La Miel, Panama – Paradise Found along the Darien Coast

As I arrive in the town of Sapzurro, Colombia after a relatively long hike over a steep mountain the Darien Jungle heat, my body begs me for a moment of reprieve from the heat, humidity and muscle aches.  I pull up a chair at a tiny restaurant off the main sidewalk in town and ask for a water.  The girl who serves me looks confused as to why someone would order water before telling me they only have soda.  In need of something to cool me down I order a bottle of Postobon (apple flavoured soda) and a freshly squeezed glass of lemonade.  When the sweat begins to dry on my skin a sense of tranquility sets in.  Watching the kids playing marbles on the grass in front and enjoying the shade for the rest of the day would be the easy thing to do.

Against the wishes of my already battered body, I hand the young lady, tinted in Caribbean tanned skin, a couple thousand pesos and continue on to my destination: La Miel, Panama.  I’ve been told this is the most beautiful beach in the region, and one that is well worth the hike.  My feet scamper at a trotting pace up the steep steps towards the official border between Panama and Colombia.  I reach the top of the footpath and, short of breath, hand my passport to the young military officers at the desk.  They laugh at my pain, jot my digits down on a piece of scrap paper and tell me that I am free to proceed.

On my way down the hill I can already see the beauty has settled itself in the bay below.  A Panamanian military officer races past me with a backpack attached and a rifle tightly gripped in his hands.  It’s easy to forget that this place is still often frequented by both Guerrillas and narco-traffickers coming up from Colombia.  This beautiful section of the rainforest is, essentially, a military zone.  When I reach the village, I pass a wanted sign with a price searching for the head of a certain member of the Guerrilla and walk past an army outpost in the direction of where I’m told is the beach.  As I cut past the palm tree wall that has blocked my view I get my first view of it: Paradise.

La Miel, Panama is about as secluded a spot as you’ll find in the Americas.  Closer to Colombia than it is any other Panamanian town or village the real only way of arriving is from Colombia on a day trip.  Some people, like me, arrive on foot.  Others arrive on boat from the Colombian town of Capurgana.  Regardless of how people arrive they are guaranteed to be wowed by the piece of heaven that lay calmly before them.  Below I have included some photos of La Miel, I can only hope that they do this place justice.

La Miel, Panama

First view of La Miel

La Miel

La Miel

La Miel

La Miel = Paradise Found

La Miel, Panama

I definitely caught these guys smuggling something… They were not happy with me. But I told them I was photographing behind them, and escaped

 

La Miel

The view behind the traffickers….

La Miel

A boat leaves for Colombia

La Miel

We’re looking for you!

La Miel

In town a cross in front of the Caribbean


Author: Brendan van Son

Author: I am a travel writer and photographer from Alberta, Canada. Over my years as a travel photographer, I have visited 6 of the 7 continents and more countries than I have any desire to count. If you want to improve your skills, be sure to check out my travel photography channel on Youtube . Also, check out my profile on . to learn a little bit more about me and my work.

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21 Comments

  1. This is one of the most amazing photo & post I have seen recently form my feed. Love it! Like how you caught they smuggling something.. that’s scary glad ur okay.

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    • @Sarah – Thanks! La Miel is an amazing place

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  2. Thanks 4 picts indeed it’s paradise

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    • @Dalille – if La Miel isn’t paradise I’d like to see it.

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  3. Again! I’m wowed by both your pictures and your writing! Reading your blog is making me increasingly impatient to get to central America 🙂

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  4. Wow, amazing place. The walk was worth it. Putting another pin of places to see on my map. Thanks for sharing the pictures are great.

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    • @Norm – definitely worth the effort to get there!

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  5. Hello Brendan! We are a a couple heading up to Sapzurro and La Miel and looks like we wont be regretting it. The days on my visa are running out and i was wondering if they stamped your passport when you crossed the border into panama, so i can renew the visa when i enter back again? And did they ask yellow fever card? Thanks!

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    • Hi John, No they didn’t stamp it. You’ll need to go all the way to Puerto Obaldia for a day if you want a stamp. Alternatively, you can go to a DAS office in a city like Medellin, Baranquilla or Bogota to renew your visa. It will cost you a little bit of money but can usually be done in an hour or so.

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  6. Hi Brendan,

    Awesome pictures and blog writing!! I am planning a trip to Colombia but I only have a couple of weeks and wanted one beach destination after going to San Gil and Medellin . I am contemplating between Parque Tayrona or Capurgana, which would you recommend?

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    • In terms of beach, Tayrona. The beach in Capurgana is not great and you’d have to go to La Miel for beach time. Tayrona is amazing, so I’d go there if were you. Be sure to check out my buddy Dave’s Medellin site medellinliving.com for your time there. That’s my home city… well, in spirit! Enjoy!

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  7. Soon on a rtw trip, I want to travel overland from Panama to Cartagena and I am still hesitating between a full price but safe flight or doing it like you did, but I am a little bit scared with everything we hear about the Darien Gap. What are your thoughts on that, did you feel the danger? How was it?

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    • The way I did it was really safe mate. If you were to hike the entire thing it would be really dangerous though. The other option is to catch one of the boats that goes from Panama to Cartagena. You can find one in Panama City at the hostels, although you might have to wait a week. I did that sailing a long time ago and it was awesome, you stop through the San Blas islands on the way!

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  8. hello, i just found a type of sword and its very very old, found it in grandpas old stuff and has” Say La Meil” in fancy writing the other side says “Entre Las Flores” also stamped on it is Jose R at the bottem…. has a wooden bird handle looks really collectable let me know anything about this if u know anything, thank you

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  9. I’ve looked at this post so many times, I feel I should finally get around to thanking you. The pictures are literally stunning, I look at them whenever I need something to fuel my wanderlust! Unfortunately when we did the crossing from Panama to Turbo, La Miel was shut because the beach was covered in trash. I was devastated, but I guess that’s more reason to get back to Colombia asap!

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    • Oh no! Really? Was there a reason given for the trash? I’ve heard that over the past yeah La Miel has started to turn into a cheap getaway destination for people in Colombia that can’t afford places like San Andres. But I never thought it would have gotten this out of hand. Shame. Hope is was just a one time thing.

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  10. I just came back after 4,5 weeks of travelling Colombia, including La Miel and Sapzurro … just checking to see if I had “missed sth”. And I did. All beaches in Sapzurro and especially La Miel were full of stranded trash! I am guessing this has to do with the change of weather setting in Dec-Jan, where winds come up strong from north, spilling all that plastic garbage from the caribeans in. Waves can get pretty rough and so be prepared for tough speedboat travel. Overall, I would not visit these places again: a) beaches full of dirt b) rough sea passages c) due to wind and waves low visibility for diving / snorkelling … and the colors definitely do NOT turn out as shown here… so check what time is perfect diving visibility, which should correlate to flat seas and cleaner beaches 🙂

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    • Hi Ingo, thanks for your update on the conditions. I really hope that things haven’t changed this drastically since 3 years ago when I was here! I was in the area in August, but I can’t see the difference being that drastic. I might try to get to La Miel and Capurgana again in a couple months to check things out again. Shame to hear about the trash 🙁

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      • HEY Brendan! Liked your article! I was in Sapzurro/La Miel Feb 2016 and yes the coastline was sadly a gathering ground for the North America’s sea garbage. Was sad to see such a beautiful place being hammered with waste. Still a lovely place to go though – Locals are amazing!

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  11. So there is no road into La Miel from Panama? Do you happen to know what is the shortest ferry route to get a car from Panama to Columbia and visa versa?

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    • You’ll likely need to send the car from Colon, Panama to Cartagena, Colombia. I think that’s the usual route. There is no road connecting Panama and Colombia.

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