How to Get Around in Las Tablas
Panama has an efficient bus system. Although it might involve a transfer or two, it’s possible to get pretty much anywhere in the country by bus.
To get from Panama City to Las Tablas, get yourself to the main bus terminal next to the Albrook Mall. Then find the ticket window labeled Las Tablas. You can purchase a one-way ticket for under $10.00.
Most of the buses are large and air conditioned. Some are not. I’ve gotten into the habit of checking the gate first — if the bus sitting there is small or shabby, I’ll wait until after it’s left to purchase my ticket. That’s because, on the small buses, they strap the luggage on top and cover it with a tarp. If you hit a hard rain squall your stuff will get soaked. (I learned that the hard way.)
From Las Tablas, you can hop a bus to another town.
Once you’re in Las Tablas, the easiest way to travel is by taxi. They’re plentiful, inexpensive, and you can ask your hotel or restaurant to call one for you if you don’t feel comfortable making the call yourself. Or you can flag one down on the street, or walk to one of the many taxi stands in town where they line up.
Finding Accommodations in Las Tablas
Just as we have a disorganized real estate market here, we’ve also got a disorganized tourist market. Hotels mostly don’t have websites (or if they do, I haven’t found them). You can find listings on Trip Advisor and similar travel sites, but there’s no knowing whether the information’s up to date.
If you want reservations and certainty, your best bet is to reserve a room in Chitre (19 km north of Las Tablas), or at Uverito Beach (10 km to the east). If you’re willing to take a chance you’re quite likely to find a place once you arrive in town. The exceptions would be during Carnaval, New Year’s and Easter.
Please don’t take this as the definitive accommodations guide to Las Tablas. There are little pensionadas all over town where you can rent a room very cheaply, and the best way to find those is by walking around looking for signs.
Here are some area hotels, starting with the one I always recommend.
In Las Tablas
Hotel Don Jesus is just a few blocks from the center of town. You can find them online. They provide a contact form and several email addresses, although I’ve been told they’re not good about answering their email. Phone is (507)994-6593. Amenities include a friendly staff, WiFi throughout, air conditioning, TV and phones in the rooms, and a swimming pool.
Hotel Piamonte is on Las Tablas’ main shopping street, just a block away from the church and the park. Guest rooms are across the street from reception and their full-service restaurant, which is also the only place to get WiFi. Amenities include room air conditioning and TV. Phone is (507) 923-1903. They don’t have a website, but they do maintain a Facebook page.
At Uverito Beach
Villa Pelicano calls itself a “Boutique Hotel” with a Mediterranean/European flavor. Breakfast is included, and there’s a pool as well as the ocean just steps away. Find their not-quite-finished website, or call them at(507)68-70-81-78.
La Luna is also at Uverito, across a narrow road from the beach itself. Their website seems to have disappeared, but you can find them on Facebook. Their phone number is (507)6525-9410. Amenities include a pool, restaurant and bar.
Casa Blanca is not a hotel. It’s a two-bedroom house overlooking the ocean, and the owner rents it out short- or long-term. I know at least a half dozen people who’ve stayed there at various times. It’s got a wonderful wrap-around porch with hammocks, it’s fully furnished, and WiFi is provided. You can find it listed on the airBnB website.
A Little Farther Afield
Casa del Puerto. In the town of Guarare, just north of Las Tablas, is a charming B&B on the ocean at El Puerto, owned and run by my friend Bonnie. It’s just a short walk from there to the small regional airport. Here’s the website. Phone is (507)994-4982. Monthly rates are available and extremely reasonable. It’s also got a gorgeous view!
Information was accurate at time of writing.