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Veracruz Beach Shows What Panama Is Made Of

Want to look into the core of a culture? Go to the beach.

Veracruz Beach, Panama
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VERACRUZ, Panama- If you want to know what a culture is made of all you have to do is go out to a popular beach near its largest city on the weekend and look around.

You know the type of beach I’m talking about here — the type where all the locals pour in on Saturday blasting their music, grilling their food, setting their kids loose on aquatic rampages, kicking around soccer balls, and drinking their beer. These beaches are usually loud, crowded, hectic … Which is to say, not really the type of beach that tourists dare venture — the antithesis of what we think of when we say the word “paradise.”

Go out to one of these beaches and look around. Is it full of garbage — food wrappers, broken sandals, discarded plastic forks and plastic pop bottles? Are kids fortifying sand castles with empty beer cans? Are used maxi pads coming to get you in the surf? Or is it just sand, waves, and people having a good time?

This will tell you about everything you need to know about a culture.

Veracruz Beach, Panama

Some urban beaches are essentially recreational landfills. Some are beautiful places full of life, laughing, and fun.

I was expecting the former type when I rode out to Veracruz …

… but I got the latter.

This place is nice, real nice. It’s little more than a stretch of sand at the mouth of the Panama Canal and a long strip of wooden beach bars. There are some trees, some big rocks that people sit on, some small islands in the near distance, and that’s about it.


Veracruz Beach, Panama

Beaches don’t need much … but they need to be clean. And this is all about the culture that uses them — do they throw their stuff away or do they just toss it on the beach? Cultures that care enough to throw their garbage away tend to care about other things … such as caring about making their country a good place to live and travel in.

San Juan has some of the best urban beaches in the world.

Havana has some of the worst.

Panama City is right up there at the top.

But it wasn’t always like this.

“It was very different when I first moved here five years ago,” a friend who is originally from Venezuela laughed when I told about my impression of the beach at Veracruz. “It used to be full of garbage like the other beaches you talked about. It was only a recent thing that they cleaned it.”

Veracruz Beach, Panama

This is where the empty beer cans go.

It has been a recent worldwide phenomenon where the younger generation has had the importance of caring for the environment and the value of cleaning up after themselves drilled into them by schools and, I strongly believe, social media — nobody wants to take Instagram photos on beaches that second as trash heaps.

But there is something else at work here too. I suppose you could call it the new global ethics. When cultures collide value systems change, and the world’s cultures are currently being sloshed together and shot through the same funnel.

Cultures change. It’s not a bad thing.

Especially when they start cleaning the beach.

Veracruz Beach, Panama Veracruz Beach, Panama Veracruz Beach, Panama


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Filed under: Beaches, Panama, Travel Diary

About the Author:

I am the founder and editor of Vagabond Journey. I’ve been traveling the world since 1999, through 91 countries. I am the author of the book, Ghost Cities of China and have written for The Guardian, Forbes, Bloomberg, The Diplomat, the South China Morning Post, and other publications. has written 3722 posts on Vagabond Journey. Contact the author.

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VBJ is currently in: New York City

4 comments… add one

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  • Rob May 11, 2024, 8:51 am

    That was good!

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    • VBJ May 11, 2024, 11:32 am

      Thank you!

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  • Jack May 11, 2024, 8:36 pm

    You might just turn into an environmentalist hippy before this project is done. 🙂 Excellent and insightful story.

    Link Reply
    • VBJ May 12, 2024, 12:03 pm

      Thank you!

      Oh man, that would be something… I would normally say that twisted transitions tend to be interesting to read but I’m not sure about this one 🤣

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