The 10 best things to do in Panama
I recently visited Panama and I fell in love with this small but amazing country. That’s why I decided to write an article about what I think are the 10 best things to do and see in Panama.
Panama is not the first country that comes into people’s mind if they plan to visit Central America. Its neighbours Costa Rica and Colombia are kind of more famous among backpackers.
I myself had not big expectations before visiting it, I was just planning to stop there on my way to Costa Rica, but I discovered a country so full of things to see, so much to explore, that astonished me.
And now I want to help you planning a trip to this amazing country and I want to share with you the best 10 things to do in Panama. Trust me, they are all worth it!
Best things to do in Panama: my top 3
1. Visit Bocas del Toro and take surf lessons
Bocas del Toro is the most famous archipelago in Panama. Beaches here are so wild and perfect to learn how to surf.
You can visit a different beach every day, and even do island hopping taking part in one of the fantastic boat trips that leave from Bocas Town’s little port.
In Bocas there are a lot of surf schools but also Spanish schools in case you want to practice.
Taking surf lessons is one of the best things to do in Panama.
And if you want to stay for free and have the chance to learn surf while helping local community, you can check volunteer positions in a surf camp like this one in Chame with Worldpackers.
2. Go on a trip to San Blas islands
San Blas islands are heaven on earth. These islands belong to the indigenous community of Guna Yala, and you can visit them taking a day trip from Panama City, or you can sleep one or more nights on one of the islands.
They are wild, most of them don’t have electricity or internet connection, they are small islands surrounded by nature and ocean. They are one of the best places to see in Panama.
San Blas are the perfect place if you want to pull the plug and just relax in front of one of the most beautiful sea of the world.
You will spend all day on the beach, sunbathing, swimming, and eating fresh seafood.
3. Discover how Panama Canal works
Panama Canal is maybe the most important contribution to the maritime world that has ever been built.
And if you take a trip to Panama, you will be able to visit the Canal, the museum, and if you are lucky see some ships passing through it.
The Canal is one of the most interesting things to do in Panama. It is a very exciting experience that you can’t have anywhere else in the world.
More of the best things to do in Panama
So far we've seen just 3 of the best things to do in Panama, which are actually my favourites, but there are many more that I'd like to suggest you:
4. Have a walk to Red Frog beach
In Bastimentos island, belonging to Bocas del Toro, you can reach by a 30 minutes walking one of the most beautiful beaches in the Caribbean coast: Red Frog Beach.
This beach is wild and surrounded by nature, that’s why it is a bit hard to reach it, but the effort will be repaid by the beautiful scenery.
You can also spot a lot of beautiful animals such as sloths and of course small red frogs, which give the name to the beach.
Would you like to live by the sea? Your dream could come true, as there are lot of volunteering positions just a few steps from the sea, like this hotel were you could help in exchange of accomodation.
5. Have a walk in the Cinta Costera to admire Panama City’s skyline
Panama City has the perfect mix between the art of the colonial city and the elegance of its modern skyline.
The best way to admire the skyline is walking in the Cinta Costera, a walk just by the sea with the skyline as background.
Here you can also take a picture with the iconic and colorful sign “Panama”.
If you are good at taking pictures and videos and love social medias, you can have fun and use your skills volunteering in Panama City.
6. Explore the Casco Viejo
You can’t visit Panama City without seeing the real and colonial historical centre, called Casco Viejo. It is definitely one of the best things to do in Panama.
This is the most beautiful part of the city, full of art and history, such as the Cathedral of Panama. The most interesting buildings and museums, and all the typical restaurants are all located here.
For the best view on Casco Viejo and the skyline in the background, you can have a cocktail on the rooftop of Selina. And remember you can also volunteer in Selina’s hostels through Wordlpackers.
7. Enjoy Starfish beach
In Bocas del Toro there is a special beach full of starfish. You can reach the place by bus from Bocas Town, and after a 30 minute ride you will also have to walk for another 15 minutes or take a small boat.
The place is quite remote, but you will understand why.
At Starfish beach, the boss is nature. The beach is full of palm trees, is so wild, and you can see starfish everywhere. This beach is one of the best things to see in Panama.
Just remember to enjoy the view without touching the starfish. But of course, take a lot of pictures!
8. Hike in the jungle
Panama is a small but complete country. And this means you can do a lot of different experiences even staying close to the city.
From Panama City you can take a trip to the jungle, hike and see a lot of animals, such as sloths, monkeys, and many kinds of birds.
Just close to Panama City there are a lot of natural parks where you can hike and spot animals, like Monkey island and Camino de Cruces, just to mention some.
You can also try to volunteer in the tropical rainforest with Worldpackers.
9. Discover American history in Panama Viejo
Panama Viejo is a UNESCO Heritage Site just outside Panama City. It is the ancient city of Panama, where everything started, and it is also considered the oldest city of America on the Pacific side.
You can’t miss this place, it is one of the best things to see in Panama, to learn the origins of the country and some important facts about the whole American continent.
In Panama Viejo you can explore the colonial ruins and also visit the museum, in which you will discover a lot of historical facts and events regarding Latin America and Native Americans.
10. Challenge yourself exploring Darien National Park
Darien National Park is located just along the border between Panama and Colombia.
This park is very impervious and hiking here is not for everyone, it is challenging but it is definitely the kind of adventure that a backpacker would like to try once in a lifetime. I had to include it on the list of things to do in Panama.
If you try this adventure, you won’t regret it, and you will have the chance to see one of the best places in the world for biodiversity.
And if biodiversity is an important theme to you, you could try to volunteer in a very tropical and natural hotspot of Panama.
Are you ready to explore the best things to do in Panama?
This was my personal list of the best 10 things to do in Panama, but of course you can do more than this, if you give a chance to this country and you decide to explore it.
I barely knew something about Panama before visiting it. I found such beautiful places I never expected to see. Travelling is also about this, finding the unexpected, and Worldpackers made it possible for me to travel more and more and explore a lot of countries I never thought I would see.
For these reasons and many more, I think that Panama should be on your itinerary if you are looking where to go in Central America.
So, pack your things and go exploring, and don’t forget to look for volunteering opportunities in Panama to save money and have a cultural immersion!
If you are planning to go on a trip to Central America, here you can find more inspiration:
Jan 11, 2023
Hi! Thanks for your ideas and I will put them on my bucket list. I am in Panama at this moment and can tell, that there are other beautiful places than just near Bocas and Panama City. For example, Santa Fé and El Valle are great places if you really want to live in the rainforest. There are tours, where you can just walk through it but you can also explore amazing waterfalls by yourself!
Additionally, Playa Venao is a great surfing spot as well;)
Just for additional ideas and places☺️