The Republic of Panama is a country that sits on the isthmus that links Central and South America. It is famous for the Panama Canal, which runs through the center of the country to link the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. Those who visit this country can enjoy a diverse experience as it has spectacular landscapes, a beautiful coastline, and vibrant cities, including its capital Panama City. Due to the diversity of this country, there are activities and attractions to suit all tastes. So that you can plan your vacation to get the most out of your experience, here are the 20 best things to do in Panama for first-timers.
20. Have a Go at Kite Surfing at Punta Chame
The stunning coastline of Panama provides the perfect playground for a variety of water-based activities. According to Planetware, a fantastic activity to try is kite surfing, and the best place to do this is at Punta Chame. This location is set on a peninsula that juts out into the Pacific Ocean, and it is considered the best area for kiteboarding in Panama. The winds are perfect for this activity, and the water is lovely and warm. If kiteboarding is too ambitious for you, then this location is a great place to relax on the beach.
19. Try Snorkeling Around the Pearl Islands
The underwater world surrounding Panama is just as breathtaking as the landscapes of this country. As Panama is surrounded by the Pacific Ocean, the Atlantic Ocean, and the Caribbean Sea, the marine life varies significantly from one area to the next. One of the best places to go snorkeling so that you can marvel at the underwater world is around the Pearl Islands. It is possible to take a day trip from Panama City to these islands and then to spend your time there snorkeling. You can also spend time sailing, relaxing on the beaches, or simply admiring the beautiful surroundings.
18. Go Whale Watching on the Gulf of Chiriqui
The Gulf of Chiriqui is a beautiful place to visit with spectacular views everywhere you turn. One of the most popular activities in this area is to take a boat trip to go whale watching. This is a fantastic way to see these magnificent creatures in their natural habitat and to enjoy the outdoors. It is advisable to take a camera along with you on a whale-watching trip.
17. Walk the Boquete Tree Trek
If you want to do something a little different from the typical tourist sightseeing activities, then consider the Boquete Tree Trek. This attraction has hanging bridges in the Cloud Forest, and the sight over the canopy of the forest is outstanding. Those who are adventures and enjoy an adrenaline rush can also have a go at zip-lining across the forest.
16. Take a Boat Trip to the San Blas Islands
Heart My Backpack recommends taking a boat trip to the San Blas Islands. There are lots of different options for how to get there, but one of the simplest is to hire a private catamaran. Many people go on a sailing adventure, sailing between each of the islands and stopping off for a short visit at each as they all have something different to offer.
15. Go to the Interoceanic Canal Museum
Officially called the Museo del Canal Interoceanico del Panama, this museum was established in 2997. It is devoted to the construction of the Panama Canal. The exhibits date back to when the French first began the construction of the canal, and they take you on a journey of the various stages of construction and then to when it was transferred to Panamanian control. The construction of the canal is one of the most significant events in the history of the country, so it is worth learning about during your trip. The museum is housed in the buildings that the French and Americans used as offices throughout the construction of the canal.
14. See the Wildlife at Parque Natural Metropolitano
This park is the only wildlife refuge in Panama City, and it has been open since 1988. Lovers of the outdoors visit this park to enjoy features such as the Caobos Trail and the Los Trinos lookout point. It is popular with bird lovers as there are multiple species of birds, and nature lovers enjoy the diverse array of flora and fauna. It is also a fantastic place to enjoy the views. The highest point in the park is Cedar hill, where you can enjoy views of Naos Island, Panama City, Panama Canal, and the Bridge of the Americas.
13. Visit the Natural Science Museum
An interesting museum to visit during your vacation in Panama is the Natural Science Museum. This attraction is suitable for all the family, as there is something that will interest everyone. The museum is devoted to researching, conserving, and collecting both local and foreign species. The main foci are paleontology and geology. There is a specific focus on conserving the natural resources of Panama, including plants, birds, reptiles, and mammals.
12. Admire Arts and Crafts at Karavan Gallery
If you are interested in arts and crafts, then a wonderful place to visit is the Karavan Gallery. This small gallery showcases arts and crafts from around Panama. Congo art is a big art movement in many areas of Central America, and there are many examples of this style in the gallery. There are also handicrafts from the indigenous communities of Panama, along with had-stitched items created by the Kuna women. Some examples of the items on display include tribal masks, hats, plates, woven products, and baskets.
11. Try Panamanian Cuisine
Panamanian cuisine is unique as it has been influenced by the ingredients and cooking traditions of many cultures over time, including the cuisines of Central America, South America, and Africa. The result of this fusion of flavors is called Afro-Panamanian. There are food tours that take you to some of the best places to sample this cuisine. There are also many excellent restaurants to visit. However, one of the best ways to sample Panamanian cuisine is to eat the authentic dishes produced at food stalls in Panama City. Some of the top dishes to try are ceviche, fried red snapper, and ropa vieja, with is a dish of shredded beef and coconut rice, says Live and Invest Overseas.
10. Go to the Museo Antropologico Reina Torres de Arauz
There is a huge collection of artifacts at the Museo Antropologica Reina Torres de Arauz as it is the premier anthropological museum in Panama. It is dedicated to Reina Torres de Arauz, who was a revolutionary anthropologist from Panama. A highlight of this museum is the pre-Columbian collection, which contains more than 15 thousand artifacts. Other interesting collections include antiquities from the early settlers, pollera dresses, and golden huacas.
9. Immerse Yourself in Culture in Embera Village
Those who want to immerse themselves in the tradition and culture of Panama should take a day trip to Embera Village. The Embera people have lived in the Darien region of Panama before Panama even became a country. It is one of the most unspoiled parts of the country, with many people still living a traditional Panamanian lifestyle. To visit this part of Panama, you must travel through the virgin rainforest. There, you will see animals, including sloths and monkeys, and you will also see stunning natural landmarks, such as waterfalls. Once you have arrived in the village, you can meet the locals, listen to traditional music, and sample authentic Panamanian cuisine.
8. Enjoy the Attractions in Casco Viejo
Casco Viejo is the historic district of Panama City, and it has been a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1997. There are multiple sites and attractions to visit in this part of the city, including La Catedral Metropolitana, the church and convent of Saint Francis of Assisi, and the residence of the President of Panama.
7. Spend Time at the Beach in Coronado
All along the coastlines of Panama, there are some fantastic beaches. If you are staying in Panama City, one of the best beaches to visit is the beach at Coronado. This is a town that is under an hour from Panama City, and it is famous for its white sandy beaches that are dotted with flecks of black. Visitors like to relax on the beach or take a dip in the refreshing waters of the Pacific Ocean. The town is also worth visiting as there are shops, restaurants, and a vibrant nightlife.
6. Cross the Bridge of the Americas
After the Panama Canal, one of the most impressive manmade landmarks in Panama is the Bridge of the Americas. The bridge spans the Panama Canal at its entrance from the Pacific Ocean, and it was originally called the Thatcher Ferry Bridge. It is one of only a few non-swinging bridges connecting Borth and South America. There are pedestrian walkways across the bridge which offer spectacular views of the city skyline, the canal, and the ocean. This bridge has played an important part in trade in this country as it has allowed road traffic across the canal.
5. Visit Boquete
Boquete is a small town located in the Chiriqui province. The town is surrounded by mountains and hills, so its scenic location makes it a popular spot amongst tourists. People go to visit the volcano and waterfalls. It is also a popular spot for hikers as there are many hiking trails in this area.
4. See the Natural Beauty of Bocas Del Toro
While there are many spectacularly beautiful parts of Panama to visit, one of the best to include in your itinerary is a boat trip to the Bocas Del Toro. This is a picturesque archipelago where you will find both white sandy beaches and lush tropical vegetation. Isla Colon is the main island, and its capital is Bocas Town. This offers a completely different experience to the rest of the islands, as it is known as a party location. You will also find many excellent restaurants in Bocas Town, and watersports are popular activities in this area.
3. Explore Ancon Hill
The best place to enjoy spectacular views in Panama is from Ancon Hill. In the past, this undeveloped hill was used as an administration area during the construction of the Panama Canal. There is a 30-minute hike to reach the summit, which is 654-feet above sea level. Once at the summit, you can enjoy the panoramic views and take photographs of the scenery. There is then the option to either head back downhill or to take the hiking trail that allows you to explore the jungle, which takes approximately two hours. It is a popular place to visit among wildlife enthusiasts as there are 39 bird species living in the forest. If you hike through the jungle, you may also see deer, sloths, Geoffrey’s tamarins, and nine-banded armadillos.
2. Learn About Biodiversity at Biomuseo
Biomuseo is an attraction that focuses on developing a bio-diverse tropical center. The aim is to educate visitors about the waters, forests, and natural resources of Panama. A renowned architect called Frank Gehry designed the building, which is divided into eight galleries. The center is set in a biodiversity park. In the park, there are features for people of all ages to enjoy that also offer an educational experience. The park is home to endemic and native plants of the country.
1. See Panama Canal
According to Vacation Idea, the best thing to do in Panama is to see the Panama Canal. Not only is this one of the most famous landmarks in the country, but it is also one of the most impressive feats of engineering of all time. It is recommended to visit the canal after 2 pm as there are fewer ships passing. You can learn more about the canal and its construction at the Miraflores Canal Visitor Center. In this center, there are interesting exhibits, information, and artifacts, and there are several interactive educational activities. While you are there, you can grab a bite to eat at the Miraflores Restaurant, which has excellent views of the canal.