Best Places to Visit in Panama
Panama’s top destinations are a unique mix of Caribbean islands in Bocas del Toro, mountainous highlands such as El Valle de Anton, and the cosmopolitan capital of Panama City. With destinations this unique, it's no surprise that Panama's top things to do are equally diverse and range from forested hikes and white-water rafting, to sunbathing and snorkeling.
Gulf of Panama and Canal Zone
Panama City is a major hub for travelers, with the country’s main international airport and the famous Panama Canal. This is an international city where you can experience a confluence of many different cultures. Guests can book luxury rooms in high-rises and casinos, as well as boutique accommodations in the historic district. Of course, you’ll find plenty of mid-range and budget options as well.
You don’t have to travel far to find incredible natural attractions. Near downtown, you can visit the Parque Natural Metropolitano, which protects a tropical forest. You can tour the canal’s locks and islands, where monkeys and birds chatter in the treetops. Many travelers leave from Panama City to visit some of the nearby surfing beaches.
See the history of the city in Casco Viejo — the original city center. It mesmerizes visitors with its wrought iron balconies and cobblestone streets, with buildings that blend Spanish and French architectural influences. In Panama Viejo, you can see carefully preserved ruins including the iconic cathedral tower.
Set next to the banks of the Caldera River, under the shadow of Volcán Baru, Boquete offers the perfect setting for an adventure in nature. Visitors to this area fill their days with hiking, whitewater rafting, and trips to visit coffee plantations. Besides the verdant valley setting, visitors also flock to this town for its idyllic ambiance.
There are several must-see attractions for spotting wildlife. Go birdwatching around the preserve called the Sendero Los Quetzales, and stroll through the Paradise Gardens to see monkeys like white-faced capuchins and tamarins, as well as exotic birds like toucans. There’s also zip lining and horseback riding.
When you’re ready to get pampered, head to the hot springs for a relaxing spa experience. Many of the hotels and lodges emphasize the health-giving properties of the environment with their own on-site spas. Most of the mid-range and upscale accommodations come with beautifully kept gardens and bucolic views of the surroundings.
The Azuero Peninsula
Playa Venao is Azuero Peninsula's most popular surfing beach. It has good waves for every level of surfer, as well as boogie boarders. The mix of locals and visitors makes it an especially lively coastal destination.
During your stay, find yourself in accommodations that sit right next to the balmy shores. You can also find hotels and resorts that emphasize eco-friendly hospitality. While you’re in Playa Venao, you can flesh out your itinerary with tours that explore the history and culture of the Azuero Peninsula.
Venture into the highlands of central Panama to experience clement temperatures, authentic culture, and exciting adventure activities. Its lofty height leaves it cooler than the lowlands, making it a popular destination for Panamanians as well as international travelers.
Explore mountain culture on a trip to the outdoor market in the middle of town. Shop for traditional handicrafts, including Panama hats.
Try out adventures like the zip line that goes past the Chorro Waterfall. Get to know a bit about the history of the area on a walk to the La Piedra Pintada, a boulder festooned with ancient hieroglyphs. Los Pozos Termales offer a convenient place for you to relax in some thermal springs.
Gulf of Panama and Canal Zone
Isla Contadora is a beautiful entry to the Perla Islands, and offers guests a nice selection of accommodations in spite of its fairly remote location. Travelers come to Isla Contadora to see some of Panama’s most blissfully remote beaches.
Choose from hotels that offer rooms with a view and easy access to white-sand beaches. Visitors can get around the island on golf carts, adding an element of adventure to even the most mundane activities.
There are eleven beaches on the island, each with their own sunny charms. You can find coral reefs off of Playa Galeón and Playa Larga. From Isla Contadora, you can leave on a ferry for the white-sand beaches of Taboga Island.
You can get truly off the beaten path with boat trips to nearby islands. Besides beaches, you might leave from Isla Contadora for deep-sea fishing or snorkeling excursions.