First Road Trip to Portobelo, Colón, Panama City, Panamá

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Portobelo History:

Portobelo is located in the Province of Colon, which is on the northern side of Panama. It was once the hub for Export and Trade and was originally named “Puerto Bello” by legend Christoper Columbus. Portobelo means “Beautiful Port”. – wikipedia
Portobelo, Colon

The Journey:

If you live in Panama City the journey is about 3 hours one-way depending on traffic. I opted for the “local experience” as opposed to using the most direct (hired) means of transportation.
I took a taxi from home to the nearest Metro/Train Station then boarded a Train heading to “Direccion Albrook”.
“Estacion Iglesia del Carmen” – “Iglesia del Carmen” Metro Station
Albrook Terminal

Albrook Terminal is Panama’s main Hub for Public Transportation. From here I took a Bus heading to Colon. Normally there is a long line of people waiting for the bus. One comes every 15-20 minutes depending on the time of day. I would suggest you choose a comfortable seat because the first stop where you get off is approximately 1 hour and 45 minutes.

Busy Street of Sabinatas

First Stop: Sabanitas

When you get to the junction of Sabanitas you are one step closer to your destination. This corner is usually busy. There is the familiar sight of street vendors, variety stores and the main landmark “El Rey” Supermarket. This is where you would take a “Diablo Rojo”bus.
While waiting for the bus you may use this opportunity to go to El Rey.  Buy sufficient water and other snacks of your choice for the remainder of the trip. There are a few shops in Portobelo but don’t expect a variety. If you need to use a washroom there is one inside the grocery store.

The “Diablos Rojos” Bus

The “Diablos Rojos” or “Red Devils” in English, is not your typical public bus. These are revamped old school buses and privately owned. It is a cost effective mode of transportation for the lesser fortunate and average Panamanians. They mainly operate in the rural communities, taking residents to and from the city.
They can be spotted from afar as they are mostly covered in graffiti-like painting. Loud music can be heard blasting from a mile away. I suppose this helps to take people’s mind away from the long weary journey.
At nights they are noticeably adorned with bright flourscent lights.
The Diablo Rojo Bus
People waiting to board the Diablo Rojo


Waiting in Sabinatas
At the Fort

Summary of my bus ride experience:

  • Very economical.
  • The mainly works in areas where taxis are difficult during peaks times.
  • Small with limited seating so a lot of people have to stand in the isles.
  •  Most of them are equipped with loud music speakers.
  • Seats are short and not very wide which makes it very uncomfortable for long distances.
  • Be prepared to be warm and sweaty. Not all the windows can be opened and the ones that do are usually all the way to the top.
  • People do not get up for you to sit unless you are visibly pregnant, holding a baby or elderly. Some of the men may get up but don’t expect them to.
  • There are no signal bells for you to alert the driver of your stop. You would have to get up and walk towards the driver to let him know you will be coming off soon.
  • The drivers drive at ridiculous speeds hence the name “diablo rojo”.
  • Very few of them have air condition but don’t expect them to.
  • No proper lighting inside the bus at nights.
  • Do NOT take one of these buses unless you are absolutely sure of where you are going. At times they become crowded and getting a view of outside may be not be possible.
Diablo Rojo

The Church of the Black Christ

When you have arrived at this Church, it is an indication that you have reached your destination.
Church of the Black Christ
Since living in Panama I have been to Portobelo twice. I enjoy coming here. The people are warm and friendly and the community is very peaceful. Not to mention the beautiful scenery of nature and monuments.
Street Vendor near the Church
Villager / Vendor
There are 2 forts and a museum within walking distance from the Church.
Folk Dancers/Performers
I was lucky one time when I visited Portobelo to witness a performance by these Folk Dancers. Another beautiful tradition of Panamanians.


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  • everythingcurvyandchic

    Thanks for sharing looks like you had a blast I might need to check this out

  • Thank you so much for sharing your experience. The pictures and your vivid descriptions made me feel as if I was there with you. It looks as if you enjoyed yourself. I personally was very interested in the the Black Christ church. I will be back to read more of your blog!

    • Shevy

      Thank you J.Shan I appreciate the love. I had a great day that day 🙂

  • a very beautiful vivid description of the area , I felt as thought I went there without even using a passport. I literary imagined the dancing and scenary…..just beautiful.

    • Shevy

      Thank you Elvis 😀

  • Several years ago I was very interested to visit Panama but I got slowed down by the complicated visa procedures. I enjoyed reading your review on your trip and seeing all these beautiful photos. Panama seems so…coloured. 🙂

    • Shevy

      Hi Perla. Sorry to hear about your drawn out visa process. But it is indeed a colourful place. 😉

  • Ola

    What a great experience for you! My favorite part of traveling to other countries is meeting the people, which I why I really liked that you took photos of the Folk Singers.

    • Shevy

      Thanks Ola. Yes it is great to meet and interact with the natives.

  • I don’t know much about that place as I am from India but love to go there because the way you described that place is awsome. Interesting place to visit. and one more thing I want to tell you about the photographs. They are very real. Thanks !

    • Shevy

      Thank you Abhishek! Input like this is what keeps me motivated. 🙂

  • I’ve never been to Panama, but I would love to visit! Thanks for providing some fun suggestions. 🙂

    • Shevy

      Thanks Tricia you would enjoy it

  • Wow, thanks for sharing this post, love the pictures and the way in which you share your entire journey. The red devil bus looks like an interesting way to get around 😉 Thanks for sharing this.

    • Shevy

      Thanks Neil. Trust me riding that bus is an experience of a life time lol

  • Looks like Portobello is a great place to be.

  • All the photos look beautiful. Looks like you had so much fun! Portobelo looks like an awesome place to visit.

    • Shevy

      Thanks Nisha

  • Rabz Haq

    Lovely pics.
    Feel like going aswel 🙂
    Thanks for sharing.

    • Shevy

      Thanks Rabz

  • i enjoyed reading this! looks like a great time!! I hope to visit panama soon. I think that region as a whole has so much to offer tourists

    • Shevy

      Yes it does Victoria. Thank you

  • Chanelle Lynn

    Looks like you had so much fun! Thank you for sharing your experience and those beautiful pictures! Your gorgeous btw woman.

    • Shevy

      Thank you Chanelle Lynn

  • That fort reminds me of “El Morro” in Puerto Rico.

  • Amazing trip . love to visit panama one day ! Cute skirt girl 🙂

    • Shevy

      That-s great Sana. Thank you

  • I really enjoyed reading the summary of your trip. The pictures are gorgeous!

    • Shevy

      Thank you Jennifer!

  • I love your photos (and your Minnie shirt)! Thanks for sharing a peak into Panamanian culture.

    • Shevy

      Thanks Jessica

  • This is beautiful! I have always wanted to visit Panama, so I love to see an inside look.
    Thank you for sharing!

    XOXO- Nicole

    • Shevy

      Thanks Nicole. It is an interesting place.

  • Sandra Negron

    Wow this trip looked amazing, you had such a good time. Might have to add panama to my list of places to visit.

    • Shevy

      Yes I had a good time. Beautiful country 🙂

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