Panama city is the capital of Panama. Panama, made famous by its canal which connects the Pacific and the Atlantic oceans. Sandwiched between Costa Rica and Colombia, this little country connects central and south America. The weather here is pretty fabulous year round with temperatures averaging highs of 89°F/32°C and lows of 75°F/24°C. They do however experience quite a long rainy season. Their rainy season runs from April to December. Rain will typically fall in the afternoon and early evening generally leaving the mornings and nights clear.
This incredible city has it all, a rainforest right in the city, it is home to 59 skyscrapers that top 500 feet, it has the stunning colonial historical center of Casco Viejo and of course it houses one of the 7 wonders of the modern world, the Panama canal. This city and country in fact, has so much to offer.
There are plenty of adventures to be had exploring Panama’s countless waterfalls, hikes, cliff jumping and it even is one of the best places on the planet to swim with sharks. If adventure isn’t your thing and you are more of a history buff then you have Casco Viejo and Old Panama to explore. Culture lovers, this city is a treat for you, spend a day with one of seven remaining indigenous communities in Panama and learn all about this vibrant culture. I haven’t even mentioned the exquisite food and fun nightlife yet! There is just so much this wonderful place has to offer.
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One of the most unique things about this incredible country is that it is the only place on earth where you can watch the sunrise over the pacific ocean and set on the Atlantic ocean in the same day as only 50 miles of land separate the two oceans.
Getting around is fairly easy, for one Panama was the first Latin American country to accept and use the US dollar as its official currency. Their public transport system is affordable and reliable. Hopping on a bus is the primary mode of transportation most Panamainas and tourists use. They do have rural buses but they are less frequent and usually run overnight. If you want freedom to explore beyond the city limits then a car rental might be your best option. If you are wondering about trains, they do have them, in fact, the Panama railroad that operates from Panama city to Colon is the oldest operating railroad in the world.
Let’s delve into the best of what Panama has to offer!
Gamboa resort offers an incredible aerial tram experience and it isn’t just for resort guests. Hop onboard what essentially is a seat in an open cage that travels up 2,000 feet into the rainforest. Let this small open gondola take you above the tree canopy and face to face with birds, sloths and monkeys. This is an incredible adventure for those brave enough to hop on and journey up! The aerial tram is closed on Mondays.
Asociación Panamericana para la Conservación is a wildlife sanctuary that rescues, rehabilitates and releases animals back into the wild. They usually have both 2-toed and 3-toed sloths on site. The sanctuary is open on Tuesdays through to Sundays from 10:00am to 3:30pm (Closed on Mondays). You can walk around the sanctuary on a self-guided tour and please be aware that you cannot touch or hold the animals. The staff here do an incredible job at looking after these gorgeous animals!
To get here, head towards Gamboa Rainforest Resort and tell the guards at the gate that you are headed to the sanctuary. They will direct you from there. What a great place to support the great work of preserving Panama’s wonderful native wildlife. A vacation to Panama is not complete without getting to see some sloths. Animal lovers add this one to your custom itinerary.
In fact, if you download the Tripio app right now, you can start creating your dream vacation. Tripio will even create a custom top 10 list and custom itinerary based on your personal preferences. Travel has never been so easy. Watch your bucket list grow as you use the Tripio app. Visiting the sloths has to be one of the best things to do in Panama.
The Wreck of the Sub Marine Explorer is located on San Telmo island off of Panama. This submarine is believed to have been built in 1869 and belonged to the Japanese. Thought to be on a mission to blow up the Panama canal during World War II. However after a failed attempt, it was dumped and remains to this day as a wreck on the shores of San Telmo island. The island itself is a nature reserve which was established in the 60’s.
To get to the island, there are two main options: you can catch a charter boat or ferry from Panama City, departing from Punta Pacífica or the Amador Causeway. The journey takes around 90 minutes. Otherwise, you can opt for a 15 minute flight to Contadora Island. From there you will have to get a boat further onward to San Telmo island. You can also speak to charter boat operators in Panama city and arrange a trip straight to the wreck.
The Panama Canal is man-made and was built in 1914 by order of Theodore Roosevelt. It remained a US territory until 1999. This incredible work of human engineering and design is one of the 7 wonders of the modern world. It stretches’ for 51 miles/82 kilometers and has an average depth of 43 feet/ 13 meters. The Panama canal connects the Atlantic ocean to the Pacific ocean allowing ships to pass through.
A fee is charged to go onto the canal viewing platform. What an incredible part of history to bear witness to. Head to Miraflores Locks, there is a visitor center there housing a museum, the viewing platform, an Imax theater, gift shop and restaurant. No visit to Panama city is complete without a trip to the canal that made it famous! Don’t worry you are quite likely to witness a ship pass through as around 40 vessels pass through each day which include cargo ships, yachts, cruise ships and tankers.
You cannot visit Panama without seeing the canal that made it famous, this is a big bucket list ticker. Be sure to add this to your custom itinerary on the Tripio app. Being one of the best things to do in Panama, it is bound to be on most people’s custom itinerary.
The San Blas Islands of Panama are an archipelago which is made up of 365 tiny islands and cays. Only 49 of these are inhabited. Go on this amazing 14 hour adventure that starts by picking you up in Panama city and taking you to 4 of these gorgeous islands. Enjoy the opportunity to swim, snorkel and kayak out in some of the most beautiful and pristine water on the planet. Be sure to book ahead of time to secure your spot on this once in a lifetime experience. A traditional Panamanian lunch is included!
The Panama Canal railway company offers train tickets to hop aboard and travel from sea to sea. Travel across the country from the Pacific ocean by Panama City to the Atlantic ocean by Colon along the world’s oldest railroad. This hour long train ride covers the width of the country which is just 50 miles/80 kilometers. Take in the amazing rainforest, villages and countryside as you travel along. It is estimated that 12,000 workers lost their lives building this unbelievable railroad. Hop aboard and be a part of history!
The passenger cabins have glass roofs to really enhance your experience. This is a true gem of Panama and a must-do for every visitor to Panama city! If you time your journey well you can experience the sunrise over the pacific ocean and set on the Atlantic ocean. What more can I say! This should be on every itinerary, what a ride!
Boquete Tree Trek Mountain Resort offers a wonderful 2.8 mile hike that takes you on a circuit of 6 hanging bridges. Bask in the beauty of Río Cristal private forest reserve. Let the experienced guide navigate the way through the forest and across these incredible bridges. Of which, the shortest suspension/ hanging bridge is 230 feet long while the longest is nearly 450 feet long. This trek is challenging and fun. It definitely is a great way to get out and explore nature. Kids 6 years and older can participate. Adventure seekers, this is sure to be on your Tripio custom top 10 list list of best things to do in Panama.
Panama is considered to be one of the best places in the Americas to go scuba diving. Scuba diving around Coiba island is at the very top of the list for amazing dive locations. Get the incredible opportunity to scuba dive with sharks, turtles and an array of fish. Your guide will take you to several dive spots and Diving Coiba even offers a package where you can enjoy lunch on a desert island, now that sounds pretty cool. Suitable for beginners and experienced divers alike, however, if you have experience diving, be sure to bring copies of your qualifications.
Jagüatta Waterfall is a gorgeous natural waterfall set in a lush surrounding. There are two beautiful pools of water to swim in here. Drive to the Boquete entrance. From this parking spot, it is a 10 minute walk to the falls via an accessible path. A small entrance fee is required. Once at the falls, you can enjoy swimming in the cool water which is quite deep and also go cliff jumping. The spot next to the falls to jump from is 26 feet. Be sure to check the water depth before jumping and lookout for any rocks. Cliff jumping is always at your own risk. This is a great place for the whole family.
Visit the native people of Emberá Purú Village. This is a wonderful experience that is both adventurous and cultural. Your adventure begins with being picked up from Panama City at around 8am. Embark on a coach and head towards Soberania National park. After about an hour, you will arrive at Lake Alajuela. This is the fun part, you will hop into a hand dug canoe and travel for another hour, be prepared to get wet on this canoe journey. Keep a watchful eye out for all the native wildlife that you are sure to see. When you get to the village, you will be greeted with a traditional song and dance.
After the fabulous greeting, you will be served a meal of fish, plantains and fresh fruit. Now that you are full of food, it’s time to walk it off as you embark on a 30 minute hike with the village elders. After which you will be allowed some free time to interact with the villagers, go for a swim and enjoy this incredible experience. The villagers will say farewell to you in the same way they welcomed you with a song and dance. Expect to arrive back in Panama city at around 5pm. This is a must-do for any adventure and culture lover!
Rank culture and adventure high on your personal preferences and this one is bound to be part of your top 10 list, otherwise add it to your custom itinerary on the Tripio app right now!
The Pacific Lookout is a gorgeous spot for a photograph of the city and the ocean. Enjoy a nice little stroll along the waterfront in the day or for a romantic stroll at sunset. Not only that but there is a very Insta-worthy Panama sign that is actually bigger that the main Panama sign on Flamenco island. Instagrammers, this one is sure to be on your top 10 list.
The Canopy Tower is located within Soberanía National Park. It stands at a whopping 900 feet high. The observation deck is equipped with chairs and tables so that you can enjoy the gorgeous view. There isn’t an elevator so be prepared to climb the stairs all the way to the top. There is an opportunity to stop and rest on the way up if you need to. Be sure to bring a pair of binoculars with you to really enhance your experience and opportunity to view the birds and wildlife around the region.
Don Caimán Restaurant serves up a buffet filled with authentic and delicious Panamanian cuisine. This restaurant is only open on the weekends but is sure worth the wait. The view is spectacular and you might even see a few crocodiles and turtles that call the area home. You may even be able to feed the crocodiles from the balcony of the restaurant, now that’s wild! Great food has to be part of everyone’s vacation. Speaking of food, you will want to check out my blog on: Panama Food: A Cultural Guide
I hope you have enjoyed my blog, until next time, keep travelling, why not check out our blog on: The Best Little Known Adventures In Colombia
or how about the Best Of Bermuda
-Gemma Winchester, Tripio Guru