How close? Ninety minutes coast-to-coast. That's the beauty of a long skinny country on the equator. You've got multiple oceans at your disposal.
Although we live just a few feet from the Pacific Ocean, we wanted to celebrate a friend's birthday by taking him to the Caribbean. We piled into the car with a small cooler of snacks and drove off for our adventure. Before we had opened our first soda pop, we'd reached the Caribbean Coast town of Colon. Our ultimate destination was another hour along the Coast, though, on the tiny island of Isla Grande.
From Panama City, we drove to Colon, and then followed the coastal route past Portobelo, where we took a small boat across the water to Isla Grande.
The Pacific Ocean side of Panama has a 20-foot tide, which means low tide is hundreds of feet out from the high-tide water line. The Caribbean side, though, has a mere 18-inch tide. The water laps the beach at about the same spot all day--and all year--long. This low tidal change means that restaurants can put their chairs right against the water.
We spent four hours dipping our toes in the turquoise Caribbean waters as we noshed on tomato salad, grilled fish, and frozen coconut leche-on-a-stick.
Then after a lazy afternoon, we drove home. Although it was a long day, we could do a round trip coast-to-coast with a long leisurely lunch in between. Now that's something to shout about.