The Ultimate Guide To The Best Things To Do In Panama

The Ultimate Guide To The Best Things To Do In Panama

Welcome to the world of Panama, a place filled with exciting things to do that will make your vacation unforgettable. From looking at big boats move through the famous Panama Canal to dancing in streets with history in Casco Viejo, there’s so much here for you! You can even see a shiny golden altar or eat yummy food while watching people pass by.

This tropical paradise is perfect if you love nature too. Picture yourself hiking through lush green rainforests, saying hello to colorful frogs, or waking up early to watch a beautiful sunrise from a tall mountain peak.

For those who want fun in the water, imagine swimming alongside fish near pretty islands and spotting huge whales!

But Panama is not just about seeing; it’s about feeling like part of their community. Join local festivals, try making chocolate or sip on some of the best coffee right where it grows.

Traveling safe and smart is important. We’ll help you know what to bring and how much money you might need each day so you can have the best time without worry.

Panama invites you on an adventure – let’s explore all its treasures together! Keep reading for tips and secrets that will make your trip amazing.

Discovering Panama City

Panama City is a vibrant metropolis where modern skyscrapers meet colonial charm, offering a tapestry of culture and innovation to explore. From the marvels of engineering at the Panama Canal to the cobblestone streets of Casco Viejo, every corner tells a story waiting to be discovered by eager travelers.

Exploring the Panama Canal

Head to the Panama Canal and see a masterpiece of engineering. This canal lets ships go from the Pacific Ocean to the Caribbean Sea much faster. Over 900,000 vessels have passed through since it opened.

You can check out huge ships as they move through locks like Miraflores. It’s not just about boats; there’s also tropical wildlife around.

Visit the canal visitor center to learn even more. They’ll tell you how this massive project was made and how it works today. While there, keep your eyes peeled for cool animals living in the area—you might spot some! Adventure lovers enjoy seeing nature here too.

Plus, local cultures nearby add something special to your visit.

Getting lost in Casco Viejo

Casco Viejo is the heart of Panama City’s history and charm. Picture yourself wandering through narrow streets lined with colonial architecture, each corner telling its own story. Here, you can explore historic landmarks like beautiful churches and old plazas that seem to whisper tales from centuries past.

This neighborhood buzzes with life; it’s where culture meets cuisine and history dances with modern nightlife. You might stumble upon a quaint cafe serving rich Panamanian coffee or discover shops filled with local crafts perfect for souvenirs.

Later, as the sun sets, find a rooftop lounge to relax in — the views of the city are unbeatable.

Every turn in Casco Viejo invites adventure. Enjoy mouth-watering Panamanian dishes at cozy restaurants tucked between colorful buildings. At night, let your ears guide you to vibrant music spilling out of bars—each spot offers a different experience under the stars.

Visiting the golden altar at the Church of San Jose

Step into the Church of San Jose and you’ll find a stunning piece of history – the Golden Altar. This beautiful altar is not just any church decoration; it’s carved from mahogany and shines with gold flake all over.

It stands as a bright reminder of Panama’s past.

The story behind this golden treasure is almost as amazing as the altar itself. Long ago, pirate Henry Morgan came to take treasures from Panamá Viejo. People say that priests painted the altar black to hide its gold and save it from being stolen.

The trick worked! Today, this golden wonder is one of the only things left after Morgan attacked.

Visitors come from far and wide to see this famous Altar de Oro at Iglesia de San José in Casco Viejo, Panama City’s old quarter. Here, you can feel connected to an important part of Panama’s story while surrounding yourself with beauty.

Make sure you don’t miss out on seeing something so special and full of legend during your visit!

Dining at El Trapiche and Super Gourmet

Eating at El Trapiche is a treat for anyone who loves food. This restaurant sits in the lively area of El Cangrejo, where people come together from all over. They serve amazing Panamanian dishes that won’t hurt your wallet.

You’ll find tasty Caribbean and Costeñan flavors on their menu. Breakfast lovers will enjoy the wide range of morning meals and fresh drinks they offer.

Super Gourmet has its own charm with delicious choices too. It brings you an exciting mix of foods that Panama City is known for. Here, you can sip on natural beverages while digging into national dishes.

People say it’s one of the best places to eat in town. Give it a try to experience what makes Panamanian cuisine so special!

Shopping at the Multiplaza Pacific Mall

The Multiplaza Pacific Mall is a shopper’s dream in the heart of Panama City. With three floors packed with all sorts of stores, it’s where the latest trends in fashion meet classic styles.

You’ll find clothing that fits every occasion, comfortable shoes for exploring the city, and accessories to complete your look. It’s the perfect spot to pick up gifts or just treat yourself.

Parking here won’t stress you out; it’s simple and won’t empty your wallet. Walk through this clean and spacious mall and you’ll see people carrying bags full of great finds. And when hunger strikes, there’s no need to leave—the food options are plentiful! Grab a quick snack or sit down for a meal—there’s something tasty for everyone.

Maybe you’re looking for more than just shopping? Well, this mall has got that covered too! Take breaks between stores with refreshing beverages from one of many spots around the place.

This isn’t just shopping—it’s an experience that can fill your day with fun discoveries and new flavors!

Connecting with Nature

Immerse yourself in Panama’s lush landscapes and encounter the thrill of Mother Nature’s own playground. From the dense canopies of the Gamboa Rainforest to the vibrant marine life around Coiba Island, Panama is a haven for eco-adventurers and wildlife enthusiasts alike.

Engaging in an eco adventure through the Gamboa Rainforest

The Gamboa Rainforest is a playground for nature lovers. You can glide along the Chagres River on a kayak, spotting bright birds and playful monkeys in the trees above. Take an aerial tram ride to see the rainforest from up high or join a night safari to uncover the secrets that come alive after dark.

With 17 kilometers of lush landscape, adventure waits at every turn.

As you wander through this green haven, keep your eyes peeled for colorful butterflies and listen for frogs’ calls. The Panama Rainforest Discovery Center brings you face-to-face with the beauty of biodiversity here.

For those who love fishing, there are expeditions that offer both thrill and peace in Soberania National Park’s vibrant backdrop. Each step through Gamboa gives you stories to tell about its rich natural habitats and extraordinary wildlife encounters.

Visiting an Embera Village

Stepping into an Embera village is like walking through a doorway to another world. You leave behind the hustle of Panama City and find yourself in a place where nature and tradition blend seamlessly.

Here, you can see how the Embera people live, with homes perched on stilts above the earth and life rhythmically tied to the land. This tribe has long understood what many seek—a genuine connection with each other and a life lived in harmony with nature.

A day trip to one of these tribal villages opens up stories from a culture rich in heritage. Experience their customs as villagers share dances, music, and craftwork that have been passed down for generations.

It’s not just about watching; it’s about joining in—and maybe even getting your own temporary jagua tattoo! These tours let you step away from your everyday routine to learn how an indigenous community thrives through simple joy and respect for their surroundings.

Interested visitors will find options for reaching these harmonious havens easily accessible from Panama City. Choose your path—whether by boat or overland—and be ready for moments filled with lush greenery, peaceful river sounds, welcoming smiles, and an enriching cultural exchange you won’t soon forget.

Whitewater rafting in the Chiriquí highlands

The Chiriquí highlands beckon those yearning for an exhilarating connection with nature. This tropical paradise is a dream for outdoor adventurers, offering white water rafting that thrills both newbies and seasoned pros.

The Chiriquí River, famous for its stunning views and diverse wildlife, features rapids ranging from the milder Class II to the extreme Class V. Here you can paddle furiously through foaming waters or float on gentler currents as toucans fly overhead.

With every powerful stroke down the Chiriquí Viejo River, rafters are immersed in one of the continent’s top white water experiences. It’s more than just tackling the rapids — it’s about diving deep into Panama’s natural wonders.

Indigenous guides lead many tours; they know these rivers by heart and share their world generously with visitors.

The rush of conquering whitewater rapids blends seamlessly into moments of awe as you drift past secluded forests filled with life untouched by modern hustle. In these moments, Panama reveals its true spirit — wild, free, and teeming with adventures that linger long after you’ve returned to shore.

Spotting neon frogs in Bocas del Toro

Bocas del Toro is a treasure for nature lovers, especially those eager to see something rare and colorful. Here, you can find the strawberry poison dart frog—Oophaga pumilio—a tiny creature that packs a lot of wow! These neon frogs are not just any animal; they’re unique to this part of Panama.

Hiking through the lush rainforests, keep your eyes peeled for flashes of bright color against the green leaves.

Exploring Bocas del Toro’s diverse ecosystems offers more than just frog spotting. It’s an adventure into some of the world’s most beautiful nature reserves. Walk along nature trails weaving through primary forests teeming with life.

Let each step on these paths bring you closer to understanding why conserving these habitats matters so much—for the frogs, other exotic wildlife, and all of us who appreciate biodiversity at its finest.

Watching the sunrise on Panama’s highest peak

Climbing to the top of Volcan Baru before dawn is an adventure you won’t forget. Imagine standing on Panama’s highest peak, 3475 meters above sea level, as the sky turns bright with colors.

You see the landscape below waking up. Clouds might float under your feet because you are so high up.

From this summit, something magical happens. You watch both seas—the Atlantic and the Pacific—as sunlight touches them one by one. Few places in the world let you do that! The volcano gives a view that takes your breath away and makes you feel close to nature.

This sunrise will be a part of your trip that stays with you forever.

Getting there is tough but worth it for the amazing sight. Wrap up warm because it gets cold, and bring your camera to capture this amazing experience!

Experiencing the Coastlines

Dive into Panama’s coastal beauty where turquoise waves kiss golden sands, enticing you to explore underwater treasures and surf on pristine beaches. From secluded islands to the vibrant marine life—each shore whispers secrets of ancient tales and promises adventures that beckon your soul.

Swimming with fish off Coiba Island

Coiba Island offers a world where vibrant fish dart through coral reefs. You can swim with over 760 species of marine life, including flashy reef fish and sleek sharks. Picture yourself floating in clear blue waters while huge schools of jacks and snapper whisk by you.

Booking a dive package to Coiba National Park is easy. They offer two dives with an option for a third, if the weather’s good. This adventure lets you get up close with friendly barracudas and maybe even spot the shadowy figures of hammerhead or bull sharks.

It’s not just about seeing fish— it’s about being part of their colorful underwater home for a time.

Visiting the San Blas Islands

The San Blas Islands are a true tropical paradise. Imagine stepping onto secluded beaches with white, powdery sand under your feet. You’ll see crystal clear waters all around you. These islands aren’t just beautiful; they hold the timeless culture of the indigenous people who live there.

You can dive into an adventure by snorkeling alongside bright fish and exploring thriving coral reefs. Go island hopping to experience ecotourism at its best on these remote islands.

With every visit, you’re greeted by untouched beauty and a pristine coastline that seems like it’s straight out of a dream.

To get there, plan for a magical journey through the Caribbean side of Panama. Enjoy meeting friendly locals and learning about their way of life in harmony with nature. The San Blas Islands invite you on an unforgettable trip where the wonders never cease, from sun-soaked shores to starlit nights.

Snorkeling on the Pearl Islands

Snorkeling on the Pearl Islands is like diving into a treasure box of colorful sea life. Warm, clear waters welcome you to explore vibrant coral reefs and swim alongside schools of exotic fish.

Isla Contadora stands out as a gem among these islands, with its white sand beaches and stunning turquoise water creating an underwater wonderland.

On Isla Contadora, Pearl Islands Day Tours hooks you up with the best snorkel adventures – top-notch equipment included. You don’t need to be an expert; there’s something for everyone in these calm waters.

Looking for more than snorkeling? Scuba diving opportunities let adventurous souls delve deeper into Panama’s rich marine world.

Jump in, splash around, and uncover the hidden beauty beneath the waves at one of Panama’s most enchanting destinations. Every glance under the water reveals something new – maybe even a playful sea turtle or a shy ray gliding by beneath your feet!

Whale watching on the Gulf of Chiriqui

The Gulf of Chiriqui is a prime spot for people to watch whales in their natural habitat. Between July and October, humpback whales swim all the way from the Southern hemisphere to breed and raise their young.

Visitors can catch these majestic creatures leaping, splashing, and playing in the ocean.

Join a respectful whale watching tour in the Gulf of Chiriqui National Park. This massive marine park spans over 14,740 hectares and supports rich marine biodiversity. Here, you’ll get an up-close look at marine wildlife while learning about oceanic conservation efforts that help protect these amazing animals for future generations.

Embracing the Local Culture

Dive into the vibrant tapestry of Panama’s heritage; here, colorful traditions come alive and invite you on a journey to experience the essence of this cultural haven—prepare to be captivated!

Celebrating Afro-Panamanian culture in Portobelo

Portobelo is a place where the Afro-Panamanian community shines brightly. Here, you can really feel the heart of their vibrant culture. This town is not just beautiful with its green landscapes; it also thrives on keeping its heritage alive.

People here love their traditions and work hard to keep them going.

Join in on local festivals and watch as dancers move to drum beats. Learn how residents in Portobelo embrace their rich cultural heritage every day. You’ll see colorful outfits, taste amazing food, and hear music that fills the air with energy.

Take a walk through Portobelo’s streets and listen to stories about the past. See how this Afro-Panamanian culture has stayed strong even in modern times. Enjoy this chance to experience something truly special — a living, breathing piece of history right before your eyes!

Sampling the chocolate at Oro Moreno Tropical Chocolate Cafe

Step into Oro Moreno Tropical Chocolate Cafe in the heart of Casco Viejo, and get ready to taste truly Panamanian chocolate. Here, they craft their sweets with local cacao that thrives in Panama’s tropical climate.

It’s not just about eating chocolate; it’s an adventure for your taste buds! Every piece you try is packed with exotic flavors that tell a story of the rich culture and passion behind Panamanian cacao farming.

Imagine biting into a piece of chocolate and tasting hints of tropical fruits or spices that are all from nearby farms. Oro Moreno uses only local ingredients to create their delicious treats.

This is where traditional methods meet modern creativity, resulting in chocolates that are as unique as Panama itself. You’re not simply sampling a treat; you’re diving into the heart of what makes this country special through its vibrant, home-grown tastes.

Tasting Panamanian coffee on an estate in Chiriquí

Imagine walking through the lush highlands of Chiriquí, where some of the world’s most valuable coffee comes to life. Here, you get a chance to visit one of 15 farms on Panama’s unique coffee circuit.

You’ll see rows and rows of Arabica trees, their beans ripening in the warm sun.

The local farmers will show you around their estates. They share stories about how they grow these tiny beans that have big flavors. On a tour, they explain every step – from planting to picking to roasting.

After learning so much, you sit down and taste the rich Panamanian coffee right where it was made.

Your cup is full of more than just great coffee; it holds traditions passed down for many years. Each sip connects you with generations of farming knowledge that make Panama’s coffee industry shine bright.

Enjoy this immersive experience into Panamanian culture and take home memories as warm as your freshly brewed cup!

Interacting with locals

Meeting people in Panama can really make your trip special. Locals might show you how to wear their traditional sandals or try on a cool hat. This is a great way to learn about the culture and have fun too.

You’ll see how friendly they are when you respect their ways and join in.

Exploring towns, you could chat with someone making hats or jewelry. They might tell you stories about where the designs come from. Through these talks, you can find out so much about daily life and history here.

Also, sharing coffee with farmers lets you taste amazing flavors while hearing how they grow it.

Joining festivals or dances opens up even more chances to embrace local traditions. People love to teach visitors steps to Panamanian dances! Just jump in – dance, laugh, and enjoy getting into the spirit of Panama’s rich culture.

Tips for Traveling in Panama

Navigating Panama’s diverse landscape and vibrant culture requires insider know-how to ensure a seamless journey. Arm yourself with essential travel tips that will transform your experience from good to unforgettable, as we reveal the secrets to mastering the art of Panamanian exploration.

Safety precautions

Keep your cash hidden and don’t show off fancy things. This way, you won’t draw attention from thieves. Be extra careful on buses and in some parts of Panama City and Colón where there’s more crime.

Even though many places are safe, it’s smart to be really watchful in certain areas. Stay away from the Mosquito Gulf and the Darien region. These spots can be dangerous.

Always stay aware of what’s going on around you. If a place feels unsafe or if people warn you about it, trust that feeling and leave. Use common sense to keep yourself out of harm’s way while enjoying your trip to Panama!

Budget considerations

Traveling to Panama doesn’t have to break the bank. You can find places to sleep like hostels and small hotels that cost between $10 and $50 a night. It’s possible to enjoy your day with just $30 to $50 in your pocket, covering a place to stay, tasty food, getting around town, and even some fun activities.

Think about how you’ll get from place to place too. Buses and taxis are out there for a good price. Planning ahead helps you know what costs will come up so you can be ready. Check out local markets for meals or snacks that won’t cost much but still taste great.

And don’t forget about staying connected! Getting a SIM card in Panama is easy and helps you save money on calls and internet use. Also, talking with people who live there can help you learn where the best deals are—from cheap eats to the most affordable spots for sightseeing.

Packing essentials

Going to Panama means adventure, and packing right can make your trip even better. Pack light but smart; bring insect repellent to keep those pesky bugs away. Slip on aqua shoes for comfort in the water or when walking on rocky shores.

Keep your things dry with a waterproof pouch – great for boat trips or sudden rainfalls. Carry a day bag for all your essentials while you explore cities or hike trails.

Capture every moment with a waterproof camera, and don’t forget an extendable monopod for that perfect selfie – high above the rainforest floor or in front of Panama’s stunning views! Stay hydrated under the hot sun with an eco-friendly water bottle by your side.

For clothing, pick moisture-wicking tops and quick-drying bottoms; they’ll help you stay cool and comfy all day long. And just in case, throw in a foldable rain poncho – it’s light and always handy when clouds roll in fast.


Get ready for a trip of a lifetime with this ultimate guide to Panama. From exploring the historic Panama Canal to swimming with fish in crystal clear waters, you’ve got a list that will make every day an adventure.

Remember, mixing culture and nature gives you the true taste of this vibrant country. Keep your trip smooth by staying safe, planning your budget well, and packing smartly. Now go out there—adventure awaits in beautiful Panama!

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