PTY – Panama City Airport will be your starting point until the newer international airport 2 hours closer to us is completed and up and running in 2014 (and while flights fill in thereafter).
From the Panama City airport you take “Corredor Sur” which is a brand new 4 lane highway with some tolls which takes you straight into Panama City. This is the most difficult portion of your journey because you have to drive through Panama City – but it’s not that bad. You will take Corredor Sur to “Avenida Balboa” which will take you along the ocean front of the city. And from Avenida Balboa you want to be looking for the sign for “Punte De Las Americas” which is the bridge over the Panama Canal. This is the most challenging part of the trip. Just stay the course unless you see a sign otherwise. You will twist and turn a bit and go through a few stop signals. You will get there! Once you go over the bridge you just stay on the 4 lane Highway.
From Panama city, drive east on the Panamerican highway through many towns including Coronado and Penonome to Divisa, where you will turn left (unto the overpass, to the right), and drive south towards Chitre. The Divisa Overpass will be the first overpass for traffic that you see since somewhere just beyond the Panama Canal.
The REY supermarket is on your left when entering Chitre (as part of a large mall right after you pass a big egg looking art structure on the right which looks like something that went to Burning Man) and is a good place to stock up if you would like leafy greens and nuts and specialty food items that are more healthy. One idea is to pack your bag/clothes into a cooler to check in at the airport – this way you don’t have to buy one here (expensive) or buy a cheap styrofoam one which will end up in a landfill. There is also a POLL MART when you start entering central Chitre on the Right, which is great for the same higher quality food. You will just stay on the main road through what feels like the middle of town. There is a bi-pass road for Chitre but it’s easier to just explain this way where you drive through the middle of the town. At one point you will take a right which will direct you straight at a big white church. At the church you jog left and stay straight. There is one more big pretty good supermarket called SUPER 99 on the left behind McDonalds if you are still looking. There are grocery stores 20 minutes from Cambutal in Tonosi but you are losing some of the more imported and nutritional items by then if that is important to you. There are decent vegetable stands in Tonosi but no leafy greens.
From Chitre you need to find your way to Las Tablas by taking the same new four lane highway south. In Las Tablas you have one more chance at a large grocery store but the election has dropped a bit here. From LT, you can decide to take the quick route through the mountains on a nice paved road to Tonosi, or go around, site seeing through Pedasi and Playa Venao and endure the rougher, slower road between Playa Venao and Tonosi. At present this part of the road is potholed and quite slow. When you reach Las Tablas continue straight through the town until you get to a “T”. Here you jog left and then continue the same direction you were going (south). Continue down this short street and at the stop sign take another left. You will then take the next right with a sign pointing toward Tonosi through the mountain road which is an hour and a half faster.
Please download this map of the Azuero to assist you:
You will find yourself at another “T” after 50 minutes of driving and 10 mins before getting to Tonosi. Go Right. When in doubt, ask someone!
When entering Tonosi continue through to the next “T” and go Right there. You will drive through town and you will stay softly left. You will pass Pension Boamy as you drive on to Cambutal. At Tonosi, you really do have your last chance to shop in any kind of a significant store and there are some great vegetable stands there as well. It is also LAST GAS. You also need to Fuel Up, here because this is your last chance for fuel.
As you exit Tonosi, you know that you only have less than 20 minutes to go. Remain on the main road and you will drive over three bridges before reaching Cambutal from Tonosi. Just after the last bridge you will need to merge to the left whne the road splits again. Go up and over the hill to Cambutal!
Oceano specifically is 8km’s or 5 miles past where the paved road ends at Los Buzos. You’ll likely be sleeping and eating around Cambutal and Los Buzos though. It’s 5 hours from Panama City driving direct when you know the way. Please plan on more. If you are capable there is a beautiful landing strip in Pedasi and a decent one in Tonosi that you can charter into. In Pedasi you can rent cars. At this time there are no regular flights into those airports. 4 wheel drive is best but 2×2 will get you all the way to Cambutal without any problem. 2 wheel drive can be hit or miss on getting up the coast to Oceano at this time (pavement is planned) and you will be limited on your exploring and surfing.
Please download some of these maps before you come:
and any other maps that you may be helpful for you.
If you are driving with surf boards you are a target for the police who were more innocent until a few years ago when tourism picked up. They used to be more honest but now they know they can get easy money out of tourists. Good Luck and if you get pulled over have a $20 ready. That should do it in most cases. If you don’t do that, your passport will go on record and you will have to pay more before you are able to exit the country. If you really want to be in your highest integrity you can pay the real fine with the help of our attorney and the whole process will likely run you in excess of $100. Unfortunately the norm in this region is to pay cash of from $10 – $50, even for the locals. After going through the legal process I was advised by my attorney just to pay $20 and move on next time it happens. You decide. The speed limits are marked unreasonably low in several areas and for extended periods. You will just have to decide what is best for everyone and live by it. 🙂