What To Do In and Around Panama City
Despite only being the size of South Carolina, Panama has so much to offer the ubiquitous traveler. Located between Central and South America, Panama is a destination of its own. Made up of two beautiful coastlines, the Pacific and Caribbean, which stretch for almost 1,800 miles, Panama's interior is filled with lush rainforest, woodland and national parks; while its capital city, Panama City, has a cosmopolitan feel and is home to the famous engineering wonder, the Panama Canal.
The Big City: Panama City
The lifestyle and skyline of Panama City is incredibly modern, despite the city's irrevocable history. Almost five centuries old, the city has shown it can move with the times, with skyscrapers and high-end bars and restaurants dominating the new cityscape. The multi-cultural population of Panama City and its long history are also evident, with the city's French, Spanish, Indigenous and American influences clear in the culture, making Panama City an exciting city to explore.
Around Panama City
Since Panama is home to the wild Darien Rainforest, there are plenty of biodiverse National Parks to explore. Camino de Cruces and Soberania are located to the northwest of the city, as is Parque Metropolitano, a rainforest that is home to parrots and toucans. Visit Amador Causeway and its water-side bars and restaurants, where you can hang around to see pelicans dive into the sea before watching the sunset. It's also possible to do day trips from the city, to Gatun Lake, where there is plenty of unique wildlife. You can also visit an Embera Indian village or take a ferry to Isla Contadora or Isla Taboga to enjoy beaches and snorkelling in the reef before heading back to the city.
The old grand city of Colon is the place that time forgot. Once an important city on the rapid railway line that connected to Panama City during the 19th century and a key city during the construction of the Panama Canal, the city has been steadily increasing in development after being left alone for a number of years and is a regular stop for cruise ships. The city also connects to Cartagena in Colombia via ferry in 17 hours and to Panama City via a four-lane highway. Top sights in the city include historic parks and statues, the pretty Columbus Cathedral and the shopping center and cruise port, Colon 2000.
Bocas del Toro
An hour away from Panama City by plane, Bocas del Toro is one of the Caribbean coast's most beautiful spots. The tropical paradise is full of beach communities that still have authentic Panamanian charm. Made up of six islands, you can still find deserted beaches in parts by taking hikes through the islands' forests to reach them.
Comarca de Guna Yala
Maintained by the indigenous Kuna people, Comarca de Guna Yala is a 140-mile long strip on the Caribbean coast of Panama, which includes one of the main tourist draws in Panama, the 400 islands that make up San Blas Islands. The islands are like something out of a movie, with bright white sands and crystal clear waters. A great spot for snorkeling, although you have to get permission to scuba dive. The Kuna people sell their molas on the islands, handmade clothes that are worn by the native population.
The Panama Canal
You cannot visit Panama without visiting the Panama Canal. The spectacular construct, a feat of engineering when it was completed over 100 years ago, boasts 45-foot-high locks and transports some of the world's largest ships from the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific. There is an incredible museum at Miraflores, with a four-story exhibition about the history of the Panama Canal and has an eye-level view from an observation deck of the extraordinarily large ships as they transit the canal.
Casco Viejo in Panama City
A UNESCO Heritage Site, Casco Viejo is the old colonial part of Panama City that dates back to the 17th century. The old quarter is still being renovated, so expect to see beautifully resorted buildings sat alongside crumbling ruins. With historic churches, art shops, and coffee bars, the old quarter is a great place to spend an afternoon exploring. You can also visit Casco Antiguo, an even older set of ruins of the former city located downtown which date back to 1519. The old settlement on the Pacific Ocean had a population of 10,000 until it was destroyed by pirate Captain Morgan, who sacked and burned the city down.
Just 40 minutes from downtown Panama City, the small town of Gamboa couldn't be more different from the big city. Set in the heart of a wild tropical landscape between the rainforest-filled Soberania National Park and the Panama Canal, Gamboa is world famous for its high diversity of birds. Biologists and bird-watchers from all over the world take bird-watching trails to get a glimpse at some of the world's rarest bird species.
El Valle de Anton
High in Panama's mountain landscape, El Valle de Anton is located on the world's largest inhabited volcano crater. Originally a crater lake, the rural village has been home to Indian communities for thousands of years. The region has its own micro-climate and a cloud forest with exotic animals and plants. The weather up in the mountainous village is usually much cooler than the rest of Panama, and is a great place to enjoy a vacation away from the hustle and bustle of Panama City. Try to visit on the weekends when the village hosts an arts and crafts market selling local handicrafts make by Kuna Yala Indians.
Panama Canal Cruise: The Best of Panama
Discover the impressive Panama Canal, explore the tropical Pearl Islands and hike through the wildlife-rich Darien Rainforest, all while enjoying the comforts of home on aboard the M/V Discovery. The cruise's itinerary covers the best of Panama, giving you 7-Days to explore the most important sites of the country. The Discovery Catamaran has a capacity of 24-passengers and sells out well in advance. Contact Us for availability and prices.