I took a bus from Panama City and arrived in El Valle de Antón approximately 2.5 hours later, via the Pan-American highway. The bus was an air-conditioned mini-van and cost only $4.50 one way (basically the Panamanian equivalent of Greyhound). Although I received skeptical looks when I told people I was going to take the bus and was even advised by a Panamanian guy to “lose the pearls and sunglasses,” the ride was relatively stress-free, minus the blasting Spanish music (for the record – I did remove all jewelry and my no name sunglasses beforehand). There were other women on the bus, but I was the only tourist. At a few stops vendors got on the bus and sold snacks. The only thing I found kind of bizarre was that the bus picked up and dropped off passengers on the side of the highway. The last twenty minutes of the ride up the mountain were extremely windy and nauseating, but it probably would have been just as bad if I were in a taxi. El Valle de Antón was the last stop and the driver kindly dropped me off right at my hotel.
El Valle de Antón is the world’s only inhabited volcano and many wealthy Panamanians have weekend homes there. From the drive up, I was immediately impressed by the views of the mountains, which reminded me a little of the Berkshires. I was also pleased that the weather was much cooler than Panama City, where the temperature was 92 degrees and humid throughout my stay.
I arrived around 4:30PM and checked into my hotel, the Anton Valley Hotel, which was in the center of town. The room was rustic, but the staff was friendly and the location could not have been better. My only issue was that there were some bugs in the room, but the whole town was VERY buggy, so I doubt they could do anything to remedy the situation. I wore mosquito repellent bracelets on both wrists the entire time I was in El Valle and miraculously managed to leave bite-free (thank you JB for gifting me with these amazing accessories).
Since it was too late in the day to do any major activities, I went for a walk around the town. I explored a road called Millionares’ Row, which had lots of large modern mansions, very reminiscent of the Hamptons. I tried to photograph the mansions, but the angles in the photos are a bit off because most of the homes were surrounded by hedges and large fences.
After my walk, I changed for dinner and took a taxi to La Casa de Lourdes, which is a restaurant located in the town’s most upscale boutique hotel and spa, Los Mandarinos. The restaurant is in a Tuscan-style villa and is not surprisingly a popular wedding venue. The restaurant had lovely ambiance and the food and service were excellent. I would definitely recommend it!