Panama, a creative and delicious destination to enjoy in 2023

The city of Cambutal is among the best places to travel next year for its wide range of unique experiences

AFAR revealed the list of the best places to travel next year and among the 12 selected global destinations is  Cambutal. Community-focused and adventure tourism draws attention on the southern coast of the Azuero peninsula in Panama.

Few travelers visiting Los Santos, one of Panama's least touristy provinces, venture to the end of the only main highway to the south. That's where Cambutal awaits, 228 miles from Panama City, a beach town that attracts well-deserved attention from Panamanians and intrepid international travelers alike.

The city sits on the shores of a never crowded volcanic black sand beach with perfectly surfable waves. The surrounding jungles contain rivers, canyons, natural pools, and multi-tiered waterfalls.

Having spent much time on the southern coast of the Azuero Peninsula growing up, Panamanian-born Bryan Goldner founded Azuero Adventures in November 2020 to help visitors safely explore the region. As Cambutal's only registered tour operator, the company started small, riding horseback through grassy hills to take travelers to see petroglyphs carved by indigenous people.

In 2022, Azuero Adventures introduced multi-day trips to Cerro Hoya National Park, just west of Cambutal. Spanning over 80,000 acres with no direct road entrance, Cerro Hoya is only accessible by boat, horseback, or 4x4 vehicle, making it one of the most difficult-to-access national parks in Panama. The mostly virgin land is known for its diverse wildlife, including the great green macaw and Azuero spider monkey, both endangered species. Guests can stay in secluded beachfront cabanas or opt for total immersion with an overnight camping expedition that includes a cloud forest hike over 4,200 feet above sea level.

With sustainable and equitable tourism at the core of its operations, Goldner works closely with the people of Cambutal, a vision directly in line with the Panamanian Ministry of Tourism's efforts to strengthen rural and community tourism businesses.

“We use local captains and local guides,” says Goldner. "The idea is not to hire people and bring resources from outside when we have such a rich community that is already here." —Jessica Poitevien

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