Things to do in Panama

Things to do in  Panama

The connector of coasts

Panama is lushly green and filled with unbeatable nature and rich culture. From sailing through the quintessential tropical islands of the San Blas to taking a carriage ride through the romantic cobbled streets of Panamá Viejo (Old Panama) you’ll never run out of things to do in Panama. Make sure to sample some ceviche and hit the markets to pick up a colorful mola—a form of traditional textiles made by the Indigenous Guna people of the San Blas.

Top 15 attractions in Panama

Panama Canal

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The Panama Canal is an engineering marvel that has connected the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans since 1914. Experience the canal up close on a transit tour, during which you’ll pass through three sets of locks and witness them filling with water. You’ll also see Gatun Lake, created by the Gatún Dam, and Culebra Cut, one of the narrowest sections hewn out of mountains. Visit the Miraflores Locks Visitor Center to learn more about the building of the canal. You can also watch ships pass from the observation decks. You can also admire the Panama Canal on a train ride through the rainforest to Gatún Locks.More

Casco Viejo

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Panama City's oldest and hippest neighborhood comprises a Tejas-tiled cluster of pastel colonial buildings at the tip of a heavily fortified peninsula. These ramparts successfully protected the first Spanish settlement on the Pacific Coast; today they make up a UNESCO World Heritage Site filled with plazas, churches, and narrow streets.More

Amador Causeway (Calzada de Amador)

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The palm-lined Amador Causeway (Calzada de Amador) follows Panama Bay and then heads onto the Bridge of the Americas, which runs parallel to the entrance to the Panama Canal and leads to three small coastal islands. The 3.7-mile (6-kilometer) road includes popular paths for runners and cyclists and passes a number of sights.More

Miraflores Locks

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The world-famous Panama Canal is a must-see for visitors to Panama City, but to fully appreciate it, head to the Miraflores Locks. The engineering marvel in action is a mesmerizing scene, with some 700 tons (635 tonnes) of machinery, reinforced against the mighty Pacific, and cargo-laden ships squeezing through with just inches to spare.More

Gatún Lake (Lago Gatún)

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The tree-lined shores, tiny islets, and blue-green waters of Gatún Lake (Lago Gatún) cover what was once the fertile Chagres River Valley. When it was created in 1913, Gatún Lake was the largest man-made lake, buttressed by the biggest dam, in the world. Today, it forms an integral part of the famous Panama Canal.More

Bridge of the Americas (Puente de las Americas)

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Spanning the Panama Canal that links two oceans, the Bridge of the Americas (Puente de las Américas) is a proud symbol of Panamanian history. Its prime location on the Pacific Ocean outlet of the 51-mile (82-kilometer) Panama Canal also makes the bridge a key point of interest on many tours of Panama City, the canal, and Miraflores Locks.More

Soberanía National Park

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On the east side of the Panama Canal, Soberanía National Park—one of the most accessible of the country’s protected parks—is a paradise for hikers, fishers, and bird-watchers. Some 1,300 plant species, 55 amphibian species, and hundreds of mammals, birds, and reptiles call the park home.More

San Blas Islands

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A string of 378 tiny islands dotted along Panama’s northwest coast, the San Blas Islands offer a welcome change of pace from the mainland. This region provides everything you’d expect from a Caribbean paradise: coconut palms, white sand beaches, azure waters, and a complete absence of electricity, tourist resorts, and stress.More

Plaza de Francia

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Built to honor the French workers who lost their lives building the Panama Canal, Plaza de Francia (France Square) sits along the waterfront of Panama City’s UNESCO-listed Casco Viejo (Old Quarter). As well as being an important meeting place, the plaza is home to a striking 60-foot (18-meter) obelisk, a tribute to the workers.More

Presidential Palace (Palacio de las Garzas)

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“Garzas” is Spanish for herons, and you’ll see the birds roaming freely in the Andalucian-style courtyard of the Presidential Palace (Palacio de las Garzas) in Panama City. The African herons were a gift celebrating the completion of palace renovations in 1922. The President of Panama lives in the upper floors of the building.More

Biomuseo

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This world-class museum celebrates Panamanian biodiversity and natural history with engaging exhibits that blend science and art. Since its 2014 opening, the multicolor, Frank Gehry-designed building has also become an important symbol of Panama City. The museum’s exterior features a lush botanical garden of native plants.More

Ancon Hill (Cerro Ancon)

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Panoramic views from Panama City’s highest point make Ancon Hill (Cerro Ancón) a must-see stop for many visitors who come to watch passing ship traffic in the Panama Canal far below. There’s more than vistas to this urban park: it’s also home to sloths, anteaters, and monkeys and makes a great escape from the capital's buzzing activity.More

Panamá Viejo (Old Panama Ruins)

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Spanish conquistadors laid claim to the land now known as Panamá Viejo (Old Panama Ruins) on August 15, 1519, making it the oldest permanent European settlement on the Pacific. A stark juxtaposition to modern Panama City across the bay, the ruins of Old Panama include a cathedral and several stone buildings and walls.More

Panama Canal Museum (Museo del Canal)

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This popular museum and top Panama City attraction is located inside a stunning, well-restored colonial building that once housed the French and U.S. companies charged with building the canal. Visitors interested in learning more about the famous waterway can wander the halls of this beautiful four-story white and green structure where displays showcase information about the political, social and historical impact of the iconic Panama Canal. Although signage is in Spanish only, English-speaking guest can opt for audio tours for a small additional fee.More

Mi Pueblito

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Encounter Panama’s traditions, folklore, and architecture at this replica village by Ancon Hill (Cerro Ancon) in Panama City. With its colonial-era designs and model homes, Mi Pueblito is a cultural buffet: You can sample a little bit of everything in one easy stop, and then shop for handicrafts and souvenirs from around the country.More
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All about Panama

When to visit

The dry season runs December–April, but there’s something magical about rainy Panama. The greens are more vibrant, and the colonial-era buildings of Casco Viejo seem brighter. From mid-April to mid-December, prices are lower and there are fewer visitors, meaning you’ll see a side of Panama that many miss. The warm rains feel like a shower, and you can always take refuge in a waterfront restaurant with a bowl of ceviche and a glass of sangria.

Getting around

Taxis are plentiful in Panama City, but make sure to check the fare ahead of time and ensure it’s a licensed taxi. The city also has a modern metro system that connects the surrounding areas to the downtown. If you’re traveling outside Panama City, you can find long-distance buses or rent a car so you can travel at your own pace.

Traveler tips

Even if you’re not a seafood lover, the Mercado de Mariscos (seafood market) in Panama City is a fun spot to sightsee and people watch. The traditional fishing boats provide a vibrant contrast against the shimmering skyscrapers, and there are plenty of affordable cafés and restaurants that serve prepared versions of the freshly caught seafood you’ll see on display at the market.

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People Also Ask

What is Panama’s number one attraction for tourists?

The Panama Canal is one of the country’s top destinations—visit Miraflores Visitor’s Center to watch huge ships from around the world pass through the locks and learn about the construction of the famous canal. Ships are lifted 85 feet (26 meters) in the air at the canal’s highest point.

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What activities can you enjoy in Panama?

Discover the history of the country in Old Panama—the former capital is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site with 16th-century ruins. Later, take a day trip to the San Blas Islands to bask in the tropical sun and admire the molas—traditional textiles made by the Indigenous Guna people.

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What is the nicest place in Panama?

The San Blas Islands, an archipelago off the coast of Panama governed by the Indigenous Guna people, is one of Panama’s top spots. You can relax in the clear water, dine on fresh seafood, and spend time island-hopping. Opt for a day trip or settle down in a beach bungalow.

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What is Panama mostly known for?

Panama is known for the Panama Canal—this feat of engineering is used by ships from around the world, and watching them in transit is a special experience. The country is also known for fresh seafood and nature, while Panama City’s Old Quarter, called Casco Viejo, showcases the region’s rich history.

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Is Panama worth visiting?

Yes, Panama is worth visiting, whether you want to spend your days lounging on a white sand beach, exploring 16th-century ruins, or dining on fresh seafood in the Old Quarter. The weather stays tropical year-round, and locals offer a warm welcome.

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Is Panama a good tourist destination?

Yes, with its laid-back atmosphere and beautiful scenery, Panama is the perfect tropical getaway. Its status as a tourist destination means that navigating and booking activities is easy, and plenty of people speak English.

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Frequently Asked Questions
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