Make a plan for Panama with these 10 memorable activities

Panama is more than just a canal. It’s a country of diverse landscapes, cultures and attractions that will surprise and delight any traveller. Whether you’re looking for adventure, nature, history or relaxation, Panama has something for you. Here are 10 under-the-radar experiences you can have in Panama that will make your trip unforgettable.

Stroll the winding streets of Casco Viejo

Casco Viejo is the historic and cultural heart of Panama City. It’s a charming neighborhood of colonial buildings, plazas, cafés, galleries and restaurants that reflect the rich history and diversity of Panama. You can admire the architecture, visit the museums, shop for souvenirs or enjoy a cup of coffee at one of the many terraces. Don’t miss the church of San José, which features a priceless gold altar that escaped the pirate Henry Morgan’s attack on the original city.

Watch giant ships move through the Panama Canal

The Panama Canal is one of the world’s engineering marvels. It’s an 80 km-long waterway that connects the Pacific Ocean with the Caribbean Sea, allowing ships to cross the continent without going around South America. You can witness this amazing feat at one of the canal’s locks, where you can see how the ships are raised and lowered over the continental divide. The most popular lock is Miraflores, just outside Panama City, but you can also visit Gatún or Agua Clara on the Caribbean side for a different perspective.

Explore the islands of Bocas del Toro

Bocas del Toro is an archipelago of nine main islands and hundreds of smaller ones in the Caribbean Sea. It’s a paradise for nature lovers, with pristine beaches, coral reefs, mangroves and rainforests that host a variety of wildlife. You can snorkel, surf, kayak, hike or just relax on the sand. You can also experience the culture and cuisine of the local people, who are a mix of indigenous, Afro-Caribbean and European descent.

Dive in Coiba National Park

Coiba National Park is a UNESCO World Heritage Site that protects one of the largest marine parks in the world. It covers 38 islands and surrounding waters in the Pacific Ocean, where you can find more than 800 species of fish and 33 species of sharks. It’s also home to dolphins, whales, turtles, crocodiles and rare birds. You can dive or snorkel in this underwater wonderland, or take a boat tour to see some of the islands.

Taste coffee in Boquete

Boquete is a picturesque town in the highlands of Chiriquí province, surrounded by mountains, rivers and waterfalls. It’s famous for its coffee production, which is considered among the best in the world. You can visit one of the many coffee farms in the area, learn about the cultivation and processing of coffee beans, and taste different varieties and roasts. You can also enjoy other activities in Boquete, such as hiking, rafting, zip-lining or birdwatching.

Experience indigenous culture in San Blas Islands

The San Blas Islands are a group of more than 300 islands in the Caribbean Sea, inhabited by the Guna people, one of Panama’s indigenous groups. The Guna have preserved their culture and traditions for centuries, living in harmony with nature and governing themselves autonomously. You can visit some of their communities, where you can see their colorful handicrafts, such as molas (textile art), learn about their customs and beliefs, and share a meal with them.

Hike in El Valle de Antón

El Valle de Antón is a unique town located in the crater of an extinct volcano, about 120 km from Panama City. It’s a place of natural beauty and tranquility, with a mild climate and lush vegetation. You can hike on the trails that lead to waterfalls, hot springs, petroglyphs and viewpoints. You can also visit the local market, where you can buy fresh fruits, vegetables, flowers and handicrafts.

Discover the history of Portobelo

Portobelo is a small town on the Caribbean coast, which was once one of the most important ports in the Spanish colonial empire. It was the place where the gold and silver from Peru and Bolivia were stored and shipped to Spain, attracting pirates and privateers who attacked and plundered the town several times. You can see the remains of the fortifications that defended Portobelo, as well as the church of San Felipe, which houses the statue of the Black Christ, a revered religious icon.

Venture into Darién National Park

Darién National Park is the largest and most remote park in Central America, covering almost 6000 sq km of wilderness along the border with Colombia. It’s a place of incredible biodiversity, with more than 500 species of birds, 200 species of mammals and 100 species of reptiles and amphibians. It’s also home to several indigenous groups, such as the Emberá and the Wounaan, who live in traditional villages along the rivers. Darién National Park is not for the faint-hearted, as it requires special permits, guides and equipment to visit, but it offers a rewarding experience for adventurous travelers.

Stay with the Emberá Querá

Emberá Querá is an indigenous community that lives on an island in Gatún Lake, part of the Panama Canal. They offer visitors the opportunity to stay with them and learn about their culture and way of life. You can sleep in a traditional hut, eat their food, listen to their music, watch their dances and participate in their activities, such as fishing, canoeing or making handicrafts. You can also support their projects, such as a school and a health center.

Hotels in Panama City, Panama

ENS Editors

Learn More →