There is kayaking in Panama, but surprisingly, not as much as there should be. Kayaking is still in its infant stages here in Panama. I think kayaking is spectacular and I only know of a few people who have legitimate kayaking companies. Most of the stuff that you can rent over here are the plastic kayaks where you sit on top. I do not know of any real tours. Most are just rentals. There is a hotel or two that have kayak rentals, but kayaking is still not the main attraction.
That said, there are some really great kayaking in Panama. My friend does kayaking trips around Isla Coiba, which is an island off the Pacific coast, and it is spectacular. Isla Coiba is the absolute jewel of Panama. It is the largest island in Central America. It is over 500 square kilometers (194 square miles); it is a giant island. It was an old jail and it is more or less uninhabited. Many smaller islands make up the archipelago there. The flatness of the water in Isla Coiba is similar to the Caribbean. That gulf is by far my favorite part of Panama. Luckily, most people do not get to Isla Coiba.
There are a few different ways to access the island. The main access route is from Santa Catalina, which is a little town down on the Pacific coast, but you can also go to Isla Coiba coming from David, Boca Chica and even Santiago. There is another marina in Santiago where people take boats from that peninsula to get to Isla Coiba, but the main access is from Santa Catalina.
There is an old Smithsonian research center runway there, so it is 50/50 whether you could charter a flight or not. You would probably need some permits and other documents to use the runway. You could also take a helicopter, I suppose, but more or less, people take a boat. The boat ride from Santa Catalina to Isla Coiba is about an hour.
The only way to go kayaking in Isla Coiba is to book a tour through Fluid Adventures because their kayaks are the only ones that are out there in Isla Coiba. The owner does not rent the kayaks. He is a very good, Canadian guy who pays a lot of attention to safety. There are some big tides in the Pacific and you need to know how they work so you have to book a tour.
I know one kayaking guru and he goes kayaking out on the San Blas islands, which is on the Caribbean. Kayaking in San Blas is a unique experience. There is only one company that offers kayaking in San Blas and they have the rights to kayaking tours there. Therefore, if you want to go kayaking, you have to book a tour with this company. I believe there are two kayaking options. One is a three-day, two-night and the other one is a seven-day, six-night. It is intermediate paddling, so you are not paddling eight hours a day, but you would probably do five hours, which are broken up between a morning and afternoon session. It is five hours per day paddling, then you go snorkeling, and they usually do some camping, too. If you live in Casco Viejo, for example (an areaa within Panama City), and you wanted to go kayaking just for a couple of hours in San Blas, you cannot do that, because it is a protected area.
If you are in Panama City and you want to go kayaking, there are several different places for that. There is lots of good kayaking in less restricted areas. We can take you to the Gamboa area out on the Charges River. We have kayaking from the Bridge of the Americas to Vera Cruz, which is in the mouth of the Panama Canal. Our most popular kayaking is the sunset kayaking because you go kayaking from 2 PM to 6 PM. That is also intermediate kayaking, however. You have to know how to kayak and be able to paddle on the Pacific. We do that on the mouth of the Panama Canal so it is really beautiful.