Isla Palenque is about an hour from David, the capital of Chiriqui and Panama’s second largest city. We provide transport between this airport and our island for any guest that wants it, and it is included in all of the packages Isla Palenque offers.
However, the choice of how you get to David can take some thought, since (as of 15-Jan-15) there are two airlines which fly in and out of David’s Enrique Malek International Airport (DAV), and two airlines fly into it from Panama City, Copa Airlines and Air Panama. Copa offers substantially cheaper flights (about $100 per person round-trip), and unless Air Panama’s schedule better fits your plans for a visit to Panama City, usually Copa is the way to go. In fact, our Panama City Transport Package uses Copa exclusively, though we can create a custom package for you if you need to use Air Panama.
Copa – which codeshares with United, and flies into Panama City from all over the Americas – flies to David from Panama’s main international airport, Tocumen (PTY) twice each day. Air Panama is the country’s regional airline, and flies from Albrook airport (PAC) to David three times per day.
It is certainly simplest (and cheapest) to just book a single ticket on Copa/United all the way from your point of departure to David. However, there are a few reasons you may want or need to buy two separate tickets: maybe you want to get to Panama on an airline other than Copa/United, or maybe you want to spend a night or two in Panama City on your way to or from Isla Palenque. If you are going to buy two separate tickets, then you’ll want to consider both Air Panama and Copa as options: and basically, your decision on whether to take Copa or Air Panama comes down to three factors: price, airport location, and schedule.
At the time of writing, Copa is substantially cheaper than Air Panama: about $170 for a round trip ticket, versus $270.
Copa flies in and out of Tocumen, which is the same airport that all international flights in and out of Panama City flies. So if your layover in Panama City is just a few hours or less, it’s going to be easiest to just take Copa to David, as you won’t need to leave the airport. While Tocumen is about 15 miles (25 km) outside of Panama City, if you aren’t going to leave the airport, this distance isn’t important.
On the other hand, Air Panama flies in and out of Albrook airport, which is in Panama City itself, and quite close to where you are likely to be staying and sights you will want to see. It’s just 10 minutes from Casco Viejo, for example, which means that if you are spending a night or two in Panama City, it will likely save you about 30 minutes and about $25 in cab fare to just go to Albrook instead of Tocumen: not enough to offset a savings of $100 or more in tickets, but it’s something.
The last factor to consider when choosing between Copa and Air Panama are their schedules: both airlines have multiple flights per day, and their times aren’t wildly different, but you will still want to consult the exact schedules to see what works best for you.
Copa’s Schedule (as of 10-Dec-14):
- Tocumen (PTY) to David (DAV), 7:55am – 8:59am & 5:32pm – 6:36pm
- David (DAV) to Tocumen (PTY), 9:29am – 10:20am & 7:06pm – 7:57pm
Air Panama’s Schedule:
The exact timing of Air Panama’s three flights per day changes, and will depend much more on your exact dates, but typically follows something like this:
- Albrook (PAC) to David (DAV): flights at 7am-8am, 4pm-5pm, and one more late morning or mid-afternoon
- David (DAV) to Albrook (PAC): flights at 8am-9am, 5pm-6pm, and one more late morning or mid-afternoon
keep in mind that while Copa tends to be on schedule, Air Panama is frequently late: I would guess there on-time ratio is well under 50%, and probably up to 20% of their flights are 45 minutes late or more (no mean feat when the flight itself is less than 45 minutes).
Other Factors & Considerations:
Sometimes, depending on your itinerary, it might make the most sense to buy two one-way tickets for each leg: one on Copa and one on Air Panama. Once you’ve decided which airlines and flights you want to take, there are two other things of which you should take note:
If you are flying Air Panama the same day as your international flight, you will need to switch airports, which involves a $35-$40 cab ride and 30 minutes or more, depending on traffic. So make sure you give yourself an extra hour of leeway in your layover to cover traffic, a potentially late flight, and other inevitable travel mishaps.
If you have a single, same-day Copa ticket between David and your final destination, immigration and customs will be handled in David. If you have two separate tickets (for example, if you are flying American Airlines to/from the United States), then you’ll need to exit security and customs in Tocumen and check back in. You won’t need to leave the airport, so it’s still fairly simple, but just be aware of it.
Isla Palenque’s Guest Services team members are always happy to assist with your travel planning, which can range from simply providing a little advice for your exact situation, to purchasing your airline tickets and arranging any transport between airports if you choose our Panama City Transport Package. So if you have any questions at all, feel free to email them at firstname.lastname@example.org