Really little more than a glorified crossroads, Tonosí (pop. 2,272) will be of interest mainly to those going to or coming from nearby Playa Guánico and Playa Cambutal. It’s not a pretty town, though it does have some facilities, including one surprisingly decent place to stay, as well as a couple of more basic but cheaper options. Other services include a post office and a few gas stations and pharmacies.
Most everything in town is built around a Y-shaped intersection. The northeast road forks six kilometers east of town. Its right fork heads north to Isla de Cañas, Playa Venao, and Pedasí, and continues from there to Las Tablas. The left fork is a more direct route to Las Tablas that cuts out the intermediate stops.
Only one thing passes for a sight in Tonosí. One kilometer south of town on the road to the beaches, make a quick stop at the overpass over the Río Tonosí. Look left down at the pond: It’s absolutely crawling with caimans. Locals sometimes feed them bread as though they were ducks. Those who have trouble spotting the pond should ask in town where to find the lagartos.
Pensión Boamy (tel. 995-8142, US$18–25 s/d), a pleasant surprise on the road to Playa Cambutal, has 11 rooms with air-conditioning, TVs, and hot-water bathrooms. It’s a clean, perfectly fine place by a church on the edge of town. It also has a cheerful little restaurant. It’s the best place in town.
Camping on the beaches, as usual in Panama, is free. Only do so in a tent, however, and it’s not a good idea to camp alone in such isolated spots.
Getting to Tonosí
Buses to Las Tablas leave from the center of town every hour and a half or so (6 a.m.–4 p.m. Mon.–Sat. and 7:30 a.m.–4:30 p.m. on Sun.). The trip costs US$3 and takes an hour and 20 minutes. Buses no longer run between Tonosí and Pedasí, oddly enough.
Buses to and from Las Tablas use the road that leads northwest out of Tonosí and winds through the still relatively unspoiled southwest tip of the Azuero. It starts out hilly, with sweeping views of deforested but still scenic hills, passes through the town of Macaracas, and ends up in the flatlands as it gets close to Chitré, about 100 kilometers away.
This is a somewhat faster road than the coastal route. Those who drive this way should watch out for tire-eating potholes and one-way bridges.
© William Friar from Moon Panama, 3rd Edition