Carnival In Las Tablas, Panama
“Any ideas about the best place to spend Carnival in Panama? Can you recommend places to stay, etc.?”
Editorial Assistant Rebecca Tyre, four-year Carnival veteran in this country, replies:
“Panama’s biggest Carnival celebration takes place in Las Tablas, a small town on the Azuero Peninsula, four hours from Panama City, where I’ve been living for the past two years. Year-round, Las Tablas is home to 10,000 residents. Every February, though, for the five days of Carnival, through Ash Wednesday, more than 100,000 Panamanians and visitors descend on the place. It’s madness.
“Two Carnival queens are chosen, representing the two distinct parts of town–uptown and downtown. A friendly rivalry continues throughout the celebrations, with the two regions competing with fireworks displays, songs to insult each other, and jabs back and forth about whose queen is prettier and wearing the nicest dress.
“The most important thing to understand if you want to visit Panama during Carnival is that you should make your plans now. Wait much longer, and you’ll find that every hotel in the country is already full.
“In Las Tablas, I’d recommend the Hotel Sol del Pacifico. A little farther outside town (about 10 minutes) is another good option, a nice new hotel on the beach called the Hotel La Luna. Or you could rent a house for the duration.
“Los Faroles is probably the best restaurant in Las Tablas. During Carnival, when the town’s population increases 10-fold overnight, expect to wait a long time for service anywhere. Your best bet is to eat at a fonda, or outdoor food stand, where the options are all greasy, deep fried, and cheap.”