Welcome to Panama, a country where modern cityscapes merge with pristine beaches, lush rainforests, and a rich cultural heritage. This comprehensive travel guide will reveal the hidden gems of Panama, ensuring you make the most of your adventure in this tropical paradise.
Getting To and Around Panama
Flights: Tocumen International Airport (PTY) in Panama City serves as the main gateway to Panama, with connections to major cities worldwide.
Local Transportation: Panama offers various transportation options, including domestic flights, buses, and taxis. Renting a car is an excellent choice for exploring the country at your own pace, but be prepared for varying road conditions.
Top Attractions in Panama City
Dive into the vibrant heart of Panama, with its modern skyline, historic Casco Viejo district, and bustling markets. Don’t miss the Miraflores Locks at the Panama Canal, a marvel of engineering.
San Blas Islands
Discover this archipelago of 365 idyllic islands, home to the indigenous Guna people. Lounge on pristine beaches, snorkel in crystal-clear waters, and immerse yourself in Guna culture.
Bocas del Toro
This laid-back Caribbean paradise offers beautiful beaches, lush rainforests, and fantastic opportunities for surfing, snorkeling, and wildlife spotting.
Nestled in the highlands, this charming mountain town is known for its coffee plantations, lush landscapes, and thrilling outdoor activities like hiking, birdwatching, and ziplining.
Coiba National Park
This UNESCO World Heritage Site boasts stunning marine biodiversity, making it an ideal destination for diving and snorkeling enthusiasts.
Activities and Experiences to do in Panama
Witness the Panama Canal: Visit the Miraflores Locks Visitor Center to learn about the canal’s history, watch ships pass through the locks, and marvel at this engineering wonder.
Coffee Tours: Explore the lush highlands of Boquete and savor some of the world’s best coffee on a plantation tour.
Emberá Village Visit: Journey into the heart of the rainforest and experience the rich culture and traditions of the indigenous Emberá people.
Birdwatching: Panama is home to over 900 bird species, making it a birdwatcher’s paradise. Visit Soberanía National Park, Pipeline Road, or the Darién region for exceptional birdwatching opportunities.
Surfing: Ride the waves in surf hotspots like Santa Catalina, Bocas del Toro, and Playa Venao.
Local Panama Cuisine
Indulge in Panamanian cuisine, which features a blend of indigenous, African, and Spanish influences. Savor dishes like sancocho (chicken soup with vegetables), hojaldras (fried dough), and arroz con pollo (chicken with rice). And don’t miss out on trying the national drink, seco, a sugar cane liquor often mixed with fruit juice.
Where to Stay in Panama
Panama offers a wide range of accommodations to suit all budgets and preferences, from luxury hotels and eco-lodges to budget hostels and vacation rentals. Panama City, Bocas del Toro, and Boquete are popular bases for exploring the country.
When to Visit Panama
Panama has a tropical climate, with a dry season (December to April) and a rainy season (May to November). The dry season is generally the best time to visit, but the country can be enjoyed year-round with some flexibility and proper planning.
Tips for Visiting Panama
Learn some basic Spanish phrases to help you navigate the country and connect with the locals.
Bring a reusable water bottle, as tap water is not always safe to drink, and using a reusable bottle helps reduce plastic waste.
3. Prepare for varying climates: While Panama is generally hot and humid, some areas, like Boquete, can be cooler, especially at night. Pack layers and a light rain jacket to stay comfortable.
Use a combination of US dollars and Panamanian balboas: Panama’s official currency is the balboa, but US dollars are widely accepted. It’s a good idea to have a mix of both currencies on hand.
Stay safe: While Panama is relatively safe, exercise caution in crowded tourist areas and avoid walking alone at night in unfamiliar places. Keep your belongings secure and be aware of your surroundings.
More Must-See Destinations in Panama
Isla Taboga: Just a short ferry ride from Panama City, this island offers pristine beaches, hiking trails, and a charming village steeped in history.
El Valle de Antón: Located in the crater of an extinct volcano, this picturesque town features hot springs, waterfalls, and a vibrant artisan market.
Portobelo: Explore the historic forts, visit the Church of the Black Christ, and dive into the crystal-clear waters surrounding this Caribbean coastal town.
Gulf of Chiriquí National Park: Discover this marine park’s abundant wildlife, beautiful beaches, and prime snorkeling and diving spots.
Darién National Park: Venture into this remote and biodiverse UNESCO World Heritage Site, home to indigenous communities, rare wildlife, and unspoiled rainforests.