Most visitors to western Panama choose to spend their time in the highlands, either on the west side or the east side of Volcán Barú . To truly do justice to both sides of the mountain would require up to a week. The eastern side, centered around Boquete , is more popular.
Allow at least three days to explore the town, go for a hike , and do at least one of the activities the area is known for, such as a coffee tour , white-water rafting trip , or search for quetzals . The highlights of the western side, including a long hike, can be covered in two days.
Physically fit visitors who want to see both sides of the mountain should consider hiking the Sendero Los Quetzales  from one side to another when they’re ready to relocate; allow a full day for this.
It’s fun to combine a trip to the highlands with a visit to the beaches and islands of the Golfo de Chiriquí . It’s quite a contrast. Those who just want a little beach time can spend a night or two at the mainland beaches of Barqueta  or Las Lajas , or make day trips there from David .
David itself can be explored in half a day, and most people give it even less time than that. Getting just about anywhere else in the Golfo de Chiriquí takes time and planning, especially for those of us who don’t own private yachts.
Parque Nacional Coiba  is about two hours by boat from the nearest mainland ports; only private planes can fly there, and only then with special permission. Reaching Playa Santa Catalina  or Parque Marino Golfo de Chiriquí  usually means a fair amount of driving, but the roads to both places have recently been paved and are now much more accessible. They are both beginning to take off as tourist destinations. Most guests arrive at the Islas Secas Resort  by private plane arranged by the resort.
Few will have the time or inclination to visit both marine parks. Coiba and its surrounding waters and islands are stunning, at the top of most visitors’ wish lists. The most accessible parts of Parque Marino Golfo de Chiriquí are not as uniquely impressive as Coiba, but it has plenty of small, deserted islands to explore , and it’s easier and cheaper to get to.
Most people get to the islands of the gulf through a tour, dive, surf, or fishing operator, though some areas close to shore can be reached by taking a taxi, bus, or private vehicle to the coast, where fishing boats can generally be hired. Even Coiba can be reached this way, though it’s not the safest and certainly not the fastest way to go. Plan to spend at least two nights on the islands to enjoy the surroundings and recover from the hassle of getting there.
Exploring the Fortuna Road  area makes most sense for travelers who are going to or from Bocas del Toro  by land. Otherwise, combining it with a visit to the Volcán Barú  or Golfo de Chiriquí area means more traveling time than most are likely to want.