David, capital of Chiriquí Province and a hot and humid city, rich in timber, coffee, cacao, sugar, rice, bananas and cattle, is the second city of the republic. Founded in colonial times as San José de David, it has managed to keep its traditions intact while modernizing itself. The attractive city is safe and friendly and a gateway to the Chiriquí Highlands and the Caribbean province of Bocas del Toro. With a wide selection of hotels and restaurants, it is a good place to break the trip from Costa Rica to become acquainted with Panama and its people.

Getting around

David presents a significant navigational challenge to the visitor. It is perfectly flat with no prominent landmarks, the central plaza is not central, there are no street signs, some streets have two names and the locals use neither, preferring nostalgic points of reference (eg across the street from where the old oak used to be) to genuinely useful guidance. City bus routes are circuitous and generate additional confusion.


The city of David focuses on the fine central plaza,
Parque Cervantes
, which teems with birds in the early morning, providing good birdwatching from the balconies of the Hotel Occidental or Iris. The colonial-style
Iglesia de San José
is on the west side of the park. The bell tower in Barrio Bolívar was built separately as a defence against tribal attacks. The Palacio Municipal is opposite Hotel Nacional on Avenida and Calle Central. The
Museo José de Obaldía
 is a museum of history and art in the house of the founder of Chiriquí Province.

A few kilometres north of David on the Boquete road is
Balneario Majagua
, where you can swim in a river under a waterfall (cold drinks for sale). There is another bathing place on the right 10 km further on. Take a Dolega or Boquete bus and ask the driver to drop you off. About 2 km along the main road to the border is the
Carta Vieja rum factory
 offering free tours and something to take away with you.

About 10 km east of David is the small town of
. A paved road through Gualaca leads north to the mountains and over the divide to Chiriquí Grande.

This is edited copy from Footprint Handbooks. For comprehensive details (incl address, tel no, directions, opening times and prices) please refer to book or individual chapter PDF
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