Las Tablas (pop. 7,980 in town, 24,298 in the district) has more sprawl and less charm than Chitré, its sister town 30 kilometers north in Herrera province. It feels more like a city in miniature, sacrificing coziness for a somewhat more urban atmosphere. However, the tableños are just as mellow and easygoing as the people you’d find in smaller towns.
Las Tablas is built up around an L formed by two roads. The first is the stretch of highway that runs north to south from Chitré to Las Tablas. It intersects in downtown Las Tablas with Avenida Belisario Porras, which runs east through town and turns back into highway outside the town limits.
Most of the restaurants, hotels, and services are along these two streets or within a block or two of them. At the base of the L is the town church, plaza, and a museum dedicated to favorite son Belisario Porras, a three-time president of Panama. A stroll from the plaza east down Avenida Belisario Porras is a good way to get a sense of town life.
As is true of every town in Panama, most streets have multiple names, none of which may appear on a road sign or be known even by those who live on the street. The only street that people may know by name is Avenida Belisario Porras, which is basically the town’s main drag.
Getting to Las Tablas
Taxis are easy to find in Las Tablas, and there are taxi stands all over. The taxi stand (tel. 994-8532 or 994-8533) near the launderette on Calle 3 de Noviembre is open 24 hours a day. Buses within town should cost around US$1 or less. A bus as far as Pedasí will probably cost at least US$20. For those who can’t afford the cab fare, buses to Guararé leave from downtown every 10 minutes (US$0.30) from early morning to evening. They can be flagged down on Avenida Carlos L. Lopez, the main road heading north out of Las Tablas.
Buses to more distant locations leave from the town bus terminal at the north end of town, shortly after the national highway morphs into Avenida Carlos L. Lopez. The cross street is Avenida Emilio Castro. There’s a taxi stand at the bus terminal. Though it’s just a half kilometer to the center of town, it can feel like a major hike in the heat when you’re toting luggage. Avoid the misery and cough up the US$1 cab fare.
© William Friar from Moon Panama, 3rd Edition