I always loved traveling to Panama. It seemed to have the perfect blend of wilderness, urban and island locales. Most of our goods would cost a lot more if it wasn’t for Panama and yet many areas seem to be trapped in a sort of time warp. Panama is a big deal in Central America. It’s the crossroads of the Americas – where North meets south, and interestingly, it’s also where the two gigantic oceans; The Pacific and the Atlantic converge. The Panama Canal is a tourism magnet and a fiscal site where Cargo moving North and South goes through.
Panama is highly advanced economically and has modernized infrastructure compared to her neighboring countries, making transport in the region easy as holiday-makers travel with ease across the Islands.
We features top destinations you should visit while holidaying in Panama. Travel light because you’ll be on the move most of the time. The Islands are simply magnificent. The beaches pristine, and the views from the ocean quite heavenly. You’ll never want to leave Panama once you set foot in the central city.
So here we go…
Panama is a diverse and vibrant metropolis in Central America. It is the gateway to regional trade, linking both North and South Americas. The resulting cultural blend has made the city flexible and dynamic, a welcoming hub to visitors trolling in for either business or pleasure. When you arrive in Panama, don’t be fooled by the quiet, still waters. The city is highly urbanized with skyscrapers, unending traffic, and rows of endless casinos and nightclubs stacked together.
The former Casco Viejo colonial peninsula has become a tropical escape destination where thousands of tourists pour every year.
Metropolitan Natural Park
A few miles from Panama City is the Parque Natural Metropolitano (The Metropolitan Natural Park); easily accessible by road, it’s the perfect spot for hiking. Most of the Park’s terrain is a dry lowland, a rare occurrence in Central America, contributed mainly by extreme deforestation to make room for urbanization. Regardless, there’s still plenty to see in the forested park – home to hundreds of diverse trees and thousands of animal species, including birds and Geoffroy’s tamarins.
The Park has five trails covering approximately 3 miles (5 km). The trails offer remarkable Panama City views, an observation area overlooking the bay and the central city, and additional tracks that lead deep into the forest.
To book a guided tour, you must schedule an English-speaking guide in advance to secure a spot.
Hike through the trails and discover the stunning scenery and see the exotic wildlife.
Panama City has a huge jungle right in the heart of the city – the only city in the world with a forest.
Canal at Miraflores Locks
The Panama Canal is a 50-mile artificial watercourse connecting the Pacific Ocean with the Atlantic Ocean. The Canal runs through Panama, a narrow channel in Central America. It was a colossal engineering project build to hold Gatun – the artificial lake between the oceans to decrease mining projects.
Gatun Lake was formed by stemming River Chagres between the oceans at 85 feet above sea level to raise the ships passing through the oceans and the lake. In other words, the locks aid in extending large ships when moving inland from the interlocking oceans.
Once a ship passes in the locks, the massive gates close, and the container fills up with water (by force of gravity) until the ship goes way up high to get through to the next lock.
The Canal has three locks on each end. It takes an astounding 11 hours for a large ship to pass through the locks. Now here’s the thrill of watching ships do their thing. It’s a tedious process to watch but worth the wait (at least for the smaller ships).
Casco Viejo is undeniably incredible. It’s a less-visited region, nevertheless has rich history about the Central American people’s peoples and culture. It was a crucial Spanish trading city on the entire Central pacific coast. Captain Henry Morgan discovered the more oversized Island of Panama and destroyed it in the 17th Century.
Today, the ruins left behind still cover a considerable part of the ground with remnants of old buildings like the cathedral, smaller churches, including convents. The streets have a tinge of ancient stones on them, and you can feel the ancient vibe of the ruins by passing through these well-maintained ruins.
Explore the archaeological sites like the ancient Panama Cathedral, climb atop the bell tower and take in the stunning view of Panama City from an aerial view.
The Amador Causeway
The Amador Causeway is a striking walkway that captivates both the locals and visiting tourists enjoying Panama vacations.
The Causeway’s roads fill up with tall, elegant palm trees, glorious views of the Panama Canal, and the shimmering Panama City’s skyline; on the long Bridge linking the Americas and Panama Bay.
The Panama Canal is an approximately 3 miles stretch that links three islands that make up the Amador Causeway.
It is a top tourist attraction in Panama.
The US Government constructed the Canal in 1913. It is a unique causeway since it links Panama City with four Islands within the region – serving both as a road and a sidewalk for pedestrians crossing between the four Islands, which are:
- Culebra Island
- Naso Island
- Perico Island
- Flamenco Island
The course way has fantastic cafes and shops to get bitings along the way. The most preferred transport mode used by locals is bike riding. You can rent one to cross along with the islands as you check out the beautiful landscape, i.e., Panama City along the Causeway.
The Pearl Islands were discovered by Spanish explorers in the 16th Century and named so by Vasco Nuñez de Balboa after unearthing the large pearls strewn off the islands’ shores. In the real sense, Balboa did not venture inland to the villages. However, other explorers did, and they killed many locals in the process of harvesting the pearls.
Today the Islands receive a few visitors who experience that magical paradise feel, fresh air, sandy white beaches, and magnificent views of the coastline.
It’s the perfect getaway destination if you’re looking to spend quality time with your loved one on the beautiful secluded beaches. Activities on the island include scuba diving, snorkelling, and fishing, so it’s a beautiful place to explore and relax in the evenings as you watch stunning views of the sunset.
The Pearl Islands is an archipelago, but only a few of the smaller isles are habitable. One of those isles is
Isla Contadora has social amenities and can accommodate tourists at any time of the year. It’s only twenty minutes away by flight or two hours on a rented boat from Panama City.
Contadora is a small town with peasants living a simple life – the locals get around with golf carts or foot. The Island is only 0.5-square-miles, so all the amenities are within reach, from shops to cafes and guest houses.
Contadora Island is a habitable isle of the three islands in the Pearl Archipelago. It has luxurious resorts, an airstrip, and private yachts on hire to cruise through the beautiful sky-blue waters as you explore the islands.
San José Island
Isla San José, the second-largest islet in the archipelago, is a 17-square mile private island with a luxury resort and beautiful exotic islands. It’s exquisite, with fantastic beaches and lush cool forests. Traveling to this secluded Island means you spend your holiday in a peaceful environment. It’s the perfect place to meditate, enjoy each other’s company (for couples) and take in all the excesses of life that Island San Jose has to offer.
San Blas Islands
Most Panama vacations revolve around the ocean, beach activities, underwater adventures, and lots of sunbathing – just like in the Caribbean Islands. But when visiting Panama, expect less with the extravagance of the locations and more of culture and simplicity of life. You’ll spend a bit of cash, yes, but go with an open mind.
San Blas Islands is East of Panama, inhabited by the Kuna tribe who own and manage activities on the Island. They’re welcoming to visitors and, for a small fee, allow travelers to access the islands for a day, or two, depending on your travel itinerary.
The calm seas on San Blas are perfect for sailing, snorkelling, and deep-sea diving. You can also check-in in one of the high-end resorts for a quiet holiday setting, filled with excessive pampering, savor the best of Panama cuisines and enjoy glorious sunsets as you relax on the private beaches.
The best decision you’ll ever make is to visit these little isle havens in Panama. Now Isla Colon has one town, a perfect tiny city in the Bocas Del Toro Archipelago – The Colon Island.
Welcome to Bocas Town.
Everything is within reach: excellent resorts, cozy seaside restaurants, and souvenir shops. To crown the simplicity of life, feel the natural splendor of the Island, visit the Finca Los Monos Botanical Garden for relaxation as you experience the tranquillity and ambiance of these lush gardens. Stroll along with the Playa Estrella as you take scores of photos to share with your friends and family.
Next, you can visit the Dolphin preserve in its natural habitat right from the shoreline. Hire a boat and sail off leisurely to the calm seas as you spot Dolphins enjoying themselves as they gush through the waters happily. You can also opt for scuba diving or deep-sea fishing and later have a sumptuous fish meal as you relax in one of the resorts in Bocas town.
Bastimentos Island is among the Bocas Del Toro archipelago. It is a serene and gorgeous isle, an untouched gem with vast virgin lands, unmarked roads, and trekking paths. Explore the vast sandy beaches ideal for free surfing, swimming, and kayaking along the rustic wavy waters on Wizard beach. Visitors prefer to go to Red Frog Beach, where there are many life, cafes, and shoreline foodie joints selling all kinds of snacks. The Island has one small town, The Old Bank town, with rustic structures and a relaxed atmosphere, with a handful of local villagers.
Coiba National Park – Chiriquí
Coiba Island is located in Veraguas Province, South of Panama. It comprises smaller isles, forming the largest Island in Central America. The entire Island is a reserved area presently referred to as the Coiba National Marine Park. It is nicknamed the Devil’s Island since it once served as a colony in the mid centuries giving it the nickname of Devil’s Island, enabling many natural resources to remain untouched for a stretched period.
To enjoy your tour, plan for a day trip to the Island and book for a guided marine tour, diving excursions, or exploration on the mainland. Look out for exotic bird species, monkeys, and iguanas. Coiba Marine Park was acknowledged as a UNESCO World Heritage location in 2005, boasting some of the best marine and tropical diversity in Central America.
Coiba is a favorite diving spot for watersports freaks on the largest reef in the region; the Bahia Damas Reef, on the western coastline.
Dive enthusiasts get a chance to see sharks, whales and manta rays. The best time to catch whale sharks in action is between December and April. You’ll never get enough of this paradise haven in between the Americas. Tell us about your experiences in Panama.
Our Final Word
Panama is an ocean lover’s dream come true. Island hopping is a way of life with something for everyone. I love to just kick back and relax. Others love to dive and snorkel. Whatever you want to do on the water, it is waiting for you in Panama.