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The remote Azuero peninsula, insulated from change and revered by Panamanians for its colonial cultural roots, traditional festivals and extravagant carnival celebrations, is now attracting the attention of a wider public, lured by unbelievable fishing, some of the best surfing beaches in the world, bird-watching, eco tourism, pristine beaches and the prospect of buying lots or land at still affordable prices.
Surfers and backpackers, usually the vanguard of a new destination, were the first to discover the area, followed by sport fishermen and divers.
Celebrities next appeared. We dare to drop the names of Mel Gibson, Magic Johnson, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Tobey Maguire. How they found the peninsula is a puzzlement but apparently word gets around in the world of the rich and famous.
Getting there is a two and a half hour journey from Panama City along the Pan American Highway to Divisa where you turn left. The trip to Pedasí at the tip of the peninsula takes another hour and a half of meandering through a number of attractive, small colonial towns.
Pedasí, with its brightly painted houses and flower-lined main street is the center of much tourist activity.
A big attraction is Isla Iguana, a short boat ride away. The Achotines Laboratory, where the yellow fin tuna is studied from the larval stage, is a tourist attraction. The famous surfers paradise beach, Eco-Venao, hosts international events. Between July and November you can witness turtle hatching at Isla Cañas, which was declared a wildlife reserve in 1994. Whale watching is another popular activity during the months of September and October.
Las Tablas is the capital of Los Santos province and is famous for its pre-lenten carnival celebrations. Thousands of revelers from all over Panama converge on the town to help the Tableños celebrate and savor the rivalry between the queens of Calle Arriba (High Street) and Calle Abajo (Low Street), their followers flaunting their superiority in song and mime and hurling insults at their opponents.
Las Tablas and the nearby town of Guararé are famed for the making of the “pollera”, Panama’s magnificent national costume, with its accompanying adornments of filigree gold and fish scales.
The Bellasario Porras Museum is a point of interest as is the Santa Librada colonial church. The popular beaches of Uverito, El Jobo and Las Comadres are close by.
Guararé is famous for its “Mejorana” festival each September, a cornucopia of folklore, typical dancing, and music.
Los Santos is a picturesque colonial town which is treasured by patriotic Panamanians as the place from which the first cry for independence from Spain went out in 1821.
Chitré has an 9-hole golf course. The Herrera Museum, situated in the town has a fine collection of local pottery, prehistoric remains and gold ornaments excavated in the area.
The new residential project, Cubitá is attracting many foreign residents to Chitre.