Best Places to Visit in Panama
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11 BEST Attractions and Things to Do in Panama - 2023

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About Panama 

Best Places to visit in Panama: Panama City Sunset
Sunset over the Pacific Coco del Mar Panama City

With a lovely temperature all year long and a very varied culture, Panama is the perfect place for visitors and expats to relocate. The nation is the ideal choice for people seeking the conveniences of a big city and the thrills of the outdoors since it is home to both cutting-edge cities and magnificent scenery.

With white, sandy coasts extending into turquoise, crystal-clear seas, Panama boasts some of the most beautiful beaches in the world. The country also offers a broad choice of cultural activities and attractions, from museums and galleries to eating, shopping, and nightlife. Therefore, it should come as no surprise that the nation is one of the most sought-after travel destinations in Central America.

We have been visiting Panama for years and this our list of the Best Places to visit in Panama:

Best Places to visit in Panama: Hiking during sunrise in El Valle de Anton, Panama
Hiking during sunrise in El Valle de Anton

11. El Valle de Anton – Map

El Valle de Anton is a charming tiny Panamanian town located in Central Panama in the province of Cocle Province. The locals have been ascending the slopes and swimming in this ancient volcanic caldera for many generations, making it the Earth’s longest continuously populated volcanic site. Life here moves at a much slower pace and bicycles are the predominant form of transportation.

El Valle de Anton is all about the outdoors and other stunning nature, and there is A LOT of it as the area is home to 10,000 plant varieties and hundreds of amphibian species. The nearby forests provide an amazing bird-watching opportunity, while El Valle’s slopes are home to an outstanding set of waterfalls as well as some uncommon golden frogs.

Best Places to Visit in Panama: islas de las perlas pearl islands, panama
Best Placed to Visit in Panama: Beautiful beach and turquoise waters in the Pearl Islands (Islas de las perlas)

10. Pearl Islands – Map

The Pearl Islands are a group of islands in the Pacific that you might be familiar with from the reality television show Survivor. These are some of the most beautiful and enchanting islands in the world, with lush forests and pearl-white sandy beaches. The most remote of these islands are the ones that are also the most beautiful islands. Contadora Island is the most developed island in the area and home to a luxury resort.

The Pearl Islands were once home to native Indians until they were taken over by the Spanish in the 16th century, who came in pursuit of pearls (the island’s sought-after namesake). The pearl industry was dominant on Contadora Island (which means “Counting Island” in Spanish), where they counted, registered, and shipped the pearls across the world. The majority of the activities on the island revolve around relaxation on the numerous sandy beautiful beaches, fishing, whale watching, or visiting the historic shipwreck on the far side of Playa Larga.

View from the top of Volcan Baru
View from the top of Volcan Baru (courtesy of tourismpanama.com)

9. Volcano Baru  – Map

Volcan Baru is Panama’s tallest summit, offering breathtaking views of Costa Rica and both the Pacific and Atlantic oceans. The mountain, which is located in the Pacific West’s Chiriqui Province, is best visited at dawn, when you may see a beautiful sunrise from the top.

There are two options for getting to the top on time: start the hike after midnight and return later in the day, or hike up the day before and sleep in Fogones campground near the summit.

Chiriqui National Park
Chiriqui National Park (courtesy of tourismpanama.com)

8. Chiriqui Gulf  – Map

The Gulf of Chiriqu is located between the coast of Costa Rica and the Azuero Peninsula on the Pacific coast. It consists of numerous gorgeous marine islands and beaches topped with woods and coco palms, as well as two national parks – Golfo de Chiriqui National Park and Coiba National Park, which is also Panama’s largest island.

This marine park that was established in 1994, preserves hundreds of hectares of coral reefs, some of Central America’s best mangrove forests, and some spectacular coastal meadows. The islands of Cala Mia Island Resort, Isla Palenque, and Isla Secas have the most touristy offerings.

Between May and November, Coiba National Park becomes a very popular place for tourists and locals for humpback whale watching. You can spend countless days soaking up the sun and enjoying the island life on one of the many amazing beaches. For the thrill seekers the are offers some great spots surfing, scuba diving, or sport fishing .

Santa Catalina Island
Santa Catalina Island

7. Santa Catalina Island – Map

Santa Catalina is a peaceful fishing community along Panama’s Pacific coast. It is also one of the country’s most popular tourist sites. Visitors are drawn to the village’s isolation and untouched authenticity. Santa Catalina is also a popular surfing and diving destination with beautiful sandy beaches and the main gateway to the stunning Coiba National Marine Park.

Santa Catalina is tiny enough that it may be explored entirely on foot. Tourists will not find any significant landmarks, man-made attractions, or retail malls in this charming community, but they will find some of the nicest people in Latin marica, a relaxed attitude, and incredibly beautiful sandy beaches for swimming, snorkeling, diving, and sport fishing. Santa Catalina is also a surfer’s paradise, with some of the greatest and most consistent surf breaks in Central America. The lovely landscapes that surround the area makes it ideal horseback riding and birdwatching.

Santa Catalina is only accessible by a single, winding paved road from Sona. If you are planning a trip there it is best to go during daytime hours, as livestock can create unexpected traffic and pose dangerous obstructions.

Panama Best Places: Boquete panama
Best places to Live in Panama: Boquete

6. Boquete – Map

Boquete is a small quiet town, located in the Chiriqui province. You can enjoy the amazing scenery, fresh mountain air and cool climate while surrounded by a stunning patchwork of coffee fields. The town is home to  a large and growing expat community and has become a health tourism attraction, with a variety of luxury spas and hotels.

For those seeking adrenaline, Boquete focuses on the outdoors, with temperatures in the low 70s all year, earning it the nickname “The Land of Eternal Springtime.” It’s also known as ‘the Valley of the Flowers,’ and it’s a less-known alternative to Costa Rica’s tourist attractions. You can be as daring as you want here. Explore the rainforest by zip-lining, white-water rafting, hiking the famed Baru volcano, or trekking in search of howler monkeys and brilliant quetzals. Or simply stroll through the region’s gorgeous coffee grounds while drinking on some of the world’s best brews.

Cities in Panama: Festival in Las Tablas
Festival in Las Tablas – Azuero Peninsula

5. Azuero Peninsula – Map

The Azuero Peninsula is Panama’s traditional hub, with a history of pre-Columbian folklore, handicrafts, and pottery. Visitors will view typical Panamanian women’s attire, colorful masks, and the labour that goes into handcrafting the pollera costume. Other activities in the area include rum and sugar cane processing excursions, clay pottery and artisanal bread production trips, turtle and whale viewing, and other water sports. The region is drier than the rest of the country and has some of the most beautiful beaches in the country, making it ideal for water sports. Chitre, Las Tablas, and Pedasi have also grown in popularity among tourists in recent years.

A 20-minute boat journey from the Azuero Peninsula will take you to Iguana Island, a famous warm water snorkeling spot with schools of colorful fish, turtles, rays, and moray eels. On land, the island has many natural beauties to uncover, including as crabs, iguanas, bird nesting areas, and small coves.

Best places in Panama: Beach in Bocas del Toro Panamá
Beach in Bocas del Toro

4. Bocas del Toro – Map

The Bocas del Toro Archipelago is a collection of islands, islets, and cays in the majestic Caribbean Sea. The island group is located in the northwestern region of Panama and is part of the district and province of Bocas del Toro, which is also the name of one of Panama’s most important cities..

Bocas del Toro is a majestic and wonderful wonderland of wild rainforest, national parks, and biodiverse habitats. Rabbits, green iguanas, sea turtles and howler monkeys are among the endangered species that call Bocas del Toro Archopelago home.

The islands boast stunning beaches and turquoise waters and are also popular diving and snorkeling spots. Bocas del Toro, the province’s capital city, is a melting pot of cultures, from Western Caribe to Latinos and extraneros, with abundance of food and traditions associated with each. And even the lifestyle of the islands is all about relaxation, Bocas Town boasts a surprisingly vibrant nightlife scene.

Turquoise water in San Blas Islands, Panama
Turquoise water in San Blas Islands, Panama

3. San Blas Islands  – Map

The San Blas Islands are a group of incredibly beautiful islands off the coast of the Caribbean. The islands are governed by the indigenous Kuna Yala tribe. San Blas Islands have been a very popular backpacker destination on the road between Colombia and Panama, and are gradually becoming a destination for more upscale tourism. Even today, you can witness daily life in the indigenous settlement where electricity isn’t always a given and ATMs are simply not available. Visitors are encouraged to bring lots of cash with them on their trip to the Islands as credit cards are not accepted by most places on the islands..

Sunbathing on the gorgeous, palm-lined beaches, swimming, snorkeling, and diving amid the hundreds of tropical fish species are just few of the activities available on the Islands. The Hiking paths through the dense forest provide excellent birdwatching opportunities and a chance to hear howler monkey cries. Visiting the Kuna Yala Indians is a special and unique opportunity to learn about their culture, language, music, and distinctive apparel.

Members of the tribe frequently host festivals and dances, as well as sell handicrafts that make excellent gifts.

Best Places to Visit in Panama: Panama city
View from Casco Antiguo Panama City

2. Panama City  – Map

Panama City is the nation’s capital and largest city and most important city in the country. The City has planty to brag about. It is the most modern metropolis in Central America and it has been termed “the Dubai of Latin America.”The city is lined with high-end resorts, retail malls, and glittery towers.

Taxis are the preferred mode of transportation. If you enjoy walking, then the cobblestone walkways and colonial structures of Casco Viejo, the historic quarter, are great way to glimpse the colonial past of the city.

Panama City offers spectacular vistas, as it is the only metropolis in the world bordered by a rainforest and the ocean. Experience the majesty of the Panama Canal, probably the highlight of this cosmopolitan metropolis, by skydiving. Climb the Bridge of the Americas for a spectacular perspective of the cityscape, or rent a bike and cycle to the four islands along the Amador Causeway.

Things to do in Panama: panama canal Isthmus, Panama
When in Panama there is no escaping the Panama Canal

1. Panama Canal – Map

The Panama Canal is what Panama is known for across the world (that and the tax regime). The waterway connects Panama City on the Pacific side to Colon on the Atlantic side, providing a shortcut between two seas and one of the world’s most popular shipping zones. It was built by the French in the late 1800s, but it was abandoned in 1893 after thousands of employees became ill and perished from malaria, yellow fever, and other maladies.

A decade later, the US army took over with far more powerful machinery. They completed this enormous feat of engineering in 1914. Three large locks provide access to the canal system and are the greatest places to see the canal’s mechanics in operation, particularly from the Miraflores Visitor Center, located just outside of the city. Each lock takes eight minutes to fill or release the water, elevate or lower the ship to the next water level, and pass through the next lock. A ship can go from one ocean to another in less than 10 hours.

FAQ

Most frequent questions and answers

Panama is a country located in the heart of Central America. It shares a border to the south with Costa Rica and to the north with Colombia.

The biggest Airport in Panama is Tocumen International Airport in Panama City. It serves both domestic and International flights and is one of the main airport hubs in Central America.

Tocumen International Airport (PTY) is the largest and most essential airport in Panama and all of Central America, offering flights to more than 65 cities across Europe, North America, South America, and the Caribbean.

Panama Canal is known for its importance in international trade connecting the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific Ocean. It is also an amazing destination with beautiful lush rainforests, sandy beaches and an abundance of wildlife.