Having covered the activewear and gear you might want for ocean and jungle adventures in previous posts, it’s now time to relax and lounge for a bit. Whether it’s a nicer outfit for a special dinner, or you just want to hang at the beach or bar and relax, the following items are worth considering for your tropical vacation.
1. Guayabera Shirt. If you’re traveling to Isla Palenque or elsewhere in Latin America or the Latin Caribbean, a guayabera is a great shirt to consider buying; in addition to wearing on your vacation it’s a nice look to wear when it’s hot back home as well. The guayabera is a traditional shirt with a long history in Latin America, and perfectly attuned to looking sharp in the heat. Choose cotton or linen for the best quality and lightest weight; both long- and short-sleeved shirts are available and equally traditional, as is a lighter color and four pockets, but there are plenty of more contemporary looks available (from Cubavera, for example), with modern updates to pockets, embroidery, and color. While it is traditionally menswear, here in Panama I’ve even seen some nice blouses and one-piece dresses made in the same style.
2. Linen Pants. A pair of lightweight linen pants are a must in the tropics. Not only will you want to wear them when you need that dressier look, but you’ll often find yourself wanting them while hanging at the beach because they help keep the sandflies away from your legs. (I’m writing this on an especially still and buggy day at Las Rocas, and I literally went back to my room an hour ago to change from shorts to some linen drawstring pants; they feel just as cool, and no more chitras!) Finding a decent pair with a good fit can sometimes be difficult – I find that too many are overlay baggy for my taste – but you can find good pairs at Tommy Bahama and Cubavera.
3. Canvas Shoes. A pair of slip-on canvas shoes is a great option for vacationing in the tropics: they are dresser than sandals, breathe better than leather, and can easily pop on and off for jaunts between the beach and bar. Freewaters makes some really nice ones, for both men and women (they also make fine flip flops).
4. Lightweight Blazer. For the guys, a lightweight blazer can both dress up an otherwise bland outfit for a special occasion; while they aren’t traditionally worn with a guayabera, don’t let that stop you, and if you are feeling especially edgy, pair it with a t-shirt. And if you are traveling from a cold climate to Panama, it can also serve double-duty as your jacket in the car ride between home and the airport. Reyn Spooner makes nice tropical weight blazers at a reasonable price.
5. Sundress. For the women, a lightweight sundress is a great choice for lounging: you can slip it over a bathing suit, pair it with a loose top, and they tend to breather a lot better than pants and a shirt.
6. Crochet Top. For switching up your look in short order, whether it’s over your sundress, swimsuit, or a tank top, a loosely knit top works wonders, and stays cool as well.
7. Hat. Keeping you head and face shaded in the Panamanian sun is important. Ventilated hats help keep your head cool, and crushable hats are easy to carry around. Woven straw hats often work great on both fronts.
8. Sandals. Easy to remove whatever sand might get in, airy and breathable, and if you choose the right pair, stylish: what’s not to like? Plus, they take up almost no space in your suitcase.
9. Sunglasses. Aviator sunglasses make you cool. That’s just a fact. Depending on the rest of what you wear, you’ll look like either a pilot or cop: either way, people will have no choice but to respect your authority. The ones shown are from Maui Jim.
10. Beach Reading. Whether you’ve got an iPad, Kindle, some other tablet, or you want to go old-school with paper, having an entertaining, light book is almost indispensable. There’s not much in this world that can beat the quiet pleasure of slowly dozing on the beach while reading a fun book after lunch. If you are looking for an islandy read, may I suggest Don’t Stop The Carnival, Herman Wouk’s humorous look at running a small hotel on a (barely) fictional tropical island?
11. Beach Tote. Particularly if you plan on spending time at both the beach and the bar, a decent-sized beach tote is essential for carrying the aforementioned reading material, as well maybe swimsuits, towels, sunscreen, etc. The sun is out, the ocean is a gorgeous shade of blue, so just throw everything in that tote, and let’s go!