15 Best Things to Do in Panama

Martina Rosado
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Gulf of Chiriqui National Marine Park

Amador Causeway

Panamanian architect Rafael Urdaneta created the Amador Causeway as a jogging and bike track that crosses the Panama Canal. It’s one of the most spectacular views you’ll find and is definitely the place you’ll want to go for a morning run.

The Causeway connects the islands of Bocas del Toro with Colombia via Panama City. There are easily accessible jogging spots for runners of all abilities, as well as bike paths for casual cyclists.

The areas are always full of joggers and cyclists”motorists and pedestrians enjoying the beautiful views”so be aware that you’ll want to stick to the trail to avoid unnecessary attention.

Soberania National Park

Soberano National Park is an amusement park is located in Miraflores, about 20 minutes from Panama City. The park is unique because many of the attractions are designed for disabled visitors. Soberano National Park was created in 1971 following the rise of the sense of disabled in Panama. One area at the park, the “Family Park” is especially designed for families with disabled members.

This area features a large sandy beach area, a playground, paddling pool and a special area for fishers. The largest attraction at the park is the illuminated lagoon, which is a swamp with illuminated glass walls.

These crystals light up at night, which is especially helpful for blind guests since it’s difficult to see at night along the canal. The park is well-located near the Metropolitan area and is easily accessible by public transportation.

Visitors can enjoy wide range of activities, including swimming, aqua rafting, kayaking, horseback riding, cycling, shopping, and dining. Best of all, the park is one of the safest places in the country for visitors.

The park is also well-positioned for excursions to the country’s natural beauty. The park sits between borders with Panama and Costa Rica, and visitors can hike the surrounding mountains with paths that are easy to navigate.

Surfing in Santa Catalina

Paradise Beach, Santa Catalina Island.

Surfing at Paradise Beach in Santa Catalina Island offers up some of the greatest waves in Panama.

From probably the best beach on the island in Isla Contadora to the best rock climbing in the world and to some of the best surf spots in Central America, Panama’s Santa Catalina Island offers something for everyone.

Shopping and spa roams are great, but that’s just the beginning.

Speaking of surfing, the Santa Catalina Island Surf School in the town of Santa Catalina offers a fun day of instruction in the art of the sport. Panama has a very wet climate, so the water is softer and more forgiving than in many other places around the world. Also, Santa Catalina Island is loaded with waves, making it easy for people even starting out in the sport to feel confident in their skills.

Aside from its various flora and fauna which include iguanas and species of birds more typically found in South America, Santa Catalina offers up visiting guests a host of attractions, from shopping and spa roams to surfing and various eco-tours. For instance, it is possible to go on a tour of the island’s nature reserves, see its various wildlife, and also catch a glimpse of the famous Pink Dolphins.

Darien National Park

Darien National Park is a must see while visiting Panama. About an hour and a half outside of Panama City, Darien National Park is home to kayaking, hiking, camping and wildlife viewing. Canopy tents and the wide open spaces of the park make it an excellent place for the hikes.

The wildlife is awesome and it is a home to large alligators, monkeys and parrots. In order to get to the park you will travel through a series of major cities. Check out the website for directions to the park or to the different haciendas that are located throughout the park.

Panama Jungle Aerial Tramway

Just 90 minutes outside of Panama City, Panama’s only cable car ride has an amazing view of the jungle. Mount Chiriqui is the centerpiece to this attraction and it is over 2,800 feet tall.

The climb up takes about 10 minutes through the rain forest. There are about ten different stations in the mountain region that are interconnected. There is a free guided tour that give you information about the plants that you see as you go along the mountain.

While you are here, the bar at the top serves a great view. There is also a restaurant but it is closed top and bottom during the rainy season.

Taboga

If you’re looking for the most adrenaline-inducing things to do in Panama, then do everything you do in Taboga. After a boat ride, you’ll be dropped off on the uninhabited Taboga Island where you will spot sea turtles and explore the spectacular archipelago.

It might feel odd to be on an island teeming with life and yet be the only person there. As your boat makes its way through the quiet waters filled with huge coral rocks, you might find yourself thinking that you’ve hit a time warp. But one thing is for sure: this is a place that gets you off the beaten track. A few hours away from the city, it’s as if time travel has taken you back two hundred years.

Explore the Aurora Borealis

If you’ve been to South America and been to Panama, you’ve probably seen the lights on the water. The aurora borealis (the Northern Lights) can only be seen in a few places, and they’re hard to find.

Panama happens to be one of a few places where you can see them at nightfall. Would you want to miss it?

Coffee Tasting in Boquete

One of the best things to do in Panama is visit Boquete, a popular local coffee growing region. An incredible number of coffee shops exist, offering tours and tasting.

The first stop is Boquete Market. You can get your morning fix of cinnamon rolls or grab some delicious panini sandwiches. The market is also also a great place to browse jewelry, souvenirs, and art.

A few shops in the market are particularly popular with tourists. You can buy coffee beans (raw, green, and roasted) to take home with you.

You can get beans roasted in-house at any of the shops on-site or take a tour of the process, where you can watch the beans be processed. Don’t fret if you don’t have time to do a tour; you can sip on the beans from the shop.

The best way to obtain a sense for the process is to visit the Dark Roast Coffee tour. The featured beans are from Dominicus –a boutique roaster that specializes in expanding your palate into the world of dark roast coffee” as they describe themselves.

Dark roast, or –vintage”, coffee is 99% dark chocolate in color and is a great alternative for people who cannot tolerate regular coffee.

Pearl Islands

Climb the ruins of the old Spanish Pearl Islands by the Caribbean or Local Island tours depart from the dock by the port. Some tours include a stop for snorkeling at the coral-rich reef.

Bocas del Toro: Choose a boat excursion to see the neighboring islands in Bocas del Toro from the dock at the port to Bocas del Toro by boat tours.

Chiriqui: Embark on a boat tour to visit the former Canal Zone villages and visit farms that produce tropical fruits. Be sure to buy some homemade fruit drinks at the farms.

Gatun Lake: Experience the Panama Canal’s largest reservoir from the water. The water is clean, and the breeze is refreshing on the popular Gatun Lake while enjoying the wind.

San Blas Islands: Visit the San Blas Islands on an excursion from Panama City.

Gulf of Panama: Snorkel the colorful fish and coral reefs at the Gulf of Panama. Panama City Tours also features the jungle and ruins of the former Panama Canal.

Cocles de Tierra del Fuego: Enjoy sliding or jumping off the high cliffs into the sea water on the famous seashore in Panama City.

Colon: Colon is a port on the Pacific coast and the world’s second most populated city. Tours depart from the dock by the port at Colon in Panama.

El Valle

Valley of Silence is another part of the many magnificent nature sites in Panama. In order to reach this place you must take a taxi to Colon. There is a hiking trail that will take you there for about a 1 hour hike and the views of these beautiful landscapes will keep you in silence for the rest of your life.

For more information about this place, you should take a trip to The Valley of Silence Travel concession located in the Fortuna Lodge, Damas. Parking is on the right hand side of the road, pay the entrance fee, then you will be given a metal bracelet to wear. It will be you guide, driving you to El Valle de Silence.

The Valley is near the city of Changuinola and the Boquerón National Park, which the Panama Canal helps protect. The 130-kilometer-long forest also provides home for a variety of animals including howler monkeys, spider monkeys, sloths, capybaras, ocelot, and red brocket deer. The first predators in the area were those from Panama. Jaguars, pumas, and jaguarundis are the main predators. There is also an abundance of other birds in the area such as the brown-throated tapaculo, bush quail, great black hawk, yellow-tailed whip-poor-will, and the Galapagos dove which only lives in Panama.

Volcan Barú

Located at the base of Volcan Barú, the Volcan National Park is home to some of the most beautiful wildlife and landscapes on Earth. It is a gigantic piece of real estate with nothing but uninhabited, wild landscapes, mangroves, numerous caves and rivers. If you get the chance visit this park we highly recommend it.

We heard about this park from another friend who went on a snorkeling tour on the Catalina Island and had to snorkel through this volcán. When you see the mountains of red lava, you will understand why they called it the Volcan National Park. It is located about 2 hours outside of Panama City and can be reached by plane, boat or a combination of both.

Another very popular activity if you have a few days to spare in Panama is snorkeling. There are tons of places where you can go snorkeling in the Caribbean Sea. However, we have decided to list the best places to snorkel in a few words.

Palmar, Isla Taboga.

One of the Best Places to Do Snorkeling in Panama Is on the Isla Taboga

This is also one of the top places to do snorkeling in Central America. The snorkeling here is pretty good but the best part is the colorful fishes Location: about two hours outside of Panama City.

Coiba Island

Coiba Island is located off the coast of Panama, and it is popular with divers. Coiba Island has three reserve areas, La Mar Chiquita, Las Cruces, and the Parque Natural Coiba. Some sea turtles come to Coiba Island to lay their eggs. Keep your eyes peeled, you might be lucky to see one.

There are also four beaches on the island for swimming and snorkeling. The island has 12 kilometers of shoreline and coral reefs, and you can walk from one end of the island to the other in as little as two hours.

Bocas del Toro

The Panama Canal opened in 1914 and today, it links the Atlantic Ocean and Pacific Ocean. While you can walk along the water’s edge and see the canal, Bocas del Toro is a great place to spend a few days to get away from the crowds that come to witness the grand opening.

This remote area is home to scuba divers’ favorite dive, Las Islas Secas, and the annual USA Diving National Championships.

The Islas Secas have the distinction of being the only spot where divers can snorkel above massive rock formations and have lunch under a rainbow with a spectacular backdrop.

There is a lot of history here in Bocas del Toro, too. It’s home to some of the world’s oldest mangroves that have survived over 5,000 years. There are over 100 species of coral and 15 species of marine life to see within a few short feet of you.

Plus, the area is filled with 12 public beaches and lots of delicious seafood.

Guna Yala Islands

The federation boasts the largest natural harbor and deepest river in Central America. As one of the greatest natural resources of Panama, the Guna Yala belongs to a unique Indigenous Territory that continues to preserve its ancestral culture.

This protected site is also the largest barrier island in the world, with an estimated area of 1,600 square miles, and is home to over 60,000 indigenous Kuna people. The National Parks Service (NPS) is working together annually with the Kuna people to create the best experience possible for visitors to the area.

Guna Yala National Park

The government of Panama designated Guna Yala a National Park in 1971, and since that time, the park has grown to protect approximately 1,241 square miles of coastal rainforest and 117 miles of coastline. The NPS also works with about 500 local guides and 40,000 Kuna people living in Guna Yala to provide various ecotourism activities. These include: snorkeling in clear water, nature walks, kayaking, bird and fish watching, photography and, most spectacular of all, the chance to watch the local guna dance. The Guna Yala National Park shelters a spectacular variety of threatened and endangered species; including the Barro Colorado Island of the Panama Canal.

Casco Viejo

Casco Viejo is one of the oldest sections of Panama City, with many colonial-era buildings. It is considered the historic center of the city, and a free walking tour is available to help you learn about the city’s history.

Jocotenango

Jocotenango is one of the most popular towns in Panama. It is located in a valley between mountains and offers spectacular views of the city. The town’s Plaza de la Independencia is important to the history of the country and has two monuments: the Independence Column and the Independence Museum.

Fort San Lorenzo

Fort San Lorenzo was built to defend against pirates, but also to protect the Panama Canal. It is one of Panama’s most important historical sites and is free to visit.

Panama Canal

The Panama Canal is a system of locks and canals in Panama that allow ships moving through it to avoid having to circumnavigate South America to travel from the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific Ocean. Its purpose is to reduce the distance and thus the time required to transport cargo and passengers from the Atlantic to the Pacific Oceans.

The Panama Canal is strategically placed on the golden crossroads between the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. It is a critical waterway through the trade route between Europe, the United States, and Asia. During World War II, the U.S. expanded the canal to improve its communications and logistics between the US and its military forces in the Pacific.

The Panama Canal was under U.S. control from 1904 until 1979, when it was ceded to the Republic of Panama. The unilaterally declared but internationally unrecognized peri-urban Panama Canal Zone, administered by the United States from 1904 to 1979, was returned to Panama in 1999.

The Panama Canal connects the Atlantic Ocean with the Pacific, with the Latin American country Panama being connected via the Panama Canal to both the Caribbean Sea and the North Pacific Ocean. The canal cuts across the Isthmus of Panama and is a shortcut to ships traveling between the Pacific and the Atlantic by reducing the east-west distance; they no longer have to pass through the Cape Horn at the southern tip of South America.