Cambutal, Panama

Photo: Sansara Resort

Panama City. Colón. Then either Bocas del Toro or the San Blas Islands. Your Panama itinerary looks like everyone else’s. And it never changes. It’s time to make some alterations to your Central American plans this time.

The Azuero Peninsula dangles in the Pacific Ocean along Panama’s south coast. It’s bordered by the Central Mountain Range to the north, the Gulf of Montijo to the west, and the Gulf of Panama to the east. Some of the country’s oldest human settlements are found here. A lively Carnaval scene and baseball obsessives are now, too. While the few travelers that venture this far—it’s a five-hour drive from Panama City to the peninsula’s southern coast—find empty beaches and gorgeous sunsets, surfing waves and tuna fishing.

You’re heading to the area because of Sansara Surf & Yoga Resort. The little resort sits where the jungle meets the ocean in the small village of Cambutal. It was built by a Canadian couple as a retreat for surfers and yogis. When the retreats aren’t in session, the peaceful spot is open to everyoneone. It has 11 cabanas, a saltwater pool, a yoga shala, and a restaurant that only serves fresh fish and local veggies. It’s also just steps from Playa Cambutal.

Photo: Sansara Resort

Sansara is the perfect spot to get away from it all. After being welcomed with a cool drink and quick check-in, you walk over to your cute cabana. There’s a hammock on the patio outside. The minimal interior has exposed wood beams and large windows. Tall cacti stand in the corners. A turquoise-framed mirror adds a bright pop of color. Plus there are organic products in the bathroom.

Luckily, you arrived before lunch ends, so you quickly head over to Buddha Bar & Restaurant. The open-air space has exposed Edison bulbs and wooden picnic tables. Tacos, wraps, and a spiced black-bean burger fill the menu this time of day. After a quick deliberation, you settle on a hearty falafel bowl stuffed with beetroot hummus, smoked yogurt, and pickled veggies. You add a microbrew on tap to your order, as well. Once your beer arrives, you walk out on the pool’s terrace while your falafel is grilling. Your pace and heart rate immediately slow down.

You’ll probably stay close to the resort for the rest of the day. Your agenda doesn’t extend far beyond a swim in the pool, a walk on the beach, and a dinner of tacos and tequila. That will change tomorrow. You have a yoga session and a surf lesson scheduled for the morning. A waterfall hike will start early the following day. You might add a fishing trip after that. While afternoons are reserved for the pool and hammocks naps. The Azuero Peninsula is now your new little hideout. Alternations turn out to be a very good thing.

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