Several years ago I visited my good Miami friends Ricardo and Charles at their holiday home in Panama, and apart from the great stuff in Panama City both old and new, I discovered a great little hideaway about two hours from the capital. It's a haven for both well heeled Panamanians and expats (these days the population's around 7,500), and also offers visitors a sweet little taste of rural life but with plenty of amenities and a few interesting attractions. Welcome to El Valle de Antón!

At some 2,000 feet above sea level, this valley is actually one of the world's largest inhabited calderas, of the 3¾-mile-wide (six-kilometre) El Valle Volcano - a fecund enclave with a cool microclimate (usually in the lower 70s Fahrenheit/20s Celsius) that makes it a real stand-out in sultry, tropical Panama. It's a high rainfall zone, but December through March is reliably dry and sunny.

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