The most popular mainland beach in the region is at Las Lajas, the turnoff to which is about 75 kilometers east of David (or 35 kilometers east of Horconcitos) on the Interamericana. It’s a long, wide, gray-sand beach with few facilities. It’s not all that pretty or otherwise special, but it’s the most accessible large expanse of sand around and it’s big enough to offer seclusion even on busy dry-season weekends.
The crossroads of the Interamericana and the road leading down to Las Lajas is known as El Cruce de San Felix. El Cruce is a common pit stop for buses and private cars making the long haul across the country. It has a gas station, but skip the hole-in-the-wall greasy spoon and hotel, and don’t take your eyes off your stuff for a second.
In fact, avoid spending time in El Cruce altogether. Once, a scammer drove a nail into one of my car’s tires when I wasn’t looking. When I started to leave, he kindly pointed it out to me—he couldn’t have seen the tire from where he was standing—and offered to fix it. I drove on instead and had the tire repaired down the road. Beware.
The beach is a 13-kilometer drive south down a paved but pitted road from El Cruce, a drive that leads through the town of Las Lajas itself. Curve right when the road forks at a small yellow building; if the road turns to dirt, you’ve missed the turn. The road ends at the beach.
Getting to Las Lajas
Buses to the town of Las Lajas leave the David bus terminal at 11:45 a.m., 12:45 p.m., 4:25 p.m., and 5:20 p.m. and return at 2:15 p.m. and 3:15 p.m. The trip takes 1.5 hours and costs US$2.25. Note that the beach is eight kilometers from the town, however, and taxis may be hard to find. A better option is to take any bus running along the Interamericana that goes as far as El Cruce de San Felix (US$2.25), the Las Lajas crossroads. Get off there and take a taxi (US$4) to the beach, which is 13 kilometers away.
Good bets from David include the San Felix and Tolé buses, which run about every 20 minutes. Getting back to El Cruce can be tricky during the week and in the rainy season. Consider arranging a pickup time with the taxi driver, or at least ask for his phone number.
© William Friar from Moon Panama, 3rd Edition