Driving to the beach from the airport can be quite an experience and a little difficult the first time, so I have prepared this detailed article on how to get from Tocumen airport to the Pacific Coast Beaches. As you exit the airport you’ll come to a traffic circle. Go about 3⁄4 of the way around the circle and head toward Panama City, follow signs toward Paitilla or Panama Centro. About 1⁄2 mile from the traffic circle you will see a sign that says Corredor Sur 500 M (meters), stay in the right lane you will see a sign ENTRADA and follow the ramp down to the right, you end up on a 4 lane highway that you’ll take all the way through Panama City.
A few miles after you’re on this highway you’ll come to toll booths. The toll is $1.25. Stay all the way to the left and use one of the lanes marked “Effectivo”, they’ll take cash and, or make change. Now you’ll drive several kilometers and you’ll come to a causeway where the ocean will be on your left. In front of you will be the Panama City skyline. Looks a lot like a NYC skyline. Not what a lot of people would expect to see in a Central American country. Shortly after the causeway you’ll come to more toll booths. This toll is $1.40. Again stay all the way to the left and go to the lane(s) marked Effectivo.
A while after you go through these toll booths you’ll go through a tunnel. Shortly after going through the tunnel you’ll bear slightly to your left under a sign marked Ave. Balboa and Viaducto (you’re really going onto Ave Balboa but with the Viaduct you’re bypassing a crap load of traffic. Stay in the left lane and you will see another sign via Balboa Viaducto. When you come down off of the Viaducto stay in your far left lane.
You will be going by Panama City to your right, a park and the ocean will be on your left (this area is locally known as the Cinta Costera). Continue to drive in the left lane. As you go through Panama City in 1.7 miles you will see a sign for Ave de Martires (sometimes hard to see until you’re right there, bear left up the ramp onto another viaducto and stay in the left lane. Probably less than 1 kilometer you will come to a Y, bear to your left and follow the sign for Ave de los Martires; you’ll go around a long slow curve to the left and come down off of this Viaducto and into probably some heavier traffic. Just follow this road to the Puente de las Americas (Bridge of the Americas). Don’t make any turns or go up any ramps.
Cross the Bridge de las Americas, you’re crossing over the entrance to The Panama Canal and to your right you’ll see pier equipment, etc.. To your left you’ll probably see a LOT of ships and boats waiting to Now you’re going to drive for around 10 Km or so. Watch for some large signs at this point that say Super X-tra. This is a supermarket in a small strip mall and you’ll see it to your right. There is usually a lot of traffic in this area and the shopping area is usually busy even late in the evening. A short time after you pass this area, you’ll go up a grade and go around a long curve to your left. Stay in the left lane and bear left at the V. DO NOT GO TOWARDS CHORRERA. This will bring you into the flow of traffic and you’ll be on the Pan American Highway. At this point you’ll lose some of the traffic and depending upon the day and time you’re driving here the traffic will be lighter.
You’ll be on the Pan Am Highway for quite a while and it will bring you all the way to Gorgona, no more turns until you arrive. When you have been on the Pan Am Highway for around 35 minutes or so, keep an eye out for a red sign for a nice little dining spot on your right called Pappasito’s. If you opted to rent a GPS from the rental car company you can find Papasito’s on it. It’s a great place to stop for a soda or a beer or even something to eat depending upon what time your coming through. It closes at 9:30pm.
When you pass or leave Pappasito’s, around 8 Km further down the road you’ll come to what we call “The Curves”. This section is locally known as Cerro Campana. Be very careful here. The road is basically winding down from the highlands into the beach areas. It’s rather steep and many of the curves are quite sharp. When you’ve gotten completely through the curves in around 2 1⁄2 – 3 Km or so you will see a large green sign telling you how far in kilometers some villages are. Coronado for example says 20 Km.
As you’re traveling along, you’ll now go through a small town called Bejuco, then you flow right into another village called Chame. When you leave Chame, you’ll see open fields to your right and wooded areas on your left. You’ll drive just about a mile and come into another populated area with commercial buildings on both sides of the road. Go slow and you can find the left turn onto the road that goes toward the beach. To your left you will see 2 large concrete entry signs, 1 on each side of the road that goes toward the beach on your left. The signs say: Nueva Gorgona
There are times when the turn toward the beach is blocked with orange cones. This happens usually during weekends when traffic is very heavy and they’re trying to keep it moving. If this happens just keep going until you can (safely) make a U-turn or turn left, then come right back, then make the turn onto the
As you’re driving down the road to the beach you can see some signs for Playa Serena. Drive around 1.5 Km. Keep an eye out for signs for Playa Serena. These signs are difficult to see at night but keep an eye out, they’re there. You’ll also see signs for Bahia (it’s right next door to Playa Serena). Look for a red building with a large sign that says Supermercado Johnathan and turn right. Stay on this paved road and go slowly… speed bumps, kids playing, people walking, etc. Drive straight and if you look up about to about 11:00 (a little to your left) you can catch glimpses of Playa Serena rising up over the trees. You’re going to make a left (follow signs) then you’ll turn right at La Ruina Restaurant (great watering hole and good food and decent prices). Now go straight, come to a T, go left and that will take you to Bahia, go right at Bahia and you’ll come right to the gates of Playa Serena.