Bordered by Columbia on one side and Costa Rica on the other, Panama is a bit more developed than its neighboring Central American countries. It also boasts a diverse ethnic population comprised of Spanish, African, and Indian cultures.

Equally varied are the amount of things to fill your travel journal. Four national parks and one international park are home to abundant wildlife like ocelots, jaguar, and white tailed deer. The country’s Pacific side offers some of the best surfing in Central America. In addition, ancient ruins in Panama city, a thriving nightlife, and natural wonders are certainly attractions.

However, the islands along Panama’s Bocas del Toro Archipelago provide an unparalleled vacation experience. Colon, the archipelago’s main and northernmost island, is prime for turtle watching. Take part in the conservation of sea turtles through guided tours and educational programs. Sailing and exceptional diving adventures are also options for visitors.

The second largest island, Popa Island, is dotted with breezy and comfortable hotels. Rustic and charming fishing communities co-exist peacefully with casual resorts that embody barefoot luxury.

Reefs thick with abundant marine life surround the island of Cristobal. In the northern part of the island, mangrove islets await kayakers. Don’t be surprised to spot a dolphin or two, as pods of them frequent this area.

The National Marine Park makes up much of Bastimentos Island. Lounge on empty wilderness beaches, or sate your palate at a small spattering of restaurants that serve fresh, local cuisine.

Snorkelers should spend time on Cayo de Agua, as it’s home to some of the best snorkeling in the archipelago. A scattered collection of eco resorts offer a comfortable base for your stay. A guided tour through the inland’s lush rainforest is recommended.

Solarte Island, also known as Nancy’s Cay, is the ideal spot to get in touch with your inner Swiss Family Robinson. Electricity and phone service are blissfully absent here. Located south of Isla Bastimentos, its vibrant sea life draws snorkelers and divers. The waters teem with lobsters, trumpetfish, and bright corals. You’ll find few traditional accommodations here. Eco lodges and cozy retreats provide a seamless nature-loving experience.

If you crave days lounging on premier beaches to lounge on and evenings immersed in bustling nightlife, we recommend Panama. Whichever spot in the country you settle in, you’re likely to plan your return trip before you leave for home.