10 Things to Do in Panama and the Top Attractions to Visit
August 8, 2023

Welcome to Panama, the world's bridge and the universe's heart! Nestled between Costa Rica and Colombia, Panama is a gem in the heart of Central America full of tourist attractions. With its unique geographical location, it serves as the physical and cultural crossroads of North and South America.

Panama is a country of contrasts, where the modernity of Panama City, with its towering skyscrapers, coexists with the untouched natural beauty of rainforests, mountains, and pristine beaches. It's where you can explore the bustling city life one day and retreat to a tranquil island the next.

The country's rich history is as diverse as its landscape. From the indigenous cultures that have called this land home for centuries to the Spanish colonizers and later the French and American influences seen in the construction of the Panama Canal, each has left an indelible mark on the nation's identity.

But what makes Panama genuinely worth visiting? It blends vibrant culture, diverse wildlife, historical landmarks, and the world-famous Panama Canal. Whether you're an adventurer seeking thrill in its national parks, a history buff intrigued by its past, or a beach lover looking for sun and surf, Panama has something for everyone.

In this guide, we'll explore the top 10 destinations in Panama, offering you a glimpse into what makes each of them unique. We'll delve into the best things to do, the costs involved and provide practical tips to make your trip to Panama an unforgettable experience. So, let's embark on this journey and discover the wonders that await in this Central American paradise.

1. Bocas del Toro: A Caribbean Paradise in Panama

Unveiling the Charm of Bocas del Toro

Imagine a place where the turquoise sea kisses white sandy beaches, where dolphins playfully leap in the waves, and where the nights are filled with the rhythmic beats of Calypso music. Welcome to Bocas del Toro, a vibrant archipelago that's a slice of Caribbean paradise in Panama.

Bocas del Toro

A Day in the Life of a Bocas Adventurer

Your day in Bocas del Toro might start with the sun gently warming your skin as you lounge on the pristine Starfish Beach. As you dip your toes in the crystal-clear waters, you might spot a starfish or two, a common sight that gives the beach its name.

As the day heats, it's time to cool down with a snorkeling adventure. The underwater world in Bocas is a spectacle of colors, where coral reefs teem with diverse marine life. You might even spot a playful dolphin or a graceful sea turtle if you're lucky.

After a day in the sun, the island invites you to its vibrant heart - Bocas Town. As the sun sets, painting the sky in hues of orange and pink, the town comes alive with the tantalizing aroma of local cuisine and the infectious beats of Caribbean music.

When to Visit and What to Remember

While Bocas del Toro is a year-round destination, the dry months from February to April let you make the most of the sun, sand, and sea. But don't dismiss the rainy season entirely; it brings a lush, green charm to the islands and a more laid-back vibe with fewer tourists.

As you explore Bocas, remember to tread lightly. The beauty of Bocas lies in its unspoiled nature, so let's keep it that way. Respect the coral reefs, don't disturb the wildlife, and always leave the beach cleaner than you found.

Bocas del Toro is more than just a destination; it's a Caribbean experience that stays long after you leave its shores. So, are you ready to uncover the magic of Bocas?

2. San Lorenzo: A Stroll Through History in Panama

Unearthing the Past at San Lorenzo Colonial Fort

You're stepping back in time as you step into the San Lorenzo Colonial Fort. Nestled on a cliff at the mouth of the Chagres River in Panama, this UNESCO World Heritage Site whispers tales of a bygone era. This day trip destination is where history comes alive, where every stone and cannon tells a story of colonial times and pirate attacks.

A Day in the Life of a History Buff

Your journey begins with a scenic drive through the Soberania National Park, one of the many national parks in Panama. As you approach the fort, you first notice its strategic location, offering panoramic views of the rainforest and the Caribbean Sea.

Walking through the fort, you can almost hear the echoes of the past. You can imagine the Spanish soldiers watching the horizon for pirate ships, the cannons booming, and the ensuing battles.

Don't forget to visit the nearby nature trails. You might spot some of Panama's diverse wildlife, including monkeys, sloths, and birds.

San Lorenzo Fort

When to Visit and What to Remember

The best time to go to San Lorenzo is during the dry season, from mid-December to April when the weather is most favorable. You can book a tour from Panama City. Remember to wear comfortable shoes as you walk on uneven terrain, and don't forget your camera to capture the stunning views.

San Lorenzo Colonial Fort is more than just a tourist destination; it's a journey into Panama's rich history. As you explore the fort and its surroundings, you'll gain a deeper understanding of the events that shaped Panama.

3. Santa Catalina Beach: Panama's Hidden Surfing Paradise

Discovering Santa Catalina

Tucked away on Panama's Pacific coast, Santa Catalina is another of the things to do in Panama, a hidden gem waiting to be discovered. This quiet fishing village might seem unassuming at first glance, but don't let its tranquility fool you. Santa Catalina is a world-renowned surfing destination, a gateway to the magnificent Coiba National Park, and one of Panama's best places to visit.

Santa Catalina Beach

Riding the Waves and Exploring the Depths

In Santa Catalina, life revolves around the ocean. As the sun rises, surfers from around the world hit the waves. The legendary point break here offers consistent waves that make it a surfer's paradise. Santa Catalina has something for you whether you're a seasoned surfer or a beginner.

But the adventure doesn't stop at the shoreline. Beneath the surface of the azure waters lies a vibrant underwater world. Santa Catalina is the stepping stone to Coiba National Park and one of Central America's top diving spots. Here, you can swim alongside sea turtles and colorful fish; if lucky, you might even spot a whale shark.

When to Go and What to Know

Santa Catalina is a year-round destination, but if you're after the best waves, plan your visit between April and September. For diving enthusiasts, the best time to visit is during the dry season, from January to May, when the waters are calm and visibility is at its best.

While in Santa Catalina, embrace the laid-back lifestyle. Stroll around the village, enjoy the local cuisine, and watch the breathtaking sunset on the beach. Santa Catalina is a place to unwind, relax, and connect with nature.

Santa Catalina is a must-visit destination with its world-class surfing, incredible diving, and relaxed atmosphere. It's a place where you can truly escape the hustle and bustle and experience the beauty of Panama's Pacific coast. So, are you ready to ride the waves in Santa Catalina?

4. Casco Viejo: A Walk Through Panama's Vibrant Past

Casco Viejo also known as Casco Antiguo

Welcome to Casco Viejo, Panama City’s historic old heart. With its narrow cobblestone streets, colorful colonial buildings, and lively plazas, Casco Antiguo is part of Panama, where the past and present coexist. This UNESCO Heritage site is a testament to the history of Panama City and a vibrant hub of culture and nightlife.

A Day Immersed in History and Culture

As you wander through the streets of Casco Antiguo, you'll feel like you've stepped back in time. Start your day at the Plaza de la Independencia, the main square where Panama's independence from Colombia was declared. From there, visit landmarks like the Metropolitan Cathedral, the Presidential Palace, and the Church of San José, home to the famous Golden Altar.

But Casco Antiguo is not just about history. It's also a place of vibrant culture and arts. One of the top things to do is visit the Panama Canal Museum to learn about one of the world's most impressive engineering feats or the Museum of Contemporary Art to admire works by Panamanian artists.

As the day turns into night, Casco Viejo comes alive with music and laughter. Enjoy a meal at one of the many restaurants offering a fusion of local and international cuisine, or unwind with a drink at a rooftop bar overlooking the Panama City skyline.

Casco Antiguo

Best Time to Visit and Insider Tips

Casco Viejo can be visited year-round, but the dry season from December to April offers the most comfortable weather for exploring on foot. Remember to wear comfortable shoes while walking on cobblestone streets, and don't forget to bring a hat or umbrella for shade.

Casco Viejo is a place where you can experience the soul of Panama City, from its historic landmarks to its vibrant culture and nightlife.

5. Boquete: Panama's Mountain Paradise

Unveiling the Magic of Boquete

Nestled in the highlands of Panama, Boquete is a small town with a big heart. Known for its cool climate, lush landscapes, and world-class coffee, Boquete is a haven for nature lovers and adventure seekers. It's a place where you can wake up to birds chirping, spend the day exploring cloud forests, and relax with some of the best coffee in the world; all you need to do is find a nice boutique hotel and order a cup.


Adventures in the Highlands

In Boquete, every day is an adventure. Start your day by hiking to the Baru Volcano, Panama's highest peak. As you ascend through the cloud forest, you'll be rewarded with breathtaking views of the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea.

If you're a birdwatcher, Boquete won't disappoint. The town's cloud forests are home to various bird species, including the resplendent quetzal, one of the most beautiful birds in Central America.

But the adventure doesn't end there. Boquete is also known for its coffee plantations. Take a tour to learn about the coffee-making process, from bean to cup, and taste the rich flavors of Boquete's coffee, considered among the best in the world.

When to Visit and What to Remember

Boquete can be visited year-round, but if you want to glimpse the resplendent quetzal, plan your visit between December and April, their breeding season. Also, remember to pack some warm clothing as temperatures can drop in the highlands, especially at night.

With its natural beauty, outdoor adventures, and warm hospitality, Boquete is a must-visit destination on your trip to Panama. Whether you're a nature lover, a coffee aficionado, or an adventure seeker, Boquete has something for you.

6. Gulf of Chiriqui National Marine Park: Panama's Underwater Wonderland

Discovering the Gulf of Chiriqui National Marine Park

Imagine a place where turquoise waters meet lush mangroves, dolphins frolic in the waves, and colorful coral reefs teeming with life. Welcome to the Gulf of Chiriqui National Marine Park, a marine sanctuary on Panama's Pacific coast. This protected area is a paradise for nature lovers and one of Panama's best places to visit.

A Day in the Life of a Marine Explorer

Your adventure in the Gulf of Chiriqui National Marine Park begins as you sail on crystal-clear waters. As you navigate the mangroves, watch for the diverse wildlife that calls this place home. You might spot dolphins, turtles, and a variety of bird species.

But the real magic happens beneath the surface. The marine park is home to one of the largest coral reefs on the Pacific coast of Central America. Don your snorkeling gear and plunge into an underwater world teeming with colorful fish, starfish, and other marine creatures.

If you're a thrill-seeker, the marine park also offers excellent kayaking, sailing, and sport fishing opportunities. And after a day of adventure, there's nothing better than relaxing on one of the park's pristine beaches.

Golf of Chiriqui
Golf of Chiriqui

When to Visit and What to Remember

The Gulf of Chiriqui National Marine Park can be visited year-round, but the dry season from December to April offers the best conditions for snorkeling and other water activities. Remember to respect the marine environment. Avoid touching the coral or disturbing the wildlife; always take your trash with you.

The Gulf of Chiriqui National Marine Park is where you can connect with nature and experience the rich biodiversity.

7. Comarca de Guna Yala: A Cultural Journey to the San Blas Islands

The Enchanting Comarca de Guna Yala

Welcome to the Comarca de Guna Yala, a region of Panama that's as rich in culture as it is in natural beauty. Also known as the San Blas Islands, this archipelago of over 350 islands on Panama's Caribbean coast is home to the indigenous Guna people. With its white sandy beaches, crystal-clear waters, and vibrant Guna culture, Comarca de Guna Yala is a unique and unforgettable destination.

San Blas Islands

A Day Immersed in Culture and Nature

Your journey in Comarca de Guna Yala might start with a visit to a Guna community. Here, you can learn about their traditions, admire their colorful molas (handmade textiles), and even join a traditional dance.

But Comarca de Guna Yala is not just about culture. It's also a place of stunning natural beauty. Spend your day exploring the islands, each one a little piece of paradise. Swim in the clear waters, snorkel among the coral reefs, or simply relax under a palm tree on the beach.

As the day ends, watch the sunset paint the sky in hues of orange and pink, a perfect end to a day in paradise.

When to Visit and What to Remember

Comarca de Guna Yala can be visited year-round, but the dry season from January to April offers the most comfortable weather. Remember to respect the Guna culture and traditions. Ask for permission before taking photos of the locals, and consider buying their handicrafts to support the local economy.

Comarca de Guna Yala is a must-visit destination with its unique blend of culture and natural beauty. It's a place where you can disconnect from the outside world and experience a way of life in harmony with nature.

8. Panama City: The Vibrant Metropolis of Central America

The Buzzing Heartbeat of Panama City

Welcome to Panama City, the bustling capital city of Panama. This vibrant metropolis, towering skyscrapers, world-class restaurants, and lively nightlife starkly contrasts the country's natural attractions. But beneath its modern facade, Panama City has a rich history, diverse cultures, and warm hospitality.

Panama City

A Day in the Life in Panama City

Your day trip to Panama City is full of fun things to do. You might start with a visit to the Biomuseo, a museum designed by world-renowned architect Frank Gehry. Here, you can learn about Panama's biodiversity and how the formation of the isthmus changed the world's biodiversity forever.

Next, head to the Amador Causeway, just outside of Panama City, a road that connects four islands by the entrance of the Panama Canal, one of the best things to do when you visit Panama City. Rent a bike or take a leisurely walk and enjoy the stunning views of the city skyline and the ships waiting to enter the canal.

As the sun sets, the city comes alive with lights. Head to one of the many rooftop bars around Panama for a cocktail and enjoy the panoramic views of the skyscrapers of Panama City. For dinner, indulge in Panama City's culinary scene, which offers everything from local Panamanian cuisine to international dishes.

Beyond the city's wonders, there are many day trips from Panama City that you can book to visit great and exotic places. In general, when traveling to Panama, this is the best place to start the journey, and from here, visit the rest of the country.

When to Visit and What to Remember

Panama City can be visited year-round, but the dry season from December to April offers the most comfortable weather for exploring and ensuring the best time in Panama City. Remember to respect the local customs and etiquette. Panamanians are generally formal in their interactions, so it's a good idea to greet people with a polite "Buenos días" or "Buenas tardes."

Panama City, with its mix of modernity and history, local and international cultures, and city life and natural attractions. There are many hotels in Panama City, from a luxurious Boutique hotel to the famous JW Marriott Panama, with a range of prices and accommodation styles for you to choose from, so you have no excuse to miss out on visiting.

9. Coiba National Park: A Wild Paradise in Panama's Pacific

The Untamed Beauty of Coiba

Welcome to Coiba, Panama's largest island and a natural treasure trove. Once a penal colony and now a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Coiba is where nature can thrive largely undisturbed. Coiba is a wild paradise with its diverse ecosystems, abundant wildlife, and pristine beaches.

A Day in the Life of a Nature Lover

Your adventure in Coiba begins as you set foot on the island, where you might be greeted by the calls of howler monkeys or the sight of an agouti scurrying into the undergrowth. As you explore the island, watch for the Coiba spinetail, a bird species found nowhere else in the world.

But the real magic of Coiba lies beneath the waves. The waters around the island are home to one of the largest coral reefs on the Pacific coast of the Americas. Grab your snorkeling gear and dive into an underwater world with colorful fish, rays, and sharks.

As the day ends, find a spot on one of Coiba's untouched beaches, and watch the sunset paint the sky in hues of pink and orange. As night falls, the sounds of the jungle come alive, a perfect lullaby in this wild paradise.

Diving at Coiba National Park

When to Visit and What to Remember

Coiba can be visited year-round, but the dry season from December to April offers the best conditions for snorkeling and wildlife viewing. Remember to respect the natural environment. Coiba is a protected area, so avoid disturbing the wildlife and always take your trash with you.

With its untamed beauty and abundant wildlife, Coiba is a place to disconnect from the outside world and immerse yourself in nature.

10. The Famous Panama Canal: An Engineering Marvel that Changed the World

The Iconic Panama Canal

Welcome to the Panama Canal, an engineering marvel that forever changed the course of trade and travel. Stretching 50 miles from Panama City on the Pacific coast to Colón on the Atlantic, the canal is a testament to human ingenuity and perseverance. You need to see the canal; visiting Panama would be incomplete without witnessing this iconic landmark.

A Day in the Life of a Canal Visitor

Your journey begins at the Miraflores Locks, one of the three sets of locks on the canal. You can watch in awe as massive ships are lifted and lowered to pass through the canal. It's a fascinating process that showcases the incredible engineering behind the canal.

Next, head to the Miraflores Visitor Center, where you can learn about the history and operation of the canal through interactive exhibits. Don't miss the short film that overviews the canal's construction and impact on global trade.

From there, go to the Panama Canal Museum in Casco Viejo. Housed in a beautifully restored colonial building, the museum offers a deeper dive into the canal's history. Through photographs, artifacts, and exhibits, you'll gain a deeper understanding of the enormous effort and challenges overcome to build the canal.

The Panama Canal

When to Visit and What to Remember

The Panama Canal can be visited year-round, but the dry season from December to April offers the most comfortable weather. Remember to bring a hat and sunscreen, as the viewing areas at the locks are mostly uncovered.

The Panama Canal is one of the eight wondes of the world; it symbolizes Panama's role as a global crossroads. Visiting the canal offers a unique opportunity to witness this engineering feat and understand its impact on the world.

General Tips When Visiting Panama

When planning your vacation, it's important to remember a few tips to ensure a smooth and enjoyable experience. These tips will give you the best time in Panama.

Cultural Etiquette

Panamanians are known for their friendliness. When meeting locals, a warm smile and a polite greeting go a long way. Spanish is the official language of Panama, so learning a few basic phrases can enhance your interactions.

Respect for local customs and traditions is important, especially when visiting indigenous communities like the Guna in the San Blas Islands. Always ask for permission before taking photos of people or their homes.

Safety Tips

Panama is generally a safe country for tourists, but taking precautions like anywhere is important. Keep an eye on your belongings, especially in crowded areas, and avoid walking alone at night in unfamiliar areas.

When exploring natural attractions, remember to respect the environment. Stay on marked trails, don't touch or feed wildlife, and always carry enough water and sun protection.

Your Unforgettable Journey Awaits

From the vibrant streets of Panama City to the tranquil beaches of Bocas del Toro, from the historic fort of San Lorenzo to the wild paradise of Coiba, many places to visit in Panama offer a world of experiences waiting to be discovered. Whether you're a history buff, a nature lover, or an adventure seeker, you'll find something to love in this Central American gem.

But the true magic of Panama lies not just in its places but in its people. Panamanians' warmth and hospitality, rich cultures and traditions, and love for their country will make your trip all the more memorable.

So, are you ready to explore the wonders of Panama, walk its cobblestone streets, surf its waves, and immerse yourself in its rich history and vibrant culture? Pack your bags, bring your sense of adventure, and discover why Panama is the heart of the universe and the bridge of the world. Your unforgettable journey awaits!

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