Lizard beach on isla Bastimento in Panama
Some say Panama is the Costa Rica of 30 years ago. If you're looking for a tropical paradise in a lush and biologically diverse landscape of rain-forest jungles, palm-shaded beaches, and gin-clear seas, head to Bastimentos Marine National Park (Parque Nacional Marino Isla Bastimentos), designated national parkland comprising some 32,700 acres of island, barrier reef, and sea. The park's largest island, Isla Bastimentos, has secluded lagoons, coral gardens, even caves. You stay in eco-lodges where you can watch monkeys swing from the jungle canopy. This is wild, untrammeled territory, with no roads or cars -- you generally move from place to place by boat. No wonder it's called the "Venice of the Caribbean."