From the kaleidoscopic reefs of Bocas del Toro to the dense, steamy jungles of Darien National Park, Panama forms a physical and cultural bridge between Central and South America, lapped by the Caribbean on one shore and the Pacific Ocean on the other. From glossy, sun-drenched Panama City to the tiny fishing villages scattered across the islands, Panama offers a heady mix of nature and culture, modern and traditional. History buffs can take a luxury cruise on the Panama Canal, passing through the Miraflores Locks and stopping in Panama City for a walking tour of UNESCO-listed Casco Viejo, the old colonial district. Many jungle treks and bird-watching trips are also available from the capital. Top draws for nature lovers include Gamboa rainforest, El Valle de Anton, Gatun Lake, and Chagres National Park, home to native Embera people and Monkey Island. Divers and snorkelers flock to Bocas del Toro, not far from the Costa Rican border, for its legendary coral reefs and wrecks. Book a multi-day sailing trip to explore further along the Caribbean coast, and if you dream of deserted tropical isles, charter a private boat to the San Blas archipelago. Only a fraction of its 365 tiny islands are inhabited, despite miles of perfect white-sand beaches. And if time permits, you could sail all the way to Cartagena from here. With easy access to both Colombia and Costa Rica, Panama makes an ideal launch pad for extended trips in either Central or South America.