The Best Things To Do in Panama: 21 Must-See Places! 

Located at the crossroads of Central and South America, the Republic of Panama is a living testament of contrasts, seamlessly blending tradition with modernity, the serene waters of the Caribbean and the Pacific, and the rural lifestyle with cosmopolitan elegance.

This vibrant country effortlessly provides a good balance of nature’s beauty, cultural richness, and lively festivities, making it a hot destination for those seeking a diverse travel experience in one place.

Let’s dive into some of the best things you can explore in Panama in this guide!

Key Takeaways

  • The best time to visit Panama is between mid-January and mid-April, as the weather typically remains dry. 
  • Panama has both natural and manmade wonders, makes budgeting for your travel easier as it uses the US dollar as its currency, and has lots of thrilling activities, making it a worthy travel destination. 
  • There are over 1400 islands in Panama, making it one of the best places to island hop and enjoy the scenery and beauty of its beaches. 

Best Things to Do in Panama 

Visit the Capital, Panama City 

One of the best ways to start your adventure in Panama is to explore the heart of its capital, the vibrant Panama City. 

Home to about 2 million people, this bustling metropolis has a myriad of attractions for you to discover and enjoy, whether you’re traveling alone, with a partner, or with a group.

There’s just so much to love about the capital city of this flourishing country alone, but let me share the 5 must-visit highlights:

  • Casco Viejo: Dating as far back as the 1600s, this neighborhood stands as a historic gem in Panama and is home to some of the best shops, restaurants, and parks in the country. 
  • Amador Causeway: Just steps away from Casco Viejo, this 6km peaceful pathway hugging the ocean is perfect for a long walk or a memorable biking adventure. 
  • Biomuseo, Panama: As you stroll through Amador Causeway, it’ll be pretty hard to miss the Biomuseum designed by Frank Gehry, the world-renowned architect. 
  • La Vieja: Also known as Panama Viejo, this historic site is a living piece of history, showcasing the remnants of the first European settlement along the Pacific.
  • Church of St. Joseph: The San Jose Church can be found in Casco Viejo and is famous for its golden altar. 

For more Panama City adventures, you can also drop by the National Theatre and Avenida Balboa.

Visit Panama Canal

Observe the engineering marvel of the Panama Canal as it raises and lowers giant ships to navigate between the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea. You can witness this feat from various locations, but I recommend experiencing it at the Miraflores Locks, conveniently located just outside Panama City.

Stroll Around Portobelo

Previously recognized as one of the best Spanish port cities in Central America, Portobelo now thrives as a tourism-friendly beach village known for its rich fishing and agricultural activities. Apart from its rich beaches, this historic town also boasts museums, well-preserved forts, thrilling zip lines, and restaurants with amazing ocean views. 

Explore the Bocas del Toro Islands

Best known for being biologically diverse, the Bocas del Toro islands are the perfect place for travelers who want to encounter exotic wildlife such as neon frogs, sloths, roaring howler monkeys, and croaking toucans. 

Between the Bocas del Toro islands, you’ll also find the famous Floating Bar, a popular attraction that serves as an ideal spot to enjoy cool drinks and a breeze amidst the midday heat of the beach. 

Discover the Small Town of Boquete

If you want a subtle escape from Panama’s tropical heat, consider discovering the hidden gems in the small town of Boquete. Situated almost 2,000 meters above sea level, this highland town maintains an ideal cool climate for exploring the town’s adventurous hiking trails, rafting tours, and water activities. 

Go Island Hopping

There are more than 1,400 islands in Panama, making it a perfect destination for an unforgettable island hopping experience. Depending on which islands you choose, you may encounter pristine white-sand beaches, mangrove-filled coasts, or an island filled with exotic wildlife animals. 

Not much of an independent trip planner? 

Do not worry, as you’ll have plenty of guided island-hopping tours to choose from when visiting Panama. 

Visit the El Chorro el Macho Waterfall

The El Chorro el Macho Waterfall is one of the most popular waterfalls in El Valle de Anton (Anton Valley). Despite being blanketed by a dense jungle, reaching this 35-meter waterfall is a very easy hike. 

Swimming is allowed at the waterfall’s base, but during dry seasons, the water levels tend to be low. 

Snorkel in Iguana Island

With its white sand beach and crystal clear waters, Iguana Island stands as my favorite snorkeling spot in Panama. In the Gulf of Panama, this island has the biggest area of well-preserved coral reefs and is home to 17 coral species, at least 350 tropical fish, and more than 200 invertebrates. 

Learn About Panama Culture in the Azuero Peninsula

Far from the bustle of Panama City, the Azuero Peninsula serves as the heartland of Panama’s folkloric culture. 

Here, you can find unique local ceramic creations, eat at some of the best neighborhood Fonda (family-operated restaurants), and, if you visit four days before Ash Wednesday, experience the renowned Carnival in Las Tablas that showcases the Panamian culture. 

Visit the Small Village of El Valle de Anton

The small town of El Valle de Anton is located just 2.5 hours away from Panama City. Directly nestled in the crater of an extinct volcano, this place is wrapped by tons of great hiking routes, picturesque green hills, relaxing hot pools, and forest canopies, making it a haven to experience nature. 

Relax at the Pearl Islands

If you prefer relaxation over thrilling adventures, book a trip to the Pearl Islands, where beautiful white sand beaches meet calm water waves. These islands are very family-friendly as they have some of the most child-friendly subtle waves, relaxing fishing tours, and whale-watching opportunities. 

Go Whale Watching at Coiba National Park

Speaking of whale watching, the Coiba National Park is the best spot to do so, as whales can be seen in this park all year round. Listen to Humpback whales sign underwater, learn how to identify different whale species, and discover the best tips to take the most memorable whale photographs. 

Go Surfing in Santa Catalina

The small fishing village of Santa Catalina offers some of the best surfing waves in Central America. Whether you’re a beginner at riding the swells or a professional surfer, Santa Catalina has plenty of room for you to enjoy. 

Hike the Lost Waterfalls Trail in Boquete

For serious hikers, the Lost Waterfalls Trail in Boquete offers stunning views that you can enjoy after a challenging hike that lasts one to three hours. As a reward for stumbling and trekking over muddy, wet, and steep paths across the trail, you’ll also encounter 3 magnificent waterfalls and fascinating forest wildlife that will make every drop of sweat worth it. 

Party in Bocas Town

Want an authentic experience of Panama’s nightlife? Bocas town is the place to go. Many hostels and venues in the area hold parties that extend well throughout the night, and this town has pretty hard-to-miss bars integrated directly into the ocean that let you dance, drink, and swim all at the same time.

Try the Local Coffee

Panamanians are known for being huge coffee lovers. Don’t forget to try the local coffee yourself, or better yet, experience guided coffee tours in the country to better explore how everyone’s go-to drink is produced in farms that you can easily find in the Chiriqui Highlands.

Check Out the Boquete Tree Trek

The Tree Trek Boquete Adventure Park is a one-stop resort that offers luxurious amenities, thrilling canopy tours, relaxing coffee tours, and bird-watching opportunities. Located in the province of Chiriqui, this place is easily accessible to tourists while still being far enough from the city to let you enjoy the peace of nature. 

Visit the Gulf of Chiquiri

Since I’ve already mentioned the beauty of the Chiriquí province multiple times, I won’t miss the chance to talk about the Gulf of Chiriquí, another Panama paradise that offers a remarkable snorkeling, diving, and fishing experience.

As it often hosts some of the world’s biggest sport fishing games, it’s unsurprising that the Gulf has an extremely diverse and abundant marine life. 

Watch the Sunrise at Volcan Baru

One of the most rewarding hikes you can take in Panama is the challenging ascent of the Volcan Baru trail. With its peak reaching a height of 3,478 meters, this volcano is the highest point in Panama and offers the best sunrise view in the country.

Most people take about 6 hours to hike Volcan Baru. So, hikers typically start at night to arrive at the peak just in time to watch the spectacular clouds unveil a stunning sunrise that illuminates the ocean views.

Explore a Chocolate Farm in Bocas del Toro

The Bocas del Toro is another popular Panama destination that has forest-covered mountains, mangrove-dense coastlines, and clear waters. 

Amidst the greeneries of this region, you can explore organic and eco-friendly chocolate farms that make not just the best desserts but also some of the most sustainable body products. 

Guided chocolate farm tours in Bocas del Toro typically take two hours, and many farms allow you to taste every stage of the chocolate-making process. 

Visit the Beautiful San Blas Islands

The islands of San Blas, also known as the Guna Yala, are a living depiction of your classic tropical paradise screen saver. 

Surrounded by crystal-clear waters, staying in San Blas means you can enjoy fresh seafood and dive into the ocean any time of the day.

These islands are owned and operated by the Guna people, an Indigenous tribe with a unique culture. While you likely won’t encounter them yourself, you’ll have lots of opportunities to purchase some of their beautiful handmade traditional souvenirs.

This Is Why Panama is Worth Visiting

Wondering whether visiting Panama is actually worth the buck? My answer heavily lies on a big YES, and here are some of the top reasons:

  • Ease of spending: Panama uses the U.S. dollar as its currency, making it easy to budget, spend, and transact in the country. 
  • Natural and manmade wonders: Both the natural wonders and manmade engineering feats in this country intertwine seamlessly. 
  • Healthy marine life: Its abundant bodies of water provide plenty of opportunities to enjoy both adventurous and relaxing water activities. 
  • Culturally diverse: As a cultural hub that links two continents, Panama has a very diverse culture, cuisine, and history. 

This Is the Best Time To Visit Panama

The best time to enjoy a trip to Panama is anywhere between mid-January to mid-April. During these months, Panama typically remains dry, allowing you to enjoy all the country has to offer to its full extent. 

Just note that since this dry season naturally attracts more tourists, you may spend more money compared to if you visit during the off-season. 

These Are the Best Beaches in Panama

Want to discover the best beaches to visit in Panama? Let’s go over the top locations in Panama that offer pristine sands and crystal-clear waters. 

  • Beaches in the San Blas Islands: Thanks to their surrounding turquoise waters, white sand, and rich marine life, these islands provide the best pictures, memories, and seafood cuisine. 
  • Isla Coiba: Located in the Coiba National Park, this uninhabited island offers stunning views and unforgettable scuba diving experiences that give you the chance to swim with whale sharks. 
  • Red Frog Beach: Found in the Boas del Toro region, this tropical oasis is a remote paradise with smaller waves, wise coasts, and relatively affordable accommodation. 


How many days are enough for Panama?

The ideal trip duration in Panama highly depends on the type of traveler you are or the preferences of the group you’re traveling with. Some have found satisfaction in exploring this country within a short span of 3 to 5 days. But others found that a longer trip of 7 to 10 days more fulfilling.

What is the most visited place in Panama?

The Panama Canal has consistently secured its spot as one of the most visited places in Panama. Tourists typically visit to witness this world-famous engineering marvel in action personally. Thanks to its massive size, it’s quite easy to find the Panama Canal within Panama City.

Is Panama cheap or expensive?

Panama is not necessarily considered a cheap travel destination. However, it’s still relatively more affordable compared to other popular tourist destinations in Central America, such as Costa Rica and Belize.

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Enoch Omololu

Enoch Omololu is a traveller, culinary tourist, and money expert. He is the co-founder of Only Earthlings and established the popular Savvy New Canadians platform. Enoch has been featured in Business Insider, Forbes, Best Life Online, GOBankingRates, Penny Hoarder, Globe and Mail, Yahoo, and CBC News.

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