deep water so close to shore you still have a change of catching a really big fish! Make sure to ask if the panga has seats, and a cover to protect you from the sun.
There are some great beach breaks scattered along the coast of Puerto Armuelles, and the neighboring Punta Burica. Some are easily accessible by foot. Others are only reachable by boat. Waves ranging from 2 – 5 feet are common on the coast from May until November. The rest of the year visitors can expect calm waters.
Where to Stay
Tsunami Inn - While there are several guesthouses just out of Puerto Armuelles, the Tsunami Inn is one of the few places to stay right in town. The basic guesthouse offers four cabins, with two more in the works, all with AC, hot water and ocean view. There is a pool and social area for dining and conversation. The owner, Scott, is friendly and hosts a neighborhood horseshoes game on Sundays. There is also a great local restaurant right down the street. Rooms range from $50 - $60 a night. For more info visit: www.tsunamiinn.com
Phone: (507) 6604-9369
Hooked on Panama – This family run fishing lodge is not only for seasoned anglers. Nestled in a private bay the resort immerses its guest in nature, while providing all the comforts one could ask for. Rooms are offered at an affordable price for both anglers and nature lovers. Dinner is served family style every evening. For more info on the lodge visit: www.hookedonpanama.com
Phone: (507) 6465-4124
Mono Feliz – Mono Feliz offers a rustic off-the grid experience. Tucked away in the jungle of Punta Burica, their open-air rooms do not have electricity or hot water. Mono Feliz is located near Punta Burica’s best surf break. Rooms are $20/night. In all seasons, a four-wheel drive vehicle is required to access Mono Feliz. Visitors must access the hotel by driving on the beach, on foot, or by boat. And there are howler monkeys! For more info or reservations:
Phone: (507) 6595-0388
If you seek to immerse yourself in nature, catch a record-breaking fish, or to simply enjoy some rest and relaxation, Puerto Armuelles is waiting. Go explore!