DESTINATIONS TO VISIT IN PANAMA
DESTINATIONS TO VISIT IN PANAMA
Below you will find a list of places to visit during your visit to Panama. We offer the opportunity to take you and show you most of these locations, contact us for more information.
Panama City is the capital and the most populous of the Republic of Panama. It is located on the Pacific coast at the entrance of the Panama Canal.
Where to go and what to see:
Panama Canal - At the Pacific entrance of the Panama Canal is the Miraflores Visitors Center (CVM) which is an expression of the permanent commitment of the Panama Canal Authority to strengthen the public’s knowledge of the Canal. Located on the east side of the Miraflores Locks, the CVM allows the visitor to observe transiting vessels from a distance of only a few meters and learn first hand about the various operations of the Panama Canal, the history of its construction, its participation in the world markets, and the importance of its watershed.
Ancon Hill (Cerro Ancon) - A small nature sanctuary surrounded by the urban jungle of Panama City, Ancon hill stands tall in its 650-foot height and topped with the biggest Panamanian flag of the city. For most of the American occupation until 1977, Ancon Hill was not developed and was used for radio communication antennas. The Americans kept this piece of land immaculate while the rest of the city saw development and because of this, Ancon Hill has remained a 106-acre of jungle in the heart of the city. Considered as the lungs of Panama City, you can walk up the hill to enjoy breathtaking 360-degree views of the city and the canal. When the Panamanians finally got their land back through the Torrijos-Carter Treaty signed in 1977, local entities have slowly begun to develop the land and the jungle has taken on a more residential atmosphere. Even though most of the land has been sold, Ancon Hill has managed to retain a bit of wilderness and is home to sloths, tamarins, coatis and armadillos.
Amador Causeway - This gorgeous 6-kilometer road extension connects Panama City to several islands known as the Causeway Islands. It was initially built as a break water for the canal entrance from the rocks extracted during the excavation of the Panama Canal and now serves as an entertainment boardwalk and a popular social destination. It’s the ideal place for photo enthusiasts as you can capture a beautiful panoramic of the city’s skyline or a romantic sunset plunging into the ocean.
Mi Pueblito - Meaning My Little Village, this little village showcases the prevailing customs, traditions and history of our country. In one place, you can step inside a typical Afro-Caribbean, peasant, or Indian house that showcases the main characteristics of these cultures.
Albrook Mall - It is the largest shopping center in Central America. The mall offers over 750 shops, valet parking, supermarket, cinemas, pharmacies, trains to transport adults and children, more than 100 restaurants in three food courts (terraces, magical zone with carousels), a Casino and lots of fun. You can find everything you need and more.
Multiplaza Mall - This is the most modern and exclusive shopping center in Panama. With its 64,800 square meters, it offers more than 280 exclusive designer shops, department stores, supermarkets, pharmacies, banks, an area of complete restoration and movie theaters. Keep yourself a little time to stop by Camino Del Sol at Multiplaza. A unique place to enjoy the most prestigious brands in the fashion industry such as Louis Vuitton, Chanel, Cartier, Carolina Herrera, Bvlgari, Hermes and others. No doubt this is a place where luxury, glamor and fashion are merging to meet the most demanding needs of local and international visitors.
Biodiversity Museum - Also known as Biomuseo, is a museum focused on the natural history of Panama, whose isthmus was formed very recently in geologic time, with major impact on the ecology of the Western Hemisphere. Located on the Amador Causeway in Panama City, Panama, it was designed by renowned Canadian architect Frank Gehry. This is Gehry's first design for Latin America. The design was conceived in 1999 and the museum opened on 2 October 2014. The Biomuseo highlights Panama's natural and cultural history, emphasizing the role of humans in the XXI century. Its galleries tell the story of how the rise of the isthmus of Panama changed the world.
Panama Railway Company - The Panama Canal Railway is one of the great train rides of the world. Along with its colorful history, the railroad follows a picturesque path across the Isthmus of Panama. The line flanks the Panama Canal passing through lush rainforests, cruising alongside the Canal’s locks, through the historic Gaillard Cut and gliding over slender causeways in Gatun Lake.
Metropolitan Natural Park - This National Park lies amidst a buzzling and busy modern urban city and spread 573-acre of tropical forest. It’s the only city’s wildlife preserve that also serves as a public recreational park that is home to 227 different species of birds, 45 kinds of mammals, 36 varieties of snakes and 14 type of amphibians. Also found in this sanctuary are 284 plant species, including trees that can reach between 100 and 115 feet in height.
Panama Viejo - These are the ruins of what’s left of the original Panama City and former capital of the country. Now being a UNESCO Cultural World Heritage Site, this settlement dates back to 1519 when Pedro Arias Dávila and hundreds of other inhabitants made it their home and was the first permanent European Settlement on the Pacific shore.
You can explore the archeological site of Panama Viejo and see the old Cathedral as well as various historical ruins. The bell tower is accessible through a set of staircase and once you reach the top, you’re greeted to a gorgeous 360-degree view of the whole site and the modern city surrounding it in the background.
CASCO VIEJO (ANTIGUO)
Experience the gastronomy, infuse yourself within the history and delight your senses with the charm and vibrant colorful pastel tones of the old town. Also known as Casco Viejo or the old quarter, this is Panama City’s historic district. Part of UNESCO Cultural World Heritage Site, Casco Antiguo was built in 1673 after the near total destruction of Panama Viejo. Stroll the brick-paved streets during the day and discover the culture and history, stay longer during the afternoon to enjoy the best coffees and gourmet dishes and extend your stay after sunset to enjoy the nightlife and its rhythm.
Where to go and what to see:
Panama Canal Museum - The Museum of the Panama Canal is located in a beautifully restored building that was once the office of the French Canal Company, then the offices of the Isthmian Canal Commission of the United States and in 1912, the main post office. It is filled with objects and information on the planning, construction and current operation of this marvel of engineering that put Panama on the world map.
Plaza de la Francia - The original main square of the fortified city, Plaza Francia was designed by Leonardo Villanueva and is dedicated to the effort that the French have put to build the Panama Canal and the thousands of people from around the world who have died during the process. An obelisk topped by a French Coque crowns the monument and a dozen marble plaques provide details about the canal construction. Around the Plaza are located the famous Las Bóvedas, the French Embassy, the Instituto Nacional de Cultura (National Institute of Culture) and many concessions with souvenirs, food and drinks.
Instituto Nacional de Cultura de Panama - The National Institute of Culture (Instituto Nacional de Cultura de Panama - INAC) was once the building of the Supreme Court and now houses a small theater (Anita Villalaz) and events throughout the year such as theatrical representations, concerts and conferences. The building is not usually open to the public.
Las Bóvedas - These are the dungeons or vaults that originally were part of the fortification wall around Casco Viejo, they create a border around the Plaza Francia. They were restored in 1983 and are now residing galleries, shops and a nice French restaurant with the same name.
Teatro Nacional - The National Theatre was opened in 1908 and is built on the site of a 18th century monastery. At the time of its opening, it enjoyed a reputation as a glamorous destination for the elite of the city but gradually it fell into ruin, and at one point it was leased as a cinema. After two separate restoration, one in the 70s and the other in the early 2000s, it was reopened in 2004 and visitors can now enjoy a visit or a performance in its neo-baroque Old-World style.
Presidential Palace / Palacio de las Garzas - Palacio de las Garzas (Heron's Palace), the official name of the presidential palace, named for the numerous herons that inhabit the building. The original building was constructed in 1673.
Iglesia de la Compania de Jesus - The ruins of the Convent and Iglesia de la Compania de Jesus, is one of the most striking once in Casco Viejo. Back in 1667 it was the home of the Royal Pontifical University of San Javier. In 1781 the church was destroyed by a fire and further damaged by an earthquake in 1882. Panama's government restored the ruins of the convent in 1983 but it is again undergoing reconstruction.
Iglesia San Jose - This church is located right on Avenida A and famous for the distinctive baroque Altar de Oro (The Golden Altar), which was saved from Panama Viejo and transported into the "new" city. The altar was about the only thing of value salvaged after Henry Morgan sacked Panama Viejo. A priest painted the altar black to disguise it.
Plaza de la Independencia/ Plaza de la Catedral - Also known as the Plaza Mayor and Plaza Catedral, is the main square in Casco Viejo. The country's independence from Spain and Colombia were celebrated here and sculptures of the founding fathers of Panama are scattered around the place. It includes a large pavilion in the center that hosts occasionally musicians. The square is surrounded by beautiful historic buildings.
The Cathedral Metropolitana - The magnificent Cathedral of Panama, one of the largest in Central America, was completed in 1796 and virtually abandoned until a major renovation in 2003. Today it is located on Plaza Catedral (Independence Square) and is one of the main points of interest in Casco Viejo. The two towers on either side of the main entrance are encrusted with mother-of-pearl from the Pearl Islands that provide an interesting architectural contrast to the huge stone entrance wall and wooden doors. The interior is large, but modestly decorated besides the impressive altar made of marble.
The Flat Arch / El Arco Chato & Church of Santo Domingo / Iglesia de Santo Domingo - Originally built in the 17th century, the church and convent of Santo Domingo were never rebuilt after a fire destroyed them in 1756 The only thing that survived for centuries, was flat Arc (Arco Chato) located at the entrance of the church. The Arc was a testimony to the fact that Panama was spared of significant seismic activity and was instrumental in building a major channel in the region. It eventually collapsed on a Friday night in November 2003, mainly due to age and negligence. Currently, the ruins of Santo Domingo are being restored and eventually will provide a space for cultural and artistic presentations.
The Fish Market (El Mercado del Mariscos) - This is the main fish market of the city, open for business to the local restaurants and the public every day except the 3rd Monday of each month. This is the best place to buy fresh fish in Panama City. You will find everything from tuna to snapper, from lobster to octopus. Or, if you wish, you can buy a good ceviche from one of the many vendors. It is very busy with a lot of energy as a true open market and It includes a great casual restaurant upstairs.
Gamboa is a small town in the heart of the rainforest. It was one of a handful of permanent Canal Zone townships, built to house employees of the Panama Canal and their dependents.
Where to go and what to see:
Aerial Tram at the Gamboa Rainforest - See the rainforest from a breathtaking perspective, while sitting comfortably in our Swiss-engineered aerial tram system. Gliding smoothly through the treetops, you will experience the sounds and peace of the tropical rainforest firsthand. The 1.2-kilometer ride culminates at a hilltop where you have the opportunity to visit the Observation Tower. After walking up the spiral ramp, you will discover a beautiful panoramic view.
Summit Botanical Garden and Zoo - This great little zoo and botanical garden is located in the national park Soberanía. Among its popular residents are jaguars, scarlet macaws, tapirs and monkeys - all housed in their natural habitats. The most popular exhibit in the zoo is home to the harpy eagle. This species, also the national bird of Panama, is the largest bird of prey in the world and can reach weights of 20 pounds and claim to a wingspan of seven feet. Summit Garden is also known for its collection of palm trees, one of the most diverse in the world.
Colón is a port city on the coast of the Caribbean Sea (Atlantic) in Panama. The city lies at the entrance to the Caribbean Sea of the Panama Canal. It is the capital of the province of Colón and has always been known as the second largest city in Panama.
Where to go and what to see:
Portobelo - On the Caribbean shore to the north of Panama lies a town known as Portobelo. In 1502 when Columbus accidentally discovered the isthmus, he anchored his ship in the bay and exclaimed “Porto Bello!”, which means beautiful port. Known as the main commercial port back in the days between Europe and the Americas, it was also part of the gold route from Peru to Spain; thus becoming a frequent target of pirates such as the infamously known Henry Morgan and Francis Drake. These days, fishing boats and sails sway to the tranquil rhythm of this town and the lush vegetation blends in harmony with the turquoise water of the Caribbeans. A walk in the town will allow you to explore the ruins of Spanish forts and Portobelo’s legacy as the largest colonial Spanish port in Central America and the reason it has become a UNESCO World Heritage Site today.
Fort San Lorenzo - A fortress built to overlook the mouth of the Chagres River, the ruins of the once mighty Fort San Lorenzo still stand strong surrounded by the beauty of the Caribbean Sea and over 30,000 acres of protected lush rainforest within the jungles of the Panama Canal watershed. Ordered by Spanish King Felipe II late 16th century, it was built to protect a heavy route used for commerce and slave ships. Between the years of 1596-1740, the fort was often under attack by renown pirates such as Sir Francis Drake, Sir Henry Morgan and the English Admiral Edward Vernon. Fort San Lorenzo is now recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. This enormous fortress was engineered by Juan Bautista Antonelli of Italian origin and is considered as a fascinating example of military architecture during the 17th and 18th century.
Isla Grande - Isla Grande is the furthest point north of Panama. It is a picturesque island in a Caribbean setting surrounded by crystal clear waters and coral reefs. Sun, sea, Caribbean food made from coconut milk and beautiful waves for surfing are the main attractions. As you walk from one end to the other of the island, you will discover different musical environments that invite you to sit in a restaurant or bar. However, if the music is not enough to convince you, go to the lighthouse where you can admire spectacular views.
Agua Clara Visitor Center - At the Panama Canal's Agua Clara Visitor Center (formerly known as Expansion Observation Center) in the Atlantic side of the waterway, visitors can see the recently inaugurated Expanded Canal. Immersed in a tropical forest, visitors may enjoy a breathtaking panoramic view of the new Agua Clara Locks and Gatun Lake from an unrivaled viewpoint located at 50 meters (164 ft.) above the Panama Canal. Amenities include a restaurant overlooking Gatun Lake, a cafeteria, a children's playground and a gift shop.
This area of the Pacific coast southeast of Panama City was nicknamed "The Beaches" by the large expat community that lives there. It extends from Punta Chame to Playa Blanca. The region is home to numerous towns, gated communities and beautiful beaches.
Where to go and what to see:
Punta Chame - The small fishing village of Punta Chame is located on the Pacific coast. The unique geography of the peninsula of Punta Chame results in over 22 miles of white sandy beaches. Views of the emerald mountains, on grazing land, the bay and the ocean can be enjoyed from Punta Chame during the day. At night the city lights twinkle in the distance from Panama. This area is a paradise for fishing and wind sports, specifically sailing and kite-surfing. It includes also a resort specializing in extreme sports: Nitro City Resort
Altos de Campana National Park - This national park is located 50 miles from Panama City, in the province of Panama, on the Pacific coast. It was the first national park in Panama, established in 1966, Cerro Campana, high of 850 meters (2,789 feet) is the highest peak of the park, you will find spectacular views of the Pacific Ocean, Punta Chame, and on clear days, Isla Taboga. The only developed trail of the park, Sendero La Cruz trail, crosses several types of terrain, including tropical and humid forests. The remains of the volcano El Valle de Anton, which erupted the last time 200.000 years ago, are still visible in the fields of lava and igneous rocks that scatter the park.
Los Cajones de Chame - Hidden in the depths of Chame is a masterpiece from mother nature. Los Cajones de Chame (The draws of Chame) is one of the most unique land formations in Panama. Only 90 minutes from Panama City, it is one of the most remarkable and popular spots to visit in Panama.
Coronado - Coronado has been a popular destination for Panamanians since it was founded in 1940 and became even more popular when the word spread out on the beauty and amenities of this resort town. Tourists come to Coronado for a seaside experience and since this is exactly what they find there, they often come back for vacation. Some like it so much that they buy a vacation condo or settled in the region on a permanent basis.
Santa Clara Beach - The Santa Clara Beach is located in a small resort town of the same name, in the Cocle province on the Pacific coast of Panama. Covered in grainy white sand, this beach is considered to be one of the most beautiful beaches of the area.
EL VALLÉ DE ANTON
El Valle de Antón, generally called El Valle, or Anton's Valley in English, is a town of 4,500 habitants. This picturesque town is nestled in the crater of a giant extinct volcano, and ringed by verdant forests and jagged peaks. El Valle is a popular weekend getaway for urbanites in need of a little fresh air and scenery. With an extensive network of trails, it’s a superb place for walking, hiking or horseback riding. Nearby forests offer excellent bird-watching, and the valleys of El Valle are home to an impressive set of waterfalls as well as some rare golden frogs.
Where to go and what to see:
El Nispero Zoo and Botanical Garden - El Níspero Zoo is located in a beautiful setting, surrounded by nature. This zoo is worth seeing if only for its breathtaking scenery. You will find many native animals in Panama and Latin America. Birds tapirs and monkeys to horses, Níspero offers a wide variety of interesting animals to see up close. The most popular attraction of the zoo is the golden frog is currently endangered. The golden frog is a native of Panama, particularly in the area of El Valle. You can see the golden frogs inside a large tank in the center of an exhibition hall that houses many types of frogs and toads. The little golden frog is hard to detect at first glance, be patient and search well to find it.
Chorro El Macho - Walk through the rainforest jungle to see the famous Chorro el Macho falls (85m high), you can also swim in a large natural swimming pool made of rocks, surrounded by rainforest and fed by river water.
Butterfly Heaven - Immerse yourself amongst the beauty and tranquility of many hundreds of living, jewel colored butterflies. Stroll through the screened tropical exhibit house and grounds and learn about these amazing creatures from egg, to caterpillar, to chrysalis and finally, to dazzling adult.
El Vallé Market - Here you can find fresh fruit, vegetables and various local crafts and souvenirs. This is one of the most popular markets in Panama.
KUNA YALA (SAN BLAS)
Although commonly known as the Archipelago of San Blas, the semi-autonomous region, or comarca, is named after the Kuna Yala, probably the best known indigenous group in Panama. The Kunas are known for their knit culture, colorful clothes and handicrafts such as mola tapestries. More than 300 beautiful islands, dotted with palm trees in the turquoise waters of the Caribbean Sea make up the archipelago in what is really a preserved paradise. San Blas is a very popular cruise stop. However, staying on the islands requires a sense of adventure, as they can be reached only by small plane or boat. The accommodations are rustic and there are few activities other than swimming or relaxing in a hammock. These are also some of the most beautiful beaches in the world.
BOCAS DEL TORO
Bocas del Toro is in the northwest corner of the country near the border with Costa Rica, and this is one of the most popular and easily accessible Caribbean destinations with a wide variety of hotels and amenities. The region is characterized by an eclectic mix of indigenous groups, Spanish descendants, Afro-Caribbeans, and, more recently, American and Canadian expatriates. It is also one of the most humid areas of Panama. Apart from a brief dry season in September / October and February / March, the rain is constant, think to bring an umbrella or rain gear. Although there are some beautiful beaches, there are also dangerous currents, and visitors come here especially for diving, snorkeling, boating, see wildlife, or just soak in the bohemian atmosphere of Bocas del Toro, the capital.
Isla Contadora is a Panamanian island on the Pearl Islands archipelago in the Gulf of Panama. It covers an area of 1.39 km², making it the 11th largest island in the archipelago. It is the largest and most visited island of the Pearl Islands. It was named after the pearls counting house. It includes 13 spectacular beaches on three sides of this island. Five areas of coral surround the island and offer amazing diving experience where a fascinating marine life includes white tip sharks, lots of various tropical fish, rays and many turtles.
Taboga Island, also known as the island of flowers ", is a tropical volcanic island in the Gulf of Panama. Located just a few miles of the coast of Panama City, accessible via a 20 min ferry, with only one road and no traffic on the island, Taboga is a pleasant escape from the bustle of the city of Panama.
Once a small fishing village with relatively few visitors, Santa Catalina has become a world-renowned surfing destination for pros and beginners alike. Located on the Pacific coast of the Veraguas province, Santa Catalina is the place to be if you like to surf—or, if you’ve ever wanted to learn. Just keep in mind, the village is still minimally developed, with just a handful of restaurants and accommodations, as well as a grocery store and surfing schools.
The Azuero Peninsula is one of the best known areas of Panama, washed by the Pacific Ocean, with paradisiacal beaches and islands and small towns surrounded by green hills and subtropical forests.
Where to go and what to see:
Isla Iguana - A paradise for snorkeling and strolling along its white sand beaches. Locals have have baptized it as the small Galapagos of Panama due to the great diversity of species that inhabit it. This island was declared a protected area in 1981 and is a refuge for wildlife, which is why it attracts many scientists, biologists and especially tourists.
Playa Venao - The jungle meets the ocean in Playa Venao, a picturesque town located on the Pacific coastline of the Azuero Peninsula. You can expect to find a few boutique hotels, surf lodges, some opportunities to camp on the beach, and a few options for restaurants and shopping. Surfing is the main event in Playa Venao. The south-facing beach is situated perfectly for south swells. But if you’re not into surfing, there’s still plenty for you here. You can go deep-sea fishing, snorkeling, diving, stand-up paddle boarding, and whale watching. For land-based activities, you’ve got opportunities for hiking, horseback riding, yoga and eco-spas, or visit the nearby weekly Pedasí market.