Wednesday, February 16, 2011

The Beach

Playa Santa Clara, Panama
We love the beach.  Like connoisseurs of sashimi or oysters, we like the beach unadulterated.  To me, resorts are like mayonaise spoiling a perfectly lovely piece of fish.  I have nothing against resorts (or mayonaise); I just prefer the beach without them. 

When we lived in Costa Rica, we spent every weekend at the beach.  We lived near a long stretch of pristine beach that has pretty much spoiled us for any other beach.   We would load the car with lunch and dinner, beach chairs, boogie boards, and kayak and we would spend the day, leaving only after the sun had set.  We shared these weekends with an amazing group of friends.  Those really were the best of times, and are the source of some of our fondest memories.

at the beach in Costa Rica (Esterillos Oeste)

Of course my children adore and exult in the beach; nobody gets the beach the way kids do.  My children arrive at the beach, throw open the car, and inhale (it's like some kind of primal homecoming).  It seems criminal to deprive them of this, and we try to get to the beach as often as we can.

When we first moved to Panama, one of our first questions for new acquaintances was, "Where do you go to the beach?"  The answer was never very satisfactory, either they didn't like the beach (?!) or they'd recommend a resort.  We started to wonder if there were any good beaches in Panama.  Turning to the internet, I found a great site that catalogues our kind of beach (Almanaque Azul) and we've been exploring all kinds of beaches since.  Last Sunday, we discovered a beach that meets all of our criteria (shade, no quads, no jet skis, no resort).
Playa La Ermita, Panama
Playa La Ermita is one of the last beaches in the province of Panama.  The entrance for this beach is at the first pedestrian bridge after the town of El Higo.  When we turned off the highway there was a police checkpoint, (they were checking for guns and hard liquor) and a couple of nice ladies collecting an entrance fee for the municipality (I don't mind paying this kind of thing at all--I applaud and support communities that look after and take pride in their beaches).  After two and  half kilometres of roughish gravel, the road divides; take the left road down to the beach.  At the beach there's a couple of restaurants (we had a packed lunch so we didn't stop).  There were two buses parked at one end of the beach, we just went the other way--there was plenty of room for everyone. We found a nice shady spot and settled in for the day.

The day was spectacular.  The beach was nice and clean and not crowded at all.  There is quite a large estuary that seemed popular with the local people.  The beach is quite steep going down to the water, but we didn't notice a big drop off in the water.  The kid-sized waves were perfect for playing in, and my youngest could not bear to be out of the water.  It did look like there was a surf break at the far end of the beach, but I didn't check it out.
After eating and walking and lots of playing, we left at three, hoping to beat the traffic.  The traffic back to Panama on a Sunday can really spoil the relaxing effects of the beach.  Thankfully our tactic worked, and we had a nice drive back to the city.  All in all, a marvelous day!  


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  2. Hello. Is it possible to get to this beach from Panama City without a 4x4? Can I drive a compact sedan there?