Sparkling like a jewel at the edge of the enormous Darién wilderness, tranquil Bayano Lake was created in 1976 and has been a scenic escape from the big city ever since. Monkeys, big cats, and scores of bird species bring in the naturalists, while others visit indigenous Kuna villages, or hire pleasure boat at Puerto Coquira, with fine lake views from ranchero-style restaurants serving fresh tilapia and cold beer.
The famed Bayano Caves riddle the lake's undulating southern shore, a series of caverns carved by crashing waterfalls that echo through each smoothly rounded chamber. Tours include about an hour on the lake and its softly shaded tributaries, followed by a hike through the caverns and crystal clear subterranean streams.
Bayano Lake is located 90km (56mi, 1.5hrs) east of Panama City on the Panamerican Freeway.
The caves are generally accessible only by boat, which are either included as part of your tour, or easily arranged by independent travelers at Puerto Coquira.