Panamá is not included in Central America, either geographically, politically or commercially. It was formerly a part of the South American Republic of Colombia. Its commercial problems are now those of the canal, and even geographically Panamá marks the end, rather than a part of the Central American division. Yet because Panamá is the convenient cross-roads that it is, and because, too, of the presence of the canal, it is wisest to begin our journey from Panamá. The great canal should be seen, if for the fiftieth time, on the verge of any trip into tropical America, for in that vast work we have visible proof that man can conquer, as he has conquered there, his eternal enemy, the jungle. It is well to carry that picture as we start for lands where that age-long battle of the tropics seems often just begun.
Panamá, at whichever end of the canal, is comfortable, soothing and amusing. From its great concrete docks we can take boat with ease and the assurance that Costa Rica is only overnight away, and so go to rest in comfort and anticipation. The start is best made from Cristobal (or Colón--they are the same) at the northern, or Caribbean, end of the canal, the destination Port Limón, Costa Rica, where we take train for the journey across Costa Rica, via its capital, to the Pacific. On the Pacific, at Puntarenas, we shall start on our journey up the coast to the other four countries, which are still as a group, reached best from the Pacific side.
But let us go aboard, to linger a moment to look out again over the glaring miracle of Panamá, and then to turn our backs and look out, beyond, at the sea, keeneyed and eager for the color and the fresh promised charm of the rainbow countries.