La Arena is a small town located 1.2 miles (2 km) west of Chitré. The town is known throughout Panama for its pottery—vendors line the streets showcasing colorful and classic designs. It’s a fun place to stroll and examine the local artistry.
The ceramic creations in La Arena are some of the finest in all of Panama. They include pots, plates, vases, mugs, and ashtrays. The designs often mimic those used by pre-Colombian indigenous groups of the area, including the Ngöbe-Buglé. The patterns are painted in browns and reds and move in abstract swirls and shapes. There are brighter, modern pieces as well that use more conventional Panamanian themes, including birds and flowers. A traditional piece is the tinaja, a pot that was once used for storing water.
Much of the pottery is made by hand using a foot-powered potter’s wheel. You might be able to spot someone painting pots or spinning clay in one of the shops lining the street.
La Arena is also well known for its bread. The bread stores, called panaderias, make all kinds of pastries, breads, and cookies. They are great places to pop into and enjoy a treat.