Panama is rich in culture, history, tradition, art, and lush nature filled with flora and fauna. The capital, Panama City, is the largest city in the country and is filled with attractions that are fun for the entire family. Visitors can start their exploration at Panama Viejo to see the ruins of the site of the original settlement. Famed for the Panama Canal, visitors can learn about this renowned waterway and get an up-close and personal look at the many vessels that traverse it daily. Whether learning about the country's past, enjoying its golden beaches, zip-lining through the lush forests, or eating the delicious foods, there's something for everyone in Panama.
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One of the most difficult engineering feats in history, the Panama Canal is an artificial waterway that connects the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans. First opened in 1914, the canal is over 48 miles long and drastically reduces the time it takes for ships to travel between the two oceans. Visitors can go to the Miraflores Canal Visitor Center to find out details about the project, the difficulties that were faced, and the obstacles the canal overcame. The exhibits, interactive displays, and movie are a fun and educational way for visitors of all ages to explore. Visitors should visit after 2:00 pm as fewer ships pass in the daytime, and can have a meal on the terrace at the Miraflores Restaurant to watch the giant ships majestically move as they dine.
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The Ancon Hill reserve is a 654-foot-high foothill that was once used as an administration site for the Panama Canal. The undeveloped hill is the highest point in Panama City and offers amazing panoramic views of the hub below. Visitors can reach the summit with a 30-minute hike and then go on to explore the jungle areas. The hike can take 1.5 to 2 hours and is best done early in the morning to avoid the heat. Visitors will come across wildlife such as nine-banded armadillos, sloths, deer, and Geoffroy's tamarins. Ornithology aficionados will enjoy identifying the 39 different bird species that visit the hill.
3.Things to Do in Panama: Biomuseo
With the goal of developing and maintaining a bio-diverse tropical center for people to better understand, appreciate, and explore, the non-profit Amador Foundation opened the Biomuseo. Backed by the prestigious Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute, this is a great place for visitors to better understand the country's waters, forests, and other natural resources. The building was designed by world-renowned architect Frank Gehry and has eight galleries and a biodiversity park. Visitors of all ages will enjoy walking around park, a living extension of the museum, housing endemic and native plants of the land.
Edificio 136, Calzada de Amador, Amador Causeway 136, Panama City, Panama, Phone: +507-830-6700
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A small town in the province of Chiriqui, Boquete is a popular Panama attraction for locals and visitors. The scenic location is surrounded by towering hills and mountains, giving visitors a breathtaking panoramic view. People are attracted from all over to the land's cool climate and its close proximity to the majestic Volcan Baru. One of the most sought-out destinations in Panama, the town's gorgeous natural surroundings makes it a hub for outdoor enthusiasts. The hiking trails, pristine waterfalls, ancient volcano, and unique species of flora and fauna are amazing to explore. Visitors can relax in the luxurious Valle Escondido Resort or Lucero Country Club, which has full-service spas and fitness programs.
5.Bocas Del Toro
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Comprising a chain of islands off of the Caribbean coast, the Bocas del Toro archipelago is a unique aspect of the country that all Panama visitors simply must experience. The indescribable natural beauty of the lush tropical vegetation and stunning white sand beaches make Bocas del Toro a biodiverse fantasy world. Bocas Town, the capital of the main island Isla Colon, is the spot for seafood restaurants, souvenir shops, and nightlife that goes on well into the night. Popular activities include surfing, bird watching, forest trekking, snorkeling, exploring the nearby Indian village, playing with the marine turtles, and maneuvering the waters in a sailboat.
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Adventuras Panama has been providing exhilarating tours of the land since 1994. Their travel packages take visitors to many parts of Panama, such as the capital city, the Chiriqui Highlands of Boquete, the port city of Colon, Mamey Island, and many other places. The tours can be personalized based on interests, such as visiting the tribes, exploring the rainforest, enjoying a honeymoon, or creating a custom-made trip. The more adventurous at heart will love the activities that can be done during the tour, such as kayaking, rafting, hiking, diving, and canyoning. The tour company is one of the best ways of exploring Panama, ensuring that you don't miss out on anything during your vacation.
P.O. Box 0823-04277, Panama, Republic of Panama, Phone: (011) 507-6679-4404
7.Things to Do in Panama: Bridge of the Americas
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Puente de las Americas, or Bridge of the Americas, was originally called the Thatcher Ferry Bridge. Located in Panama City, the bridge spans the Pacific Ocean entrance to the Panama Canal and has a total length of over 1,654 meters. Until 2004, it was one of the only non-swinging bridges connecting North and South America. The bridge played a large role in world trade, as its addition increased road traffic across the canal. Visitors can appreciate the impressive site of the bridge and go across the pedestrian walkways to get stunning views of the surroundings.
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Also known as San Felipe or Casco Antiguo, Casco Viejo is Panama City's historic district. The settlement was completed in 1763 and was built following a horrific pirate attack that had destroyed the previous buildings. The district was named a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1997 and houses many sites and attractions for visitors to enjoy. Some of the most visited are the El Palacio de las Garzas, which is the governmental office and residence of the President of Panama, La Catedral Metropolitana, which is the main Catholic temple in Panama City, and the church and convent of Saint Francis of Assisi.
9.What to Do in Panama: Cerro Azul
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Cerro Azul is a mountain town that's a quick 40 minutes away from the bustle of Panama City. Resembling the Swiss Alps in terms of weather and scenery, this tiny town is perfect for a sudden weekend getaway. The ride takes visitors to an altitude of approximately 3,000 feet and offers stunning view of the valleys below. Along the way, visitors will come across an exuberant display of flowers such as large bougainvillea and orchids in varying colors and size. Outdoorsy visitors will love exploring the rivers and streams that cascade down to Chagres National Park.
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Coronado is a beach town in Panama that's popular with tourists and residing expats. The coastal town is only an hour away from Panama City and offers amazing black and white sand beaches that lead out to the Pacific Ocean. One of the most well-developed resort towns in Panama, Coronado offers more than just a refreshing ocean dip and sun bathing. Visitors can spend their time playing a round of golf or even learning to if they don't know how. They can also go horseback riding on the beach, surf, go shopping for souvenirs, and dine at some amazing restaurants. Nightlife includes live music and beachside bars that keep the party going until well into the night.
11.Embera Village Tours & More
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Originating from the Darien region of Panama, the Emberá have resided on this land for centuries before the country of Panama even existed. Currently, there are over 30,000 people living in Emberá, a remote land away from Panama City. Visitors can tour the land and better understand the traditions, culture, and language of the indigenous people. There are day tours that include the pick-up from Panama City, a boat ride through a virgin rainforest filled with birds, sloths and monkeys, and a refreshing waterfall dip on the way to the village. Once there, visitors will be greeted with traditional music, rest in the community hut, and have a delicious lunch before exploring the rest of the village. Phone: 314-397-7750
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The Karavan Gallery has a stunning collection of arts and crafts from all over Panama. Visitors will come across many items reflecting Congo art, a major artistic movement in Central America. Traditional items hand-stitched by Kuna women can be found alongside more modern items such as cushions, and all of them display the unique sewing technique of the Kuna people. Handicrafts from indigenous communities such as the Emberá and the Wounaan can also be found at the gallery. Each aspect of the items, which include baskets, weaved items, hats, plates, and tribal masks, display the skill of these artisans.
Tercera Street - Lateral Arco Chato, Casco Viejo, San Felipe, Panama sn, Phone: 507-228-7177
13.Moto Tour Panama
© Moto Tour Panama
Visitors can explore paradise on two wheels with Moto Tour Panama, a motorcycle tour company that is an official partner of BMW Motorrad in Panama. The company offers motorcycle rentals for shorter periods of time and motorbikes for self-guided tours as well as group and guided tours. Panama is perfect for a motorbike adventure as it's filled with roads that wind along sea sides and across mountainous terrain through jungles and forests. Visitors will get to explore the land in one of the most unique ways possible while discovering landscapes and viewing sceneries that will leave them breathless. These incredible routes are best explored by motorcycle travel with Moto Tour Panama's experienced team!
BMW Plaza, Calle 50 y Vía Porras, San Francisco, Panama City, Panama, Phone: 507-264-85-15
14.Museo Antropologico Reina Torres de Arauz
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The Museo Antropológico Reina Torres de Araúz, or MARTA, is Panama's premier anthropological museum. The museum has been around since the 1980s and has, over the years, accumulated a large collection of artifacts. The museum itself is dedicated to Panama's revolutionary anthropologist, Reina Torres de Araúz, and visitors can explore the many displays and exhibitions, including the more than 15,000 pre-Columbian pieces and artifacts from the earliest residents of Panama, the Barriles tribe. Visitors will also come across an extensive collection of golden huacas, modern pollera dresses, and antiquities from the households of early settlers.
Street 24 Avenue Justo Arosemena, Phone: +507-501-4731
15.Afro-Panamanian Culinary Heritage and Food Tour
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Authentic Panamanian cuisine has an infusion of flavors and the Afro-Panamanian Culinary Heritage and Food Tour gives visitors the opportunity to enjoy these amazing foods. Not only will the tour introduce visitors to popular foods such as lobster ceviche, codfish cakes, and patacones, they'll also be able to explore some of the more iconic neighborhoods in Panama City. Walking through Panama, visitors can meet the locals, understand the lifestyle heavily influenced by fishing, cooking and selling food, and try out all of the local favorites. The 3-hour tour ends with a delicious cup of coffee from the best Panamanian coffee shop in town.
16.Natural Science Museum
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Since 1975, the Natural Science Museum, or Museo de Ciencias Naturales as it's known locally, has invited residents and tourists to explore the wonders of natural science. It is an attraction the entire family will enjoy, and exploring the museum and nearby Central Park can take up the whole day. The museum is dedicated to the research, collection, conservation, and exhibition of various species both local and foreign and is aimed toward geology and paleontology. Visitors can also witness the museum's dedication to conserving and protecting Panama's natural resources and endangered plant and animal species. Various preserved animals can be found here, including mammals, birds, and reptiles.
Calle 29 and Calle 30 (29th and 30th Streets) on Ave. Cuba, Panama City, Panama, Phone: +507-225-0645
17.Nina Concept Store
© Nina Concept Store
Visitors will come across many stores and shops that offer everything from clothes and toys to electronics and household items while exploring Panama. The Nina Concept Store offers a different, more chic, shopping experience, which can be noticed in the design and quality of the merchandise as well as the customer care. Though Nina's has an extensive range of souvenirs and gift items that visitors can take back from their vacation, there are also pieces of fine jewelry and art. Visitors can take a break from the shopping and have a nice lunch or cup of coffee at the much-praised in-house cafe.
Calle 54 Este, Obarrio. A un costado de Soho Mall., Panamá, Phone: +507-390-5671
18.Panama Trails Day Tours
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Panama Trails Day Tours comprises a team of specialists and experts who have the skills, knowledge, and passion to show visitors what Panama is truly about. The tours combine the best of what Panama offers and can be chosen based on the visitor's interests. There are packages for family vacations, nature lovers, romantic getaways, and adrenaline-filled adventures. Visitors are more than welcome to tailor-make their own tour as well and tour attractions include visiting the native Emberá Indians, hiking and zip-lining through the forest canopy, taking a dip at Starfish Beach, visiting the Miraflores Locks, and exploring the historic capital.
PO Box 0823-03026, Panama City and surrounds, Panama, Phone: +507-393-8334
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Panamá Viejo is the remnant of Panama's former capital, Old Panama City. A UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1997, the settlement was founded in 1519 and included just over a hundred inhabitants. It quickly grew in people and developments, but over the years many of the structures were damaged or demolished by fires, pirate attacks, and earthquakes. Now, visitors can explore the ruins of the first European settlement and its remnants: several colonial urban monuments, the Matadero Bridge, the cathedral, the structure of the San Juan De Dios hospital, the San Jose convent complex, and much more.
Vía Cincuentenario, Panamá, Phone: +507-226-8915
20.Things to Do in Panama: Parque Natural Metropolitano
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Metropolitan Natural Park, or Parque Natural Metropolitano, is the only wildlife refuge in all of Panama City. The park has been attracting residents and tourists for a day of exploration and relaxation since 1988. Attractions within the park, such as the Los Trinos lookout point and the Caobos Trail, make it a great place for outdoorsy visitors to go on a hike. Visitors will come across numerous species of flora and fauna, and bird lovers will especially enjoy themselves as there are many species of birds. The Cedar Hill lookout point is the highest in the park, and from there visitors can see the Bridge of the Americas, the Panama Canal, and Naos Island as well as a stunning view of Panama City. Phone: +507-232-5516
21.Punta Culebra Nature Center
© Punta Culebra Nature Center
The Punta Culebra Nature Center, also known as the Marine Exhibition Center of Punta Culebra, is operated by the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute. Focusing on the education on and conservation of marine coastal environments, the center is filled with exhibits and interactive displays that will intrigue the entire family. Attractions include the Fabulous Frogs of Panama and a touch tank with turtles and other marine life. There is also a trail from the nature center through a tropical dry forest, where animals such as sloths, raccoons, iguanas, birds, and butterflies roam freely. Phone: +507-212-8793
22.The Interoceanic Canal Museum
© The Interoceanic Canal Museum
The Museo del Canal Interoceánico de Panamá, also known as the Interoceanic Canal Museum or the Panama Canal Museum, was established in 1997. It is a non-profit public museum that is devoted entirely to the construction of the Panama Canal. The exhibitions and artifacts go back to long before the canal was open to when the French first attempted its construction. It takes visitors through the various stages, from its initiation to its transfer to Panamanian control. The building in which the museum resides plays an important role in the construction of the canal as well, as it is the exact building which both the French and the United States used as offices during the construction.
Plaza de la Independencia, Calle 5a Este, Phone: +507 211-1649
23.Treasures of Panama by Reprosa
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Treasures of Panama by Reprosa is a company dedicated to preserving and promoting Panama's history, diversity, tradition, and beauty. The award-winning company has objects that have been admired around the globe and that have many times have been presented to royalty, politicians, and artists as emblems of Panama. Experts in reproducing indigenous artifacts, the company works with tribes all over the country to create handcrafted engravings, jewelry, and pieces of art. Visitors can go on a guided tour of their workshop to have a look behind the scenes and purchase these recreations of Panama's treasures.
Ave Samuel Lewis, Obarrio, Calle Cuarta, Casco Antiguo, Parque Industrial, Costa Del Este, Phone: +507-271-0033
23 Best Things to Do in Panama
- Panama Canal, Photo: Courtesy of diegograndi - Fotolia.com
- Ancon Hill, Photo: Courtesy of iguide - Fotolia.com
- Things to Do in Panama: Biomuseo, Photo: Biomuseo
- Boquete, Photo: Courtesy of Quasarphoto - Fotolia.com
- Bocas Del Toro, Photo: Courtesy of Mischa Krumm - Fotolia.com
- Adventuras Panama, Photo: Courtesy of Fotos 593 - Fotolia.com
- Things to Do in Panama: Bridge of the Americas, Photo: Courtesy of Vilant - Fotolia.com
- Casco Viejo, Photo: Courtesy of Fotos 593 - Fotolia.com
- What to Do in Panama: Cerro Azul, Photo: Courtesy of Marcus - Fotolia.com
- Coronado, Photo: Courtesy of wollertz - Fotolia.com
- Embera Village Tours & More, Photo: Courtesy of seaphotoart - Fotolia.com
- Karavan Gallery, Photo: Courtesy of swisshippo - Fotolia.com
- Moto Tour Panama, Photo: Moto Tour Panama
- Museo Antropologico Reina Torres de Arauz, Photo: Courtesy of mdurinik - Fotolia.com
- Afro-Panamanian Culinary Heritage and Food Tour, Photo: Courtesy of robyelo357 - Fotolia.com
- Natural Science Museum, Photo: Courtesy of Bastos - Fotolia.com
- Nina Concept Store, Photo: Nina Concept Store
- Panama Trails Day Tours, Photo: Courtesy of seaphotoart - Fotolia.com
- Panama Viejo, Photo: Courtesy of diego cervo - Fotolia.com
- Things to Do in Panama: Parque Natural Metropolitano, Photo: Courtesy of Rafal Cichawa - Fotolia.com
- Punta Culebra Nature Center, Photo: Punta Culebra Nature Center
- The Interoceanic Canal Museum, Photo: The Interoceanic Canal Museum
- Treasures of Panama by Reprosa, Photo: Courtesy of Treasures of Panama by Reprosa - Fotolia.com
- Cover Photo: Courtesy of Fotos 593 - Fotolia.com