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"Life's an Adventure"
Reader Photo Album

Photo: Tanzania

This month's reader photos have it all—inspiring locales, great composition, and travel tips to take you there.
Reader Photo Album


Photo Gallery:
Patagonia's Cerro Torre
Photo: Cerro Torre

See photos of Patagonia's otherworldly Cerro Torre from the climb that bagged one of alpine climbing's greatest prizes.
Cerro Torre photos


Running Gear
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Sleek shoes and running clothes that will get your heart racing.
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Paddling Croatia Photos and Video

Digital Cameras Review

Audio: Ed Viesturs

Video: Climbing Icebergs 

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Adventures in Travel Expo

Robert Young Pelton's Travel Tips



The Caribbean's Wild Side: Panama
The sports you love, set in the destinations you crave. Here are nine tropical escapes that scream action.  Text by Tom Clynes   Photo Tom Bol

THE BAHAMAS  | PANAMA  |  DOMINICA  |  HONDURAS  |  ST. LUCIA  
ST. VINCENT  |  SABA  |  DOMINICAN REPUBLIC  |  GRENADA

PANAMA
Surf the New Galápagos

The 68 islands of Bocas del Toro comprise such complex and diverse ecosystems that the archipelago has been called "the Galápagos of the 21st century." Another unique feature of this Panamanian island chain is its waves. Strong wind and an unsheltered coastline mean the islands see consistently powerful swells, creating some of the best surfing in the Caribbean.

Surfers first flocked to the area—some of which is protected within Bastimentos Marine National Park—a decade ago, when the conditions sparked rumors that Panama could be surfing's next holy grail. Many never left. The center of the expat surfing scene continues to be Mondo Taitu, a hostel in bustling Bocas del Toro, the province's capital, on Isla Colón. Surf bums spend months on end in Bocas. Buy one of them a beer and he might show you the gnarliest breaks, which include hot spots Paunch and Dumpers. The locals are no longer surprised by the surf scene and many have benefited from it, opening up small shops and restaurants to serve the visiting wave riders.

The archipelago's ample reefs and powerful beach breaks can be tough to navigate—most conditions favor shortboarding and bodyboarding—but Boca del Drago is good for beginners. Great waves also await on nearby Isla Carenero and Isla Bastimentos. Despite the rise of the sport, there are very few surf shops in Bocas, so bring your own board. And don't forget your booties—the reefs are sharp.

Crash at Swan's Cay Hotel, in the heart of Bocas. You'll find a good place to sip a Balboa (the local beer) while you plan your multi-island surfing safari.
 
WHAT TO DO
Surfing
With a private boat, Swan's Cay Hotel (www.swanscayhotel.com) organizes daily trips to surfing sites throughout the archipelago for as little as $1 each way.
 
WHERE TO STAY
Swan's Cay Hotel ($90, including a Jacuzzi) sits on Bocas' main road. Budget-conscious surfers can crash at the friendly, unpretentious Mondo Taitu hostel ($6; www.mondotaitu.com).
 
GETTING AROUND
Aeroperlas Regional has two flights a day into Bocas del Toro ($100; www.aeroperlas.com). Note: Surfboards may not be accepted on all flights; check with both U.S. and Panamanian airlines before you haul one along. The quickest way to get around Isla Colón or to the other islands in the archipelago is to haggle with a water-taxi driver at the marina in Bocas.

THE BAHAMAS  | PANAMA  |  DOMINICA  |  HONDURAS  |  ST. LUCIA  
ST. VINCENT  |  SABA  |  DOMINICAN REPUBLIC  |  GRENADA

Photo: March Cover


Pick up the March 2006 issue for more secrets of the Southwest, nine Caribbean adventures, the best gear for runners, and our World Class outfitter trips.

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