Studying tourism in the Island System of Bocas del Toro cannot be separated from an understanding of the broader socio-historical context in Panama. For this reason, the summer course takes detours in Panama City, Playa Venao, and Boquete during a long journey overland to Bocas del Toro. The goal of this is to help students become familiar with different regions of Panama, and in doing so learn about the tourism challenges that are experienced universally in Panama as well as ecological and regional contexts. During this journey, students visited the royal Decameron Resort as well as eco-resorts and agro-tourism enterprises that are trying to work with the land and local people to usher in local sustainable development through tourism.
During the six-day trip, students got a chance to experience a bit of Panama while acting as “informed tourists”. In Panama City, the group visited the Panama Canal, learned about the history of Casco Viejo, and got to observe the wildlife at Ancon Hill. Traveling by bus to Playa Venao, students were able to take a surf lesson, tour a permaculture operation, and snorkel at Isla Iguana. In Boquete, students explored the cloud forest on a birding tour and toured a coffee farm. Between all these experiences, students gain a better sense of how tourism differs across Panama. This whirlwind trip was a great way to start the summer and fully immerse students in the details of tourism in Panama.