PIÑA  Piña Beach, Panama 1978-79

Panoramic view from Fort San Lorenzo high above the Chagres River and Caribbean coast.

Piña Beach - East

Piña Beach - East, seen above from the ruins of the 16th Century Spanish Fort San Lorenzo, is (was?) a rather desolate stretch of coastline that runs west from the mouth of the Chagres River roughly about a mile to the point at the right. It is not a picturesque "postcard" kind of beach, it feels more like the kind of place one gets shipwrecked on. (In the 1960s, the US Army had an artillery range there. By the end of the 70s, the range was gone, but they would still perform various training exercises on occasion.)

If one is curious enough to see what is around the point, Piña Beach - West, a little bit of walking will render the most spectacular stretch of coastline. Luscious green jungle draped over Mars-red cliffs with the Caribbean crashing on coral reefs. I will never forget seeing it for the first time.

When I lived in Panama, this was one of my favorite places. Piña Beach - East was perfect for camping. Many lost weekends were spent there, and more often than not, we had the beach all to ourselves. There were mild waves good enough for body surfing. There was a small fresh water stream to wash the salt off. There were no authorities and no rules! Bonfires and parties were the "rule" of the day. We could listen to loud music if we wanted or just the natural sounds of the surf as we looked out over the Caribbean Sea and reveled in life itself. A dream. Jack London once wrote that when you are most alive, you forget you're alive.

Arriving at Piña Beach for a lost weekend.
Ft. San Lorenzo is atop the cliff in the background.

  A canon in Ft. San Lorenzo overlooking Piña Beach East.

A canon in Ft. San Lorenzo overlooking
Piña Beach East. This is where the panorama
photo at the top of the page was taken from.

As you can see, not your classic Caribbean postcard. Camping on Piña Beach ... party time!

Pollo de la Playa Piña:

Boulder on the point - the gateway to Piña Beach West:

Beyond this point - Piña Beach West

Simply walk around the boulder and up the coast.

Piña Beach - West

Unfortunately, the photo does not do justice to the view. I only had a pocket instamatic then, and the clouds don't help to bring out the colors. Piña Beach West runs about 2 1/2 miles up the coast ("up" meaning towards North America) to the one-time border between the old (now nonexistent) Canal Zone on this side and the Republic of Panamá on the far side. The Panamanian town Piña is just beyond that, which lends its name to "our" beach.

Now, let's take a walk along the coast. Some pictures will be better than others ...

Look closely, and you'll see a freshwater waterfall beyond the beachcomber.

This is as far as we walked. There are fewer hidden "micro-beaches" with sand and more points to swim around.

Eating a coconut found on the beach, below the Piña cliffs:

Super-8 film-maker:

There may be more picturesque places in Panama, but we would find ourselves longing for another “lost weekend”
at Piña Beach. This longing came to be affectionately known as the "Piña Syndrome".

Back to Piña Beach - East. Turning in for the night.

Piña party late into the Panama night


All photos ... © 1978, 1979 Bud Tristano

Leftover Piña Pictures
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