All the best: Top ten things to do and see in Panama City
1. Take a City Tour
The best way to get to know Panama City is to take a City Tour. You can do this on your own by hopping on a colorful City Sight Seeing double decker bus. Or you can go with with a Tour Operators or your hotel for a tour. Most Panama City tours include the “three” Panama Cities: the ruins of the 16th century original city Panama Viejo,, the Spanish colonial city Casco Viejo, and the modern skyscraper city. The Panama Canal also is included in most city tours.
What You’ll See on a City Tour:
The Ruins of Old Panama City: Founded in 1519, Panama City is the first city founded on the West coast of the Americas. All the loot stolen from Peru went through here making it the target of English pirate Henry Morgan who destroyed it in 1671. A new colonial Panama City, Casco Viejo was built in 1673 and today is Panama City’s vibrant historical sector. Finally you’ll visit the Panama Canal at Miraflores Locks with an adjacent museum. One of man’s greatest accomplishments— The Panama Canal.
You can take a city tour on the Two-Decker City Sightseeing Bus Tour or on an amphibious bus that takes you into Panama Bay twice during your tour..Aqua Bus.
2. Panama Canal Miraflores Visitor Center
The place to see the Canal is at the Miraflores Visitors Center at the Miraflores Locks. Just 20 minutes from downtown Panama City, your visit will be more interesting than you think. The Center features a museum with interactive exhibits and a short film on the building of the Canal. An outside terrace gives you close-up views of ships transiting through the locks. Visitor Center admission is $10. Most tour operators include the Canal on their Panama City tour. Lunch or Dinner has a different cost right there at their state of the art restaurant.
3. Casco Viejo, Panama City’s Historical Area. World Heritage by UNESCO
A stroll through Casco Viejo, the 341 year old Spanish colonial sector built in 1671 is a must-do. Casco Viejo showcases Panama’s Spanish Colonial and Canal-Era history. A vibrant. colorful neighborhood, it’s recently undergone a renaissance- restored hotels and restaurants in handsomely restored buildings lie side by side with crumbling old buildings. Casco Viejo is a promontory- enjoy sea breezes and sweeping ocean and Panama City bay views. It”a also Panama City’s hottest night life sector. Enjoy a great selection of restaurants and nightlife spots some with 360 views bay and city views.
Casco Viejo was featured in the James Bond Quantum of Solace film.
If your coming to to Panama for tourism, we recommend staying in one of Casco’s boutique hotels or hostels Experts like Arthur Frommer of Frommer’s Guides, say that Casco Viejo is becoming one of most beautifully restored Spanish colonial cities. You can hire a Tour Operator or you can enjoy the area’s sights using one of the walking tours in the PanamainfoGuid app, Lonely Planet or Frommers Guide.
French and Spanish historical architecture, 17th century churches, a French monument to the 22,000 Frenchmen who died building the Panama Canal, the city’s major nightlife scene, a variety of excellent restaurants,and the best souvenir shops. For special jewelry go to Reprosa. For a refreshing snack try Granclement—an old fashioned French ice-creamery.
4. Bike or Stroll on Amador Causeway
A causeway is a road over water. The road of Amador Causeway was built using rocks excavated from the Panama Canal. It connects four small islands and serves as a breakwater at the entrance of the Canal. Dazzling views of Panama City’s skyline and the entrance to the Panama Canal make it a scenic place for open-air activities. There’s paths to walk , bicycle or jog. Bicycles rent for just $5-10 an hour. There’s restaurants for a variety of budgets and the best souvenir market. in the city. Most restaurants have ocean, city or Canal views. TGIF at the Country Inn and Suites has the best views- watch ship going to and from the entrance to the the Panama Canal as you dine.
5. Dine Out: Panama has been selected as one of the Top Ten Latin American Cuisines
Panama City’s Restaurants are rated by Trip Advisor as one of the Top Ten Best Latin American cities for restaurants. As an international crossroads, Panama City restaurants offer a great variety cuisines for every price-range. Most restaurants are located in the business district, historic Casco Viejo, or the Amador Causeway. Try typical Panamanian dishes- ceviche, carimanolas, arroz con pollo, sancocho soup and hojadras ( fried dough sprinkled with sugar.) Enjoy Panamanian cuisine and a folkloric dance ( Tipico ) show at Tinajas.
Rainforest in the City: Ancon Hill and the Metropolitan Park
A Nature Hike With City and Canal Views: Ancon Hill There’s no better way to see Panama’s past, present and future live than to take a hike up Ancon Hill where you’ll have a bird-eye’s view of Casco Viejo, modern Panama City and the Panama Canal. The paved path is through rainforest- youl”ll likely spot some wildlife like sloths and birds. Take this hike in the morning to avoid the scorching midday sun and afternoon tropical showers. It takes about 1.5 hours back and forth. You can take a taxi to the entrance and ask the driver to come back for you in a couple of hours.
Metropolitan Park Eco Tour
Panama City has the only Rainforest in the world within the city limits of a metropolis. The park is just a 20 minute drive from anywhere in the city.. The hike to the summit is an easy 45 minutes walk.. Enjoy panoramic rainforest and city views. . Tour Operators offer guided nature tours of the park—if possible go with a nature guide who will point out sloths, exotic birds and explain about liife in a tropical rain forest.
At the Metropolitan Park – the Canopy Crane Tour: The Canopy Crane tour by Ancon Expeditions takes you up in a crane used by the scientists of the Smithsonian Institute to research the rainforest canopy and experience nature as close-up as it gets. A eco-experience plus spectacular views of the city, bay and Panama Canal. (Tel: +507-269-9415)
8. Shop for Souvenirs and Native Handicrafts
Panamanian native handicrafts rival Mexico’s in beauty and creativity. Leave Panama with an authentic handicraft made by one of Panama’s seven living indigenous tribes. The most popular souvenirs are “molas” – intricate reverse appliqué embroidery sewn by the women of the Kuna Indian tribe. Other handicrafts include the hand-woven baskets of the Embera Indians of the Darien jungle—similar to baskets woven by Navajo Indians—and tagua nut sculptures, which are tiny figures skillfully carved from the tropical tagua nut. .
9. Frank Gehry Biodiversity Museum on Amador Causeway
10. Panama Viejo: Ruins of the Original Panama City ( Founded in 1519 )
It may be on your city tour- Panama Viejo (Old Panama) was founded in 1519 by the Spanish. It was the first city on the West coast of the Americas and served as a the gateway city for the Spanish conquest of Latin America. All the loot sacked from the Inca empire in Peru came through here. Once a thriving city of 10,000, today’s extensive ruins are the result of an attack by English pirate Henry Morgan in 1671 which, along with a fire, leveled the city. There is a small museum. Best to go with someone who speaks Spanish, because the exhibits are mostly in Spanish.
Over seven million dollars are gambled each day at Panama City’s casinos, making it one of the region’s top game destination. Some of the best casinos are at the Sheraton, The Marriot, and the El Panama Hotels. The Veneto Wyndham Grand Hotel comes closest to a Las Vegas style casino with high prize poker tournaments.
It takes just 30 minutes from downtown Panama City to get to the Summit Radisson Resort to play golf on a designer-course nestled into the jungle. The course is near the Canal and you can arrange transportation with your hotel. Tel: 322.4000. For more information visit our page on Golfing in Panama.
10 Top Tourist Attractions in Panama
While visitors to Panama may come for the Panama Canal, they stay for everything else. Known as the “Crossroads of the Americas,” Panama is not only the geographical point where North America meets South America but also where the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans meet in the country’s famed canal. The original meaning of the word “panama” means “abundance of fish,” and fishing is just one of the many water sports and activities that visitors to Panama can enjoy. More highly developed than neighboring Central American countries, Panama enjoys a modern infrastructure, making travel through the tropical paradise easy and convenient. Here are the toptourist attractions in Panama that are well-worth visiting.
10 Playa Las Lajas
Playa Las Lajas is a beautiful beach that extends for more than 13 km (8 miles) along the Gulf of Chiriqui on the Pacific Coast. With little current and perfect water temperatures, Las Lajas is ideal for swimming and bodysurfing. Rustic shacks and cheap restaurants are clustered on the beach at the end of the road. For now it remains a hidden treasure still undiscovered by the large hotel chains and hordes of tourists.
9 Isla Taboga
Located about 20 kilometers from Panama City, Isla Taboga is Panama’s favorite escape out of the city to bathe in its sandy beaches, ride Jet Ski’s, speed boats and fishing charters. First settled by the Spanish in 1515, Isla Taboga has a charming village with the second-oldest church in the western hemisphere, a few narrow streets with a few restaurants and great views to Panama City from the top of the Island.
8 Pearl Islands
Indigenous peoples populated the Pearl Islands until Spanish Conquistadors discovered the archipelagos’ wealth of pearls in the 1500s. The islands gained new popularity after being featured on the reality television show Survivor. The islands feature lush forests surrounded by white sandy beaches. Contadora Island is the most developed of the Pearl Islands, with several resorts and an airstrip. Visitors can charter private yachts to cruise and explore the islands.
7 Amador Causeway
The Amador Causeway connects the three islands by the entrance to the Panama Canal to the mainland. From the causeway, there is a terrific view of Panama City, and the Bridge of the Americas. Many Panamanians like to spend their weekends jogging, riding a bicycle or rollerblading down the causeway, or having a meal or drinks in one of the many restaurants and bars on the islands.
6 Sendero Los Quetzales
Sendero Los Quetzales near the small town of Cerro Punto is one of Panama’s most beautiful trails. The 9 km (5 miles) route starts east of town and takes between four and seven hours. The trail winds through the cloud forest of Parque Nacional Volcán Barú and follows the Río Caldera, crossing it several times en route. It ends in the mountains above Boquete. The trail can also be hiked in reverse, but it’s entirely uphill from Boquete. Because the trail is not well marked it is recommend to hire a guide or join an organized tour.
5 Santa Catalina
The international surfing community has tried to keep this idyllic spot a secret, but the word is out that Santa Catalina offers world-class surfing with big waves. Located on the Chiriquí Gulf ( but in the Province of Veraguas at the pacific side), the town doesn’t offer a lot in the way of amenities, but its beautiful beach surrounded by jungle forests makes it an ideal destination for those who wish to enjoy Panama’s natural beauty.
4 San Blas Islands
Located in Eastern Panama, the San Blas Islands is the best place to explore the rich culture of Panama’s indigenous people, the Kuna. The Kuna people view this area as their own but are warm and welcoming to visitors. One member of the tribe is stationed on many of the area’s tiny tropical islands, and for a nominal fee, they allow visitors exclusive use of the island for the day.
The waters of Panama are unmatched in their level of marine diversity, and nowhere is this more evident than in the Coiba National Marine Park. The island of Coiba is the largest island in the park, as well as the largest island in all of Central America. More than 800 species of marine life are present in the area. The park is known as one of the best places to enjoy snorkeling and scuba diving on the Pacific Coast.
2 Bocas Town
The capital of the Bocas del Toro Province, Bocas del Toro is a favorite spot for scuba divers, and as the dives are shallow, it’s particularly suited for particularly for beginners. An extensive coral reef features colorful varieties of tropical fish. Discovered by Christopher Columbus in 1502, the area remains one of the most popular tourist attractions in Panama. In Bocas del Toro, visitors routinely hike through the lush rainforest to enjoy empty stretches of beautiful shoreline.
1 Panama Canal
The Panama Canal stands as one of the world’s greatest feats of engineering. Visitors can take either a partial or complete crossing of the canal. Crossings take four to eight hours. Many visitors choose to explore the canal by visiting the Miraflores Locks Museum. From the restaurant located at the top floor of the museum, visitors can watch transiting vessels in the canal below.