If you’re looking for the Top 12 Things to Do in Panama, read on!
Panama resembles “Miami” in the heart of Central America with its skyscrapers lining the ocean side.
Most people associate Panama with the “Panama Canal”, but we quickly discovered this lively Latin American city is more than a canal. It has some of the richest rain forests with monkeys and crocodiles, and this city is packed with history and culture.
Top 12 Things to Do in Panama
First on our top things to do in Panama City and celebrating its 100th anniversary, the 48-mile canal is an engineering feat that took 250,000 people from around the world 10 years to build. Almost 1 million vessels have passed through the series of locks in this canal. It’s a #5 on National Geographic’s 100 Journeys of a Lifetime and called “The Eighth Wonder of the World”. Visit the Museum at Miraflores to learn about the Canal’s history, or even take a half-day for a Canal transit.
This area of Panama City is called Casco Antiguo (also referred to as Casco Viejo or San Felipe) and recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Today, this revitalized neighborhood has some of the city’s best restaurants and jazz clubs, along with boutique hotels. Enjoy a drink, meal and a stroll through this 17th century old city undergoing restoration.
Frank Gehry Biodiversity Museum
Gehry designed a dramatic, colorful state-of-the-art museum that teaches visitors the ecology of the world in the heart of the Isthmus of Panama. Located on the Amador Causeway with spectacular ocean and city views.
Locals and visitors love to stroll the one-mile Amador Causeway for fantastic city and ocean views. There are open-air restaurants where you can take in the Canal views. Rent a bike, walk the paths, or visit souvenir shops at The Yacht Club.
If you’re looking for a daytrip to learn about some Panama history, you can hire a car, or take a train to Colon. The train winds through the jungle along the Panama Canal, and once you arrive to Portobelo, you can visit the old Spanish forts, like Fort San Lorenzo by car. Take time to stop at the Congo House Gallery and Workshop where you’ll find local painting, sculptures and unique handicrafts. Hungry? We heard that El Palenque Restaurant offers delicious Caribbean cuisine made with fresh produce.
If you are in Panama between September to January, you might be lucky to see some prime whale watching it’s a definite must on our top things to to in Panama City!
El Valle or Chiriquí:
If you want a daytrip in the mountains, you can visit Panama’s El Valle by car, or Chiriquí by air, where you can hike to the 10,000 ft. Volcan Baru and on a clear day see both oceans.
Take a day trip to the beaches near Panama City, like Taboga Island, the “Island of Flowers” (a day trip), or Rio Mar with white sand beaches (about 1.5 hrs from Panama City).
Panama City is a Latin America favorite shopping destination. From malls to boutique stores and local artisans, you can find handmade Panama Hats, Cuban cigars, Guayaberas, and native art.
Panama offers many golf courses for golfers!
Bird watchers can see thousands of migratory birds during the North American winter.
If you want fresh water fishing, go to Gatun Lake. There’s also deep-sea fishing that you can arrange with a chartered fishing boat.
WHERE TO STAY
The Bristol: If you want to stay downtown, check into the elegant and sophisticated the Bristol Panama. Located in the central financial district, and a 10 minute cab ride to Casco Viejo. The spa on the 25th floor opens up to views of the urban skyline, and offers body treatments, massages and facials.
Las Clementinas: Another option is to stay in the heart of the Old Town, Casco Viejo, in this charming restored colonial boutique hotel, a “unique property with a distinct sense of place.”
Originally built in the 1930’s as an apartment building and has been restored into a classic small European hotel with much larger rooms and original restored finishes. Note: no elevator.
Canal House: This is the former sister hotel to Las Clementinas, and is now available for long term rentals.
American Trade Hotel: Part of the ACE Hotel Chain, this landmark building has been beautifully restored! We loved the café in the hotel lobby and the tiled floors. Hope to stay here on our next visit!
WHERE TO EAT
Where to Eat in Panama City?
Las Clementinas Bistro: The Las Clementinas hotel has a bistro that offers wonderful local tapas-like dishes for brunch and dinner.
Manolo Caracol: We dined here and enjoyed our tapas dinner. Located in Casco Viejo at Avda. Central and Calle Tercera.
Café Unido: Located in the lobby of the American Trade Hotel, you’ll find the best cup of coffee in Panama, where the finest beans are roasted from local producers. finest beans from Panama’s best producers.
Where to Shop?
No top things to do in Panama list would be complete without some shopping! Karavan showcases unique local art and design pieces from home furnishings to jewelry. Many of the products are made by the indigenous people of Panama (sometimes working in the shop’s workroom). The gallery’s fair trade principles helps make your purchase go towards a good cause.
Casco Viejo: Find hotels, restaurants, attractions in the old town of Panama City.
Book your Beach Travel on Expedia.com: Plan a sunny, sandy escape!
Official Panama Tourism Site: Find many resources about Panama and Panama City at this site.
Want to Go on This Trip?
Want to Go on This Trip?
If you need help planning your trip, email: Info@GlobalAdventuress.com
Great place to start or end a cruise on Windstar Cruises!
We started our Windstar Cruise in Panama, and continued to Costa Rica, along the coast of the Pacific Ocean.
Would love to visit here one day and travel through the canal!