Top 15 Things to Do in Panama: Ultimate Guide

Panama, a Central American gem, is known for its stunning landscapes, rich biodiversity, and vibrant culture. From the iconic Panama Canal to the picturesque San Blas Islands, there is no shortage of incredible experiences in this beautiful country.

Whether you’re seeking adventure, relaxation, or cultural immersion, Panama has it all. In this ultimate guide, we’ll take a deeper dive into the top 15 things to do in Panama, ensuring that your trip is nothing short of extraordinary.

1. A Deeper Dive into Casco Viejo

Casco Viejo

One of Panama City’s most beloved neighborhoods, Casco Viejo is a must-visit destination for history buffs, architecture enthusiasts, and food lovers. This charming district, also known as the Old Quarter, showcases Panama’s rich history, with its well-preserved colonial buildings and narrow cobblestone streets.

Recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Casco Viejo transports you back in time with its elegant plazas, churches, and impressive architecture. Explore the local markets, indulge in the culinary delights, and soak in the vibrant atmosphere of rooftop bars that offer breathtaking views of the city skyline.

2. Capturing the Essence of Panama Canal

Capturing the Essence of Panama Canal

As mentioned earlier, the Panama Canal is a must-see attraction in Panama. To truly capture the essence of this engineering marvel, consider taking a boat tour through the canal. Witness the ship locks in action, learn about the canal’s rich history, and marvel at the ingenuity of this incredible feat of human engineering.

For a more in-depth experience, visit the Miraflores Locks Visitor Center, where you can observe the canal’s operations, browse informative exhibits, and gain a deeper understanding of its importance to both Panama and global trade.

3. Engaging in the Festivities of the Panama Jazz Festival

Panama Jazz Festival

Exploring the rich history of Casco Viejo and Panama Viejo unveils the cultural heritage of Panama. A boat tour through the Panama Canal offers a firsthand experience of its engineering marvel, showcasing the significance of this waterway in connecting the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans.

The energy and music of the Panama Jazz Festival create an electrifying atmosphere that resonates with the vibrant spirit of Latin America.

Basking in the sun on the beautiful beaches of Bocas del Toro provides a serene escape while hiking through the lush rainforest of Soberania National Park immerses visitors in the diverse wildlife of Central America. Additionally, snorkeling or scuba diving in the crystal-clear waters of Coiba National Park presents a special experience to witness the underwater wonders of the Caribbean coast.

4. The Allure of Overwater Bungalows

The Allure of Overwater Bungalows

For a luxurious and unforgettable experience, consider staying in an overwater bungalow in Panama’s beautiful Bocas del Toro archipelago. These idyllic bungalow accommodations offer stunning views of the crystal-clear Caribbean Sea and provide direct access to the water for swimming, snorkeling, and exploring the vibrant marine life.

Bocas del Toro is renowned for its palm-fringed beaches, lush rainforests, and laid-back island vibes, making it the perfect destination for a romantic getaway or a special celebration. Enjoy the tranquility of your private paradise, listen to the gentle lapping of the waves, and bask in the beauty of nature.

5. Surfing Adventures in Bocas del Toro

Surfing Adventures in Bocas del Toro

If you’re looking for an adrenaline-filled adventure, head to Bocas del Toro, Panama’s surfing paradise. This tropical destination boasts world-class waves, making it a mecca for surfers of all levels. Whether you’re a seasoned pro or a beginner looking to catch your first wave, Bocas del Toro offers the perfect setting.

The warm waters of the Caribbean Sea, combined with the consistent swells, create optimum conditions for an exhilarating surfing experience. Bocas Town, the main hub of the archipelago, caters to surfers with surf schools, board rentals, and a lively beach vibe. Don’t miss the opportunity to ride the magnificent waves of Bocas del Toro and embrace the thrill of this exciting water sport.

6. Trekking around Volcan Baru

Trekking around Volcan Baru

For nature enthusiasts and outdoor adventurers, trekking around Volcan Baru is an experience not to be missed. Rising to a height of 3,474 meters, Volcan Baru is the highest point in Panama and offers breathtaking panoramic views of both the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea.

The volcano is part of the Volcan Baru National Park, which is home to diverse flora and fauna, including rare bird species.

The park offers several hiking trails of varying difficulty levels, allowing visitors to explore the lush rainforest, encounter unique wildlife, and revel in the beauty of this natural paradise. Additionally, the park is a gateway to the stunning Gulf of Chiriqui, where you can indulge in water sports, island hopping, and snorkeling adventures.

7. Savouring the Taste of Panama Geisha Coffee

Panama Geisha Coffee

Panama is synonymous with exceptional coffee, and no visit is complete without sampling the world-renowned Geisha coffee. Grown in the highland regions of Boquete, Geisha coffee is highly regarded for its exquisite flavor profile, which is characterized by delicate floral and tropical fruit notes.

Take a journey through the coffee plantations, learn about the meticulous cultivation process, and engage in coffee-tasting sessions that will awaken your senses. Sipping on a cup of Geisha coffee is a delightful experience, allowing you to savor the unique flavors that make Panama a top destination for coffee enthusiasts.

8. Being the Sole Visitor on a San Blas Island

Sole Visitor on a San Blas Island

Escape the crowds and experience true tranquility on one of the pristine islands of the San Blas archipelago. Comprising more than 300 islands, the San Blas Islands offer untouched beaches, crystal-clear turquoise waters, and a glimpse into the traditional way of life of the Kuna indigenous communities.

Visit one of these islands on a day trip or opt for an overnight stay, where you can wake up to the sound of gently lapping waves and have the entire island to yourself.

Immerse yourself in the rich cultural heritage of the indigenous communities, explore vibrant coral reefs, and take strolls along palm-fringed shores. Being the sole visitor on San Blas Island offers a sense of serenity and tranquility that is truly unmatched.

9. Relaxing and Unwinding in Las Lajas

Unwinding in Las Lajas

If your idea of paradise involves palm-fringed beaches, tranquility, and unspoiled natural beauty, look no further than Las Lajas on Panama’s Pacific coast. This idyllic destination boasts miles of soft, golden sand and calm, turquoise waters, making it the perfect place to relax and unwind.

The laid-back atmosphere of Las Lajas offers an escape from the hustle and bustle of city life, allowing you to immerse yourself in the serenity of the ocean waves and bask in the warmth of the sun.

Whether you’re seeking a romantic getaway or a rejuvenating beach retreat, Las Lajas promises to deliver unforgettable beach days and a blissful experience.

10. Walking through the Historical Streets of Portobelo

Historical Streets of Portobelo

Step back in time and explore the historical streets of Portobelo, a charming town on Panama’s Caribbean coast. This UNESCO World Heritage Site is steeped in colonial history, with well-preserved forts, churches, and mansions that harken back to the era of Spanish rule. Stroll along the cobblestone streets, admire the colorful facades, and immerse yourself in the rich cultural heritage of Portobelo.

Visit the San Felipe del Morro Fortress, a testament to the town’s strategic importance in protecting Spanish trade routes. Don’t miss the opportunity to witness the vibrant Congo culture, a fusion of African and indigenous traditions, during the town’s annual Congo dances. A walk through the historical streets of Portobelo is a journey through time, offering glimpses of Panama’s fascinating past and its cosmopolitan present.

11. Delving into the Local Life of Santa Fe and San Francisco

Santa Fe and San Francisco

Escape the tourist crowds and immerse yourself in the local life of Santa Fe and San Francisco, two of Panama’s hidden gems. These small towns offer an authentic experience, allowing you to connect with locals, experience their way of life, and witness the natural beauty of the surrounding landscapes.

Explore the local markets, interact with artisans, and sample traditional cuisine for a true taste of Panama. Take hikes through lush rainforests, encounter waterfalls, and spot wildlife, including sloths, monkeys, and tropical bird species. Delve into the local life of Santa Fe and San Francisco, and discover the hidden wonders that make Panama a truly special destination.

12. Interacting and Learning from the Embera Tribe

Interacting and Learning from the Embera Tribe

For a truly immersive cultural experience, interact and learn from the Embera Tribe, one of Panama’s indigenous communities. Located deep within the rainforest, the Embera Tribe welcomes visitors, allowing them to gain insight into their rich heritage, customs, and traditions.

Engage in traditional activities, such as weaving, woodcarving, and dancing, all of which have been passed down through generations.

Take a canoe ride along the pristine rivers, hike through the lush rainforest, and discover the incredible biodiversity of the region. By interacting with the Embera Tribe, you’ll not only support their sustainable tourism initiatives but also gain a deeper appreciation for the diverse cultures that make Panama so unique.

13. Taking the Leap: Kitesurfing Lessons in Punta Chame

Kitesurfing Lessons in Punta Chame

If you’re seeking an adrenaline rush and love adventure sports, consider taking kitesurfing lessons in Punta Chame, located on Panama’s Pacific coast. This stunning beach destination is known for its favorable wind conditions, making it a paradise for kitesurfers of all levels.

Leap and learn this exhilarating water sport, which combines the excitement of kite-flying and surfing. Experienced instructors are available to guide beginners through the fundamentals of kitesurfing, teaching them how to control the kite, ride the waves, and enjoy the thrill of gliding across the water.

Whether you’re a beginner or an advanced rider, Punta Chame provides the perfect setting for an unforgettable kitesurfing experience.

14. Birdwatching at Isla Coiba: A Visual Treat

Birdwatching at Isla Coiba

For bird enthusiasts and nature lovers, Isla Coiba is a paradise waiting to be explored. Located in Coiba National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Isla Coiba is home to a diverse array of bird species and serves as an important birdwatching destination.

Explore the island’s lush rainforest, set against the backdrop of the Pacific Ocean, and keep your eyes peeled for rare and colorful bird species, such as scarlet macaws, toucans, and various species of parrots.

The pristine natural environment of Isla Coiba provides a haven for birdlife, making it a visual treat for birdwatchers, photographers, and nature enthusiasts.

15. Unwind in El Valle

Unwind in El Valle

Nestled in the crater of an extinct volcano, El Valle is a true haven of relaxation and natural beauty. This picturesque town is surrounded by misty mountains, lush rainforests, and captivating waterfalls, offering a tranquil retreat away from the hustle and bustle of city life.

Enjoy peaceful hikes along scenic trails, discover hidden waterfalls, and soak in the therapeutic hot springs that dot the landscape.

El Valle is also known for its vibrant Sunday Market, where you can browse local handicrafts, and fresh produce, and indulge in delicious street food. With its chill atmosphere, beautiful landscapes, and easy accessibility via public transport, El Valle is the perfect destination for those seeking relaxation, outdoor adventures, and a touch of local culture.

Frequently Asked Questions

Are there any off-the-beaten-path destinations in Panama worth exploring?

Things to Do in Panama, Panama offers several off-the-beaten-path destinations that are worth exploring. Here are a few hidden gems:

The Pearl Islands: Located in the Gulf of Panama, the Pearl Islands are a tropical paradise with pristine beaches, crystal-clear waters, and a tranquil atmosphere. Escape the crowds and enjoy uninterrupted relaxation in this secluded paradise.

Santa Catalina: This small fishing village on Panama’s Pacific coast is a hub for surfers, divers, and nature enthusiasts. Explore the unspoiled beaches, catch some waves, or embark on a scuba diving adventure to discover vibrant coral reefs and marine life.

These off-the-beaten-path destinations offer unique experiences, allowing you to immerse yourself in nature, experience local culture, and create unforgettable memories.

What are some must-see attractions in Panama?

Things to Do in Panama, Panama is home to several must-see attractions that showcase the country’s natural and cultural heritage. Here are a few top picks:

The Panama Canal: A marvel of engineering, the Panama Canal is an iconic attraction that connects the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. Visit the Miraflores Locks Visitor Center to witness ships passing through the canal and learn about its history and significance.

Casco Viejo: Panama City’s historic district, Casco Viejo, is a treasure trove of colonial architecture, vibrant plazas, and cobblestone streets. Explore the charming neighborhood, visit historic landmarks, and indulge in the local cuisine.

San Blas Islands: This archipelago of pristine islands is renowned for its palm-fringed beaches, azure waters, and vibrant indigenous culture. Take a day trip or stay overnight to experience the untouched beauty of the islands and interact with the Kuna indigenous communities.

These must-see attractions offer a glimpse into Panama’s rich history, natural wonders, and cultural diversity.

What are some unique cultural experiences to have while in Panama?

Things to Do in Panama offers a wealth of unique cultural experiences that allow visitors to immerse themselves in the local way of life. Here are a few recommendations:

Interact with the Embera Tribe: Visit an indigenous Embera village to learn about their traditional way of life, including crafts, dances, and daily activities. Engage with the community, listen to their stories, and gain a deeper understanding of their rich cultural heritage.

Attend the Panama Jazz Festival: Immerse yourself in the vibrant music scene of Panama by attending the renowned Panama Jazz Festival. Experience live performances, workshops, and jam sessions featuring world-class jazz musicians.

Discover the San Blas Islands: The San Blas Islands offer a unique cultural experience, allowing visitors to interact with the indigenous Kuna communities. Learn about their customs, traditions, and way of life on these paradise islands.

These cultural experiences offer a glimpse into Panama’s diverse heritage, creating unforgettable memories and deeper connections with the local communities.

Conclusion

In conclusion, Things to Do in Panama offers a plethora of diverse and exciting activities that cater to every traveler’s interests. From exploring the historic streets of Casco Viejo to capturing the essence of the iconic Panama Canal, there is something for everyone. Engage in the festivities of the Panama Jazz Festival or embark on a surfing adventure in Bocas del Toro.

For nature enthusiasts, trekking around Volcan Baru or birdwatching at Isla Coiba are must-try experiences. Immerse yourself in the local culture by interacting with the Embera Tribe or savoring the taste of Panama Geisha Coffee. Whether you prefer relaxation or adventure, Panama has it all. Don’t forget to share your favorite Panama experiences in the comments below!

 

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