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Getting Around in Panama

Panama is a small country with good transportation infrastructure. It’s easy to get most places by bus or small plane, and the rides are generally short and painless. Panama’s roads are in good shape. The country’s main highway, the Interamericana (or Interamerican Highway) runs west to east and is easy to navigate. In Panama this highway runs from the border with Costa Rica all the way to the town of Yaviza in the Darién . No roads go past this point.

Before You Arrive

Make sure you've verified the most up to date version of Panama's entry requirements ; they can vary, so it's best to continue checking them even as you near your departure date. The last thing you want is to reach the country, but find you can't obtain entry! Despite official requirement fluctuations, generally , you'll need little more than:

  • A passport valid for at least six (6) months from your date of entry.
  • Proof of US$500.
  • Proof of onward or returning travel plans.

Panama's close proximity to the equator (between 7 and 10 degrees north) means the country enjoys fairly consistent and pleasant weather year-round — even during the rainy season. So, it's almost always a great time to visit! The " best time to visit Panama ," in terms of the dry season, is going to be mid-December to mid-April.

All Things Transport

Buses are the cheapest way to explore Panama. Most are charter buses that are comfortable and efficient. Rental cars are another option for travelers interested in exploring the isthmus at their own pace (and who are comfortable driving in a foreign country). Domestic flights are the fastest way to travel to many parts of Panama. In more remote areas — like the Comarca de Guna Yala (San Blas Islands) and the Archipiélago de Las Perlas (Pearl Islands) — they are the only sensible option.

Panama is reasonably well connected by domestic flights . Because Panama is so small, flights are generally quite short — the longest takes around an hour, not including interim stops. Popular routes can have several flights a day, while less traveled destinations will only be served once or twice a week. Domestic flights often make several stops along the way, so be sure to get off at the right place.

Panama’s main domestic airport is in Panama City . This airport, Aeropuerto Marcos A. Gelabert, is near the Albrook Mall and bus terminal, not far from downtown. The majority of flights begin and end here. There is also a domestic terminal at the Tocumen International Airport, although it’s used much less frequently than the Albrook airport. This terminal is used mainly for international travelers connecting to destinations in western Panama.

The airport in the city of David in western Panama finished an expansion in 2012 with the goal of becoming an international hub. However, things have yet to really take off. This being the case, travelers will generally need to go through Albrook to get to other places in Panama.

The weight limit on baggage for domestic flights is around 12 kilograms (26.5 pounds). This includes both checked luggage and carry-ons. Passengers are sometimes asked to report their body weight as well.

By Rental Car

Panama’s transportation system — which includes domestic flights, buses, boats, private transports, and taxis — makes it easy to get around without ever stepping behind the wheel. In most cases, this is the best way to travel. You certainly won’t want to drive within Panama City or other urban areas.

However, some travelers may want the autonomy of having a rental car, especially if they’re on a longer trip. Be warned, however, that driving in Panama can involve busy streets and in rural areas, very rough roads.

Visitors to Panama can drive for 90 days. All drivers must have a driver’s license from their home country and be prepared to present a passport. Two kinds of insurance are required when driving a rental car. Essentially, these are collision and robbery insurance (called cobertura de colisión y robo ) and liability insurance for third parties (called cobertura de daños a terceros o responsabilidad civil ). Some traveler’s insurance and home auto insurance policies cover car-rental protection, but it’s a good idea to check ahead of time to make sure that it includes Panama.

Panamanian law requires drivers and passengers to wear seatbelts. It’s illegal to drive while talking on a cell phone, and also illegal to not wear a shirt while driving (seriously).

Panama City has many rental car agencies, and others can be found in David or other major cities. The major companies include Avid, Hertz, Thrifty, Alamo, Budget, and National.

Buses are the primary way that most Panamanians — and many travelers — get around. They run frequently and are cheap and fast. Rural buses tend to only run from dawn till dusk, but there are night buses for longer treks. Very few routes are express, meaning that your bus will likely make several stops along the way. For longer journeys, your bus may stop at a roadside restaurant/cafeteria, allowing passengers to refuel with food and go to the bathroom.

The country’s largest bus terminal is in Panama City . Known as the Gran Terminal de Transportes, this terminal is in the Albrook neighborhood. Buses from here go to every part of Panama. The two other largest bus hubs are in Santiago and David. The main bus terminals for the Azuero Peninsula are in Chitré and Las Tablas .

Reservations are not always necessary, but are a good idea on popular routes. At the very least, arrive at the station early to purchase tickets.

Boats are the main form of transportation in several parts of Panama, including the archipelagos of Bocas del Toro and Guna Yala (San Blas Islands), as well as parts of the Darién and in mainland Bocas. Ferries and water-taxis run between Panama City and Isla Taboga and Isla Contadora , and between Isla Colón and the mainland in Bocas del Toro.

The Bocas archipelago is one of Panama’s hottest destinations, and as such has developed a relatively straightforward and cheap boat service. Almirante is the mainland port where travelers will depart to the Bocas archipelago — both water taxis and a car ferry leave from here. In the rest of Panama, transportation by boat is less scheduled and commercial, and may involve negotiating a price with a local boat owner. By and large, it’s easier to sign up with a reputable tour company. If you do decide to negotiate your own boat ride, however, be sure to agree on a price ahead of time.

Boat trips are often taken in either fiberglass boats or long wooden dugout canoes called piraguas . Both will have outboard motors and should be equipped with life jackets ( salvavidas ). During fishing, diving, or sailing tours, the boats will be larger and better equipped.

Taxis are ubiquitous in Panama. Even in small towns, you’ll see these brightly painted yellow cars and trucks plying the streets. The taxis don’t have meters, but local zoning laws set some fares. Popular routes also tend to have set prices. Most fares are cheap, but it’s wise to establish a price before you leave. It’s also smart to clarify whether the price is per person or for the total amount. Most taxis within Panama City should cost around US$3, and less in small towns. Drivers do not expect a tip.

Upscale “tourist taxis” are available in Panama City. These are usually larger, air-conditioned sedans. They charge more than yellow cabs and tend to group around upscale hotels.

Taxis run day and night. At night, however, you might want to call for a radio cab rather than wait around for one to show up — hotels and restaurants can usually do this for you.

Panama’s only passenger rail line is the Panama Canal Railway. Rebuilt in 2001, this historic line runs between Corozal (just outside downtown Panama City) and Colón . The hour-long trip runs parallel to the Panama Canal and gives good views of Panama’s interior. Although some Panamanians use it as a commuter service, the railroad is mostly used by travelers day tripping from Panama City. The vintage train features a carpeted interior, dark wood paneling, and open-air viewing decks. Those who take the train to Colón should either hire a taxi or tour operator beforehand to pick them up at the Colón station. Colón is unsafe and should not be entered.

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The Perfect Panama Itinerary – 1 Week to 10 Days

Red Frog Beach, Panama

Providing the bridge between Central and South America, Panama is an important yet overlooked country. Only slightly larger than Ireland, the ‘Crossroads of the World’ is a great destination for high-end travellers and backpackers alike. 

As Panama is relatively under-visited, it can be difficult to know where to start when it comes to planning a trip there. Luckily for you, the below Panama itinerary can help!

My two months in the country have put me in good stead to help you plan your trip. Below you will find routes for one week and ten days of travel in Panama. So kick back and relax, all you need to do now is book your flights! 

Read more: (opens in new tab)

  • A Guide to Backpacking in Panama
  • Getting from Panama to Colombia
  • Iconic Hikes in Panama 

Epic Panama Itineraries

This post contains affiliate links. If you use them, I will receive a small commission at no extra cost to you. 

1-Week Panama Itinerary 

The following Panama itinerary is a whistle-stop tour of the country’s main highlights. It has been created to optimise your time in the country which means it is jam-packed, allowing little time for relaxation! 

If you’re looking for a more slow travel experience, check out this suggested one-month backpacking route around Panama . There is so much more to see and do than the below Panama itinerary allows for! 

Panama City neighbourhoods

Panama City – 2 nights

The capital Panama City is one of the most easily accessible cities in Latin America. Serving a range of domestic and international flights from both Europe and North America, it is generally easy to reach. Your trip to Panama will likely begin here. 

Day 1 – Spend your first day in the capital exploring the beautiful Casco Viejo district. The city’s Old Town has plenty of character, with luxury hotels set in colonial buildings to crumbling graffiti-filled streets along the outskirts. A walking tour is a great way to explore this part of the city and get a feel for Panamanian culture. 

Head to the city’s fish market for a cheap and delicious lunch. This is a fabulous way to sample ceviche, one of the country’s most famous dishes. From the fish market, you can walk the Cinta Costera and head to Ancon Hill in the afternoon. 

Monkey Panama

Get an Uber here to avoid walking through any sketchy neighbourhoods. When you’ve reached Mi Pueblito, head up the path towards the flag that waves from the hill above. During your walk, keep an eye out for Panamanian wildlife – this is a great place to spot sloths and other exotic animals. 

Make the most of your evening by enjoying dinner and drinks in one of the many rooftop restaurants in Casco Viejo. These offer a fantastic view of the city skyline lit up and provide the perfect backdrop for a toast to your trip. Stay in Casco Viejo overnight. 

Day 2 – Rise early in the morning and grab a traditional Panamanian breakfast at Cafe Coca Cola in Casco Viejo. This is the oldest cafe in the city and offers great value for money. From there, head out on a trip to the famous Panama Canal, one of the city’s best day trips . 

Panama Canal

While it is possible to visit the Miraflores locks independently using public transport, I’d advise hopping on a tour. Not only will you save a lot of time but having a guide to explain how everything works is a worthwhile experience. Check out some recommended Panama Canal tours here . 

Once you have finished your visit or tour of the canal, head to the Amador Causeway. Here you can grab lunch in one of the swanky restaurants or cool off with a raspado from one of the street vendors. Walk the Amador Causeway right up to where the boats depart for Taboga Island and the Pearl Islands and enjoy a bit of duty-free shopping.

Head back to your accommodation in Casco Viejo and enjoy some food at Mahalo Cocina y Jardin before turning in. You’ll need to get an early night because you’ll be heading out early tomorrow on your San Blas trip! 

Recommended accommodation in Panama City: 

  • Selina Casco Viejo 
  • Las Clementinas
  • American Trade Hotel

Casco Viejo

Also read: 

  • Where to Stay in Panama City
  • Cheap Things to Do in Panama City 

San Blas/Guna Yala – 1 night

Day 3 – Prepare to be picked up early by your tour provider. You will then be whisked away to the San Blas islands (a.k.a. Guna Yala). The journey by car will take several hours so if you’re feeling tired, you can catch some shut-eye while you travel.

Once you arrive at the dock, hop on board your boat and prepare to be whisked off to one of the archipelago’s many islands. Enjoy the day snorkelling, playing volleyball and relaxing on some of the finest beaches that the Caribbean has to offer. Stay on one of the San Blas islands overnight. 

– How to Get to San Blas, Panama

Palm trees on San Blas

Panama City – 1 night

Day 4 – Enjoy a couple more hours in San Blas paradise that morning before you embark on your journey back to Panama City. You will likely arrive back in the city early evening. Grab some food close to your accommodation when you arrive and pack up your stuff ready for a new destination tomorrow. 

Bocas del Toro – 2 nights 

Day 5 – Take a morning flight to the Bocas del Toro archipelago. Once you arrive on Isla Colón, head out to Starfish Beach . If you have arrived early, consider getting a colectivo to the beach and doing the hike. Alternatively, you can pay for a water taxi to take you there. (This is the quicker option.)

Spend the remainder of the day enjoying the beautiful beach and spotting starfish. If you are lucky enough to see these wonderful animals, do not touch them – it can be harmful . 

Starfish underwater

Return to Bocas Town and head off to the famous floating bar for a few drinks. Enjoy food, drinks and an epic sunset here. After this, grab a water taxi back to your accommodation in Isla Colón. 

Recommended accommodation on Isla Colón: 

  • Koko Acqua Lodge
  • Azul Bocas Town
  • Hotel Bocas Town

Also read: Things to Do in Bocas del Toro, Panama

Day 6 – Head out on a day trip to Cayos Zapatilla. Depending on the tour that you choose, you will likely stop at a few notable places in the archipelago on your way to this beach paradise. Once you get there, enjoy sunning yourself on the sand and taking in the magnificent views. 

Depending on your flight on the final day of your trip, you can either return to your accommodation in Bocas Town, ready to fly out of the archipelago early tomorrow morning or catch a water taxi to Isla Bastimentos. 

Bocas del Toro

If you are leaving Panama late the following day, I’d advise heading to Bastimentos Island overnight so you can see a little more of what the archipelago has to offer. Visit the Firefly Restaurant for a delicious seafood dinner before turning in. 

Recommended accommodation on Isla Bastimentos:

  • La Loma Jungle Lodge
  • Selina Red Frog
  • Palmar Beach Lodge

Day 7 – Those with an early morning flight will need to make their way to the airport in Bocas Town to fly back to Panama City before catching their connecting flight home. 

If your flight leaves Bocas later that day and you are on Isla Bastimentos, head to the beautiful Red Frog Beach and spend the morning sunning yourself or doing yoga on the hidden deck. 

Bocas del Toro, Panama

Catch a water taxi back to Bocas Town for lunch. Cafe del Mar is a great eatery with a range of dishes to suit various dietary requirements. After lunch, grab a taxi to the airport and hop on board your return flight to Panama City. 

10-Day Panama Itinerary

If you have ten days, follow the above week-long Panama itinerary but add Boquete into the mix. Instead of flying from Panama City to Bocas del Toro , head from the capital to the mountain town of Boquete. 

You can either get a bus from Panama City, transferring in David or fly to the city of David and catch a bus from there to save time. 

Road near boquete 2

Spend two nights in Boquete, enjoying the cooler climate and incredible hiking opportunities. There are countless amazing treks in Boquete but I would wholeheartedly recommend you do at least one of the following:

  • Volcan Baru (overnight trek)
  • Pipeline Trail
  • El Pianista
  • The Lost Waterfalls

Spend your second day at Boquete Tree Trek where you can take on Panama’s Hanging Bridges , go zip lining over the cloud forest or embark on a coffee tour. 

When your time in Boquete comes to an end, arrange a transfer from Boquete to Bocas del Toro – these can be booked with various tour agencies across town. From here, pick up the above Panama itinerary again. Those spending 10 days in Panama should spend an extra night on Bastimentos Island on Bocas del Toro, and use the extra time during the day to explore the incredible Nivida Bat Cave . 

Recommended accommodation in Boquete:

  • Selina Boquete 
  • Boquete Garden Inn
  • Bambuda Castle

Also read:  

  • Best Places to Stay in Boquete, Panama
  • Getting From Panama City to Boquete
  • Things to Do in Boquete, Panama

Waterfall 2

Panama Itinerary FAQ

How many days are enough in panama.

In my opinion, the longer the better! While a week or 10 days will provide a good introduction to this country, I’d recommend staying at least a month if you want to get off the beaten track a little too. 

Is Panama cheap or expensive? 

Panama is not the cheapest country in Latin America nor is it the most expensive. The United States Dollar is commonly used in Panama which keeps prices comparatively high. For a reference point, Panama is cheaper than Belize and Costa Rica but more expensive than Colombia. 

Are two weeks enough for Panama? 

Two weeks is an ideal length of time for vacationers visiting Panama. If you are staying for two weeks, follow the one-week Panama itinerary and double the amount of time spent in each place. You will certainly find plenty of interesting attractions and activities to fill your time! 

Which of these Panama itineraries are you choosing? Share the highlights from your trip in the comments! 

travel around panama

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Things To Do In Panama: A Complete 10 Day Panama Vacation Itinerary

last Updated: December 17, 2023 bocas del toro boquete panama panama city san blas islands

FYI: Affiliate links may be sprinkled throughout the awesome, free content you see below. I’ll receive a small commission when you purchase from my links (at no extra cost to you), which I’ll totally blow on adult things like boba tea and avocado toast. As always, thanks for the support.

→ Planning a trip to Central America and looking for the ultimate Panama vacation itinerary? Look no further; I’m sharing our favorite things to do in Panama (we just got back!), including our exact 10 day itinerary, when to go, where to stay, how to maximize your time on your Panama trip, and oh so much more!

Panama is a tropical destination that has a little bit of everything – stunning turquoise waters, white sandy beaches, lush rainforests, laid-back surf towns, misty mountains, and vibrant cafes. There’s cultural diversity, cloud forests, and colonial charm. Wondering what to do in Panama? I’ve got you covered, don’tchu worry, my friend! <3

Planning your Panama vacation and looking for a full itinerary?! I've compiled a complete list of things to do in Panama in 10 days, including turquoise beaches and lush jungles!

I was determined to somehow get all of this onto my recent Panama vacation itinerary, and was thankfully able to figure it all out! And now I’m sharing my list of things to do in Panama with all of you, including my exact Panama itinerary that we pretty much followed to a T.

I have to admit that figuring out this itinerary was kinda tricky. Yes, we followed the typical tourist route – Panama City (with a side trip to San Blas ) → Boquete → Bocas del Toro , but with only 10 days in the country, squeezing everything in proved rather difficult.

At first I wished we had a few more days, but after seeing the trip come to life (aka doing it all), I’m not so sure extra time was in fact necessary. I think we would have liked an extra half day or so in Boquete, but I just couldn’t make it work.

Planning your Panama vacation and looking for a full itinerary?! I've compiled a complete list of things to do in Panama in 10 days, including turquoise beaches and lush jungles!

Do note that this Panama vacation itinerary is pretty jam packed; if you’re looking for a more relaxed trip, it’d be wise to tack on at least another 2 days or so. That being said, I carefully researched the most efficient transport options in order to fully maximize our time in the country, and it all worked out pretty swiftly.


  • Panama City
  • San Blas Islands
  • Bocas del Toro

Pre-Travel Guide to 10 Days in Panama

Where is panama you ask.

The country is located in Central America sharing borders with Costa Rica to the north and Columbia to the south. It’s actually the connection of land that links Central and South America (hence, the Panama Canal)!

Planning your Panama vacation and looking for a full itinerary?! I've compiled a complete list of things to do in Panama in 10 days, including turquoise beaches and lush jungles!

This itinerary starts in Panama City (which is where most international travelers arrive in the country), heads up northeast to the San Blas Islands , due west to Boquete, and then finally up north to Bocas del Toro .

We chose to fly from region to region when we could, as this saved us lots of time considering our Panama vacation was only 10 short days. The country is large but not too large, making it possible to visit three (if not four) areas when planning out your Panama itinerary.

There are a whole myriad of things to do in Panama, so carefully planning out your trip is so very important if you don’t have tons of extra time for mistakes and possible transportation mishaps (more on this below).


Before planning a trip to Panama, it’s important to understand its weather patterns. BUT first things first – humidity is always high (hey, it’s a tropical country!), so be prepared for frizzy hair and sticky skin throughout your trip.

Panama experiences two distinct seasons, the dry season (mid-December to mid-April) and the rainy season (May to November). If you’re looking for comfortable temperatures and little to no rain, I highly suggest you visit during the dry season, which is actually Panama’s summer.

However, thankfully, temperatures remain pretty consistent throughout the year, at an average of 86 F/30 C.

Thinking about adding a few days in the San Blas Islands to your Panama trip? Good choice- you’ll be rewarded with forests of coconut palms, luminous aquamarine waters, remote Caribbean islands, and seafood meals consisting of the freshest fish possible.

But of course it’s not that easy, as different regions around the country experience different climates, temperatures, and specific rainfall patterns.

Caribbean destinations, like Bocas del Toro, have a shorter dry season, occuring in September/October and February/March, although rainfall can happen any day. Unusually heavy rains are common in Bocas in December, so it’s best to avoid that month.

Boquete experiences high winds and some misting (called bajareque) from mid-December to mid-February, while January see’s the occasional thunderstorm. Looking for some sun? Head to Boquete between March and May.

San Blas is a whole different story, which we’ll get into down below.

Don’t fret if your Panama vacation plans don’t fall within the country’s dry season – the early months of rainy season (April to July) only receive short bursts of sudden thunderstorms in the afternoon, with plenty of sunny mornings or afternoons. I’d try to avoid August through November if you don’t want rain to possibly take over your trip.

Planning your Panama vacation and looking for a full itinerary?! I've compiled a complete list of things to do in Panama in 10 days, including turquoise beaches and lush jungles!


A few notes on health-related things:

  • I was pleasantly surprised to learn that the tap water in many parts of Panama is potable, as many visitors don’t expect this! However, do note that you cannot drink the water in Bocas del Toro or on San Blas → stick to bottled.
  • I was also thrilled to learn that there are no required vaccinations to enter the country. With so much lush jungle, I was shocked by this! However, always consult your doctor, as yellow fever, typhoid, rabies, and hep A and B vaccinations are recommended.
  • You’ll want to take along a decent amount of sunscreen with you, as the sun is extra brutal over in these parts.
  • On the last day of our trip I felt a little dizzy and wasn’t feeling my best – pretty sure I was wildly dehydrated and the intense heat and humidity wasn’t helping. Make sure to stay hydrated and drink plenty and plenty of water!

Planning your Panama vacation and looking for a full itinerary?! I've compiled a complete list of things to do in Panama in 10 days, including turquoise beaches and lush jungles!

And now some safety info:

  • For the most part, Panama is a relatively safe country. We felt safe during our entire Panama vacation, and didn’t worry about pickpocketing or other petty crime. That being said, there are a few areas in Panama City that are a bit seedier than the rest.
  • This Panama itinerary doesn’t visit the city of Colon, but if you diverge from my recommended plans and end up there, know that the city has a high rate of street crime. Stay alert.
  • There have been cases of drug trafficking on boats traveling from Colombia to Panama → just FYI and something to keep in mind if you’ll be on the water near the border.

Psst: it’s a good idea to get travel insurance no matter where you go. I recommend and personally use SafetyWing (the best insurance out there because they include pandemic coverage). They’re reliable, cost-efficient, and cover a wide array of potential travel problems, not only health-related. Check them out and get a free quote over here.

No visa is required for U.S. citizens traveling to Panama as long as a valid tourist passport and proof of onward travel is in possession, and you’re traveling to the country for 180 days or less.


Most international flights arrive at Tocumen International Airport (PTY) in Panama City, with many direct nonstop flights leaving from a wide array of large cities in the states.  

Our flight was originally scheduled as a direct flight from San Francisco to Panama City, but we got rerouted to Las Vegas at the last minute due to the groundings of the 737 MAX’s (better safe than sorry, though!)

Planning your Panama vacation and looking for a full itinerary?! I've compiled a complete list of things to do in Panama in 10 days, including turquoise beaches and lush jungles!

I like using Skyscanner and Google Flights to check for prices, and most commonly find the cheapest flights on one of these. We flew economy class from SFO to Panama City for approximately $650 round trip per person, which we thought was a pretty good deal considering our dates were not particularly flexible.

→ It’s important to be very careful when booking your flights to Panama City, as there is also an airport in Florida with the same name! For this Panama vacation, you’ll want to head to the Tocumen International Airport, code PTY. And if you end up in Florida, don’t blame me! :p

Where to Stay in Panama :

Planning your Panama vacation and looking for a full itinerary?! I've compiled a complete list of things to do in Panama in 10 days, including turquoise beaches and lush jungles!

  • Panama City : American Trade Hotel (we LOVED) -or- Hotel Casa Panama (also great!)
  • San Blas : we opted for a private thatched hut on Isla Diablo (lots more info here )
  • Boquete : The Haven and Spa (Adult’s Only)
  • Bocas del Toro : Azul Paradise Bocas Town

(more info on each one throughout itinerary below)


You’ll be taking a myriad of public and private transportation during your Panama vacation! There was definitely a lot of moving around throughout the 10 days, and as noted was kinda difficult to figure out the logistics of this trip, but we made it work! And lucky you, I did all the hard work for you!

We found Uber to work in Panama City, and rates were typically much cheaper than taxis.

→ Don’t have Uber yet? It’s super easy to use! Sign up here and use code jessicak148 for $$ off your first few rides!

Here’s a quick synopsis of our travels throughout Panama:

  • flight from SFO to Panama City (Uber around Panama City )
  • shuttle bus and speedboat to San Blas Islands
  • return to Panama City via speedboat and shuttle bus
  • flight from Panama City to David → taxi to Boquete → taxi around Boquete
  • shared van and shuttle boat to Bocas del Toro → taxi and boat around Bocas del Toro → walk to airport (for real)
  • flight back to Panama City → flight back HOME.

Phew, told you we were moving!

Thinking about adding a few days in the San Blas Islands to your Panama trip? Good choice- you’ll be rewarded with forests of coconut palms, luminous aquamarine waters, remote Caribbean islands, and seafood meals consisting of the freshest fish possible.

You’ll want to book your inter-country flights as soon as possible, as there aren’t tons of flights per day and I’ve heard the prices jump exponentially the closer the dates get. We paid approximately $100 each per person per flight within Panama (all one-ways).

If you follow this Panama trip, you’ll need a flight from Panama City to David (for Boquete) and then Bocas del Toro to Panama City.

Do note that the airport in Bocas is prettyyy much the smallest one I’ve seen to date, with one waiting room, one “gate”, and 1-2 bag scanners. That’s pretty much it. Don’t expect to be able to grab food here, that’s for sure.


Panama is a country of all climates: dense, misty jungles, stunning sunny islands, and humid cosmopolitan cities.  Within this itinerary, we’ll be doing tons and tons of exploring, so you’ll want to make sure you’re completely prepared for those 10 days. Don’t worry, I gotchu.

  • Because of its hot, sticky climate, you’ll want light, airy clothing.
  • Comfy footwear- you’ll be walking ALOT!
  • Sandals/bathing suits for the islands

Currency in Panama

Those coming from the USA will be pleased to know that Panama uses the same currency as the States, so there’s no need to worry about an exchange rate or getting foreign bills! It’s important to note that you’ll undoubtedly come across some Panamanian coins, called Balboa, used around town and on the islands in the form of coins.

With that being said, the US dollar is accepted everywhere and you don’t need to worry about exchanging dollars for balboa. Just be sure to use up any balboa you receive (when receiving change) as you obviously can’t use them in the States!

Thinking about adding a few days in the San Blas Islands to your Panama trip? Good choice- you’ll be rewarded with forests of coconut palms, luminous aquamarine waters, remote Caribbean islands, and seafood meals consisting of the freshest fish possible.

Communicating in Panama

The official language of Panama is Spanish, although quite a few Panamanians know basic English as well. We had no trouble communicating with hotel staff, taxi drivers, and/or restaurant staff, either using our limited Spanish or since they knew English. There’s also quite a few expats as well.

We had the most difficulty in the San Blas Islands, and wish we had brushed up on our Spanish a bit more before visiting (many of the locals speak their native language and Spanish, but very minimal English).

And now, what you’ve been waiting for, my complete 10 day Panama vacation itinerary!

Things to do in Panama: My Ultimate Panama Vacation Itinerary

Day 1: arrive in panama city and explore.

Fly into Panama City! You’ll find most international flights to Panama will fly into Panama City, which is perfect as it’s the first stop on our Panama itinerary!

The flight isn’t as long as I had originally thought – just over 7 hours from San Francisco (which is just over my usual flight time between SFO from JFK where I frequent for long weekends).

Planning your Panama vacation and looking for a full itinerary?! I've compiled a complete list of things to do in Panama in 10 days, including turquoise beaches and lush jungles!

We chose to take a red-eye flight (so, the night before) in order to arrive in Panama City mid-morning (we landed around 10:30am, FYI), allowing us ample time to explore the city our first day.

If you’re tight on time like we were, I highly recommend you take advantage of flying the night beforehand and arriving into Panama City in the early morning.

Check into your hotel, drop your bags if ya room ain’t ready yet, then we’re directly off to lunch in Casco Viejo! There’s a whole slew of restaurant options, but we loved both the ambiance and food at Tantalo Hotel and Kitchen. The rooftop terrace was divine, and that watermelon juice was the perfect way to start our oh so lovely Panama vacation.

Planning your Panama vacation and looking for a full itinerary?! I've compiled a complete list of things to do in Panama in 10 days, including turquoise beaches and lush jungles!

Panama Canal | Miraflores Locks

We’re getting right to it on the first day (don’t wanna waste any time), so the Panama Canal it is!

Ahh, the connection between the Atlantic and the Pacific – how could you miss this super popular attraction in Panama City? Ya can’t! We took an Uber from Casco Viejo to Miraflores Locks for about $15 (something like that?), which took roughly 35 minutes or so.

Out of all the things to do in Panama, the Panama Canal is at the top of everyone’s list, and for good reason. It’s utterly fascinating.

Planning your Panama vacation and looking for a full itinerary?! I've compiled a complete list of things to do in Panama in 10 days, including turquoise beaches and lush jungles!

Upon arrival, you can opt to pay for a $20 ticket to all the attractions at Miraflores Locks (the museum, exhibition halls, short films, highest viewing platforms, etc), but if you’re fine with reading about the canal yourself, head up to the restaurant and watch the ships pass through for the price of a beer.

We enjoyed a few drinks while basically getting the same view as everyone who bought a ticket (woop woop). And since we didn’t have much prior knowledge on the whole Panama Canal system, we googled some fun facts and read them over a few beers.

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Things to know before visiting:

  • Miraflores is just one of three sets of locks in the Panama Canal, and it’s the most popular one to visit (due to its close proximity to Panama City).
  • The ships don’t pass through every minute of every hour. You’ll be able to watch the ships between 9am-11am, and then again from 3pm-5pm(ish). If you’re here at a different timeframe, you’ll have to wait! We arrived at the canal around 2:45pm after getting lunch, and only waited a few minutes for the first boat to start making its way through the Miraflores section of the canal.

Planning your Panama vacation and looking for a full itinerary?! I've compiled a complete list of things to do in Panama in 10 days, including turquoise beaches and lush jungles!

  • Oh and trust me, you won’t want to stay the entire 2 hours or so, as the ships pass by super slowly and it takes quiiteeee a long time to set everything up. We watched 2-3 ships pass then had enough. Do keep your eyes peeled on the locks and water levels prior to a ship passing through – it’s wild!

Planning your Panama vacation and looking for a full itinerary?! I've compiled a complete list of things to do in Panama in 10 days, including turquoise beaches and lush jungles!

Afternoon Stroll on the Cinta Costera

Once you’ve had enough of the Panama Canal, make your way to the Cinta Costera. We had planned to visit around sunset, but arrived early due to how quickly we got over the canal – it’s intriguing the first 2 times a ship passes through, but then kinda monotonous going forward (you’ll see). And it literally takes foreverrrr (10 hours for a ship to fully pass through the canal).

Planning your Panama vacation and looking for a full itinerary?! I've compiled a complete list of things to do in Panama in 10 days, including turquoise beaches and lush jungles!

The Cinta Costera is essentially a pedestrians walkway and complex park next to the water. We enjoyed strolling around for about an hour or so, picking up some raspados from a street vendor (kinda like the Panamanian version of a shave ice) to cool off.

Walk far enough and you’ll find the iconic Panama sign – a giant colorful piece of artwork (which we unfortunately missed). If you finish early like we did, don’t fret – just watch the sunset from the next spot!

Sunset drinks at Finca del Mar

Cocktails and ceviche with a view of the sun setting on the water with a gentle ocean breeze? Sounds like the perfect way to finish off the day, am I right? The atmosphere here is very fun, with outdoor seating, string lights, and colorful seating (including a few swinging chairs at the bar). Tuna ceviche was very tasty, as were the mojitos we ordered.

Planning your Panama vacation and looking for a full itinerary?! I've compiled a complete list of things to do in Panama in 10 days, including turquoise beaches and lush jungles!

If you’re still hungry → consider Cafe Coca Cola for a fast and simple dinner

This unassuming restaurant is actually the oldest cafe in Panama City! I heard that the Coca-Cola brand let the restaurant keep its name due to how long they’ve been in business! While the ambiance was nothing to write home about and the food was decent at best, it’s a quick and easy spot if you’re exhausted (like we were).

Where we stayed: Hotel Casa Panama → we loved the trendy and open-air leafy vibe of the hotel. The room was basic with funky decor touches, and the shower was heaven on earth! Located right in Casco Viejo, which is a great location to base yourself in while in Panama City!

There’s also a rooftop plunge pool if you find yourself with some time to enjoy it! It’s known to get kinda noisy on weekend nights since there’s a bar on the roof, so just keep that in mind! We slept like babies though!

Day 2: Off to the San Blas Islands!

Hopefully you went to bed early last night, because you’re getting picked up bright and early this morning! 5:30am to be exact. 🙂 Alllll your tropical island dreams, coming right up (you can sleep on the bus, I promise, although the last hour is kinda bumpy)!

Thinking about adding a few days in the San Blas Islands to your Panama trip? Good choice- you’ll be rewarded with forests of coconut palms, luminous aquamarine waters, remote Caribbean islands, and seafood meals consisting of the freshest fish possible.

Note : You’ll want to have your hotel in Panama City hold your luggage – you only need to pack a small bag for your few nights in San Blas. Suitcases are unheard of on the islands, and you’ll be getting to your final destination via tiny speed boat, so leave that large luggage behind.

We packed a few bathing suits, shorts, and tank tops, and that’s all we really needed besides basic toiletries. Ladies – leave your makeup and beauty bag behind (I couldn’t even find a mirror on the island and there’s no place to plug in items for doing your hair)! DO take lots of SPF though!

Yes, the San Blas Islands are kinda a pain to reach → you’ll need to take a 3 hour shuttle ride to the Kuna Yala port, then hop on a speed boat for 45 minutes or so to reach your island of accommodation. Worth the hassle? Easily. My advice- book a tour and everything will be taken care of for you.

Thinking about adding a few days in the San Blas Islands to your Panama trip? Good choice- you’ll be rewarded with forests of coconut palms, luminous aquamarine waters, remote Caribbean islands, and seafood meals consisting of the freshest fish possible.

P.S. → We booked with San Blas Dreams and had a lovely experience. We opted for the 2 night, 3 day experience, as you can choose to spend only 1 night on the island, or even do a day trip to San Blas (although I recommend staying over at LEAST 1 night). Alternatively, if you don’t wanna stay on the islands for 2 nights like we did ( read my FULL recap over here ), you can spend the extra time in the rainforest in Boquete.

→ Read next: everything you need to know about visiting the san blas islands

We reached our island of accommodation around 10ish or so, and had the option of lazying around or going straight out on a tour. We opted to stay put and soak up the sun, swing in the hammocks, read our books in the sand, and just enjoy each other’s company with zero distractions that first day. Oh, and get a few coconuts – the freshest water you can get!

Thinking about adding a few days in the San Blas Islands to your Panama trip? Good choice- you’ll be rewarded with forests of coconut palms, luminous aquamarine waters, remote Caribbean islands, and seafood meals consisting of the freshest fish possible.

A few things to note about the San Blas islands:

There’s really no best time of year to visit the San Blas Islands , but the Kuna’s (the indigenous people on the island) informed me that the least rainfall occurs in January, February, and March. Rainy season begins in April, comes out in full force in May, and basically lasts until the end of the year.

However , if you’re planning on heading to San Blas in the rainy season, don’t fret – you’ll still find beachdays with hours of sun even when the clouds aren’t cooperating. The weather can be tricky and unpredictable, so just hope for the best!

Thinking about adding a few days in the San Blas Islands to your Panama trip? Good choice- you’ll be rewarded with forests of coconut palms, luminous aquamarine waters, remote Caribbean islands, and seafood meals consisting of the freshest fish possible.

Accommodations are basic at best , with super simple thatched huts with literally only a bed in a single room. You won’t find any pools, sun loungers, or anything remotely luxurious on the islands (not even hot water or the amount of electricity you’re used to).

It’s very possible you’ll be sharing bathrooms with other guests (our island had one set of shower stalls and toilets for everyone), will have to charge your devices at the few outlets at the restaurant, and will eat the same meal time and time again.

You will, however, find untouched beauty, starfish in their natural habitat, tons of healthy fresh fish and coconuts, and luminous turquoise waters.

Thinking about adding a few days in the San Blas Islands to your Panama trip? Good choice- you’ll be rewarded with forests of coconut palms, luminous aquamarine waters, remote Caribbean islands, and seafood meals consisting of the freshest fish possible.

The islands are not a culinary experience ; you’ll have minimal meal variations and given a choice of fish fillet (my meal of choice), fried/grilled fish, mixed seafood, prawns (when available), and chicken (on occasion). The food wasn’t half bad, we just ate mostly the same thing for 3 days.

Thinking about adding a few days in the San Blas Islands to your Panama trip? Good choice- you’ll be rewarded with forests of coconut palms, luminous aquamarine waters, remote Caribbean islands, and seafood meals consisting of the freshest fish possible.

The Kuna’s and San Blas in general are a cash society . Plan to take some small bills with you to buy coconuts and beers, and purchase any handicrafts you may wish, as well as to supply a ~$23 Kuna tax and port fee.

Read my very thorough post about our experience in the San Blas islands to help decide if you want to add a few days on the islands to your Panama vacation.

In my opinion though, no trip is complete without visiting these glistening palm tree ridden islands (just suck it up and rough it for a few days, you got this!. Make some room in your itinerary and you’ll come home with glistening golden skin and feel relaxed as ever.

Where we slept : Beach bungalow in San Blas! Be sure to go for a night walk and look up – the stars are so bright over here!

Day 3: Get some Sun on San Blas

After a hectic first few days on this Panama vacation, it’s finally time to just relax and soak up some sun. Hopefully you slept ok, as I woke up hot and sticky each morning (allll the more reason to jump in the sea, right?)

Thinking about adding a few days in the San Blas Islands to your Panama trip? Good choice- you’ll be rewarded with forests of coconut palms, luminous aquamarine waters, remote Caribbean islands, and seafood meals consisting of the freshest fish possible.

Here’s a typical day-in-the-life on San Blas, and what you can expect during your time here:

  • 7:30ish: Wake up to the birds happily chirping (your ears off)
  • 8:15ish: Hot Breakfast
  • 9-10: Lounge on beach, read, free time
  • 10:15ish: Island hop (tour of the day)
  • 1:00: Lunch back on your “home” island
  • 2-7: Free time/showers (snorkel, nap in hammocks, read, swim, laze around)
  • Night: beers and card games, stargazing and short beach walks

Thinking about adding a few days in the San Blas Islands to your Panama trip? Good choice- you’ll be rewarded with forests of coconut palms, luminous aquamarine waters, remote Caribbean islands, and seafood meals consisting of the freshest fish possible.

Those San Blas tours we took each day for a few hours took us to nearby islands, natural swimming pools (previously sunken islands), and sand bars, where we wandered around the islands taking photos, going for swims, snorkeling, and hanging with other people from our boat.

The Kuna’s provided rum and cokes for us to enjoy, and we even saw a bunch of exceptionally large orange starfish in the shallow waters!

Thinking about adding a few days in the San Blas Islands to your Panama trip? Good choice- you’ll be rewarded with forests of coconut palms, luminous aquamarine waters, remote Caribbean islands, and seafood meals consisting of the freshest fish possible.

I talked about this in my big San Blas blog post , but I think it’s important to mention again. Starfish are living creatures, you guys. They need to be kept in water – do not lift them out! They are extremely sensitive and should be handled with care, for the least amount of time possible.

Our Kuna guides said we could lift them up for a quick photo (still halfway submerged in water), then place them right back. Don’t go moving them all around for your perfect IG shot, just don’t do it. They’re so delicate – we want to keep these little sea beauties alive!

Where we slept : Beach bungalow in San Blas!

Day 4: San Blas in Morning/Afternoon, then back to Panama City

Last Morning in Paradise

Another day in paradise it is! Well, most of the day at least! Depending on what tour company you book with, and which package you choose, you’ll either leave San Blas at 9am or 3pm. We chose the latter, and enjoyed exploring other islands before leaving our new favorite place.

If you think you’ll want to explore a bit more of Panama City (we’ll have another ¾ of a day before leaving the country later on in this itinerary), you may want to choose the earlier San Blas departure. The beach is sooo our thing, so we opted to stay as long as possible without staying another night.

Thinking about adding a few days in the San Blas Islands to your Panama trip? Good choice- you’ll be rewarded with forests of coconut palms, luminous aquamarine waters, remote Caribbean islands, and seafood meals consisting of the freshest fish possible.

Make sure to drink alll the coconuts, revel in the warm, luminous waters one last time, and take your last nap under the palm trees!

It was a breath of fresh air to have limited amenities and zero wifi availability. After 3 days in San Blas we were oh so relaxed, although any longer and I think I’d have been longing for a hot shower more so than actually enjoying the picturesque beaches.

Thinking about adding a few days in the San Blas Islands to your Panama trip? Good choice- you’ll be rewarded with forests of coconut palms, luminous aquamarine waters, remote Caribbean islands, and seafood meals consisting of the freshest fish possible.

Back to Panama City and Dinner at Ocho y Medio

Say goodbye to San Blas, because it’s back to Panama City we go! And yes, you’ll have to head back the same way you came → a 45 minute speed boat ride back to the port, then ~2hr, 30 min van ride back. If I remember correctly, we got back to Panama City around 6:30pm or so, then headed out to dinner at Ocho y Medio before picking up our suitcases at our first hotel, Hotel Casa Panama.

→ We booked a super early morning flight to David in order to have as much time as humanly possible in Boquete, so we chose to stay close to the airport at the Crowne Plaza Airport Hotel , which is roughly a 5 minute drive to the airport.

We’re definitely not morning people, and when there’s a sliiiiight chance we may oversleep, we like to stay as close to the airport as humanly possible, while still having a comfy bed.

Where we slept: Crowne Plaza Airport Hotel (highly recommended)

Day 5: Coffee Tasting in Boquete

First things first, get yourself to Boquete

Okay, so in order to get to Boquete at a normal hour, you’ll need to take an early morning flight to David. Our flight left Panama City at 7:30am, arrived in David around 8:50am, then we took a 45 minute taxi straight to Boquete for $35 (standard price). There are no ubers in David or Boquete, so you’ll need to find other ways to get around (hence the taxi).

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Note that you can also take a bus to Boquete from the David airport, but you’ll need to get yourself to the bus station first (for only a few bucks or so). If we weren’t so exhausted I think we would have attempted to take the bus as it would have been the much more cost-effective option, but oh well, we were tired!

And not to stress you out, but be sure to book early as there’s only a few fights to David per day. We booked on COPA airlines and noticed there were only two flights a day from Panama City to David, at 7:30am and 4:30pm. I’m pretty sure Air Panama has flights as well, but no more than 2-3 either (7ish, 11ish, and later on in the day).

If you want to follow this Panama vacation itinerary exactly as I have laid out, you’ll NEED to get yourself on an early morning flight. If you have an extra day or two, getting into Boquete later on in the day will be fine, but we didn’t have this luxury.

Morning Stroll through Boquete Town

As soon as we checked into our hotel (yay for early check-ins), we dropped our bags then set out for town. Honestly, we were kinda surprised at how dirty and downright sad the town looked from an outsiders point of view (I didn’t even take one photo – there wasn’t anything really to photograph). I wondered out of all the things to do in Panama if I had made a bad choice by coming here, but nope, I’ll explain below!

Planning your Panama vacation and looking for a full itinerary?! I've compiled a complete list of things to do in Panama in 10 days, including turquoise beaches and lush jungles!

It’s a pretty small town and I have to admit, the walk from The Haven (our hotel) to town was much, much nicer than the actual town itself. There was tons of construction going on, a mildly run-down main street, and a few unattractive shops.

BUT, let’s not dwell on the negatives, because there are SO many positives to this luscious green area that makes Boquete so appealing. (Plus – we learned that there’s even a large expat community here, so Boquete must be more than it’s tiny unassuming little town).

Planning your Panama vacation and looking for a full itinerary?! I've compiled a complete list of things to do in Panama in 10 days, including turquoise beaches and lush jungles!

So, what is Boquete known for? First of all, after one look around, it’s evident all the lushness surrounding the town more than makes up for the complete lack of charm within the town itself. With its towering mountain views, blankets of flowers, and oh so much greenery, you’d be hard pressed to find a more stunning natural scenery in the mountains.

Venture outta town and you’ll find pristine waterfalls, an ancient volcano, and treetops full of birds! If you’re lucky, you’ll be able to spot the stunning Volcan Baru through the misty clouds.

Planning your Panama vacation and looking for a full itinerary?! I've compiled a complete list of things to do in Panama in 10 days, including turquoise beaches and lush jungles!

Boquete is located on the Caldera River, within the Chiriqui Highlands, which is home to coffee plantation after coffee plantation, and is known as more of an adventurous mountain village for those wanting to take part.  

If you have an extra day or so, you can climb Volcan Baru, go ziplining, go on epic waterfall hikes in the jungle, go rafting, and partake in a chocolate making class (among other things).

It’s high elevation in the mountains provides a cool, enjoyable climate, so you’ll want to dress a tad warmer during your day in Boquete. We thankfully were blessed with an absolutely beautiful day in the mountains, only needing a light jacket at times.

Planning your Panama vacation and looking for a full itinerary?! I've compiled a complete list of things to do in Panama in 10 days, including turquoise beaches and lush jungles!

In town we had some brunch at Sugar and Spice (the most popular breakfast spot in Boquete which we LOVED) and tried the famous gesha coffee at La Viuda del Cafe (The Coffee Widow)!

The coffee, originating from a village in Ethiopia, is said to be the most expensive cup on Earth. It commonly sells for about $9 a cup, but would found it (albeit a very small cup) at The Coffee Widow for about $5. A bargain if you ask me!

Planning your Panama vacation and looking for a full itinerary?! I've compiled a complete list of things to do in Panama in 10 days, including turquoise beaches and lush jungles!

We actually saw it selling for $9 a cup in Panama City later on in the week. It’s said to be smooth, fruity, silky, and aromatic, tasting a bit more like tea than coffee, and we enjoyed our few sips.

We attempted to go to Fresas Mary for some famous Boquete strawberries and whipped cream, but they were unexpectedly closed (what a bummer – we even took a taxi there!) Hopefully they’re open when you go!

The walk back to our hotel was exceptionally scenic, as we found ourselves high above the town taking in all the lush greens and fuscia-colored flowers.

Afternoon Coffee Plantation Tour

Boquete is widely known for their mass coffee production, and boasts some of the best and most expensive coffee in the world. Yup, the world!

There are plenty of coffee plantation tours to choose from, but after doing a bit of research, Finca dos Jefes sounded like the best one! And I have to admit, I think we chose correctly. The story of the farm is just so moving and inspiring!

Planning your Panama vacation and looking for a full itinerary?! I've compiled a complete list of things to do in Panama in 10 days, including turquoise beaches and lush jungles!

We walked through the fields, learned about coffee cherries and traditional organic farming, were given a brief education of the coffee industry (oh, it’s so fascinating you’ll see), and learned how to properly roast coffee beans. And of course we tasted a whole bunch of freshly brewed coffee (both a medium and dark roast blend)!

Planning your Panama vacation and looking for a full itinerary?! I've compiled a complete list of things to do in Panama in 10 days, including turquoise beaches and lush jungles!

Unlike other coffee tours, there were only about 8 of us in total, so we felt like we were given a more personalized experience and had allll our crazy coffee questions answered.

I especially appreciated how the tour spoke a lot about economics; the realities of the global coffee economy and the impacts made on the farmers and workers were especially eye opening and really makes you think.

And plus, the dogs on site were the absolute cutest (we’re a suuuuucker for pups!) The farm was covered in plants, flowers, and hummingbirds, and I just couldn’t get enough. Towards the end of our tour a rainbow appeared above the fields, which made for such a beautiful end to the day. A well-spent $30 (each).

Planning your Panama vacation and looking for a full itinerary?! I've compiled a complete list of things to do in Panama in 10 days, including turquoise beaches and lush jungles!

Note that there are two options for tours each day, at 9am and 2pm. We obviously chose the 2pm tour since we weren’t even in Boquete by 9am! The tour lasts for roughly 3 hours, so we got back to our hotel around 5ish or so.

Private pool time and some dinner

If you’re staying at The Haven and Spa , take advantage of the pool before dinner! You’ll have to make a reservation, but this just ensures you have the pool to yourself! We were bummed it wasn’t heated, so just enjoyed putting our tired feet in.

Planning your Panama vacation and looking for a full itinerary?! I've compiled a complete list of things to do in Panama in 10 days, including turquoise beaches and lush jungles!

If you’re looking for a good dinner option, we thoroughly enjoyed our meal at Boquete Fish House – you can never go wrong with some fish and chips, yucca fries, and fresh fish sauteed in white wine lemon garlic butter. Oh, and their house margs were a-okay and only a few bucks.

Where we Stayed: The Haven , and it was just like I imagine heaven to be. As soon as we arrived, I was overly wowed – the grounds are so incredibly luscious and green, and the outdoor space was so inviting. I desperately wish we had another night here.

Note that the hotel is an adults-only resort, so if you’re traveling with kiddos, you’ll have to find another place to stay. We loved the indoor pool, and we even took advantage of the fully equipped gym and sauna/steam room. The included room-service breakfast was lovely, and we ate on our outdoor patio in the garden every chance we got!

Planning your Panama vacation and looking for a full itinerary?! I've compiled a complete list of things to do in Panama in 10 days, including turquoise beaches and lush jungles!

Day 6: Arrive in Bocas del Toro

Today we’re making our way to Bocas del Toro , another one of Panama’s hot spots with a chill, surfer vibe and gorgeous islands off the coast, oh, and a jungle too! Bocas is kinda the best of both worlds, allllll rolled into one archipelago of beautiful islands.

Planning your Panama vacation and looking for a full itinerary?! I've compiled a complete list of things to do in Panama in 10 days, including turquoise beaches and lush jungles!

Before we dive into the Panama vacation itinerary of the day, lemme explain the geographical makeup of Bocas del Toro for a hot second (as I was semi-confused when initially researching).

Bocas del Toro is made up of a few different islands, with Isla Colon being the most popular and consisting of Bocas Town, where the bulk of visitors decide to stay, and Starfish Beach (very popular spot as well). Next you’ve got Isla Solardo, which is only a few minutes off the coast of Isla Colon, and an island not many choose to visit.

Planning your Panama vacation and looking for a full itinerary?! I've compiled a complete list of things to do in Panama in 10 days, including turquoise beaches and lush jungles!

Finally, there’s Bastimentos, which is the largest of the archipelago and where you’ll find Old Bank, Up in the Hill, Red Frog Beach (very popular), and other secluded resorts/hotels. We chose to base ourselves out of Bocas Town on Isla Colon, which I’ll explain in more detail below.

→  Read Next: A Comprehensive Guide to Bocas del Toro

Transfer to Bocas del Toro

It’s semi-complicated (yes, again) to get from Boquete to Bocas del Toro, as you’ll need to take a 3.5 hour shuttle to Almirante (a port town), then a 30 minute marine taxi (which was essentially a speed boat) from there to Bocas Town. Thankfully, there are organized transportation services that will take care of everything for you.

We booked with Hello Travel Panama through Mamallena Hostel, left Boquete around 9am, and arrived in Bocas del Toro around 1:30pm or so. Make sure to schedule this transfer in advance as the shuttles get booked up beforehand.

With that being said, there’s absolutely no reason to attempt this transfer yourself, as prices weren’t half bad: $30 per person, including the boat transfer from Almirante. Our shuttle was comfortable, air-conditioned, spacious, and safe, with enough room for all luggages (on top of the shuttle actually).

Wander Bocas Town -or- head to Starfish Beach

Since we arrived in Bocas around 1:30pm, we had quite a bit of time to explore on the first day! And with so much going on this area, you’ll want to make sure to use your time wisely!

Planning your Panama vacation and looking for a full itinerary?! I've compiled a complete list of things to do in Panama in 10 days, including turquoise beaches and lush jungles!

You’ve got a few different options for your first afternoon in Bocas del Toro:

  • Wander around town; get some ceviche and cocktails (the lazy man’s choice)
  • Head to Starfish Beach (the need-to-see-and-do-it-all choice)

Since we were feeling a bit sluggish (and hungry) after our transfer to Bocas, we kept things pretty casual by wandering around Bocas Town. We opted to miss out on Starfish Beach since I had read tons of negative reviews, with many even saying they hardly saw any starfish, or none at all.

And since we had suuuuch a wonderful experience seeing the starfish in San Blas, I felt okay missing out on Starfish Beach in Bocas del Toro. Do your own research though, as the reviews are mixed at best.

Planning your Panama vacation and looking for a full itinerary?! I've compiled a complete list of things to do in Panama in 10 days, including turquoise beaches and lush jungles!

However, if you think you’ll have FOMO (fear of missing out), getting to Starfish Beach on the outskirts of Isla Colon isn’t all that difficult from Bocas Town. You’ll need to take a 45 minute bus ride from the park in the middle of town to Drago, and then you can either take a quick water taxi to Starfish Beach or walk 20 minutes.

Where we Stayed : Azul Paradise Bocas Town (not to be confused with the location on Bastimentos). After doing tons of research (it’s what I do best!), we ultimately decided on Azul Paradise Bocas Town, as other hotels looked a bit run down and not in the best shape.

Bocas is kinda like a party town so be prepared for late night shenanigans and loud music, although we didn’t experience any of these things.

Planning your Panama vacation and looking for a full itinerary?! I've compiled a complete list of things to do in Panama in 10 days, including turquoise beaches and lush jungles!

The hotel was modern, fresh, and in a wonderful location. We splurged and booked the King Luxury Suite, and it was roomy to say the least. With floor to ceiling windows with views of the sea, a soaking tub, and a superrr comfy bed, we couldn’t have picked a better spot.

→ There are two main options for accommodation in Bocas del Toro. You have the option of staying in Bocas Town (close to lots of bars and restaurants), or spending a few nights on Bastimentos, the island next door and much more secluded. Up to you, but we highly prefered being in the middle of everything and having dinner options (after basically eating the same thing for 3 days on San Blas).

After visited Bastimentos (later on in the itinerary), we quickly learned the sheer seclusion of the island just wasn’t for us. Up to you!

Day 7: The Ridiculously Gorgeous Zapatilla Islands

Intoxifying. Serene. Wild. Enchanting. There’s no words significant enough to describe the Zapatillas. It’s say to safe that I’m low-key obsessed with this place I had never previously heard of.

Planning your Panama vacation and looking for a full itinerary?! I've compiled a complete list of things to do in Panama in 10 days, including turquoise beaches and lush jungles!

If there’s one stop you can’t miss while in Bocas, it’s the Zapatilla Islands, also known as Cayos Zapatilla. These two uninhabited islands are located east of Isla Bastimentos and are quite honestly, one of the most amazing places I’ve ever been (same level as Bora Bora I might add).

While many say that San Blas is way more beautiful than Bocas, I’d have to disagree, as long as you make your way to the Zapatillas. We booked a tour the day before with Hello Travel Panama on a whim, and I’m obviously more than glad we did.

All was (more than) fine in the end, as we not only got to visit Zapatilla Island, but also visited Sloth Island, went snorkeling and anfibia boarding, and had a fresh seafood lunch overlooking the sea.

1st Stop: Searching for Sloths at Sloth Island

We first visited the protected mangroves of Sloth Island to, well, you guessed it, look for some sloths! Despite how difficult they are to spot, we found a whole bunch! Our guides were experts at spotting them, and thankfully made sure everyone on the boat got a few glimpses! They’re kinda hard to see in the photos, but look for the hornet’s-nests-looking things! Makes me wanna go to Costa Rica (they’re known for them, right?)

Planning your Panama vacation and looking for a full itinerary?! I've compiled a complete list of things to do in Panama in 10 days, including turquoise beaches and lush jungles!

2nd Stop: Snorkel and Anfibia Boarding

Next up, it was finalllyyy time to jump in the refreshing waters with some snorkel gear! We had about 45 minutes or so to snorkel, where I saw tons of colorful coral (many that I had never seen before!), schools of glistening silver fish, sea fans, parrotfish, and so much more. It’s hard to keep your eye on one thing when you’re underwater – they’re just so much to see and I get distracted quite easily.

Planning your Panama vacation and looking for a full itinerary?! I've compiled a complete list of things to do in Panama in 10 days, including turquoise beaches and lush jungles!

The water was calm, clear, and sheltered from debris from land – we were out in the middle of the Caribbean Sea! I so wish I had brought my go-pro with me to photograph all the lovely underwater life.

Since we were already in the water, anfibia boarding it was! It’s kinda hard to explain what anfibia boarding actually is, so I’ll just leave you with this: it’s oh SO much fun. You’ll feel like you’re flying underwater. Move the board up and down and you’ll see what I mean.

3rd Stop: Seafood Lunch

A fresh seafood lunch over the water? Yes please! Plates start at $15 per plate, so thankfully we had brought exactly $31 with us…enough to cover two lunches and nothing else. Take a bit more cash if you want more lunch choices. Kinda expensive for what it is, but hey, they’ve got little to no competition out in the sea so they can charge as much as they want.

You can plan to pack your own lunch, but the food was surprisingly really tasty and a hot lunch after being in the water for a while was appreciated.

Planning your Panama vacation and looking for a full itinerary?! I've compiled a complete list of things to do in Panama in 10 days, including turquoise beaches and lush jungles!

We had some time to explore the restaurant on stilts, and some people chose to snorkel around as there’s known to be starfish nearby.

4th and Final Stop: Zapatilla!

In my opinion, Zapatilla is by far the best beach in Bocas del Toro, and all of Panama I might add. Yes, we LOVED San Blas more than anything, but if you get a perfect day weather-wise on Zapatilla, you’ll see exactly what I mean. This serene island paradise is absolute heaven and then some. It’s actually where Survivor Panama was filmed!

Planning your Panama vacation and looking for a full itinerary?! I've compiled a complete list of things to do in Panama in 10 days, including turquoise beaches and lush jungles!

Out of all the things to do in Panama on this itinerary, spending the day on Zapatilla was by far my favorite. <3

It was soooo nice to just relax on a (nearly) deserted island and soak up the sun for a few hours. Oh, and that crystal clear water didn’t hurt either – I spent a decent chunk of our time wading in the shallow waters offshore, just admiring that gorgeous turquoise Caribbean water.

Note that there are zero facilities on this stunning and untouched uninhabited island, but our tour company set up a gorgeous spread of tropical fruits for us to enjoy. The Zapatillas are actually part of the undeveloped national marine park, so you can expect to find lots of little fishies under the water, as well pay a $10 National Park entrance fee if you aren’t part of a tour.

Planning your Panama vacation and looking for a full itinerary?! I've compiled a complete list of things to do in Panama in 10 days, including turquoise beaches and lush jungles!

Thankfully it was quite isolated when we were there so didn’t have to share the palm-tree lined beach/waters with too many others. There was tons of space to lay out our towels, and we chose a shady spot underneath a few palms.

With sooo many shades of turquoise and oh so many palm trees inland made for an absolutely wonderful day. It was almost unreal how perfect the day was. Just don’t forget the sunscreen!

Where we Stayed: Azul Paradise Bocas Town (not to be confused with the location on Bastimentos)

Where we ate dinner: Restaurante Azul (6 course tasting menu for $20 and very tasty!)

Day 8: Explore the Jungle and Beaches of Bastimentos

Ahh, back to the jungle it is! If you’re kinda sad you only had one day in Boquete, now’s the time to make up for it! We found Bastimentos SO incredibly different from Isla Colon and Bocas Town, so make sure you hit up this spot when you’re in the area as well! And despite their close proximity, they’re like different worlds!

Planning your Panama vacation and looking for a full itinerary?! I've compiled a complete list of things to do in Panama in 10 days, including turquoise beaches and lush jungles!

Quick Note → Bastimentos is another island in the Bocas del Toro archipelago, and is roughly a 10 minute boat ride from Isla Colon. If you’re staying in Bocas Town like we were and want to follow the days activities I planned out, you’ll have to first get yourself to Bastimentos Town.

You can do so by basically asking anyone on the street in Bocas for a water taxi ride (they’ll probably come right up to you and offer their services). We paid $5 each to get from Bocas Town to Old Bank, which was our first stop of the day.

Wander throughout the sleepy town of Old Bank

When we first stepped off the water taxi, we instantly knew that Bastimentos was much more rugged and real that Bocas Town. We explored Old Bank, an Afro-Caribbean community which is right off the dock from where our boat let us off. There’s not as much tourism in this area, and you’ll get to see first-hand how the people live.

Planning your Panama vacation and looking for a full itinerary?! I've compiled a complete list of things to do in Panama in 10 days, including turquoise beaches and lush jungles!

We saw roosters, baby chicks, lots of laundry hanging to dry, and tons of colorful old wooden buildings amongst lush vegetation. Just follow along the main dirt path directly from the port, and you’ll come across all this and more. With flavors of the West Indies, and being the second largest town in the Bocas archipelago, don’t miss it!

(P.S. pop into any market and you’ll find cans of rum and coke – my husband loved that!)

Up in the Hill Organic Chocolate and Coffee Farm

And now the main reason we popped on over to Bastimentos for the day – to learn all about how chocolate is grown/processed! When I first heard about Up in the Hill, I knew we just had to include this on our longgg list of things to do in Panama. An organic chocolate and coffee farm with jungle tours – sign me up!

Planning your Panama vacation and looking for a full itinerary?! I've compiled a complete list of things to do in Panama in 10 days, including turquoise beaches and lush jungles!

Up in the Hill is a fully sustainable farm, producing zero waste and using every last bit to better their efforts. There’s a tour through the family farm everyday at 11am, which we signed up for the night before.

But beware — Getting there is an activity in and of itself! Start making the short trek from Old Bank around 10:15ish, and keep going up, up, and up into the jungle and through the woods. They’ll be signs, don’tchu worry. The hike/walk wasn’t difficult per say, we were just super hot and sweaty from the intense humidity and heat.

Be sure to take ample amount of water, and forget about having a good hair day (I had just washed and blow dried my hair the night before – biiiiig mistake).

Planning your Panama vacation and looking for a full itinerary?! I've compiled a complete list of things to do in Panama in 10 days, including turquoise beaches and lush jungles!

On the tour we saw poisonous red frogs (harmless to look at, but no touching allowed), huge spiders with insanely strong webs (you can touch these to see what I mean), parades of ants carrying leaves (just wow !), yellow tailed birds, and chocolate cocoa trees!

We learned the reasons why they’ve chosen to live off the land, how the plants work together to help the others grow, and how they go about creating and sustaining a permaculture organic farm. It’s all very fascinating stuff, and quite inspiring to say the least.

Planning your Panama vacation and looking for a full itinerary?! I've compiled a complete list of things to do in Panama in 10 days, including turquoise beaches and lush jungles!

Our guide carried a machete with us throughout the jungle (don’t be alarmed), which he used to chop down plants and show us some of the fruits of his labor. At the end of the tour, we were served a delicious spread of jackfruit, plantains, banana with fresh cocoa, chocolate drinks with coconut milk, pumpkin soup, coconut brownies, and more, all made with fresh ingredients from the farm.

→ Practicalities : $25 per person; tour starts at 11am; we emailed the lady the night before to register for the tour; put on LOTS of bug spray beforehand if you don’t want to get eaten alive (I warned you)

Red Frog Beach

Beach time, finally! After making your way back down to Old Bank (it’s sooo much easier going down, trust me), take a water taxi straight to Red Frog Beach ($5 per person). We chose to get dropped off at Palmar Dock, and took a 15 minute walk to the beach through the “shortcut” for another $5 each.

It didn’t quite seem like a shortcut, but it is what it is!  On the nature walk to the beach we saw lots of monkeys playing in the jungle (ahhhh I was exceptionally excited about this) and passed a pond with caiman (in the alligator family) which royally freaked me the F out (we didn’t see any thankfully).

Planning your Panama vacation and looking for a full itinerary?! I've compiled a complete list of things to do in Panama in 10 days, including turquoise beaches and lush jungles!

We unfortunately didn’t find Red Frog Beach to be anything that spectacular; considering we had already spent time at both San Blas and the Zapatillas, Red Frog was just so-so comparatively. Nevertheless, our veggie bowls and fresh fruit smoothies made for a fantastic lunch at Palmar Resort.

And after our tiring morning hiking in the jungle to Up in the Hill, laying out on the beach was an afternoon well spent. Oh, and seeing those monkeys out in the wild totally made the short trek to Red Frog Beach worth it.

You’ll have to cough up around $8 to get back to Bocas Town from Red Frog Beach.

Planning your Panama vacation and looking for a full itinerary?! I've compiled a complete list of things to do in Panama in 10 days, including turquoise beaches and lush jungles!

Where we Stayed : Azul Paradise Bocas Town (not to be confused with the location on Bastimentos)

Where we ate dinner: El Ultimo Refugio

Day 9: Cocktails at Blue Coconut (or the “Floating Bar”)

Chill out for a while, then it’s off to the airport to head back to Panama City!

Cocktails and Tacos Over the Sea

On our last day in Bocas, we chose to take it easy and had a relaxing brunch at Francine’s, where we had the most delicious breakfast crepes and coffees. We wandered around town a bit more before we set off for the Floating Bar, which is essentially just that – a bar floating in the middle of the Caribbean sea!

We took a $5 water taxi here, and it only took a few minutes or so to reach the freestanding bar surrounded by water.

Planning your Panama vacation and looking for a full itinerary?! I've compiled a complete list of things to do in Panama in 10 days, including turquoise beaches and lush jungles!

It was kinda dead when we went (probably because of the unfortunate foul weather), but I heard that there’s usually live music playing and people snorkeling around in the surrounding waters (to see the nearby starfish). Although we didn’t make use of all the amenities (hellooo pool floats), we still had a relaxing time. The fish and chicken tacos were bomb, don’t miss them!

Psst : you can also head to the famed Blue Coconut (closed on Fridays), which is a bit farther away but still the same vibe, so we ultimately decided on the Floating Bar because of the mix of clouds and rain.

Fly Back to Panama City in Late Afternoon

Our flight was at 6:10pm, so we had the better portion of the day to see the last of Bocas. If the weather had been more cooperative, I’m sure we would have appreciated this extra time in the area, but we were itching to get back to Panama City.

Up to you if you want to book an earlier flight or not. We flew into PAC (Albrook International) on Air Panama, but there are flights to PTY (Tocumen) as well.

Planning your Panama vacation and looking for a full itinerary?! I've compiled a complete list of things to do in Panama in 10 days, including turquoise beaches and lush jungles!

Note that the airport in Bocas is supperrrr tiny and located directly in town! We even chose to walk from our hotel in town to the airport, it was that close! As noted earlier, there’s only one waiting room, one “gate”, and 1-2 bag scanners. Make sure you eat beforehand (or take along a few snacks) because there’s no restaurants over here!

Night in Panama City

We had our last official dinner in Panama at CasaCasco, which was quite delicious, although a bit pricey I might add! There’s also a night club at top, in case you’re feeling a bit frisky and wanna dance your heart out on your last night.

Where we stayed: The American Trade Hotel

The American Trade Hotel was quite possibly our favorite accommodation of our entire Panama vacation, and we wish we could have at least stayed another night. Located smack dab in the historic center of Panama City right in the heart of Casco Viejo, ATH   boasts lovely marbled tiled floors, tall ceilings with large windows (oh that natural light <3), and such charming architecture.

Planning your Panama vacation and looking for a full itinerary?! I've compiled a complete list of things to do in Panama in 10 days, including turquoise beaches and lush jungles!

The old world charm of this place just makes it that much more appealing. And plus, it’s part of the Small Luxury Hotels of the World collection, so you know this place will not only have beautiful decor, but wonderful service as well. We were lucky to be given a room with a cute flower-filled balcony overlooking the square, which we enjoyed using both night and morning.

Day 10: Wander Casco Viejo and head home!

After a short sleep in, we hung by the pool for a bit then made our way downstairs to brunch at The American Trade Hotel. The decor is just lovely and the husband had to literally put my camera down for me. Even if you’re not spending the night at The American Trade Hotel , I highly encourage you to check out the restaurant for brunch/lunch, and grab some liquid fuel at the adjoining coffee shop (Unido Panama Coffee Roaster).

Planning your Panama vacation and looking for a full itinerary?! I've compiled a complete list of things to do in Panama in 10 days, including turquoise beaches and lush jungles!

Stroll Around Casco Viejo

Out of all the things to do in Panama City, going for an aimless wander around Casco Viejo was by far my favorite! This historic district and UNESCO World Heritage Site wasn’t always what it is today, but has now revitalized into Panama City’s center of art and nightlife, with tons of hip cafes and restaurants.

Oh, and the colonial buildings are to die for. To. Die. For. The absolute cutest. It’s beyond instagrammable → trust me. You’ll find boutique hotels, rooftop bars, crumbling facades, and cobblestoned streets. Swoon.

Planning your Panama vacation and looking for a full itinerary?! I've compiled a complete list of things to do in Panama in 10 days, including turquoise beaches and lush jungles!

Psst: you may hear this area being called Casco Antiguo or San Felipe – they’re all the same beautiful spot. 🙂

A few things not to miss out on your wander in Casco Viejo:

  • Grab a quintessential Panamanian ice cone, known as a raspado to keep cool
  • Check out La Michoacana and try out their condensed milk popsicles
  • Enjoy fresh ceviche at the Fish Market
  • Head to Weil Art for a traditional Panama Hat
  • Lunch at Mahalo (loved this trendy spot)
  • Admire the hand sewn molas (by the Kuna’s!) at Plaza de la Independencia

Planning your Panama vacation and looking for a full itinerary?! I've compiled a complete list of things to do in Panama in 10 days, including turquoise beaches and lush jungles!

It’s important to note that Casco Viejo lies on the border with El Chorrillo, known to be a bit seedy and not highly recommended to walk around. I’m pretty sure we unknowingly ended up here, and it was quite obvious the distinction between the two areas. Note: after doing some research, I learned that El Chorrillo is one of the city’s most famous ghettos – whoops.

We were butt tired by this point, so just carelessly strolled around the city looking for buildings to admire and had some lunch.

Planning your Panama vacation and looking for a full itinerary?! I've compiled a complete list of things to do in Panama in 10 days, including turquoise beaches and lush jungles!

If you want to eat all the things, I highly recommend booking a Panama City food walking tour , which will take you to the best restaurants in town to sample local coffee, chocolates, beer, cocktails and ceviche. You’ll also wander around Casco Viejo with a local guide who can explain the history of the area better than I ever could.

If you have additional time in Panama City (we would have loved another night at the American Trade Hotel and quite possibly another day or so to see the monkeys on Monkey Island ), be sure to check out these highly-rated activities:

Say Goodbye to Panama and Head Home

Be sure to book a flight later in the day or evening (our flight was at 6:30pm) so you can properly explore on your last day in Panama! It’d be an absolute shame to miss out on Casco Viejo – we loved it oh so much!

Phew! Hopefully that answers all your questions about things to do in Panama and how to carefully plan an itinerary for roughly 10 days! We were absolutely blown away by the country and can’t wait to return!

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February 24, 2023 at 5:45 pm

This is amazing!! Would you be willing to share the approximate amount your trip cost total without the flights from USA included? We are considering a trip to Panama!! So excited! But I would like to do the reservations myself as I also am a serial planner 🙂 Thank you!!

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February 25, 2023 at 3:33 pm

Hi Tracy! Unfortunately I don’t have current prices, as I took this trip a few years ago! It really varies depending on your choice of hotels, where you eat, etc. I will say we found Panama to be a bit more expensive than other Central American countries, minus Costa Rica. Enjoy — it’s a fantastic country!

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August 20, 2023 at 2:39 am

This is such a helpful guide! Can’t wait for my trip to Panama 🙂

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How To Plan An Unforgettable Panama Itinerary

Looking for an incredible Panama itinerary?

I’ve got you covered below.

Every summer, my boyfriend Andy and I plan an epic two-week vacation together. It’s one of the few times annually I’m not traveling solo; and because it’s such a special time, a lot goes into planning the perfect trip.

We’re curious outdoor enthusiasts who love experiential accommodations.

If that sounds like you, then you’ll want to keep reading to steal our favorite Panama vacation spots and travel tips.

Note that this post contains affiliate links to trusted partners I think you’ll love!

Psst! Don’t forget to pin this post for later!

Wondering where to go in Panama? This epic Panama itinerary includes everything from waterfall hikes in Chiriqui to exploring Casco Viejo in Panama City to discovering the best Bocas del Toro beaches and beyond! #Panama #BocasDelToro #PanamaCity

Table of Contents

Panama Travel Video

Prefer to travel Panama through video?

You’re in luck!

We filmed a Panama travel guide to really show you what the experience was like.

Watch the video here:

A big thanks to Andy for helping me shoot the footage, and for editing this video!

Panama Travel Tips

Before I get into actual things to do in Panama, I want to go over some important Panama travel tips.

This way, when you begin diving into our Panama itinerary, you can better understand what your trip will look like.

Additionally, you can grab my free Ultimate Travel Planning Kit — which also includes a downloadable Google Map of this Panama itinerary.

venice italy experiences

Is Panama Safe?

In short, I felt very, very safe doing the Panama itinerary I share with you below.

That being said, whether at home or on the road, I’m never without a few very important safety essentials.

Vigilant Personal Alarm . Vigilant makes personal safety alarms — or sound grenades — in a variety of models and styles. Press a button to activate an alarm louder than a firetruck, meant to disarm and scare potential attackers. The model linked here even has a backup alarm in case the primary alarm becomes disabled.

travel safety gear pickpocket proof scarves

Speakeasy Supply Hidden Pocket Scarves . Hand-made by my fellow travel blogging friends over at Beers & Beans, these stylish scarves come in designs for all seasons. Bonus: The hidden pockets in the scarf are large enough to fit your passport!

Clever Travel Companion Pickpocket-Proof Garments . Nervous about pickpockets? In more touristy areas of Panama City, for example, pickpockets are fairly common. Having pickpocket-proof garments ensures thieves don’t even know you’re carrying cash. I love the underwear, tank top, long johns and short sleeve dress!

Planning A Trip To Panama: Destinations

There are so many options when planning your Panama itinerary.

Below, I provide an overview of some — emphasis on some — of your options based on your travel preferences.

Beach Destinations In Panama.  Bocas del Toro, Pearl Islands, San Blas Islands, Isla Coiba, Santa Catalina, Colon.

starfish beach isla colon

Hiking / Outdoor Adventure Destinations In Panama.  Boquete, El Valle de Anton, Cocle Province, Santa Cruz de Cana.

Urban Destinations In Panama. Panama City, David.

Agricultural Destinations In Panama. Boquete, Santa Fe, Cocle Province, Isla Bastimentos, Isla San Cristobal, Colon.

panama itinerary cocovivo bocas

Two Weeks In Panama Itinerary

If you don’t feel like reading this entire article, you can swipe my two weeks in Panama itinerary here in this quick overview.

We arrived into Tocumen International Airport in Panama City, and then took an Uber to get to the Albrook “Marcos A. Gelabert” International Airport to board a domestic one-hour flight to the Bocas del Toro “Isla Colón” International Airport in Bocas Town.

Our Panama itinerary was as follows:

Bocas Town on Isla Colon in Bocas del Toro  ( Airbnb- Stay Bocas ). One night.

Arrived via Air Panama flight from Panama City.

Highlights included Bibi’s on the Beach, Starfish Beach and simply wandering the lively town to peruse the shops, bars and even a brewery called Bocas Brewery.

starfish beach isla colon

Isla Bastimentos in Bocas Del Toro ( La Loma Jungle Lodge & Chocolate Farm ). Two nights.

Arrived via pickup in Bocas Town by the La Loma Jungle Lodge boat captain (ride is about 20 minutes).

Highlights included sleeping in a treehouse with no walls in the jungle, hiking to a bat cave, kayaking at sunrise and the creative meals made with mainly ingredients grown on their onsite farm.

la loma jungle lodge treehouse hammocks

Isla San Cristobal in Bocas del Toro ( CocoVivo ). Two nights.

Arrived via skiff boat taxi (about 25 minutes from Bocas Town).

Highlights included onsite hiking trails to waterfalls, snorkeling the healthy coral reefs, night swimming in the bioluminescent Tierra Oscura Lagoon, a dock with a second-storey diving board and hammocks right over the water, and paddle-boarding to the local fried chicken shop nearby (a very Panamanian experience!).

cocovivo panama breakfast smoothie

Boquete (Airbnb- Lost Waterfalls Cabin ). Two nights.

Arrived via Hello Panama tourist bus ($30), with the Airbnb host picking us up at the bus stop to take us to the cabin.

Highlights included hiking in Panama  — specifically through high altitude jungle to numerous waterfalls — a farm-to-fork dinner at Colibri Restaurant in Boquete Town and having a secluded cabin in the breathtaking cloud forest where our yard was filled with unique flora and hummingbirds.

boquete cloud forest hummingbirds

Panama City ( The Bahia Grand Hotel ). One night.

Arrived via Air Panama flight from Enrique Malek International Airport in David, which we got to by paying $50 for a taxi from Boquete to David (though note there is also a cheaper bus option that we didn’t feel like navigating with our luggage).

This was just a one-night stopover before our trip to El Valle de Anton (aka “El Valle”), and we spent it by exploring some of the hotel’s amenities. These included swimming in the infinity pool, having an unforgettable chef’s tasting dinner at Tejas Restaurant, gambling in the Ocean Sun Casino and having drinks at their 66-storey Poolbar rooftop. Afterward, we took a bubblebath with wine in our in-room standalone tub. Heaven!

the bahia grand hotel lobby panama city

El Valle de Anton (Airbnb- Casa del Alma ). Two nights.

Arrived via 2.5-hour bus from the Albrook Bus Terminal in Panama City (~$4.50 one way).

Highlights included hiking to the top of La India Dormida for incredible views, having a seafood dinner on the chill patio of Bruschetta Restaurant, and enjoying our funky zen lodging with had a pool, garden and deep soaking tub.

el valle panama itinerary case del alma

Panama City ( The Bahia Grand Hotel ). Three nights.

Arrived via the same bus we took to El Valle de Anton, but in the opposite direction.

Highlights included more swimming and enjoying cocktail-filled pineapples at the infinity pool, wandering the UNESCO-listed Casco Viejo neighborhood, seeing boats pass through the Panama Canal, walking the scenic Cinta Costera at night, savoring craft cocktails at the Strangers Club and a satisfying dinner at the innovative Wall Street Bar & Lounge where menu prices change based on their inventory.

casco viejo panama city

If I could change anything about the above Panama itinerary, I would have stayed a few days longer in Panama to spend more time in Panama City. There is a lot to do there, both within the city and as day trips.

Currency In Panama

Interestingly, US Dollars — along with the Panamanian Balboa — are both official currency in Panama.

They even equal the same. Sometimes locals will mix up currencies, too.

So, if you’re supposed to get $1.50 change back, you might back $1 USD and 50 cents in Panamanian Balboa coins.

In short, we used US dollars the entire time.

Getting Around Panama

To get around Panama, Andy and I opted to travel by plane and bus.

There’s so much to do in Panama, and we were on a tight two-week schedule; so, we did take two domestic flights on Air Panama to save time, even though they were pricier than the bus.

Additionally, we opted for the tourist transfer bus offered by Hello Panama between Bocas and Boquete.

red ginger plant in panama

Another option we heard a few travelers rave about is renting a car, as long as you’re outside Panama City and Bocas del Toro.

Next time I go to Panama I’ll probably opt for this, as there are so many natural places and beautiful parks to explore that are time-consuming to get to via public transportation.

I recommend using a service  like Discover Cars  to determine the best car rental deals available.

Users of this site can save up to 70% on their booking just by being able to easily compare their options!

What’s great is their comparison tool does the hard research work for you.

You can use their widget right here to compare right now:

Solo Female Travel In Panama

While I was not traveling solo in Panama per my usual trip style, I know many of you are solo travelers.

Ladies, you can definitely feel confident traveling alone through Panama. We encountered a number of solo female travelers during our trip, and at almost all of our accommodations.

Actually, while the Panama itinerary I’m sharing works well for couples, there’s nothing we did on this trip that I wouldn’t come back and do solo, aside for maybe staying at the Lost Waterfalls Cabin because it’s pretty secluded (and I’m terrified of ghosts!).

Even the hikes in Boquete that I mention below — both of which are very well marked — would be fine to do on your own without a guide.

Just make sure you have the Vigilant Alarm I mention above on you for added protection, especially from wildlife.

Health Concerns & Zika Virus In Panama

Note that as of this writing (September 2018) there is a risk of Zika Virus in Panama. This means that if you’re pregnant you should avoid visiting Panama.

All travelers will definitely want to take precautions to limit mosquito bites, as well as bites from no-see-ums (or sand flies), which can also carry diseases.

In Bocas del Toro both of these insects were very prevalent.

Personally, I typically opt for natural insect repellent, as I feel it works better and doesn’t harm the environment.

I was able to buy an incredible insect repellent and bite soother at La Loma Jungle Lodge. It was made from coconut oil, citronella and fresh lemon.

If you’d prefer to buy your insect repellent before your Panama trip, here are a few highly-rated natural options from Amazon:

  • 2 ounce repellent (spray)
  • 2 ounce repellent (cream)
  • 4 ounce repellent
  • 8 ounce repellent

paddlebaording in panama with a dog

Another question in terms of health safety you’re probably asking yourself:

Can you drink the water in Panama?

The answer:

Yes and no.

Do realize in certain Panama regions and cities you can’t drink the tap water, like Bocas del Toro.

On the other hand, drinking the tap water in places like Boquete, El Valle de Anton and Panama City is absolutely fine.

Honestly, I thought the tap water in Panama — especially in mountainous places like Boquete — was some of the best I’ve ever tasted!

And while we’re on the topic of drinking, do remember to ask for your beverages without a straw when ordering at restaurants.

Many restaurants and bars will typically provide straws automatically, which can then get eaten by wildlife and harm or kill them.

ultimate travel planning kit

My Panama Itinerary In-Depth

Now that we’ve covered some important Panama travel tips, it’s time to dive deeper into where to go in Panama, and what to do once you’re there.

Visiting Bocas Del Toro 

Christopher Columbus actually visited this beautiful archipelago in 1502, when he was searching for Asia. That’s why you’ll find a number of Bocas del Toro islands that give nods to the Spanish explorer — like Isla Colon, Isla Cristóbal and Bahía de Almirante — because he named them after himself.

According to Rough Guides , it wasn’t until 1826 that the town of Bocas del Toro — today called Bocas Town — was founded by West Indian immigrants.

Later on in the 19th century, it was the United Fruit company that built up Bocas del Toro’s wealth by planting banana plantations.

This strategic move led to over 50% of Panama’s export income coming from Bocas bananas.

While disease eventually hurt the banana industry in Bocas del Toro, a growing tourism industry is taking its place as a key money maker.

How To Get To Bocas Del Toro From Panama City

Arriving into Bocas del Toro via Air Panama flight was one of the most beautiful experiences I’ve ever had on a plane.

With the soft hum of the aircraft as my soundtrack, I gazed down over hundreds of lush islands — some large enough to have homes, some so small they appeared like rocks from above.

As the plane descended, I noticed the water hitting the shoreline of the vibrant emerald green islands, sprouting dense forest that appeared like billions of broccoli stalks, the trees so close together.

Suddenly, the plane made a loud whizzing noise, and a burst of colorful buildings broke up the repeating green hues.

We were in Bocas Town.

bocas town panama

Now, flights to Bocas del Toro from Panama City are relatively inexpensive on Air Panama. Andy and I paid $112 each for our one-way flight — including taxes and fees — booked for the end of August.

If you’re wondering how to get to Bocas del Toro, the above-mentioned flight to Bocas del Toro airport will be the easiest, quickest way at less than one-hour of travel time.

Another option is taking a bus from Panama City to Almirante, and then a boat to Bocas Town (or another Bocas del Toro island), though note this takes 10.5-11.5 hours total. Considering the flight is about 50 minutes, I personally think it’s the smarter option unless you’re on a really, really tight budget.

Driving is another option, and we met loads of travelers road tripping around Panama.

The thing with this is that once you’re in Bocas del Toro you’ll be getting around by taking tiny skiff boats. These don’t fit cars, so you’ll need to leave yours in Almirante. Driving from Panama City to Bocas del Toro takes about eight to nine hours.

Now Bocas del Toro is interesting in that it sits on Panama’s Caribbean coast and features some truly unspoiled beaches.

Moreover, you can swim in crystal waters, snorkeling lagoons and watching dolphins in the wild. You can float in a bioluminescent bay. You can hike through the jungle spying birdlife, monkeys and sloths, or head into a bat cave and go cliff jumping inside.

These are just a few of the many Bocas del Toro attractions and experiences to be had.

Bocas del Toro islands are plentiful. In fact, aside for the mainland there are nine main Caribbean islands to choose from when planning your trip.

That being said, you’ll notice as your flying over this Panama province that there are actually myriad small islands, calm waters sprinkled with lush emerald tufts of land. While you won’t find Bocas del Toro hotels on these smaller islands, many make for fun kayaking and paddle boarding destinations.

Visiting Bocas Town On Isla Colon [Bocas Del Toro, Panama]

Bocas Town — situated at the southern end of Isla Colon — is the capital and main hub of the Bocas del Toro archipelago, so this is where you’ll likely begin your journey, even if just to connect elsewhere.

That being said, no  Bocas del Toro vacation would be complete without spending a night or two in Bocas Town.  It’s extremely lively, with loads of restaurants, bars, shops, a main square and a walkable layout.

Bocas Town Hotel Recommendation: Stay Bocas

When researching where to stay in Bocas del Toro, specifically in Bocas Town, we chose Stay Bocas due to its positive reviews.

Plus, it’s literally a three-minute walk from the Bocas del Toro “Isla Colón” International Airport. This is where you’ll arrive into when flying into Bocas del Toro from Panama City.

As soon as we walked through the garden patio up to the check-in desk, a smiling man greeted us and offered us local Balboa beers.

stay bocas panama

The room was clean with air conditioning, and the location was walkable to all of the noteworthy things to do in Bocas Town.

It’s also budget-friendly at less than $50 per night, including breakfast, wifi and bike rentals.

We booked this Bocas Town accommodation on Airbnb. If you’ve never used Airbnb before, I recommending clicking here to set up your account so you get $40 off your first booking .

Once you’ve created your account, you can click here to book Stay Bocas.

Bocas Del Toro Restaurants: Bibi’s On The Beach

Bocas Town is the epitome of a chill beach town. Even as we walked around on a Monday night, small wooden bars and restaurants painted in bright tropical colors blasted calypso and reggae.

Near to a small brewery strung with fairy lights was a dock where locals eagerly wait to take people by taxi boat to other islands and destinations nearby.

Our destination for the night:

Bibi’s on the Beach , a restaurant recommendation from Stay Bocas.

bibi's on the beach bocas del toro panama

Located on nearby Carenero Island, Andy and I were dropped off on the dock — after paying the $2/person fare — and took a short walk along the palm shaded, sandy shore to the open-air eatery.

Fresh seafood paired with fruity cocktails made fresh in a blender is the name of the game here.

On the water, we sipped Pina Coladas and Bahama Mamas while enjoying grilled tuna, mussels, shrimp and Bibi’s famous tender octopus.

The scene is uber romantic, with bare bulbed lights strung up over picnic tables and lounge chairs right on the water.

I highly recommend going before sunset so you can watch the sky light up and cast warm hues over the islands.

Bocas Del Toro Beaches: Starfish Beach

Possibly my favorite Bocas del Toro beach from the whole trip was Starfish Beach near Bocas Town.

On the main road in Bocas Town — the widest road, two blocks from Stay Bocas — is a park square.

Here, you’ll catch the bus to Bocas del Drago ($2.50 each way, payable on the bus in cash), the last stop on the bus.

The ride takes about 30 minutes, and you’ll drive through lush jungle and even some cow-laden countryside.

When you arrive at Bocas del Drago, you’ll be greeted by soft sand coastline shaded by palms, azure warm waters and chill beach bars selling rum drinks and lobster.

bocas del drago on my panama itinerary

The real treat though:

Hiking 25 minutes along the coastline —walking barefoot through the warm water — to the gorgeous Starfish Beach.

Not only is the beach stunning, with hawks gliding overhead, but the clear water is filled with giant colorful starfish!

visiting Starfish Beach in Panama

A note on responsible tourism at beaches:

Don’t touch the starfish!

There are signs everywhere warning visitors not to touch them, and that if you do they might die; but yet, we saw tourists not only touching them but moving them to take a “great” Instagram photo.

A photo is never worth hurting a living creature over, so just admire them with your eyes!

A warning on the buses:

They apparently come earlier than they tell you when you get off. The 2pm bus back to Bocas left at 1:55pm! Luckily we got back early.

Back in Bocas Town, we took a stroll through the lively, colorful streets, spending most of our time shopping at the artsy  Black Cat boutique.

Afterward, we headed to a really cool bar and restaurant —  Bocas Blended , aka the Batido Bus — to eat lunch.

bocas blended isla colon

This hippie bus serves smoothies, healthy wraps, salads and refreshing mojito lemonades.

It was the perfect place to relax while we waited to meet our captain — Mr. Kelly — who’d be whisking us away to our next Bocas del Toro island destination.

Visiting La Loma Jungle Lodge On Isla Bastimentos [Bocas Del Toro, Panama]

When Mr. Kelly arrived, we boarded a small skiff boat to visit La Loma Jungle Lodge & Chocolate Farm on Bastimentos Island.

The scenic ride took about 20 minutes — taking us past inlet eateries, small islands and mangroves — until we pulled up to dock dense with forest; a small dog, who we came to know as Zorro, greeting us.

la loma jungle lodge dog

Resting on 57 acres of tropical forest and fruit groves, La Loma Jungle Lodge is unlike any of the other Bocas del Toro hotels you’ll come across on your search.

First of all, the property is a self-sustaining experiential accommodation only accessible by boat, meaning you don’t need to worry about having a negative impact on the environment or about encountering too many tourists.

As a guest of the hotel — which is also a working farm — your stay includes three deliciously prepared meals.

About 60% of the ingredients in the food are grown right on their property. During my stay, I savored dishes like pumpkin soup with fried yuca, grilled blackjack fish over coconut rice, and roasted red pepper-laced lentils served alongside fresh salad from the garden and locally-sourced cheese.

lunch at la loma jungle lodge panama

For dessert, sometimes we savored homemade guava cookies showcasing onsite grown fruit, or decadent chocolate cake gowned in dulce de leche, made with La Loma’s renowned cacao.

Hey, Panama chocolate is some of the best in the world. And if you want to have the best of the best, it’s smart to get it right from the source.

You can work off the food through onsite hiking trails, night walks to spot caimans and jungle insects, trips to trek across Red Frog Beach and kayaking to the nearby bat cave or Sloth Island (which is home to — you guessed it — hundreds of sloths!).

While mornings were filled with watching wildlife — mainly birds and sometimes sloths and monkeys — through our open air treehouse, evenings were spent playing cards under the stars while enjoying a bottle of wine and listening to tree frogs.

la loma jungle lodge cabin

Moreover, staff were happy to set up their kayaks for sunrise paddling with views looking out toward the active Volcán Barú — Panama’s tallest mountain at 11,400 feet — and the rest of the Cordillera de Talamanca range.

Adventures On Isla Bastimentos: Beach Hiking

No trip to Panama would be complete without visiting the beautiful beaches.

And one of my favorite experiences during my La Loma stay was to Red Frog Beach , specifically to do the 45-minute hike from that beach to the more secluded Polo Beach .

polo beach in panama

Admittedly, Polo Beach is a proper hike to get to.

While your feet will be slapping over the warm Caribbean Sea most of the time, you’ll also need to navigate jagged tufts of coral and humongous fall trees blocking the path.

Once you arrive, though, you’ll realize the effort was worth it as you have the crystal waters and outer island views all to yourself.

There aren’t beach bars at Polo Beach, so pack lots of water and lunch!

Adventures On Isla Bastimentos: Panama Bat Cave Exploration

Another one of the unforgettable things to do in Panama while staying at La Loma:

Hiking through the  Isla Bastimentos National Marine Park to the  Nivida Bat Cave with a local named Roger, whose father actually discovered the cave.

bocas del toro hiking

I always joke that when I’m working hard I’m in my bat cave; but the truth is I’ve never been in a bat cave like this.

Hundreds — possibly thousands — of bats hung upside down, grinning devilishly through the glow of our headlamps in the darkest corners of the cave.

Every few seconds, one would whizz past our ears so quickly they looked like a burst of black light; so close you could almost feel it’s little hairs on your skin!

bat cave bocas del toro

I was glad I wore a bathing suit, as the further we hiked into the cave, the deeper the water inside became.

Actually, what started out as a stream quickly came to above our waists!

When we got to a large dry rock shelf the water didn’t reach, Roger instructed us to leave everything behind aside for our helmets and headlamps.

“The water gets very deep. You’ll need to swim at parts.”

Peering at a giant tarantula-like spider on the wall, I hoped the creepy crawlers of the cave wouldn’t also be making the journey.

After about 15 minutes, we came to a giant cave pool sitting below loads of stalagmites — where you could also cliff jump.

Andy jumped three times, and each time I held my breath hoping I wouldn’t need to tell his parents I’d lost their son in a Panamanian bat cave.

Luckily, he came up laughing each time.

panama itinerary mangroves boat ride

The bat cave excursion also included a scenic boat ride through the mangroves. Roger not only gave us a comprehensive overview of the three types of mangroves on Bastimentos Island — red, brown and yellow — but also helped us spot an array of wildlife.

Crabs, capuchin monkeys, caimans and giant clawed pistol shrimp all made their way onto my camera roll, though the highlight was a sloth so close we could make out her facial features.

I learned sloths go to the bathroom once per week in the water, where the caimans sit hungrily waiting.

As this sloth moved about the tree, I hoped she realized what waited below her.

sloth in panama

Luckily, what waited for Andy and I was much less scary:

A delicious multi-course lunch at La Loma, complete with plates of guanabana fruit and chocolate truffles for dessert.

Visiting CocoVivo On Isla San Cristobal [Bocas del Toro, Panama]

After washing down our meal with homemade passionfruit juice, Andy and I said our farewells, faithful Zorro giving us his final doggy kisses on the dock, before we headed back to Bocas Town to catch a taxi boat to CocoVivo Panama , a sustainable eco-retreat on Isla San Cristobal.

A friendly Bocas local named Choy was our captain, recommended to us by CocoVivo.

The scenic 20-minute ride cost $45 total for both Andy and I, and as our boat pulled up to the CocoVivo dock, surrounded by lush jungle, we knew we were in for a relaxing treat.

yoga at cocovivo panama

This portion of our trip was about simply enjoying the beauty and chilled out vibe of the property.

Actually, my laptop had sadly fallen prey to humidity on Isla Bastimentos. While I was more than a little sad about the screen of my $1500 laptop being destroyed, I decided to look at it as a blessing:

No laptop meant I had no choice but to take a deep breath and relax.

And CocoVivo certainly was the place to it.

pets at cocovivo panama

Owned by expat couple Carmen and Lazare — who met while living in Bocas Town — the property is rustic and environmentally conscious using solar panels, a rain catchment system and composting.

You’ll need to be mindful of water usage, electricity usage and waste.

Moreover, our in-room toilet — for #1 only — was a hole right over the mangroves, and short cool showers handled only bio-digradeable products like this shampoo (though they provide soap, and have a beautiful Hill House with western facilities, too).

If you’re okay with that, then you’ll be rewarded with simple clean rooms built right into the island’s landscape.

Things To Do On Isla San Cristobal: Aquatic Bocas Del Toro Adventures

Actually, swimming in their bioluminescent Tierra Oscura Lagoon when the sky is completely dark is a magical experience; each slap of your hand on the water making bright sparkles shoot out from your fingertips.

Swimming during the day is also a must, as the property is surrounded by healthy reefs full of tropical fish and colorful corals.

A must-have CocoVivo experience:

Jumping off the second-storey diving board that’s on their main deck lounge, where fresh communal meals are served and the bar sits.

Here, you’ll find hammocks and wooden swings hanging right over the water, with a second-storey diving platform.

snorkeling was part of the panama itinerary

It’s scary the first time you jump, though after you come up for air giggling, you’ll want to do it again and again.

Things To Do On Isla San Cristobal: Bocas Del Toro Restaurants

Additionally, we loved grabbing the free-to-use kayaks and paddle boards and paddling across the lagoon to Los Amigos Restaurante & Bar .

Here, in this eatery on the water that genuinely feels like someone’s home, they serve one thing:

Three pieces of delicious fried chicken with fries and coleslaw.

cocovivo paddleboardin g

It’s a true Panamanian experience, from getting to practice your Spanish to chatting with the owner — Ernesto — about his time living in the states, but coming back to where he was born and opening the business.

Behind the counter sits a shelf with a few bottles of liquor and a handful of mixers, which we turned into ginger ales spiked with local rum.

Around the open air restaurant, locals play music and sit on their porches, offering a glimpse into daily life in Panama.

Things To Do On Isla San Cristobal: Hiking On Isla San Cristobal

Additionally, the onsite hiking trails at CocoVivo allow you to see birds, wildlife (read: sloths!), waterfalls and crazy insects.

hiking in bocas del toro

Led by CocoVivo’s three pups — Captain, Osa and Nanoosh — we ended up at a lovely waterfall.

This was a refreshing stop to cool off as Bocas del Toro weather can be very hot and humid.

After my laid back stay, I truly felt like I was leaving home, especially when Carmen, Lazare and the dogs stood at the dock waving (and barking!) goodbye.

Click here for a great list of unforgettable Bocas del Toro tours!

Visiting Boquete In Panama

So, where were we leaving Bocas del Toro for?

Boquete, a small mountain town located in the highlands of the bountiful Chiriquí province of Panama, renowned for its hiking trails and proximity to Volcán Barú , Panama’s highest point.

This is one of the best Panama vacation spots for those wanting to experience the country’s gorgeous cloud forest.

According to  Hotel Panamonte , Boquete was founded on April 11, 1911, when it became a shortcut to California for those looking to profit from the California Gold Rush.

Many locals and immigrants settled here, also drawn by the Panama destination’s abundance and natural beauty.

Today, the town is known for a few things:

  • Boquete coffee production. The coffee in Boquete is said to be some of the world’s best!
  • It’s retirement community. Many senior locals and expats settle in Boquete to take advantage of the mild weather, low costs, modern amenities and slower pace of life.
  • Boquete tourism. If you’re looking for outdoor adventures, Boquete should be on your Panama itinerary!

boquete cloud forest cabin

Hotels In Boquete, Panama: The Lost Waterfalls Cabin

Andy and I booked the Lost Waterfalls Cabin on Airbnb, so if you’ve never used Airbnb before make sure to use this link to signup and get $40 off your first stay !

If you’re interested in hiking in Panama, the cabin is situated at the beginning of the renowned Lost Waterfalls Trail, high up in the cloud forest.

So high in fact that you’ll need to hike 20 minutes up a steep trail to reach the dwelling — meaning you’ll definitely need to be physically fit, and be okay with walking across shaking suspension bridges — to stay here.

Once you reach your cozy wooden cabin, you’re surrounded by hummingbirds, blue vervain, red spiky heliconias, tall moss-covered oaks and other high elevation flora.

Or, as I like to call them, Dr. Seuss-looking plants.

hummingsbirds in boquete, panama

Plus, you won’t need to look up to see clouds; they’ll roll right past you like puffy tumbleweeds as you sit on the large porch — complete with rocking chairs and resident pup named Rocky Balboa.

Even the outdoor toilet and shower — both very clean — have views of the valley.

We loved our stay at this Boquete accommodation, especially because we spent almost our entire time hiking.

boquete panama plants

If you want to explore the actual main town in Boquete — with its many restaurants, bars and shops — you should stay at a hostel or hotel down there. For example:

  • A popular choice is Hostel Mamallena , which has budget-friendly dorms and private rooms.
  • Another great option if you’re not a hostel person is Agaseke Lodge Boquete , a simple and inexpensive Panama hotel right in Boquete Town that includes breakfast, Wi-Fi, and a clean room.

Another idea:

Do a few days in Boquete Town and a few days in the Panamanian cloud forest at the Lost Waterfalls Cabin.

You can always get to town via 15-minute hike down to the trailhead and then get a $10 cab, which the Airbnb host can call for you since you won’t have cell service.

slackline in boquete panama

If it’s the evening, make sure to bring a flashlight to see and your Vigilant Personal Alarm for safety, as it gets dark.

Most likely, you’ll eat most meals at the cabin, where you have a cooler (no fridge), outdoor grill, stove (no oven), sink and dishes / glassware.

Things To Do In Boquete, Chiriquí: Boquete Restaurants

One meal I do highly recommend you have in town:

A globally inspired farm-to-fork experience at Colibri Restaurante .

“Colibri” means “hummingbird” in Spanish, which is a great name for this restaurant focused on creative Mediterranean meals infused with mainly local ingredients.

colibri restaurant boquete

They have outdoor seating, as well as indoor tables surrounded by walls covered in local artwork.

The menu is extensive with lots of noteworthy tastes, from the locally-made passionfruit limoncello to the home-brewed beer to the creative ice cream flavors.

Personally, I loved the tree tomato option, as well as the goat cheese made with a variety they find at a local farmer’s market.

Instead of bread, we were given a bowl of fried pasta with a pesto dipping sauce.

As a starter, the beef tenderloin salad was almost too pretty to eat, laced with carrot spirals, faddish slices and tender seasoned beef; all dressed in a passionfruit dressing.

The meal offered a delicious introduction to discovering the terroir of Boquete and the Chiriqui Province, as the reason many travelers visit is access to unique outdoor adventure opportunities.

Things To Do In Boquete, Chiriquí: Boquete Hiking Trails

Andy and I decided to continue exploring the landscape through two esteemed hiking trails:

The Pipeline Trail ($3 entrance fee) and the Lost Waterfalls Trails ($7 entrance fee), the latter of which our cabin sits at the trailhead of.

Both are moderately difficult, unbelievably scenic hikes that introduce you to lush jungle and renowned bird life. Moreover, they’re a short taxi or collectivo (shared taxi) ride from Boquete Town.

panama itinerary boquete hiking

Additionally, both are well-traversed enough that I’d highly recommend them for solo female travelers — though do pack your personal alarm just in case. We didn’t see any, but there are jaguars here, and a sound grenade can help scare off wild animals.

The Pipeline Trail is 2.8-miles long, gradually bringing you to 1,578 meters above sea level. Despite the elevation gain, this is the easier of the two Boquete hikes. This is because the Lost Waterfalls Trail is very, very steep in sections.

During the hike, you’ll pass through two micro-climates of the cloud forest, seeing a wide variety of flora — and fauna, mainly birds.

Actually, along this trail sits a designated Quetzal habitat.

If you’re wondering where to see the sought-after Resplendent quetzal in Panama, this is where you need to go — though note having a local Boquete guide like this one will dramatically increase your chances of spotting one. These beautiful birds, despite their bright colors and dramatic feathering, are tough to spot on your own.

pipeline trail boquete panama

Another Pipeline Trail highlight:

A 1,000+ year-old Mexican elm tree, with enormous roots twisting out of the ground.

This is a fun photo spot for sure!

old mexican elm in boquete

Along the way, you’ll cross lovely bridges — many crafted from parts of the pipeline the trek is named for — and will likely see lizards, butterflies and possibly even snakes, sloths and howler monkeys. We didn’t see the latter, but we definitely heard them!

At the end of the hike, you’re rewarded with a front row view of a waterfall perfect for swimming.

pipeline trail waterfall

As Andy and I visited in the late August rainy season — Panama’s off season — we had the place all to ourselves.

The Lost Waterfalls Trail in Boquete was, in my opinion, even more beautiful, albeit more challenging with hugely spaced staircases and steep climbs — sometimes so sharp you’ll need a rope to assist you.

That being said, you’re introduced to three wildly gorgeous waterfalls, each quite different from the other.

Here is Lost Waterfall #1, the tamest of them all, with a viewing platform to see the falls:

lost waterfalls hike boquete panama

Here is Lost Waterfall #2, my favorite of the three due to the multiple tiers and the cave behind it:

lost waterfalls hike

And here is Lost Waterfall #3, which you can also climb up and walk behind:

lost waterfalls hike in boquete, panama

As a photographer on this Panama hike, I couldn’t help but notice the many opportunities for gorgeous natural framing.

lost waterfalls hike in boquete, panama

Bring a raincoat! That rain can come out of nowhere. I’m a fan of the compact LINENLUX Rain Poncho .

Boquete gets much cooler than Panama City and Bocas del Toro, so bring some warm clothing. My travel-friendly scarf shawl  — which also makes for an excellent airplane blanket — came in handy for keeping me warm when hanging out on the porch.

Click here for a great list of unforgettable Boquete tours !

Visiting El Valle De Anton In Panama (aka El Valle)

After our cloud forest adventure in Boquete, we bid farewell to our Airbnb host, Elias, and the adorable Rocky Balboa.

While there is an inexpensive bus from Boquete to David — where you can board another inexpensive bus from David to Panama City — we decided to save time and hassle and instead grabbed a taxi to David’s international airport (1 hour, $50).

Then we took a flight from David to Panama City, where we grabbed a 2.5-hour bus to El Valle de Anton. Or, as it’s more commonly called, El Valle.

The town of El Valle — which I was told sits inside the largest inhabited volcano crater in the world — is known for its hiking trails, natural beauty and unique geography. Here, you’ll enjoy mountain treks, waterfalls, butterfly and orchid gardens, and hot springs.

Taking The Bus To El Valle From Panama City

So from Albrook Bus Station in Panama City there are ticket sellers coming up to you and anxiously asking you where you’re going.

“El Valle de Anton,” I said.

“Come!” A man said, beckoning me to follow.

He hurriedly brought me to a ticket selling table, and I again said “El Valle de Anton.”

A bunch of men were shouting around me, it was hectic and rushed, so when the guy repeated back “Anton?” I didn’t think that that might be a different place.

But alas, it was.

And our 2.5-hour bus ride took almost six hours as we arrived in Anton — different from El Valle de Anton — and had to backtrack to then take two different buses.

But hey, it was an experience.

Picture a small bus where people get on and off before the vehicle even really comes to a complete stop. Latin club beats blast, and on some buses there are even R-rated music videos to go along with them!

El Valle Panama Hotels: Casa del Alma (aka House of Soul)

We booked the funky, zen Casa del Alma space on Airbnb — so if you’ve never used Airbnb before, click here to create your account and receive $40 off your first stay!

This large house with four thoughtfully-decorated guest rooms, each with a private bathroom, is chock full of inspiring nooks, female-centric artwork and playful touches.

Casa del Alma

Moreover, the outdoor garden features a pool, fireplace (upcharge for setup) and tropical flora attracting birds — including hummingbirds!

In the morning, a big kitchen stocked with coffee, eggs, cereal and bananas is included in your stay.

Casa del Alma

Hiking In El Valle: La India Dormida Trail

While we had a nice seafood meal at Restaurante Bruschetta and tasty fried chicken from a place off the main drag that read “Bar Restaurante,” the reason to visit El Valle isn’t the food.

It’s the nature.

el valle de anton panama itinerary

Specifically, it’s to hike La India Dormida , or “The Sleeping Indian.”

From afar, this mountain range looks like a sleeping indigenous woman, quite a sight to see from afar.

And from the top, the views are even more spectacular.

According to Journey Era , there is a legend surrounding the mountain.

Apparently, an indigenous woman named Luba — a local chief’s daughter — fell in love with a Spaniard, despite incessant fighting between them and her tribe.

There was an indigenous man in her tribe who did love her, but she didn’t feel the same. Deeply hurt, he threw himself off a mountain in front of Luba.

Luba then became hysterical and got lost in the bushes, perishing.

Back to the La India Dormida hike itself, Andy and I were told there are four routes by which you can get to the top. Three are free and one is paid.

We weren’t sure where the free ones were, so we went in the paid entrance near the Piedra Pintada. You’ll see tons of signs in El Valle Town pointing you to La India Dormida as well as to the Piedra Pintada trailhead.

Honestly, I was happy to pay $3 for such a beautiful, well-maintained trail.

hiking la india dormida el valle panama

After paying, you’re shown a 3D diagram of the natural Panama attractions that await; neat, but nothing compared to seeing them up close.

At  times the 45-minute uphill hike is pretty steep, and you’ll need to traverse uneven rock steps and roots.

That being said, you’ll be distracted from any fatigue thanks to the fact that there’s barely any lag time between sites.

Almost immediately, you see the famed Piedra Pintada , an enormous rock covered in petroglyphs said to date back to Pre-Columbian times; as in, before 1492 when Christopher Columbus “discovered” the Americas.

La Piedra Pintada el valle panama

After that, you’ll cross wooden bridges and veer off the path out onto small outcroppings to view three different waterfalls, each cascade offering something different.

Here is a look at my favorite waterfall from the La India Dormida hike, with beautiful views out toward the Pacific Ocean.

hiking la india dormida waterfalls

Along the path we saw so many giant Blue Morpho Butterflies, along with yellow-bellied flycatcher birds.

Toward the top, we saw one more petroglyph rock before shortly arriving at a crossroads.

We almost missed it, but in very faint white there is an arrow directing you toward the left.

This takes you higher up the mountain, until you come to a tent with decent views over the valley.

As usual, I thought this was the end before it really was. Like in Boquete, Andy volunteered to run ahead and scope things out.

We were lucky he did, as despite having to climb up a very steep and uneven rock face, we were ecstatic to come up onto the edge of the volcano crater.

la india dormida hike

The views here are completely open, with rolling hills on one side and the valley drop on the other as you walk along the crater rim.

There are a lot of great photo opportunities here; though do be smart, as the drop down is really long.

Visiting Panama City

After 10 days of Panama beach and jungle exploration, we ended our trip with three nights in Panama City.

Panama City is definitely the wealthiest and most cosmopolitan city I’ve ever been when traveling Central America , with a lot of money coming in thanks to the Panama Canal.

Along with exploring innovative infrastructure, cosmopolitan architecture and cultural institutions like the Museo de Arte Contemporáneo and the Martin Theatre, you can also enjoy Panama beaches, hiking and wildlife in and around the city.

Getting Into Panama City From Tocumen International Airport

When you arrive into Tocumen International Airport, you’ve got a few options for transportation into the city — or to the nearby Albrook “Marcos A. Gelabert” International Airport for domestic flights.

  • The bus. The cheapest option at less than $2, though note you can’t bring suitcases.
  • Taxis. These you can grab right in the Arrivals Hall. The tourism information booth advised us it would be $35 from Tocumen International Airport to Albrook “Marcos A. Gelabert” International Airport.
  • Uber. The best option if you’ve got luggage. We paid about $17 for the 14-mile ride to Albrook “Marcos A. Gelabert” International Airport.  If you’ve never used Uber, you can use code jessief7 to get your first ride free!

bahia grand panama city infinity pol

Where To Stay In Panama City: Bahia Grand Panama City

While trekking up hills to reach gorgeous jungle view rooms and hiking up steep stone paths for a secluded cloud forest retreat was so worth it, we decided to end with some luxury — and an elevator — by staying at the Bahia Grand Panama City   (formerly the Trump International Hotel & Tower Panama, though it’s now been taken over by JW Marriott).

This Panama City hotel is located in the opulent Punta Pacifica neighborhood, where you’ll see a number of luxury high rise hotels and condominium buildings.

bahia grand panama city views

Essentially, the Bahia Grand is a city within a city, with a shopping corridor, four restaurants, five oceanfront pools, a business center and a wellness center.

While mornings were spent enjoying fresh fruit and eggs at the BARcelona buffet breakfast and taking a dip (with a view!) in the 13th floor infinity pool, evenings were enjoyed taking baths in the standalone tub, drinking wine on our 31st-floor balcony and savoring the chefs menu at Tejas .

bahia grand panama city

Their seafood — specifically their ceviche — is incredible!

Attached to the hotel is also the Ocean Sun Casino , from which you can take the elevator up to the 66th floor rooftop bar called Panaviera   Pool Bar .

I don’t think I’ve even been to a bar that high back home in NYC!

panama city cityscape at night

Now I have to be honest:

I was much less active in Panama City than I usually am while traveling.

Andy and I packed so much into our Panama itinerary that by the time we reached Panama City we really wanted to chill out.

sipping pina coladas by the bahia grand pool

So, a nice chunk of our time was spent sipping pina coladas out of pineapples by the pool.


But, that’s not all we did…

Things To Do In Panama City

As stated above, if I could have changed one thing about our Panama itinerary, it would have been staying a few extra days to really get to know Panama City.

A few things we’ve added to our bucket list for the future since we didn’t have time on this Panama trip:

  • Visiting Monkey Island where there are a lot of — you guessed it — monkeys.
  • Whitewater rafting on the Mamoni River , which offers Class III-IV rapids.
  • Taking a food tour of Casco Viejo , Panama City’s UNESCO World Heritage-listed quarter dating back to the 1670s. We certainly explored it, but it would have been a lot of fun to do an actual food tour with a local guide.
  • Trekking to the top of Ancon Hill , which is about 1.2 miles each way and offers gorgeous views from the top.
  • Spending a few nights in the San Blas Islands , an autonomous territory in Panama touted as possibly the country’s most pristine archipelago. There are over 365 islands, with the native Kuna people inhabiting a few of the larger ones where tourists also visit.
  • Hiking the Pipeline Road from Panama City , which introduces you to Panama wildlife like numerous bird species and monkeys.
  • Doing an all-inclusive catamaran booze cruise to the renowned Pearl Islands . Out of all the Panama City excursions we saw, this is the one we were most bummed to miss out on. Unfortunately, the catamaran goes out on very specific days which didn’t align with our Panama vacation plans.

Okay, enough about what we didn’t do in Panama City. Let’s talk about what we did do.

wandering Casco Viejo panama city

One must-have experience is wandering Casco Viejo .

As mentioned above, this Panama City neighborhood dates back to the late 17th century, and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

You really don’t need a plan here. You can simply walk and admire the historic Spanish colonial facades, which are protected.

In fact, many modern restaurants and bars gut the insides, but are not allowed to change the outsides. This gives Casco Viejo an enchanting old world feel.

Some of our favorite stops within Casco Viejo:

  • Café Unido . Attention Instagrammers: This Panama City cafe was made for you. Along with being lovely looking, this is also one of the few places you can try the soft, tea-like Geisha Coffee. It costs a steep $9 per cup, but offered a gentle pick me up!

Geisha Coffee at Cafe Unido panama itinary

  • CasaCasco . In this multi-level Panama City restaurant you’ve got three eateries to choose from, not to mention a rooftop bar serving tapas and a dance club. We opted for the Asian-focused NacionSushi. Warning: Their rolls are much, much, much bigger than you’re likely used to!

casacasco sushi panama city

  • The Strangers Club . This American-style craft cocktail bar was started by the team behind NYC’s famed Employees Only, along with two Panamanian partners. As many of you know, I lead a cocktail tour in Manhattan, so of course I had to try it. The ambiance is relaxed, with the menu showcasing Panama’s best ingredients. Pro tip: Order the “Angie,” featuring gin shaken with fresh passionfruit, house-made lemongrass syrup and frothy egg white. Yum!

the strangers club panama city

Of course, you’ll also want to admire the views of the Panama City skyline and Panama Bay, as the neighborhood juts into the water.

Additionally, Casco Viejo is full of historic and cultural attractions, like  Palacio de las Garzas (where Panama’s president lives), the 18th century  Catedral de Panamá and the 17th century  La Iglesia San Felipe Neri .

Another experience you can’t miss when you visit Panama City:

Spending time at the Panama Canal !

panama canal

While I appreciate engineering, I’ll be honest that this isn’t usually how I’d want to spend my time; however, Andy and I agreed that it would be wrong to miss it.

I’m glad we went, as we were able to get up close to the action.

Even if the idea of learning about boats and canals bores you, just seeing how the system works is interesting.

Something else fascinating:

The idea for the canal actually came from France; however, they eventually pulled out, which is when the project became a joint venture between the USA and Panama.

This short two-minute video by The BBC does a great job of explaining this further.

So, how long is the Panama Canal?

A whopping 48 miles, with ships generally taking eight to 10 hours to pass through. Astounding!

After visiting the Panama Canal, Andy and I spent some time roaming Panama City’s lesser-explored areas.

We really enjoyed the walkable  El Cangrejo, Obarrio and Marbella neighborhoods. 

Once we’d sufficiently worked up an appetite, we stopped at one of the most unique Panama City restaurants we’d seen yet:

Wall Street Bar & Lounge in Marbella.

wall street lounge in panama city

Their concept is innovative in that the menu prices change based on what’s in stock.

The idea is that diners might be tempted to try something they normally wouldn’t order based on a great price.

Plus, the food and cocktails are just really good. Our drinks were works of art, adorned with flowers and burnt fruit slices.

In terms of dining it’s mainly hearty comfort food. We especially loved the burger topped with a creamy house sauce and served with spiced fries.

Definitely don’t come here on a diet!

To end the night — and the trip — Andy and I took an evening stroll along Panama City’s  Cinta Costera .

Cinta Costera views

The coastal beltway begins and ends on the mainland, though a large portion of it weaves away from the city into the water, like one of Saturn’s rings.

Despite it being after 8pm, many locals were out running, skating and riding their bikes.

As we walked, Andy and I were able to take in an impressive view of Panama City, really grasping how humongous the cosmopolitan city really is.

Click here for a great list of unforgettable Panama City tours!

While Andy and I packed a lot into our two-week trip to Panama, we’re both looking forward to going back and exploring even more of what this beautiful country has to offer.

Because trust me, it’s a lot!

Travel Insurance

While you hope everything runs smoothly, sometimes travel just doesn’t go according to plan.

This is why I recommend always purchasing travel insurance. The scary truth is it only takes one bad accident to lose everything — or be thankful you were covered.

Personally, I use SafetyWing, as they’ve got a large network, offer both short-term and long-term coverage (including limited coverage in your home country), are budget-friendly, and offer $250,000 worth of coverage with just one low overall deductible of $250.

Click here to price out travel insurance for your trip in just a few clicks .

What would you add to this Panama itinerary? Any questions on backpacking Central America? Please share in the comments below!

Panama Itinerary Logistics: Electronics Warning: MacBook Pro problems! Make sure to keep your electronics, namely your laptops, in a sealed bag, as high humidity in places like Bocas del Toro can ruin them. Additionally, you can purchase a dry bag for when your gadgets are not in use, like this one . Panama Transfers: Hello Panama is a top-rated company in Panama who do many of the popular transfers. We used them to go from Bocas Town to Boquete for $30. Car Rentals: Discover Cars  lets you compare various rental companies and save up to 70% on your booking!  Bocas Taxi Boat Recommendation: If you need a boat ride between Bocas Town and another Bocas island, contact Choy at +507 6711 8878. Taxi Service In Boquete Recommendation: William. Very nice guy recommended to us by our Airbnb host! His cell is +507 6784 0277. Recommended Reads:  Panama Fever: The Epic Story of the Building of the Panama Canal Panama: The Essential Guide to Customs & Culture Panama Birds: A Folding Pocket Guide to Familiar Species Hands of the Rain Forest: The Emberá People of Panama Packing List:  A few must-pack items when visiting Panama include: A Vigilant personal safety alarm or safety whistle Clever Travel Companion pickpocket-proof garments Speakeasy Supply Co hidden-pocket scarves A compact raincoat A waterproof backpack All-natural insect repellent  Panama Tours: Bocas del Toro Tours Boquete Tours Panama City Tours All Panama Tours

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Looking for unfogettable things to do in Panama? In this post, I share an epic Panama itinerary that includes some of the best hiking trails in Latin America, top Bocas del Toro beaches, fun Panama City activities and more! #PanamaTravel #LatinAmerica #PanamaTrip

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About jessie festa.

Jessie Festa is an New York-based travel content creator who is passionate about empowering her audience to experience new places and live a life of adventure. She is the founder of the solo female travel blog, Jessie on a Journey, and is editor-in-chief of Epicure & Culture , an online conscious tourism magazine. Along with writing, Jessie is a professional photographer and is the owner of NYC Photo Journeys , which offers New York photo tours, photo shoots, and wedding photography. Her work has appeared in publications like USA Today, CNN, Business Insider, Thrillist, and WestJet Magazine.

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Thank you, Jessie, for sharing everything in so much details. You’ve made planning a trip to Panama very easy for me. Would love to go for hiking trails. Keep sharing your trips with us!

The natural beauty of Panama looks out of this world! And omg those little hummingbirds! So cute. Panama is officially on my list now. Thanks for such a comprehensive guide Jessie.

That’s a very informative post! You have covered so much and it seems like you had a perfect trip! Whenever I read such posts, my attention diverts to the food bit hehe (which looks amazing in your post btw) but my favourite here is the hands down, the Jungle Lodge, looks like a slice of heaven!

This is such a fantastic & comprehensive guide! It looks gorgeous! Panama is one of my husband’s top destination choices, so I’ll definitely be pinning for when we finally make it out there!

Really appreciate this wonderful post that you have provided for us. Great to share this information thanks.

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Getting Around Panama in 2024: Transportation Guide

Getting around Panama can be easy due to its well-connected and organized transit system if you have the right guide to follow. You can travel through Panama by metro, bus, taxi, plane, boat, bicycle or walking. While there are many forms of transportation throughout the country, there are only a minimal number of transit maps available. You can use this transit guide to assist you in how to get around in Panama.

map of panama

Table of Contents

Is it Easy to Get Around in Panama?

Having been to Panama twice (once in 2018 and again recently in 2022), I find it easy to moderate difficulty to get around in Panama. The first time I went, it was a bit overwhelming, so I searched for as much information during my Panama trips : from bus stations, locals, and other sources to create this transportation guide; so that you don’t have to struggle the way I first did. 

It is not that the system for transportation in Panama is too difficult to navigate; it is the lack of online information and not knowing where to find schedules to plan your travels, a contrast from countries like Canada , the USA , or Japan where you can book in advance and there is tons of information available. I have gathered info from destinations within the country I have visited to make your travel planning easier. Getting around in Panama, I experienced multiple modes of transportation. I rode buses, taxis, water taxis, and private shuttles, and took a flight to travel around the various regions of Panama.

With this resource, translator/Spanish skills, a map, and patience, you can learn to travel around Panama with ease. 

Money Tip: The currency of Panama is the Panamanian Balboa, however, they also use USD as their second currency. All prices in this Panama transportation guide are in USD.

getting around panama

Is Public Transportation Good in Panama?

Panama has a good public transportation system and is reliable overall. The bus system is well-connected and will take you to most places within the country’s mainland, and you can get to the neighbouring country of Costa Rica . Flights are available from Panama’s local airports to fly you domestically or to nearby countries in Central and South America.

Do You Need a Car in Panama?

You do not need a car to get around Panama, however, if you want the freedom to travel outside of public transportation routes and schedules, it would be beneficial. Highways in Panama are well-paved, making for good driving. Car rentals are available at airports in Panama City and David and at car rental locations in larger cities. Get a car rental before going to a remote destination without public transportation, as rentals aren’t available in smaller towns. 

When would you not want a car rental? If you are planning to travel onwards to Columbia, no roads go through the jungle connecting Panama and Columbia, so a car rental will not work for that purpose. Also, for the islands in Bocas del Toro, bringing a car rental is expensive and not recommended; get around the islands by foot, taxi, or bus.

buses in panama

Buses in Panama 

Buses are the primary way to get around Panama, used by Panamanians and travellers alike. The bus system is affordable and frequent, with most routes running daily from dusk to dawn. There are a variety of types of buses available, from short buses pictured above, to school buses, or coach buses depending on the bus route and distance. For longer journeys, night buses are available, a great option to combine transit and accommodation. Most buses are not express, so they will stop along the route to pick up and drop off passengers or refuel. Try to get an express bus if your schedule works to save extra time. Panama bus tickets are available for same-day only.

panama taxi

Taxis in Panama 

The taxis in Panama are licensed; most are yellow in colour, although some are white. In cities, most taxis are cars, although you will find trucks and SUVs as well. Taxi fares are up for negotiation with the driver, so practise your negotiation skills. You can negotiate rates better for multiple passengers. Describe to them your destination, or show it on a map if you cannot describe it to negotiate your fare. During my visit, I found offline google maps helpful to show the driver where I wanted to go.

Negotiate the price before you get inside the cab, and if you are unsure how much the prices should be, it’s a good idea to inquire with local businesses about the usual fare amounts. I would ask my accommodations about taxi pricing in the area; so I knew I was getting a fair quote. 

During my trip, here are the taxi fares I found in Panama . Note: All fares mentioned included two passengers. 

Panama City: $30 from Tocumen airport to downtown Panama City, $10 from Albrook Mall to Casco Viejo, $5 from Casco Viejo to Albrook Mall, $6 from Albrook Mall to downtown Panama City, $5 from Albrook Mall to Albrook Airport, $3 from Casco Viejo to Cerro Ancon Reserve, $3 from Cerro Ancon Reserve to Albrook Mall, and $25 from downtown Panama or Casco Viejo to Tocumen airport.

Bocas del Toro: $4 from Bocas airport to the city center, $6 from Bocas town to Paunch Beach area, and $8 from Paunch Beach to Bocas town.

Boquete: $5 from Boquete town to San Ramon waterfall, $2 from Boquete Selina to El Sabroson Restaurant.

albrook airport panama

Flying in Panama

Thinking of flying within Panama? Panama has a few airports that fly domestically and across Central and South America. For domestic flights in Panama, the main airport is Albrook Gelabert International Airport, in Panama City, with flights from Air Panama to Bocas del Toro, David, Darien, Guna Yala, and Pearl Islands. The planes are small, but flights are short, only an hour or so. 

tocumen airport panama

How to Get to Downtown from Panama City Airport

When I arrive in a new country, I try to experience transportation like a local. I challenge myself to find ways to arrive at my accommodation from the airport without taking a taxi and paying extra fare because I’m a tourist. Most of the time, this includes taking public transportation such as a train or bus. To get to Albrook Terminal from Panama City Airport, take a bus and taxi, and soon you will also have the option of the metro (opening a station at the airport in late 2023). 

panama tocumen airport bus stop

A few years, Panama was challenging to leave the airport, as you couldn’t buy a transit card at the airport, but I was happy to learn more recently at Tocumen that you can buy transit cards at the airport. Once you have bought your metro card, exit the airport and walk right, following signs for the metro bus. You will spot a small cafe Nikos, and need to walk the path alongside it to exit the airport. Continue walking until you reach the roundabout. Cross over the road carefully, and wait for the bus. The bus will end up at Albrook. You can double-check with the locals about the direction of the bus as they are friendly and helpful.

buy a metro card at panama airport

Buying a Metro Card at Tocumen

To buy a metro card from the airport, when you are ready to leave, there are two Travel Data Global booths (one at P2 and one at P5). Each travel booth has a machine where you can buy a metro card for $5. You only need one Rapi-Pass card, for a group of up to six people. You can tap multiple times, paying once for each person, as you pay per trip. There is no unlimited day passes in Panama.

To get to downtown Panama City from Panama City Airport, as soon as you walk outside, there will be taxis waiting. You tell the driver where you need to go, and they will give you a price. Make sure you finalize the price before you get in the taxi; agree on the price or find another one waiting. Fares are a fixed rate from Panama Airport to downtown Panama City. To get downtown from the airport by taxi is $30 and takes 20-30 minutes. To take a taxi to the airport, it will cost about $25-40, depending on your starting destination. On both of my trips to Panama, my taxi ride to the airport cost $25.

panama city panama transportation

How to Get Around Panama City, Panama

The capital of Panama, Panama City, is a metropolis with most attractions not in walking distance from each other, except within Casco Viejo. Casco Viejo is a walkable neighbourhood, so you can walk or take a taxi. Getting around Panama City, you have a few options with the best ways to get around Panama City being by bus, metro, or taxi.

By Bus 

Buses are a cost-effective way to travel around Panama City, Panama. The bus fare costs $0.25 to reach most destinations in the city, including the famous Panama Canal. Wave a bus down to get it to stop, and look at the route number to see its destination. Almost every bus in Panama City ends up at Albrook Terminal, so if you find it easiest: taxi to Albrook and catch your bus from there. I would always double-check the destination with the driver that they were driving where I needed to go.

Here is a bus map of Panama City for your convenience. 

The metro is a rapid way to get around Panama City. Since 2014, Panama’s metro system consists of 2 lines that operate 29 stations across the city. Since my first visit, I have seen the metro system quickly develop, and there are plans to open a station at the Tocumen airport in late 2023, making it even easier to get around Panama City. Once you have a Panama metro card, you can use it at any metro station in Panama City. A single ride is $0.35.

Here is a Panama City metro map for your convenience.

By Taxi 

In Panama City, taking taxis is the easiest way to get around. They are quick, and you don’t have to worry about routes, times, or if there is a better way to get to your destination. They know the best ways to get around the busy city traffic, and you get to relax. The taxi fare typically costs $1-5 to get around Panama City, including getting to Casco Viejo from Albrook.

panama transportation bus

How to Get Around in Panama by Bus

There are so many beautiful places in Panama , so you won’t want to stay in one spot your whole trip, and will need to transport around. In Panama City, buses depart from La Gran Terminal Nacional de Transporte de Panamá at Albrook Mall from the terminal attached to the mall. Albrook Bus Terminal is the central hub for all public buses in Panama, and from here run 52 inter-provincial routes, 50 suburban routes, and two international bus lines. Other bus hubs include Santiago and David.

bus tickets for el valle can be bought at albrook mall

Every bus destination has a dedicated window to check schedules and purchase tickets. Find the dedicated window for your desired  Purchase tickets on-site day of departure for the next available bus. Arrive early to buy tickets, especially if you are aiming for a particular departure time. Although there is a schedule, the bus will often wait until they are at capacity before departing, so be flexible with arriving at your next destination.

rapi-pass machine panama

You will need a 3-in-1 Rapi-Pass to pay $0.10 to enter the bus departure area at Albrook Terminal or pay a local to swipe their tri-pass card. Rapi-Passes are available at Tocumen Airport, a metro station, or Albrook Terminal from a dedicated kiosk. Once purchased, the 3-in-1 passes are valid for metro, buses, and trains. To load a card with funds, use a kiosk machine at a metro station, bus terminal, or airport. 

travel around panama

How to Get to the Panama Canal from Panama City

From Albrook Mall, head to the area with the local buses. Walk down D platform until the very last platform. Look for a bus heading to Miraflores, the bus you need to get to the Panama Canal. The cost is $0.25 to ride the bus from Albrook to the Panama Canal. If you are unsure, you can ask one of the terminal attendants on the platform, and they will guide you. 

travel around panama

How to Get to El Valle de Anton from Panama City

You will need to head to Albrook Mall Bus Terminal to catch a bus to El Valle de Anton. The bus from Panama City to El Valle de Anton starts at 6:30 am. Bus drivers wait until all seats are full before departing. Arrive early to secure your spot and prepare to wait. The bus fare to El Valle de Anton is $4.25 per person.

Wondering why to go to El Valle? Check out the unforgettable hiking at Cerro Iguana or other hiking trails.

To return to Panama City from El Valle de Anton, there are two different bus routes available. You can take the direct bus to Panama City or ride any bus out from El Valle de Anton and transfer buses in Las Uvas to catch a bus heading into Panama City. The bus driver will let you know where your stop is. The cost is $1 to take a bus from El Valle de Anton to Las Uvas and $3 from Las Uvas into Panama City. Either of the two bus routes will end up at Albrook Mall. During my trip, I transferred buses in Las Uvas to avoid waiting for the direct bus to Panama City.  

travel around panama

How to Get to Bocas del Toro From Panama City

To get to Bocas del Toro from Panama City, the most common ways to get there include flying or taking a bus.

flying to bocas del toro

Flying is a quick and easy way to get to Bocas del Toro. Flights operate from Panama City out of the Albrook Airport, run by Air Panama . Flights start at $70 per person per direction and include only a personal item. Additional luggage costs are extra. During my second trip, I chose to fly to Bocas del Toro and take the bus back.

night bus panama city

The best bus to Bocas del Toro is the night bus, as it’s express and saves you extra time travelling. Buses depart from Panama City’s Albrook Mall in the evening for the overnight journey to Bocas del Toro, Panama. The express trip costs approximately $34.35 per person each way and includes a bus ride and a water taxi. During my first trip, I took the night bus from Panama City to Bocas del Toro and again back.

Note: There is a taxi required to transfer from the bus to the water taxi; not included with your ticket. The taxi fare in Almirante to the water taxi is $1.50 per person. 

Wondering why to go to Bocas del Toro? Explore the underwater world , visit beautiful overwater hotels , see monkeys and do a variety of on-land and water activities.

water taxi is the best way to get around bocas del toro

How to Get Around Bocas Del Toro

To get around Bocas del Toro, you can walk, bicycle, bus, taxi, or use a water taxi. You will often need to use a water taxi to reach various hotels and other attractions to get from island to island.  While on the islands, the most common ways to get around are walking and bicycling.

When you arrive in Bocas del Toro, water taxi fares depend on which islands you are going to. Carenero Island is $1 per person daytime and $2 per person at night. Bastimentos is $5. Further islands will have a higher cost.

Tip: Shop around for water taxi prices and tour prices as you may find a cheaper rate.

Looking for ideas for what to do in Bocas? Here are some fun activities in Bocas del Toro .

travel around panama

How to Get to Starfish Beach from Bocas del Toro

You can get to Playa Del Drago from Bocas town by bus, taxi, or bicycle. The most recommended way to reach Starfish Beach is via bus. 

bus to starfish beach panama

Take the bus in Bocas town for $2.50 per person, each way to Playa del Drago. The bus stop is behind Simon Bolivar Park, where you will see a mini-bus marked with writing saying Playa del Drago in the window or marked on the side. From the Playa del Drago bus stop, walk towards the water until the end, and then around the houses. Past the houses, you will see a dirt path. Walk along the path with jungle vibes for approximately 15 minutes, and you will arrive at Starfish Beach.

Tip: Go early to avoid crowds. During our visit, we got lucky and had the beach almost all to ourselves. 

bocas del toro ferry station

How to Get From Bocas del Toro to Boquete

There is no direct bus from Bocas del Toro to Boquete. The best way to reach Boquete is to ride a water taxi to Almirante and transfer to a private shuttle for the rest of the journey for $30 per person. Make arrangements in advance for a private shuttle with any hotel or tour operator. 

Alternative options are to take a ferry to Chiriqui and taxi the rest of the way or to take a water taxi to Almirante, a bus to David and take another bus to Boquete. You catch the water taxi at the water ferry station in Bocas Town, and it will take you to the Panama mainland, where you meet up with your next method of transportation. The bus takes approximately 7-9 hours, and a water taxi/shuttle takes about 4 hours. 

panama shuttle bus

During my visit, there was a strike on the mainland, so I had to take a water taxi to Chiriqui, and my private shuttle met me there to bring me to Boquete. 

Wondering why to go to Boquete? Go on a world-famous coffee tour, see the sunrise at the top of Volcan Baru , and do plenty of other nature activities.

bus boquete to david panama

How to Get From Boquete to David

To get from Boquete to David, buses are either school bus-style or coach-style, and the main bus stop is beside Parque Domingo Medica on Avenue Belisario Porras. Buses run about every 20 minutes until 6 pm. There are no night buses to David. The bus fare from Boquete to David is under $2 per person and is an hour in duration.

night bus from david to panama city

How to Get From David to Panama City

The quickest route to Panama City from David is to take the night bus. The express night bus from David to Panama City costs $18.15 and takes approximately 5.5 hours. You will end up at Albrook Terminal in Panama City.

Here are the times and prices for buses from David to Panama City:

bus schedule david to panama city

Additional Panama Transportation Resources

Bus Pricing From David:

bus prices from david panama

Getting around Panama doesn’t have to be difficult. If you need additional help when in Panama, you can ask locals, and they may be able to guide you; they were helpful during my visit to Panama; just be prepared with a translator app if you don’t speak Spanish. Have fun, go with the flow, and plan ahead whenever possible for your transportation.

Hope this information helps you with getting around Panama. 

Happy travelling!

Related Posts – Panama

  • One Week in Panama – Itinerary
  • Best Places in Panama
  • Cara Iguana Hike in El Valle de Anton
  • What to See in Bocas del Toro
  • Bocas del Toro Diving
  • La Selva Bocas del Toro
  • Casa Acuario Bocas del Toro
  • Volcan Baru 4×4 Tour
  • Boquete Coffee & Tea Tour
  • Walking Tour of Panama City’s Old Town

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Melissa is the founder of My Beautiful Passport. A Canadian who has explored 15+ countries on 4 continents, she enjoys combining adventure and affordable luxury. Through sharing her own experiences, travel tips, and destination itineraries, she helps others plan their unique adventures whether it be at the beach, in the city, or in the mountains.

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Although the canal corridor and the western Pacific region are covered by a comprehensive road network served by regular public transport , eastern Panama, Guna Yala and Bocas del Toro are each linked to the rest of the country by just a single road. Access to the islands of Bocas del Toro and Guna Yala is by plane or boat, and boats also provide the main means of transport between the islands, as well as along the rivers of the Darién region. Crossing the isthmus by train is also possible between Panama City and Colón.

Travel ideas for Panama, created by local experts

Highlights of Panama

10 days  / from 1655 USD

Highlights of Panama

Explore Panama's vibrant capital, including the famous Panama Canal before heading out to the tropical rainforest. Nature trails are waiting to be explored before your flight to Bocas del Toro, where you will enjoy a few days kicking back or being active, the islands offer something for everyone.

Cuisine & Culture of Panama

10 days  / from 2099 USD

Cuisine & Culture of Panama

Explore Panama's culture and cuisine in depth in this itinerary. Learn about the Emberá traditions close to the capital, before heading to Panama's cultural heart. Take a local cooking class and explore the surroundings of Chitre, one of Panama's oldest settlements.

Thrilling Adventures in Panama

8 days  / from 1882 USD

Thrilling Adventures in Panama

Mountain-biking, river rafting, mangrove tours - Panama has endless opportunities for all adventure-seekers. Enjoy this fast-paced itinerary from Panama City to the highlands of Boquete and ending on the beaches of Boca Chica.

Where there are roads, buses are the cheapest and most popular way to travel. Panama City is the hub of the network, with regular buses to Colón, Metetí in Darién, Almirante (for Bocas del Toro) and all the western cities and towns. Buses vary in comfort and size, from modern, a/c Pullmans to smaller “coaster” buses and old US school buses – Central America’s ubiquitous “chicken buses”. Smaller towns and villages in rural areas tend to be served by less frequent minibuses, pick-up trucks and flat-bed trucks known as chivas or chivitas , converted to carry passengers, while Colón and David are also served by express buses, which are more expensive, more comfortable and faster.

w thebusschedule.com/pa is a fairly reliable source to check bus timetables .

Most buses are owned either by individuals or private firms, and even when services are frequent, schedules are variable. Cities and larger towns have bus terminals; otherwise, buses leave from the main street or square. You can usually flag down through-buses from the roadside, though they may not stop if they are full or going a long way. In general, you can just turn up shortly before departure and you should be able to get a seat, though the express buses to and from David, buses from Bocas del Toro, as well as international buses to Costa Rica, are definitely worth booking in advance . Fares , as elsewhere in Central America, are good value: bank on paying around US$2 per hour of travel, more for the more luxurious long-distance buses; the most you’ll have to pay is US$29 for the overnight, ten-hour ride from Panama City to Almirante.

Starting at around US$50 a day or US$300 a week (almost double for 4WD), car rental is reasonably priced but not cheap. However, having your own vehicle is a good way of seeing parts of the country not well served by public transport, especially the canal corridor and the Azuero Peninsula. All of the main rental companies are based at Tocumen International Airport, and also in the city centre; some also have offices at Albrook airport and the airport in David; National Panamá ( w nationalpanama.com ) is popular with locals as it offers some of the cheapest rentals in the country.

Driving in Panama is pretty straightforward, though even the paved roads in the canal corridor and the west can be badly maintained. The main roads on the Azuero Peninsula are in good condition, however, as is the road across the cordillera to Bocas del Toro, and the secondary roads to Cerro Punta, Santa Fé, Boquete and El Valle. 4WD is rarely necessary except during the rainy season and in more remote rural areas. Police checkpoints appear throughout the country, mainly on provincial borders, and normally you are only required to slow down. If the police ask you to stop, in most cases they will just want to know your destination and see your licence and/or passport.

Hitching is possible, but carries all the obvious risks. Private cars are unlikely to stop for you on main roads, though in more remote areas, hitching is often the only motor transport available, and there is little distinction between private vehicles and public transport – drivers will pick you up, but you should expect to pay the same kind of fares you would for the bus.

In larger cities, like Panama City and David, taxis are plentiful and inexpensive. Most intra-city rides will cost US$1–2 (US$2–5 in the capital). There are many unlicensed cab drivers patrolling the streets who are willing to negotiate on prices, but who may engage in unscrupulous practices. Even licensed cab drivers won’t hesitate to exploit an obviously unsavvy, lost or needy tourist. Specifically, be wary of price hikes on the Amador Causeway in Panama City.

Scheduled ferries run from Panama City to Isla Taboga as well as between Bocas del Toro and Almirante. Motorized water-taxis and dugout canoes are important means of transport in Bocas del Toro, Darién and Guna Yala, though the only scheduled small-boat services are the water-taxis in Darién (between Puerto Quimba and La Palma, or La Palma and Garachiné) and between Almirante and Bocas. Otherwise, you’ll either have to wait for somebody going your way, or hire a boat. The latter can be expensive – US$150 for a motorized dugout with a small engine from La Palma to Sambú, for example – but obviously works out more cheaply the more there are of you. Make sure you find out the approximate price per gallon for diesel and the number of gallons needed per journey from a disinterested party before starting to negotiate a price. Hiring a dugout canoe also opens up possibilities for wilderness adventure – up jungle rivers to isolated villages or out to uninhabited islands.

Cities and larger towns are served by regular flights with Air Panama ( w airpanama.com), currently the only domestic carrier, which flies to David, Bocas, parts of Darién, as well as to Guna Yala and to the Pearl Islands. With the exception of the more isolated areas, though, most destinations are so close to Panama City that it’s scarcely worth flying; not least because it’s very expensive (at the time of writing, high-season return flights between Panama City and Bocas cost US$236). Flights can be bought online, or over the phone using a credit card.

Cycling is a popular way to get around in western Panama, where roads are generally paved and traffic scarce (away from the Interamericana and other major routes), and towns usually have a shop offering parts and simple repairs. Other good roads for cycling include all those on the Azuero Peninsula and the roads to Cerro Punta and El Valle, off the Interamericana.

The Panama Canal Railway ( w panarail.com ), which runs alongside the canal between Panama City and Colón, offers an excellent way of seeing the canal and the surrounding rainforest.

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Andy Turner

written by Andy Turner

updated 26.04.2021


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Perfect Panama 14-Day Itinerary: Travel Made For You

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How many days will I need to visit Panama? This is a question I get asked a lot. Since Panama is one of our favourite travel destinations, we’ve created a ton of useful resources to help you plan. With that in mind, I wanted to put together the perfect 14-day Panama itinerary to make planning even easier for you guys, since we hadn’t published one yet. Yikes!

Panama is a wonderful country, diverse, ever-green and full of life, filled with culture and tradition.

The beauty of the wilderness, sleepy fishing villages and bustling energy of Panama’s capital was an intense blend of excitement and tranquillity . We went from the hustle and bustle of Panama City to the soothing ocean sounds of coastal waves to hiking in dense cloud forests.

Discover The Perfect Route To Travel Panama In 2 Weeks

We visited Panama in 2022 towards the end of our 10-month world trip and although we were short on cash by the time we reached it, meaning we couldn’t do all the activities we wanted, the country stole our hearts nevertheless. 

It’s a magical place to spend your holiday and with our 14-day itinerary, I hope you will feel confident to visit Panama too. Trust me, you won’t regret it!

sailing the San Blas Islands of Panama on a 5-day trip

In this post, I’m sharing with you the best 14-day itinerary to help you plan your trip to Panama plus some additional route alternatives. I’m also including topics on:

  • Ideas for places to stay suitable for all budgets
  • Some of the best nature hikes to do 
  • Must-visit attractions and hidden gems.

Are 2 Weeks Enough To Visit Panama?

The answer is YES! Absolutely, 2 weeks are enough to experience the best of Panama. You can certainly visit the highlights and get a feel for the country in 2 weeks. 

Enjoy stunning views of the highlands in Panama on a 2 week itinerary

With a 14-day itinerary, you’ll be able to visit Panama’s capital , the highlands and both the Caribbean and Pacific coasts ; take wildlife treks, visit indigenous tribes, enjoy water sports and immerse yourself in local culture.

This itinerary is fast-paced but I have provided alternate routes and suggestions on where to skip. If you prefer slower travel you might want to remove a destination. However you do it, remember it’s impossible to see everything.

If you do have slightly longer, I have included a few additional locations as well which can be added on or switched with the main destinations. I’ll make a note of them as we go through the itinerary.

Are you planning a trip soon? Use my links below to book!

Accommodations – I recommend Booking.com Flights – I recommend Skyscanner Travel Insurance – I recommend SafetyWing Tours/experiences – I recommend Get Your Guide Car rental – I recommend DiscoverCars These are all the sites I personally use to book my trips, and if you use them, some of them will earn me a commission at no extra cost to you . This helps reduce the ever-increasing costs of keeping my site up. Thanks!

Summary: Panama 14-Day Itinerary

  • Panama City: 2 days
  • San Blas Islands: 2 days
  • El Valle De Anton: 1 day 
  • Playa Venao: 3 days
  • Boca Chica: 3 days
  • Boquete: 3 days

Route Diversions :

  • Santa Catalina: 2 days

Hornito: 1 day

Bocas del toro: 3 days, how to plan your 14-day panama itinerary.

While you consider how many days you’ll need to visit Panama you also need to think about how to plan for your adventure. Here are some things to think about:

  • When will you travel? Carefully consider the pros and cons of travelling during the dry or wet season. The dry season is the best time for beach exploration, however, it brings crowds and higher prices. We travelled in the shoulder month of May and although it rained on some days, we enjoyed fewer crowds.

An ancient tree along the Pipeline Trail in Boquete Panama

  • How much travel time to factor in? Moving between locations can take a long time, in some cases you may need to set aside half a day to travel. This depends on your mode of transport; to make the most of your time, shuttles are the best option.
  • Where will you stay? Are you comfortable staying in hostels or do you prefer hotels? Panama has a variety of accommodation options to suit all budgets. I will include some top-rated accommodation options in this itinerary to help guide you.

La Coralina Island House is a great place to stay on a 14-day Panama itinerary

  • How much do you want to spend? Before you travel to Panama it’s a good idea to have a realistic budget. Panama is not a cheap country, but it gets slightly more affordable once you leave the city. I will include some of our own costs below to guide you.
  • Will you be taking tours? Don’t forget to book these in advance and budget accordingly. Research the tour and excursions you’re interested in doing. I will include some of the best-reviewed tours to help you choose.

Plan for lots of hiking in Panama on your 14-day itinerary

  • Which attractions will you visit? Some attractions are best suited for certain times of the year. For example, if you want to go whale watching there’s no point visiting during the dry season. Check in advance the attractions you want to visit and plan accordingly.

Visit Panama in the wet season to see whales migrating

Perfect Panama Itinerary For 2 Weeks

HIGHLIGHTS : Islands / Beaches / Mountains

San Blas Island Tours, Panama

Panama City: Days 1 & 2

Unless you’re coming into Panama by sailboat from Colombia , more often than not you’ll be flying into Panama City. Tocumen International Airport is where you’ll land and from there you can easily make your way into the city.

Panama City was an unexpected surprise for us. We weren’t sure what to expect but after a couple of days exploring we came to appreciate this bustling hub . You’d be forgiven for thinking you were in a different country!

With its modern skyscrapers, coastal walkways, surrounding jungle and old-town charm, the city has the perfect blend of contemporary, natural and historical qualities.

The view of Panama City from the Metropolitan Park

Activities In Panama City:

You will need a couple of days to explore the best of Panama City and there are some popular attractions to visit. For us, the old town – Casco Viejo – was a highlight and an absolute must-visit. 

Casco Viejo is an absolutely stunning district , with a rich history dating back to the 17th century. I would also suggest a bike tour along Cinta Costera and Armadour Causeway or a visit to the Metropolitan Park . If you’re into engineering, the Panama Canal should not be missed either !

Old meets new in Casco Viejo, Panama City add a stop to a 14-day itinerary

From Panama City, one of the best-rated tours is a visit to the Embera Tribe . The Embera people live deep in the jungle and are known for their incredible knowledge of the rainforest. Although we didn’t do this excursion (next time) I can imagine it would be an epic adventure for any nature and culture enthusiast.

👉 Further Reading: We’ve written a whole guide to visiting Panama City filled with travel tips and 21 amazing things to do. 

Where to stay in Panama City?

📍 Sofitel Legend Casco Viejo . (Luxury option) 📍 Corcho Rooms. (Mid-range) 📍 Selina Casco Viejo . (Budget)

San Blas Islands: Days 3 & 4

The San Blas Island Archipelago is a group of hundreds of tropical islands on the Caribbean Coast. It’s governed by the Guna Yala people who have opened up their home to tourists. The islands are like a dream, truly heaven on earth.

Add the San Blas Islands to you 14-day Panama itinerary

I was lucky enough to sail from Colombia on a 5-day trip which allowed us to visit more secluded islands. For me, it was a dream come true , an adventure I had on my bucket list for years and one that did not disappoint.

Abi at the bow of the sailing boat from Colombia to Panama

You can expect azure, turquoise waters, crystal-clear and warm with busy coral reefs, sandy shores and islands filled with coconut palms. Most of the islands we visited were uninhabited bar a family or two while some were busier.

The busier islands are usually reserved for the day trippers. However, no matter which island you visit it’s a place for sun lounging and snorkelling, fresh fish and evening bonfires.

Bonfire and roasted marshmallow time at the San Blas Islands

To ensure this 14-day itinerary works, I would suggest you arrange an overnight trip from Panama City. This will include transport, accommodation, meals and a guide. 

👉 More Information: To help you choose the best San Blas Island tour for your trip we’ve written a guide to the top paradise island tours here.

El Valle De Anton: Day 5

Even though Jack and I didn’t visit this location, I’ve added it as an option for you. It’s optional because it’s a nature destination, much like that of Boquete, so you might not want to visit two similar locations.

Also, you might prefer an additional day in Panama City or San Blas. If this is the case, I would drop El Valle from the list.

Stunning views at El Valle De Anton

If not, it will help break up your journey to Playa Venao. That said, El Valle is a stunning destination in Panama. It’s nestled in a crater of an old volcano surrounded by volcanic mountains and offers superb hiking opportunities, including short and scenic trails. 

It’s a lovely place for nature lovers, with cool temperatures and a beautiful market where you can try delicious local food and find unique souvenirs.

Where to stay in El Valle?

📍 The Golden Frog Inn . (Luxury option) 📍 Valle Paradise . (Mid-range) 📍 Bodhi Hostel & Lounge . (Budget)

Playa Venao: Days 6 to 8

Playa Venao is a small bay in the Azuero Peninsula and a fantastic spot for surfing. If you haven’t surfed, don’t worry, you can get lessons and the waves can be perfect for beginners. 

The beauty is that Playa Venao is relatively unknown.

Baby turtles on the beach at Playa Venao

It’s still an off-the-beaten-path location filled with locals and fewer tourists. You can expect to find long stretches of pristine beach backed by wild jungle. That said, it is slowly becoming more popular. Now is the time to visit before it loses this wonderful charm! 

The town is built up enough to find good accommodation, beach-side cafes and restaurants and on the weekends there are a handful of lively bars.

👉 Further Reading: Discover all the fun things to do in Playa Venao with our travel guide. Hopefully, it helps you decide if this location is right for you! 

Activities In Playa Venao:

I would suggest a day trip to the nearby Isla Iguana , a Nature Reserve where you can snorkel and enjoy nature. There is a turtle sanctuary you can visit nearby and of course, the surfing and beach will take a lot of your time.

There is also a waterfall trek , although, at the time of visiting, we didn’t know about it so missed it. But, I’ve read it’s a nice half-day adventure. 

Be sure to pencil surfing into your 14-day Panama itinerary!

Playa Venao is a little tricky to get to , especially if you’re using public transport. It can take a while on public buses, if you’re short on time, skip El Valle to reach Playa Venao from Panama City by shuttle bus.

👉 Helpful Information: If you decide to catch the bus, here’s a full transportation guide on how we did it.

Where to stay in Playa Venao?

📍 Selina River. (Co-working option) 📍 Eco Venao Lodge. (Mid-range) 📍 Nao Venao. (Budget)

Boca Chica: Days 9 to 11

Boca Chica is the perfect (and more affordable) alternative to Bocas del Toro , somewhere you’ve probably heard of. If you want something similar but less developed this could be perfect…

With this in mind, I wanted to give you the Boca Chica option to make this 14-day Panama itinerary more unique and useful to you. 

Palm trees line the beaches at Boca Chica

Although we have yet to visit Boca Chica, I’ve read that it is a serene, less-travelled area that serves as an entry point to the Gulf of Chiriquí National Marine Park . An area of 25 protected islands most of which you can visit to enjoy a lovely, relaxed atmosphere.

It’s said to be an authentic island destination where you can go snorkelling and spend days lounging around the beach much like you can in Bocas. But instead, you’ll find fewer tourists, less infrastructure and better prices , all with the same charm as the former.

If this is your vibe, don’t miss it from your itinerary! 

For us, it’s a no-brainer. We will be visiting Boca Chica on our next trip to Panama – Coming soon 2024/2025! So excited!

Alternate Route: It’s also on the Pacific Coast, which means it’s closer to Playa Venao, Santa Catalina and Boquete. If you’re struggling to fit it all in, switching Bocas del Toro to Boca Chica will save you half a day of travel.

Where to stay in Boca Chica?

📍 Apartamento Basalina Boca Brava . (Luxury option) 📍 Boca Chica BnB . (Mid-range) 📍 Boca Brava Lodge . (budget option)

Boquete: Days 12 to 14

Next up we’re heading to Boquete. This is a busy town in the highlands of Chiriquí Province and is known for its coffee plantations and Barú Volcano National Park , to the west. Boquete is a magical place, popular with tourists although it has retained its local charm.

Nature and wildlife in Boquete

We absolutely loved our time in Boquete. There are a lot of fun activities to keep you busy in this mountain town but the highlight, for us, was the hiking trails. Boquete is overflowing with hiking trails which allow you to explore the surrounding nature. 

A popular trail is the Pipeline Trail, and another is the Lost Waterfalls . There are also some lesser-known trails such as Mirador Piedra del Musgo . You can visit coffee plantations, and chocolate workshops, go horseback riding and get your heart pumping on quad bike adventures. 

Abi at the top of Mirador Piedra del Musgo

If you have time, try and visit the Caldera Hot Springs and Los Cangilones de Gualaca which is a canyon you can swim in. Combining these two activities into a day trip would be a good addition to your 2-week Panama itinerary. 

👉 Further Reading: If you want to read more about Boquete we’ve written a useful guide where we go over 19 fantastic things to do.

Where to stay in Boquete?

📍Hotel Panamonte (Luxury option) 📍La Residencia by Villa Alejandro (Mid-range) 📍Agartha Hostel and Camping (Budget)

Other Sites To Add To Your Panama Itinerary

These three locations are less frequented by foreign tourists but they still remain popular spots to visit. You will find all the essential amenities and more. 

Santa Catalina: 3 days

Santa Catalina is a sleepy fishing village and much like Paya Venao, it’s the place to go for surfing. It’s better known than Playa Venao but it’s still a place where you can enjoy local culture and not feel overwhelmed by tourists.

You can expect breathtaking sunsets which fill the sky, surfing for all levels, long stretches of beach and a relaxed boho-casual vibe.  

travel around panama

The great thing about Santa Catalina, surfing aside, is that you can arrange a trip to Coiba National Park. Coiba National Park is an absolute paradise for nature enthusiasts. It’s a fantastic place for scuba diving and snorkelling with its diverse marine life. 

Route Note: Playa Venao and Santa Catalina are similar destinations. However, if you wanted to visit them both you could skip El Valle de Anton and subtract a day from Boca Chica or Boquete.

Where to stay in Santa Catalina?

📍 Hotel Santa Catalina Panamá . (Luxury option) 📍 Hotel Iguanito . (Mid-range) 📍 Sasy Tipis . (Budget option)

Hornito is another mountain location you can add to your Panama itinerary. It’s in the middle of David and Bocas del Toro, and due to its location it makes a good alternative to El Valle de Anton. Or simply, somewhere to break up the journey between the Pacific and Caribbean Coasts.

It’s a forgotten town in the mountains so you’ll be able to lose yourself in cloud forests and watch for wildlife but there isn’t much else around. If you’re a backpacker you might be interested in visiting the Lost and Found Hostel nestled in the wilderness at Hornito. 

Unfortunately, we didn’t make it to Bocas del Toro. We decided it would be similar to the San Blas Islands and opted to visit Puerto Viejo in Costa Rica instead. However, for you guys, it might be somewhere you want to add to your list.

Here’s why: Bocas del Toro is a treasure trove of vibrant coral reefs and laid-back Caribbean vibes . It’s a fantastic spot for those who love exploring coastal paradises and also has a lively vibe that attracts a backpacking community.

A hotel in Bocas del Toro

Route Note: There is plenty of information out there regarding Bocas del Toro and you’ll find it on almost all Panama itineraries. However, it’s also on the other side of the country and getting there can be time-consuming. If you’re short on time, you could skip it or switch with San Blas or Boca Chica.

Where to stay in Bocas del Toro?

📍 La Coralina Island House . (Luxury option) 📍 Bambuda Lodge . (Mid-range) 📍 Bastimentos Hill Guest House . (budget option)

14-Day Travel: Tips For Visiting Panama

  • Travel restrictions. For the US and UK travel into Panama is restricted to 3 months. You do not need to get a visa before you travel as this will be generated on arrival at the airport. You need at least 6 months valid on your passport.
  • Only plan a rough itinerary. This itinerary is here to help you plan but I always suggest leaving a few days of flexibility. Something might come up and usually does and if you’re trying to stick to a rigid itinerary you’re setting yourself up for disappointment.

Plan your Panama 14-day itinerary with flexibility!

  • Afternoon siesta. Panama does have an afternoon siesta due to the heat. In smaller villages and towns you might find businesses close for a few hours during midday.
  • ATM & Panama currency. Panama uses the US dollar and the Panamanian balboas although the two are almost interchangeable we did find we got slightly more if we paid in balboa. Mostly all tourist spots allow card payments and ATMs are easily found. If you’re visiting markets, islands or heading away from the tourist route make sure you have cash.

Travel advice for a 14-day Panama itinerary: be sure to budget appropriately

  • Power and data . If you’re coming from the UK you will need an adapter, sockets in Panama are the same as the US. We took a multi-plug adapter which we used throughout our travels. For data, you can purchase an eSIM online or once you reach Panama (avoid purchasing from the airport unless you have to) opt for +Movil or Digicel which have a better range.
  • Amazon resources. If you’d like to know exactly what we recommend taking on your trip to Panama you can visit our Amazon store here. We’ve compiled a list specifically for travelling around Panama to help you pack for your trip and make sure you don’t forget anything!


If you’re getting ready to organise your trip, here are some helpful insights from our own trip to get you started and give you an idea of what to expect. However, if you’re looking for more reasons to visit Panama we’ve written this guide here.

Budget & Planning

As I mentioned above, Panama is not an affordable country to visit . In fact, it was one of the most expensive countries we visited on our world trip. At times, the prices were the same as those back home.

This is madness to me, but, the points it loses in affordability it makes up for in everything else!

To give you an idea of how to budget here are some of our daily costs broken down below, (keep in mind we travelled as backpackers and ate out only once a day).

Accommodation $40

Transportation $15

Activities $80

Food & Drink $ 20

Choosing Your Accommodation

Jack and I stayed in budget hotels and hostels , and although we opted for private double rooms, we still chose the cheaper accommodations. This was perfectly acceptable although I would research the hotel first and make sure the reviews are above average. I like to use Booking as I can read plenty of reviews.

On average, we were paying around $40 a night.

If you choose to stay in shared dorms the price is around $10 to $15 per person, in some situations, it becomes more logical to opt for a private room. 

Jack drinking tea in a Boquete Hostel

Choosing Your Transportation

Pro Tip: Public transport in Panama is great. To be honest, public transport in the whole of Central and South America is great. You will be able to find local buses to take you to wherever you want to go on a regular basis. They are cheap and comfortable enough. Usually, long distances will be reserved for coaches while the shorter routes will be in minivans. 

As a tourist, it’s always likely you will pay a little more than locals but in Panama, we felt we were charged the same. Which is another reason we loved the country! It’s hard to estimate to cost of a trip, but they aren’t expensive.

Expect to pay around $2 an hour.

It’s also possible to use Uber in Panama City and David. We’ve written this guide to help you use Uber (train aside) as we feel it’s one of the best ways to travel around Panama City, especially if you’re in a group. 

👉 We’ve written a few transportation guides including all pricing which will help you plan your trip to and from these destinations:

  • Panama City to Playa Venao
  • Playa Veano to Boquete
  • Playa Venao to Bocas del Toro

Choose Uber to get around Panama City

Choosing Your Activities

Pro Tip: Time your excursions right. One of the most important things to ensure you visit all the places on your wishlist is to plan your tours and excursions ahead of time, especially if you’re travelling during peak season. If you don’t, you risk missing out, which isn’t the end all but it can put a downer on your day.

That said, tours in Panama don’t come cheap. On average tours start at $80 per person but can easily reach over $100 . The San Blas tour I recommend taking from Panama City will set you back at least $150 per person while the Embera Tribe excursion will cost $100 per person.

Although most hiking is free , you might have to pay an entry fee. For example, the Pipeline Trail in Boquete was $10 per person. For a Boquete coffee tour , it’s around $50 , same goes for an e-bike tour $50.

Renting a surfboard in Playa Venao was $20. While a trip to Isla Iguana is $65.

The Pipeline Trail Boquete is an easy addition to your 14-day Panama itinerary

Food & Drink

To be honest with you, we saved money by not drinking, eating at local restaurants and making meals, usually peanut butter sandwiches, in our hostels. Once you leave this safety net your food and drink bill is going to skyrocket. Panama is not cheap for eating out.

If you would prefer to eat out you’ll need to budget at least $15 to $20 per person, per meal (+ soft drink) , not including alcohol. If you’re lucky, you’ll find local restaurants which serve traditional rice and bean dishes for $5 to $10 , this is where we usually ate.

Traditional Foods To Try In Panama

  • Sancocho: This clear soup is a superb blend of chicken, vegetables, and yam, creating a lovely and comforting dish perfect for foodies.
  • Tamales: A basic tamale consists of a corn dough that enfolds a filling of chicken, beef, vegetables, or a combination of all three. Before cooking, the tamales are wrapped in banana leaves to prevent burning and contain the juices
  • Patacones: In Panama, “patacones” are tostones by a local name. Patacones, fashioned from twice-toasted, unripe green plantains, don’t taste like sweet plants made from ripe green plants.
  • Carimanolas: yuca fries stuffed with beef, often mixed with cheese. The yuca is boiled, mashed, mixed with flour, butter, and eggs, and then formed into dough balls.
  • Arroz con Guandú y Coco: It’s a fantastic mix of rice, peas, and coconut milk, creating a delightful and flavorful side dish, commonly found in Panama.
  • Ceviche: Panama’s ceviche is stunning, featuring fresh seafood marinated in citrus juices, making it a refreshing and delicious option, especially by the coast.
  • Ropa Vieja: This is a superb dish made from shredded beef, slow-cooked with tomatoes, peppers, and onions. It’s a lovely taste of Panamanian tradition.

Ceviche is a Panamanian delicacy

Weather In Panama

Panama has two seasons: wet and dry.

For the most part, tourists flock to Panama during the dry season as this is when you’re guaranteed sunny, dry weather . However, it’s also the most expensive and busiest time to visit.

On the flip side, the wet season brings humidity and rainy days although not as rainy as you might expect. Generally, the showers come in short bursts towards the afternoons and evenings. In regards to prices, you will also find cheaper rates and fewer tourists.  

👉 To help you plan when the best time of the year to visit Panama is for you, we’ve written a month-by-month weather guide here.

Jack and Abi overlooking the Panama Canal in May

What To Pack For Panama?

Since Panama has both wet and dry seasons, knowing what to pack can be confusing. In truth, you don’t need to pack too differently as the temperatures remain constant throughout the year. 

Instead, you will only need to pack a rain jacket and potentially some warmer layers for the cooler evenings if you are visiting the highlands. 

We’ve created a packing list to help make life easier for you and to take out the stress of packing. This useful resource is perfect for any trip to Panama , you can download your copy below!

More Resources For Panama

Is it your first time visiting Panama? If it is we’ve got tons more useful content to help you plan your trip. To find all our articles, head over to our Panama Page here. 

Some of our more popular reads include:

  • Boquete:  Where To Stay In Boquete Panama: The Ultimate Hotel Guide
  • From Boquete:   10 Best Boquete Tours Panama: Coffee, Hiking, E-Bike
  • From   Panama City:  11 Best Panama City Boat Tours: Cruises, Canoes & More
  • From Panama City:  11 Unique Panama Tours: Indigenous, Dancing & More

14-Day Panama Itinerary: Conclusion

In the end, how many days you spend in Panama is up to you but 14 days is just long enough to experience Panama City and both coasts. There is, of course, so much more you could see and do that after your trip you’ll likely want to return, we sure did!

Our favourite place was Playa Venao and so I would highly recommend a visit. I also enjoyed the San Blas Islands and exploring Casco Viejo in Panama City. For the places we didn’t go, I most want to visit Boca Chica and Coiba Nature Reserve.

A combination of these destinations in your itinerary will provide you with culture, history, beach, nature and a lively atmosphere.

We loved every moment of our trip to Panama and are looking forward to returning. In the meantime, know that we felt safe travelling around Panama and I hope you have the best time and enjoy the country as much as we did.

igoa-adventure travel blog 14-day Panama Itinerary

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Abigail Dalton is the owner and creator behind I’m Going On An Adventure, a blog which helps travellers find unique destinations worldwide. She focuses on offbeat travel and road trips, giving first-hand experiences to help her readers plan their perfect trips and make the best memories. She also helps travellers plan their dream holidays with bespoke travel services where she creates fun-packed itineraries. When she isn't writing about her travels you'll find her on long country walks foraging for mushrooms or enjoying a cool fruity white under the sun, toes tucked in the sand.

Guide to Traveling in Panama

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TripSavvy / Anna Haines

Panama is so much more than its famed canal . The country’s curvy, narrow land mass serves as a physical—and cultural—land bridge between North and South America. But despite its global significance, Panama is often overlooked by tourists.

While Panama is more expensive than the rest of Central American countries, its natural beauty is unsurpassed. Imagine hundreds of idyllic, deserted islands scattered through warm seas ; densely forested wilderness; creatures as incredible as those in Dr. Seuss’s most imaginative books. Panama’s skinny isthmus holds all this, and much more.

Where Should I Go?

Panama City is one of the most cosmopolitan, culturally distinct, and enjoyable capital cities in all of Central America. Modern commercial buildings blend with cobbled streets and Spanish colonial architecture of centuries past. West of the capital lies the Panama Canal, the legendary feat of humankind that unites two entire oceans.

Panama’s most striking and popular archipelagos are Bocas del Toro and the San Blas Islands in the Caribbean, and the Pearl Islands in the Pacific. The Pearl Islands were featured on a season of the reality TV show, Survivor. The San Blas islands are noteworthy for being populated by the Kuna Indians—remarkable artisans. Book a long-term room on a major island (specifically, Bocas Town in Bocas del Toro, and Contadora in the Pearl Islands), and use it as a base to explore Panama’s hundreds of remote islands and islets.

Other worthwhile destinations are Boquete in the Chiriqui Province, an ecotourist’s dream in the southeast featuring volcanoes, waterfalls, and even the elusive quetzal; Boquete, a quaint town overflowing with flowers; and the Anton Valley, the largest inhabited dormant volcano in the world.

What Will I See?

Docked against Costa Rica in the northwest and Colombia in the southeast, Panama’s mountains, forests and oceans boast an exceptional biodiversity. In fact, the animal species of this unique country are as varied as any region in the world. Panama is home to 900 bird species —- more than the entire land mass of North America!

Those interested in experiencing true rainforest can visit the Soberania National Park, just 25 miles north of Panama City. The Bastimentos Marine National Park in Bocas del Toro offers some of the best diving and snorkeling in Central America.

Darien is one of the most dangerous areas in Panama, but also one of the most fascinating. The Pan-American highway, which stretches from Alaska to Argentina, is broken only at the Darien Gap -— the rainforest in Darien is impenetrable. Travel to Darien is not recommended, but if you insist, book an experienced guide.

How Do I Get There and Around?

As in every Central American country , local buses — often garishly painted American school buses — are the least expensive mode of transport in Panama. Destinations like Colón, Panama City, and David are also served by larger and more comfortable express buses. Outside more populated areas, paved roads can be rare. In those cases (like venturing to Bocas del Toro, for example), booking a seat on a small aircraft is the preferable option.

To travel to Costa Rica in the northwest, you can either book a plane from Panama City or an air-conditioned Ticabus .

How Much Will I Pay?

Partially because of its use of the United States dollar, Panama is one of the most expensive Central America countries to visit. While rooms usually start at $12-$15 USD a person, travelers can reduce costs by taking advantage of local cafes, markets, and transportation. More affluent travelers will find a pleasing selection of plush resorts, especially among Panama’s islands.

When Should I Go?

Panama’s rainy season usually between June and November, with rainfall much higher on the Pacific side of the country.

In Panama, Holy Week (the week of Easter) is similar to Semana Santa in Guatemala , with colorful religious processions and festivities. In February or March, Panama celebrates Carnaval, a boisterous nationwide fiesta most notable for its lively water fights. Visit Kuna Yala in February to see the grand Independence Day celebration of the indigenous Kuna people. Book a room early during any holiday, and be prepared to pay extra.​

How Safe Will I Be?

In the larger cities of Panama, such as Panama City and Colon, extreme caution should be taken at night. Passports must be worn on your person at all times—carry it, along with important documents and large sums of money—in an underclothes money belt. Keep an eye out for helpful Tourist Police with white armbands.

In the thickly forested, far southeast region of Darien (which borders Colombia), guerillas and drug traffickers remain a real threat, and while this area is still visited by intrepid travelers, we don’t recommend travel there without an experienced guide.

While traveler’s diarrhea is the ailment you’ll most likely experience (and you can reduce your risk by drinking bottled water and peeling all fruit), vaccinations for Hepatitis A and B, Typhoid, and Yellow Fever are recommended for all travelers to Panama. Make sure you take prophylaxis against mosquito-borne Malaria , especially in rural regions—see MD Travel Health for more specific information. Like Costa Rica, Panama is also a popular destination for “health tourism”, or traveling abroad for inexpensive medical services.

Edited by Marina K. Villatoro

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Getting Around Panama: Transportation Tips

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With its well-maintained infrastructure and growing importance as a connecting hub for Latin America, Panama is an exceedingly easy destination to reach, and its compact size makes it easy to travel around as well.

Panama may be a relatively small country, but time-pressed travelers will do best if they consider regional flights within the nation, especially to destinations like Bocas del Toro, David and the villages of Guna Yala. Colon is reached easily by car, taxi, bus or train from Panama City.

Rental cars are readily available in the capital and most of the larger tourist towns and cities, and long-distance buses provide economical options for regional travel as well. Below are some of the best ways to arrive in Panama, and to get around once you’re here.

Flying to and Around Panama

Panama City’s Tocumen International Airport, the homebase of Copa Airlines, is in a seemingly constant state of expansion and upgrades. It’s the country’s largest international airport and the most likely point of entry for international air travelers.

Copa Airlines, which partners with United Airlines and is a member of Star Alliance, is one of the best-connected Latin American airlines. In addition to flights from nearly every major Latin American city, the carrier offers nonstop flights to Panama City from U.S. destinations including New York City, Miami, Los Angeles and Las Vegas.

For domestic flights within Panama, the most important airport is Marcos A. Gelabert International Airport, a much smaller airfield that’s more commonly called Albrook Airport. It’s more convenient than Tocumen for regional travelers since it’s much closer to central Panama City, and it’s adjacent to the massive Albrook Mall, where the capital’s main bus terminal is located.

For domestic flights, Air Panama is often the only choice. The carrier offers regional flights from its hub at Albrook Airport to popular destinations including Bocas del Toro and multiple airports in the Guna Yala semi-autonomous region (plus a handful of international flights to San Jose, Costa Rica, and Medellin, Colombia).

Since most international flights arrive in Tocumen and most domestic flights use Albrook, it’s likely that you’ll have to spend some time in Panama City, even if your final destination is somewhere else — so make the most of it and see the sights before heading out of town.

Resources: AirPanama.com CopaAir.com

Renting a Car in Panama

Nearly all of the big international rental car brands — including Avis, Dollar, Hertz and Sixt — maintain a presence in Panama City, both at Tocumen Airport and in Panama City, especially in big tourist areas like El Cangrejo. Some other cities and towns also have rental car offices.

But take note: Visitors who plan to stay only in Panama City likely won’t want a car, as the infamously heavy traffic can be maddening, especially for visitors unfamiliar with travel patterns and routes. Taxis are plentiful in Panama City, although they frequently overcharge foreigners — so agree on a rate before you get in the cab. Even leaving the city for day trips and multi-day trips may be easier and more efficient by plane, bus or taxi, depending on the destination — so research the options well before signing on the dotted line for a rental car.

Having your own wheels can be most useful for visiting Coronado, on the Pacific coast, since restaurants, hotels, condos and attractions tend to be spread out and taxis aren’t as plentiful. A four-wheel-drive vehicle is helpful when exploring the highlands around Boquete, where the mountainous terrain can be challenging.

Regardless of which car you choose, pay close attention to the speed limits, as police closely monitor highways and you may find yourself in a speed trap.

Resources: Avis.com Dollar.com Hertz.com Sixt.com

Panama by Bus

Panama’s most legendary form of bus transportation — the Diablo Rojo, or Red Devil — is nothing more than a massive fleet of former U.S. school buses that have been repurposed as public transportation after receiving a flashy, colorful paint job. But those buses are becoming increasingly less common, and while you might see a few, you probably won’t be riding on one. Within Panama City, the modern MetroBus system — a complement to the even newer Metro rail system — is the most popular form of transportation. Buses can be crowded, and we recommend traveling with a local who knows the routes, at least for your first ride.

For travel from city to city within Panama, long-distance buses provide frequent, relatively comfortable transportation aboard air-conditioned coaches or vans, depending on the length of the trip and the route. Long-distance bus companies include Padafront, Expreso Veraguense, Sanpasa, Panaline and the self-explanatory Terminal David-Panama, but they’re not big on selling tickets (or providing information) online.

You can easily buy tickets at the main bus station, located at Albrook Mall, for same-day travel; if you’re flying into Panama City and staying at a hotel in another destination in Panama, the hotel staff will likely give you specific recommendations about which route to take.

If you’re looking to expand your international horizons, you can also consider traveling by bus between Panama and points in Nicaragua, Costa Rica and elsewhere in Central America (although it’s not possible to travel south to Colombia by land, as there is no road through the jungle that divides the two nations). Expreso Panama offers service between Panama City and San Jose, Costa Rica, although Costa Rica-based Tica Bus is the best known company operating international bus routes into and out of Panama.

Resources: ExpresoPanama.com (Spanish only) TicaBus.com

Panama by Train

Like most Latin American nations, Panama hasn’t been big on trains in decades. However, it is home to Central America’s first modern subway system. The Metro debuted in 2013 as an impressively efficient way to avoid the traffic and travel across the forever-congested capital city. There is currently only one line so its utility is limited, but you’ll find a few popular stops, including El Cangrejo, a neighborhood with lots of hotels, and Albrook Mall, the city’s largest shopping mall and location of the regional bus station.

The only viable passenger rail route running outside of Panama City is the Panama Canal Railway, a largely tourist line that follows the route of the Panama Canal from the capital to Colon, on the Caribbean coast.

Resources: ElMetrodePanama.com (Spanish only) PanaRail.com

Panama by Boat

Considering that it’s flanked on one side by the Pacific Ocean and on the other by the Caribbean Sea — and sliced in two by one of the world’s most famous canals — it’s no shocker that Panama offers lots of opportunities to tour by boat.

Transiting the Panama Canal, of course, is the most talked-about way to experience Panama from the water. Large cruise ships make the crossing regularly, but even if you’re a ground-bound visitor, you can still feel the thrill of floating alongside gigantic passenger and cargo ships, and even ride through the locks.

Panama Marine Adventures offers partial and full canal tours aboard the Pacific Queen, a 300-passenger cruiser with indoor and outdoor seating, a souvenir shop, and onboard snacks and refreshments. The partial canal tour starts at the Gaillard Cut, where the Chagres River enters the Panama Canal, and allows for a view of the ongoing work to expand the canal. You’ll view the impressive new Centennial Bridge before passing through the Pedro Miguel Locks and the Miraflores Locks, during which the ship is lowered 18 meters in two steps before heading out to the Pacific Ocean. The full canal tour, which runs from the Pacific Ocean all the way to the Caribbean, takes between eight and nine hours, and includes a continental breakfast and full lunch.

Ancon Expeditions offers a slightly different way to see the canal; its Panama Canal Rainforest Boat Adventure will take you through coves and inlets to search for wildlife including birds, reptiles and even monkeys, accompanied by a naturalist guide.

Also worth exploring by water is Bocas del Toro, where multiple islands make boats one of the most practical forms of transportation. Bocas Water Sports offers diving excursions (as well as instruction), while Bocas Sailing does — you guessed it — sailing excursions around the archipelago aboard 42-foot catamarans, with time for snorkeling and lunch.

Resources: AnconExpeditions.com BocasSailing.com BocasWaterSports.com PMATours.net

Panama by Motorcycle and Bicycle

Panama’s varied terrain and natural beauty make for good biking conditions in several regions. In Bocas del Toro’s main town, bicycles are one of the most enjoyable ways of getting around its relaxed and uncrowded streets; rentals by the hour or day are available on Main Street.

Small-town charm and beautiful scenery also make El Valle de Anton, a town in the Cocle province, another fun place to bike, with verdant hills and lush forests as a backdrop. Hotel Residencial El Valle, a small inn, rents bicycles to hotel guests and the general public.

Panama City, with its hectic traffic and crowded streets, isn’t the most inviting place for cycling, but the Amador Causeway (at the mouth of the Panama Canal), the historic Casco Antiguo and the park-like Cinta Costera waterfront provide some of the city’s best biking conditions. Luna’s Castle, a hostel in the Casco Antiguo, lends bikes for free to its guests.

Biking tours are most popular in areas like the Chiriqui Highlands, where the rugged terrain is great for challenging mountain bike excursions. The international tour operator Backroads offers a five-night, multi-sport tour that includes biking in the Chiriqui Highlands and hiking along the Baru volcano before heading south to explore indigenous territories and the Panama Canal.

Motorcycle tours and rentals are less common in Panama, but if you’re comfortable heading out on your own, Rentalmotorbike.com lists rentals of BMW motorcycles in Panama City. For more extensive tours, Costa Rica BMW Tours offers 10-night guided motorcycle tours that run from the south Pacific coast of Costa Rica to central Panama.

Resources: Backroads.com CostaRicaBMWTours.com HotelResidencialelValle.com Rentalmotorbike.com

— written by Mark Chesnut

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Home » Central America » Travel Safety

Is Panama Safe for Travel? • (2024 Insider Tips)

Adventurous jungles, glorious beaches and both the Caribbean and Pacific lapping its shores! Add a sprinkle of some vibrant and colourful cities with the relics of colonial Spain. And top with a laid back local life, Panama is an all round AWESOME to visit.

Home to the famous Panama Canal, as well as the very infamous Darien Gap, Panama is the place to go for you if you are looking for proper adventures. It feels like something from a movie and is freaking epic.

Then again, those rainforests also make for a great place for Colombian rebel groups to hang out in. It also makes for a convenient place for drug trafficking gangs to use. Elsewhere, in the cities and towns, in crowded areas, tourist sights and public transport, theft is common…

So naturally, this may lead you to wonder about how viable a trip to Panama really is. You may well be asking, “How Safe is Panama?” and this is why we have created this insider’s guide to staying safe in Panama. From taxis and transport to advice for solo female travellers and even families, our guide has you covered.

There is no such thing as a perfect safety guide, as things change quickly. The question of “Is Panama Safe?” will ALWAYS have a different answer depending on who you ask.

The information in this safety guide was accurate at the time of writing. If you use our guide, do your own research, and practice common sense, you will probably have a wonderful and safe trip to Panama.

If you see any outdated information, we would really appreciate it if you could reach out in the comments below. Otherwise, stay safe friends!

Updated December 2023

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Is Panama Safe to Visit Right Now?

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Yes, but with care. In general, backpacking in Panama is pretty safe. Based on an official report by the United States Foreign Agriculture Service, Panama had a total of 862, 206 visitors in just the first half of 2022. Tourists generally had no problem with their visit.

In fact, it’s one of the safest countries in the Central American region – people are friendly and there are plenty of laid-back rural areas to explore.

Straddling two continents, with two distinct coastlines (the Caribbean and North Pacific) connected by a world-famous canal, Panama is definitely of interest. Hiking, rainforests, mountains, culture – it’s all here, which is why its tourist levels have been on the rise recently.

With all those tourists coming in, obviously, it’s in Panama’s interests to keep them safe. Tourist police in the most visited areas (including Panama City, of course) make sure that visitors not only feel but are more secure.

Is Panama Safe to Visit? (The facts.)

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There is still a lot of crime to contend with in this Latin American nation. Serious crimes are mainly between rival drug trafficking gangs. On the whole, petty crime rates are actually pretty high; mugging and pickpocketing is a common issue, especially in the capital.

The risk of street crime, specifically to an unsuspecting tourist that walked into the wrong neighbourhood, is relatively high. Knowing where to stay in Panama City and other cities is important.

The Colombian Border (specifically the Darien Province) is a dangerous area. The violence that still sporadically affects Colombia can spill over the border into Panama.

Nature can pose a risk too, with everything from the rainy season and riptides, to dense jungle and nasty critters to consider.

There is A LOT to keep in mind when planning your trip to Panama, but as long as you’re an experienced traveller and come prepared with some safety hacks, you should have a pretty safe time in Panama right now.

Without further ado, let’s look into the details of what makes this country tick…

Check out our detailed  where to stay guide for Panama  so you can start your trip right!

San Blas Islands, Panama

When choosing where you’ll be staying in Panama, a bit of research and caution is essential. You don’t want to end up in a sketchy area and ruin your trip. To help you out, we’ve listed the safest areas to visit in Panama below.

Boquete is a small hamlet located in the high-cloud forest of the Chiriqui mountains. It is a very refreshing place to visit, with brisk mountain air, whitewater rivers, and dozens of little plantations dotting the edge of the village. Those who want to relax in the jungle with a cup of organic, local coffee or enjoy adventure sports will like Boquete very much

El Valle de Anton

Thanks to its relatively close proximity to Panama City and its stunning natural setting, El Valle de Anton is one of the best eco-retreats in Panama and a favourite getaway for locals. Situated in the heart of a caldera and surrounded by leftover volcanic monoliths on all sides, Anton is a great place to go hiking or just escape to somewhere more bucolic.

El Valle de Anton is home to many Panamanian eco-retreats . People from all over Panama come here to reap the health benefits that volcanoes provide.

Bocas del Toro

This Panamanian island chain in the Caribbean Sea is full of colour, fun and a whole lot of chilled-out, beach-based stuff for all you people out there who love lounging around next to the sea.

Plenty of nature – from marine life to jungle critters – also means that this is a paradise for people who wanna see what Bocas del Toro’s natural side has to offer.

It’s known for its beaches and nature, sure, but oh boy does it have a partying side. Being backpacker-friendly, there are a ton of affordable hostels in Bocas too. 

Places to Avoid in Panama

Unfortunately, not all places in Panama are safe. You need to be careful and aware of your surroundings pretty much anywhere you go in the world, and the same goes for visiting Panama. To help you out, we’ve listed a couple of no-go or caution areas below: 

  • Panama City – El Chorrillo, San Miguelito and Curundú are neighbourhoods in Panama City that are especially known for high crime statistics. Avoid completely if possible. 
  • The border area with Colombia – political tension, possible drug traffic and no attractions. It’s a no-brainer to stay away. 
  • The central province of Colon – there’s a high rate of street crime here that means heightened vigilance, or altogether avoidance – unless with a guide or tour group.

Side note: If you want to travel to Darien Province, you should only travel with an organised group – even then, you’ll only be allowed to areas where Panamanian police are surveilling. Never stray from your group and ensure that you register your presence with the Sena Front, which is Panama’s National Border Control.

It’s important to know that Panama is definitely not a super safe place, so a bit of caution and research before you start your travels will go a long way. If you want to increase your safety during your stay, read on for our insider travel tips. Stick to those and you won’t have a single issue in Panama.

Keeping Your Money Safe in Panama

One of the most common things to happen to you whilst travelling is losing your money. And let’s face it: the most annoying way for this to actually occur is when it’s stolen from you.

Petty crime is pretty much a problem all over the world.

The best solution? Get a money belt.

Active Roots Security Belt

Stash your cash safely with this money belt. It will keep your valuables safely concealed, no matter where you go.

It looks exactly like a normal belt  except for a SECRET interior pocket perfectly designed to hide a wad of cash, a passport photocopy or anything else you may wish to hide. Never get caught with your pants down again! (Unless you want to…)

Panama City Waterfront

Panama has loads on offer for any kind of traveller. Although visitor numbers are increasing, there’s still a fair bit of crime going on in this Latin American country.

Here are my top travel safety tips…

  • Don’t carry around large sums of money – having wads of cash makes you more conspicuous and could make you a target for thieves
  • Try not to seem like a tourist – being loud, looking lost, dressing like a tourist… all no beuno
  • Be careful when taking money out of ATMs – people have been attacked using them. Inside banks are best and avoid using them at night
  • Be wary of pickpockets – they operate in the usual busy areas
  • Only use registered taxi companies – more on this later, but you need to be aware that they can be sketchy
  • Don’t get involved with drugs – even having a small amount can land you in prison for 15 years
  • Take a good medical kit with you – you never know when you might need it!
  • Learn some Spanish before you go – a few phrases will help read menus, ask for directions, and generally get around
  • Cover up against mosquitoes – dengue fever and malaria are common. Cover up arms and legs and use repellent, especially at dawn and dusk
  • Carry your passport – it’s a pain, but it’s required. No copies. Tourists have spent the night in prison because they haven’t been able to provide ID to police when asked.
  • Always keep an emergency stash of cash – Never keep all your cards/ currency in one place. And hide it all from thieves with a hidden money belt .
  • Don’t walk around topless off the beach – men or women. It’s strictly enforced and you’ll be stopped by the police
  • Know what to do in the event of an earthquake – they happen here. Chiriqui Province gets numerous 5.5+ magnitude earthquakes
  • Get a sim card – the benefits of maps, translation, information and being able to contact people is invaluable

Is Panama safe to travel alone?

In Panama, solo travel is totally doable. I did it. I loved it.

There’s enough going on to keep you busy, and enough in terms of other travellers and friendly locals that you won’t feel lonely.

But, it won’t be 100% awesome all the time. Here are my Panama solo travel tips to help it go smoothly…

  • Stay aware of your surroundings . Being solo, you only have yourself to rely on, which means you need to be extra cautious of who is around you and what is going on in your peripherals.
  • If you’re going out hiking by yourself, make sure you go well prepared and pack enough supplies .
  • If you are planning on going out into nature without a guide, you should definitely notify the staff at your accommodation (as well as any travel buddies or friends/family back home), just in case.
  • Do your research on dangerous area s in places you’re visiting. This can be a combination of your own online research – hitting up travel groups on Facebook as well as forums – and asking locals.
  • Don’t push yourself too much . Even though you’ve got this whole tick list of things to do (probably), know that you don’t have to do everything your guidebook recommends.
  • Consider having multiple bank accounts . Having no way to access your money is not worth it.
  • Research your accommodation in advance . Make sure that it’s in a good area of town, a secure building with staff that people mention (positively) in reviews.

In general, as a solo traveller, Panama is surprisingly safe.

However, you should definitely pay attention to your surroundings and not make yourself vulnerable to being a victim of crime. Not standing out, not being oblivious to situations and trusting your gut will help.

Is Panama safe for solo female travellers?

Panama is pretty safe for a solo female traveller. I met loads of ’em.

There’s nature to explore, beaches to admire, culture to soak up, locals to meet. It’s cool.

As a female in the world, you’re going to have to come across things like annoying men, more attention because you’re travelling solo, and some uncomfortable situations. Keep my Panama-specific solo female traveller tips in mind…

  • Some men may hassle you in Panama , mainly in terms of flirtatious comments, horn honking, staring and (bizarrely) hissing. It’s best to simply ignore their behaviour.
  • In general, it’s not a good idea to go hiking by yourself or exploring remote areas alone. This is best done with a tour guide, preferably in a group tour.
  • When it comes to what to wear, you should dress modestly .
  • You might want to consider making friends with some fellow travellers at your accommodation , so you can travel around and explore the country together. Either way, you won’t be with people 100% of the time, so it pays to be even more cautious than you usually would be.
  • Don’t walk around at night – at all. It’s just not a good idea. With Panama’s crime rate, combined with you not knowing anything about the streets you’ll be walking around, it will just put you at risk.
  • Be wary of taxis . It’s common for taxis to be shared, but this can be risky. Avoid the risk and pay a little more to have the taxi all to yourself instead.

Solo female travel in Panama may seem like a distant dream, but if you’ve travelled solo anywhere in Latin America before, you will know the sort of vibe to expect in this country.

With that in mind, it’s not somewhere I would recommend for first-time female travellers.

boat near bocas del toro panama

This charming island chain is one of the top spots for backpackers in Panama. Not just because it’s safe, but also because it’s affordable and offers some great parties.

As you might be able to guess, Panama IS a family-friendly society.

If you’re looking for a place to travel with your children, somewhere that’s definitely going to be an adventurous place to be, then this could be it.

There is some good infrastructure for travelling around here as well as a fair few family-friendly resorts.

Opt to go on a tour, which will take you on adventures into jungles and all sorts of other exciting things. There are many tour and travel agencies that are geared towards family vacations.

Is Panama safe to travel for families?

Unless you want to stay put in a resort, I wouldn’t recommend bringing children any younger than 4 as this could end up being a very stressful way to see the country.

Needless to say, it’s important to keep your children covered up from the sun (don’t forget sunscreen), as well as from mosquitoes (make sure you use child-friendly repellent). Be extra careful at beaches and ensure that your children don’t go too far from you at any time. Warn them of the dangers of the sea!

In Panama City, it’s best to stock up on supplies for your children such as nappies and baby food. Things like high chairs in restaurants, as well as children’s menus, don’t really exist – neither do baby changing facilities.

In general, Panama is safe for families. It’s an amazing destination. Tours are definitely an option for anybody travelling to the country with their family, but to make things even safer for yourself.

Panama has a surprisingly good standard of roads and a good system to go with it – in general, that is. However, that doesn’t necessarily mean that driving in Panama is a good idea.

The driving standards of its citizens are pretty low. Traffic causes a lot of congestion. There are lots of hazards to look out for. Secondary roads are also (often) in pretty bad shape

All in all, I wouldn’t recommend driving in Panama. Basically, it’s not worth it. Unless you’re really into your adventuring and part of your whole thing is to drive in rugged (or chaotic) places, I wouldn’t say driving is something you should do here.

As of recently, Uber does operate in Panama. Is Uber safe in Panama? Yes, Uber is also safe in Panama. It operates in Panama City and Panama City only.

Taxis are plentiful in Panama. Not only that, but they’re also very cheap. However, they can be a bit of a problem. Taxis in Panama aren’t easy – or super safe. ALWAYS agree on a price BEFORE entering the vehicle. Charm (and a bit of Spanish) always goes a long way.

The Panamanian government advises tourists to use the Metrobus system to “ensure your own safety” – a few Red Devils can be seen dotted around, but I don’t recommend using them.

Renting bicycles in some locations is a great, cheap way to get around too. Cycling in Panama works great in places like Bocas Del Toro, where you can always rent bikes or mopeds for super cheap!

There you have it: the transport in Panama is safe, reliable and cheap.

Is public transportation in Panama safe?

Everyone’s packing list is going to look a little different, but here are a few things I would never want to travel to Panama without…


Hanging Laundry Bag

Trust us, this is an absolute game changer. Super compact, a hanging mesh laundry bag stops your dirty clothes from stinking, you don’t know how much you need one of these… so just get it, thank us later.

Gifts for backpackers

A decent head torch could save your life. If you want to explore caves, unlit temples, or simply find your way to the bathroom during a blackout, a headtorch is a must.

Yesim eSIM

Yesim stands as a premier eSIM service provider, catering specifically to the mobile internet needs of travellers.


Monopoly Deal

Forget about Poker! Monopoly Deal is the single best travel card game that we have ever played. Works with 2-5 players and guarantees happy days.

Pacsafe belt

This is a regular looking belt with a concealed pocket on the inside – you can hide up to twenty notes inside and wear it through airport scanners without it setting them off.

Staying protected in 2024 is a no-brainer. If you’re worried about safety, cover your back with travel insurance.

ALWAYS sort out your backpacker insurance before your trip. There’s plenty to choose from in that department, but a good place to start is Safety Wing .

They offer month-to-month payments, no lock-in contracts, and require absolutely no itineraries: that’s the exact kind of insurance long-term travellers and digital nomads need.

travel around panama

SafetyWing is cheap, easy, and admin-free: just sign up lickety-split so you can get back to it!

Click the button below to learn more about SafetyWing’s setup or read our insider review for the full tasty scoop.

Here are some quick answers to common questions about safety in Panama.

Where should I not go in Panama?

Anywhere in Panama that seems slightly sketchy should be avoided. Neighbourhoods like El Chorillo and Santa Ana are known for gang activity, so better stay away!

Is Panama dangerous? / How dangerous is Panama?

Panama can definitely be dangerous if you’re looking for trouble. While there are no-go areas, there’s definitely a way to have a great and safe time in Panama. As long as you use your common sense and be careful, you should have a trouble-free trip.

Is Panama safe for a family vacation?

For adventurous and active families, Panama can be a great place. It’s definitely not the safest travel destination, but with a bit of research and precautions, you can have a great time with your family.

What should I avoid in Panama?

Avoid these things in Panama for a safe trip: – Don’t carry around large sums of money – Don’t look wealthy – Don’t get involved with drugs – Avoid being careless when getting money out of the ATM

Is Panama safe for American tourists?

YES! In fact, on my recent trip to Panama City and Bocas Del Toro, American Tourists were EVERYWHERE! Just be sure to exercise increased caution when in dangerous areas. (Just as any other foreign tourist should do).

Panama is statistically speaking one of the safest countries in Central America.

Even so, there are things about Panama that may make you think twice about visiting this country: theft from tourists is common, pickpocketing happens, and muggings can occur too. This isn’t like where you’re from (most likely, anyway) and will therefore require you to be more careful and cautious than usual.

The position of Panama, sandwiched between Central America and South America, occupying both the Caribbean and Pacific coasts, is both a blessing and a curse. You get the best of both worlds in terms of natural beauty on either side. You get the rainforest of the Darien Gap, but then again, it’s the funnel through which so much trafficking takes place, making a lot of the country unsafe to travel.

However, it’s all relative. You could come to Panama, stay in a resort, and be absolutely fine the entire time – no safety issues at all.

You could even have a tour organized when you plan to visit, meaning you get to travel around with a group of people and be led around by a knowledgeable guide (our recommendation). Independent travel, however, is possible: just be sensible with how you go and you’ll be fine.

Man Fishing in panama - San las- Islands

Looking for more info on traveling to Panama?

  • Let me help you choose where to stay in Panama
  • Swing by one of these fabulous festivals
  • Plan the rest of your trip with our fantastic backpacking Panama travel guide!
  • See exactly how to travel the world for a year , even if you’re broke
  • Take a look at my expert travel safety tips learned from 15+ years on the road

Disclaimer: Safety conditions change all over the world on a daily basis. We do our best to advise but this info may already be out of date. Do your own research. Enjoy your travels!

travel around panama

Joe Middlehurst

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I was stationed there in the early 1980’s, and I just returned from a tour there. I’m trying to spend the rest of my life there. A very BEAUTIFUL PLACE, without the HATE of a.m.e.r.i.K.K.K.a.

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Nomadic Matt: Travel Cheaper, Longer, Better

Central America Travel Guide

Last Updated: August 30, 2023

boats docked at Lake Atitlan, Guatemala

Surrounded by the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans, the slender land bridge of Central America runs from Mexico to South America and is made up of seven countries: Guatemala , Belize , El Salvador , Honduras , Nicaragua , Costa Rica , and Panama .

Political and civil unrest in the 1980s kept most tourists away for decades (people never forget bad news), but now the area is becoming hotspot for travelers, surfers, luxury travelers, and even retirees.

Because Central America is beautiful, filled with history, affordable, and much safer than it used to be.

While there are still regions where you need to be vigilant, people have realized that it’s not the place the media makes it out to be. The region’s rainforests are filled with unexplored Mayan ruins and wildlife, its beaches are great for surfing, its reefs offer world-class diving, there’s a huge variety of flora and fauna here, and the cheap accommodation, food, and transport throughout the region make it a budget traveler’s dream.

I’m glad the collective consciousness is shifting and people are finally recognizing how amazing this area. I began my nomadic life traveling around Central America and whenever I return, I fall in love even more with the friendliness of the people, the tasty food, the weather, the history, and the beauty.

This travel guide to Central America will give you all the tips to help you plan your trip, stay safe, and save money in this underrated region of the world.

Table of Contents

  • Things to See and Do
  • Typical Costs
  • Suggested Budget
  • Money-Saving Tips
  • Where to Stay
  • How to Get Around
  • How to Stay Safe
  • Best Places to Book Your Trip
  • Related Blogs on Central America

Click Here for Country Guides

Top 5 things to see and do in central america.

Pyramids and other ruins in the jungle at the Mayan site of Tikal in Guatemala

1. Explore the volcanoes

This region is rich in volcanoes — both active and inactive. You can hike, take a horse up, and even roast marshmallows at Pacaya (Guatemala), known for frequently erupting in ash clouds. Poás (Costa Rica) is famous for its green volcano crater lake, Arenal has hiking trails, geothermal springs, a gorgeous rainforest area with waterfalls, ziplining tours and a plethora of wildlife. Masaya in Nicaragua is well known for its spectacular crater lava lake that you can visit at night to truly see the bubbling lava (coined ‘La Boca de Infierno’ (or ‘Mouth of Hell’). For adventure seekers, don’t miss trying some adrenaline-inducing sandboarding down Cerro Negro volcano in Nicaragua.

2. See Mayan ruins

Central America has many ruin sites. Tikal, in Guatemala, is an enormous national park and a UNESCO World Heritage Site with centuries of Mayan history and archeology covered in lush vegetation and rare tropical wildlife. Copán in Honduras dates back to the 5th century and boasts intricate stelae, tunnels, a hieroglyphic stairway, and lush tropical vegetation filled with monkeys, sloths, parrots, and macaws. Meanwhile, Xunantunich is one of Belize’s most impressive and easily accessible Maya sites known for its scenic location in the middle of the jungle. Last but not least, San Andrés archeological site in El Salvador is the largest pre-hispanic ruins site in the country and includes pyramids and ancient plazas. The intricate wall carvings, imposing pyramids, and crumbling columns should not be missed. Prices vary but expect to spend around $20 USD for admission.

3. Relax on Caye Caulker, Belize

This little island is incredibly popular with backpackers. It’s less expensive than some of the larger islands in the country and has a relaxed atmosphere to it. There is something here for everyone and there is way more to do here than just lay out on the exquisite beaches (although this is definitely a place you could chill for a few days). However, it’s also a spectacular place to see the delicate ecosystems of Caye Caulker Forest Reserve, which is filled with rare tropical plants and marine life. Caye Caulker is also a great place to snorkel with nurse sharks, dive the Belize Barrier Reef or the Great Blue Hole, swim with gentle manatees, or just kayak around “The Split” in paradise. July is a great time to go because of their famous lobster festival, offering tasty lobster as well as lively beach parties.

4. See the Panama Canal

First opened in 1914, the Panama Canal is an 80-kilometer (50-mile) marvel of human labor and engineering. 13,000-14,000 ships cross between the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean every single year thanks to the canal (nearly a million boats have crossed since its construction). The canal raises ships an impressive 27 meters (85 feet) using a complex lock system, so it takes 8-10 hours for each boat to cross. The Canal relies on three sets of locks: Miraflores and Pedro Miguel Locks on the Pacific side and Gatun Locks on the Caribbean side. The most common place to see the canal is at Miraflores Locks in Panama. Admission is $20 USD.

5. Trek through the rainforests

Much of Central America is covered in lush and humid rainforests. A popular way to see these is to take a canopy tour, where you’ll be suspended on a zip-line and glide over the tops of the trees. The rainforests are filled with howler monkeys, jaguars, lizards, tropical birds, and so much more. Check out Costa Rica’s Volcán Arenal or La Fortuna Zip lines for breathtaking scenic views. Or Guatemala’s Atitlán canopy tours, where you can zip right over the stunning blue lake below. Honduras’s remote paradise Roatán Island offers incredible zip line views of its perfect crystal coast before sunning on the beach too. Expect to pay $40-65 USD.

Other Things to See and Do in Central America

1. head to antigua.

Considered one of the best-preserved colonial cities, Antigua (in Guatemala ) is a major travel hotspot for backpackers. Wander around the Spanish-style cobbled streets and visit the ruins of San Francisco Church. Don’t miss the opportunity to hike up to the 3,976-meter-high (13,000-foot) summit of one of the most active volcanoes in the world, “Volcan Fuego” (which is nearby). You can also head to Acatenango (another nearby volcano) if you’d rather see a volcano spit smoke and fire. Plus, there are tons of pubs, restaurants, coffee shops, hostels, and even Spanish language schools here if you want a reason to stay longer!

2. Go diving

The shores around Central America are home to many coral reefs. As such, diving is hugely popular. The colors and variety of fish will amaze you, as will the clear visibility. Diving here is cheaper than in the Caribbean and most parts of Mexico . Popular dive countries include Panama, Honduras, and Belize. Expect to pay $50-100 USD for a two-tank dive, or a few hundred dollars for your certification course.

3. Tour coffee plantations

This entire region is known for its coffee, particularly Costa Rica and Panama. Tour the plantations and see how the beans are grown, picked, and ground. You can also buy fresh coffee at heavily discounted prices (it’s a great souvenir). I found the best coffee to be from Monteverde, Costa Rica — and I don’t even like coffee! But I drank it and loved it (it tasted like chocolate!).

4. Visit Chichicastenango

Most people who come to Guatemala visit Chichicastenango , the largest indigenous market in Central America. Stalls sell handicrafts, blankets, pottery, souvenirs, and more. It’s the best place to find local food for cheap and take in the hustle and bustle of local life.

5. Tour the museums

Most cities in Central America are filled with museums, particularly those paying homage to the Mayan civilization. The Pre-Columbian Gold Museum in San José, Costa Rica is fascinating, with over 1,000 different gold objects such as animal figures, and jewelry, as well as a scale model of a Pre-Columbian village. For Mayan artifacts, head to the Copán Archaeology Museum in Honduras ($3 USD).

6. Sail the San Blas Islands

This archipelago in Panama consists of 378 islands and cays to explore. Taking a day, or even a week-long sailing trip throughout them is super fun. There are incredible seascapes to behold, as well as fascinating people to meet and colorful reefs to see up close. There is an abundance of wildlife to check out and the boats make frequent snorkeling and scuba diving stops. These trips are popular with budget travelers and can be organized anywhere in the country. You can do a day trip to three of the islands for $90 USD but expect to spend upwards of $600 USD for a 4-5-day cruise. It’s not super cheap, but it’s worth it!

7. Surf down a volcano in Nicaragua

If you like adrenaline activities, try volcano boarding. Cerro Negro, a young and active volcano in Nicaragua, offers tourists a chance to ride a surfboard down its graveled slopes. You have to hike up to the top yourself (which takes around an hour) so be prepared for a climb and to get dirty! A full-day excursion costs $45-50 USD, with transportation, gear, and drinks included.

8. Dive the Great Blue Hole

This natural wonder in Belize is part of the Lighthouse Reef system. It’s a near-perfect circular hole that stretches 146 meters (480 feet) below the surface. The water here is almost completely motionless, so visibility is clear to about 60 meters (200 feet). The Great Blue Hole is an amazing place to dive or snorkel and is considered one of the best natural dive spots in the world! Tour prices vary, but snorkeling tours cost around $220 USD, and diving tours start at $240 USD. A half-day tour with two dives starts from $130 USD. The trips to the Blue Hole are full-day, 3-tank tours and start from $300 USD.

9. Walk through the Treetops

The Rainmaker Aerial Walkway in Costa Rica was the first aerial walkway to be built in Central America and it’s still considered one of the top aerial walkways in the region. At the highest point on the walkway, you’ll find yourself 20 stories above the ground. Tours start at $75 USD and include two light meals. There is also a night tour that lasts three hours and costs $60 USD.

10. Visit the Macaw Mountain Bird Reserve & Park

Located in Copán Ruinas, Honduras, this enclosure is in a tropical rainforest brimming with an amazing range of birds. You’ll see everything from brilliant Buffon Macaws to vibrant Blue and Gold Macaws to colorful Keel-Billed Toucans. Included in the ticket price is a three-day access pass to the park, a one-hour guided tour, and a 20-minute walk through an adjacent coffee plantation. Admission is $10 USD.

11. Admire the Belize Barrier Reef

This is the second-longest barrier reef in the world. It’s home to a vibrant coral reef and magnificent marine life (including sea turtles, rays, and sharks) and is the country’s most popular tourist attraction. In 1996, the reef was designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site and it’s now a popular spot for diving, snorkeling, and boat tours. A three-tank dive costs around $115-125 USD.

12. Go to Ometepe Island, Nicaragua

Located on Nicaragua Lake, this is the largest volcanic island in the world that resides inside a freshwater lake. It’s easy to get to and is close to Managua. There are a plethora of restaurants and hotels on the island. Be sure to check out Cascada San Ramon, a waterfall you can access via a beautiful four-hour hike. Also, don’t miss El Pital where you can learn how chocolate is made (tours are $15 USD).

13. Take in the Nicoya Coast, Costa Rica

This is a beautiful peninsula in Costa Rica peppered with quaint little towns and plenty of beaches. It is constantly sunny here, and there’s a lot to see and do. Some of the main attractions include Barra Honda National Park, Isla Tortuga, scuba diving, and driving along the coast. My favorite town in this area is Santa Teresa.

14. Visit La Libertad, El Salvador

For those of you who are big on surfing, this is considered the best place to catch a wave in Central America. While there is the risk of bumping into a swarm of beach-bum types, it doesn’t take away from the amazing waves, the endless seafood barbecue, and cool accommodation. Surfboard rentals start at $15-25 USD.

15. Enjoy Carnival

The biggest carnival in the region is La Ceiba in Honduras. Held every May, the streets fill with bright costumes and dancing, while bars and clubs burst with locals and tourists alike, all vying to soak up the party atmosphere. Different neighborhoods host “Carnavalitos” (little carnivals), competing on who can throw the best party.

16. Visit the Montecristo Cloud Forest

This cloud forest has a diverse swath of flora and fauna including ferns, orchids, mosses, spider monkeys, and anteaters. Hike to the highest point, El Trifinio, where the borders of El Salvador, Honduras, and Guatemala converge. It’s a steep 7-kilometer (4-mile) climb, so bring lots of water. There’s a limit to how many people can visit the park each day so it’s best to arrive bright and early and finish before the park closes at 3pm.

17. Dive the Bay Islands in Honduras

The Bay Islands are one of the best diving spots in Central America. The Roatan, Utila, and Guanaja archipelagos all offer stunning dive sites. Get up close to colorful coral formations or deep dive 600 meters (2,000) feet into the abyss for bluntnose sixgill shark sightings. It’s also super affordable; prices start at $35-40 USD.

Be sure to visit our Central America country travel guides for more detailed information about what to see and do in each destination:

  • Belize Travel Guide
  • Costa Rica Travel Guide
  • El Salvador Travel Guide
  • Guatemala Travel Guide
  • Honduras Travel Guide
  • Nicaragua Travel Guide
  • Panama Travel Guide

Central America Travel Costs

Brightly colored buildings along the beach, lined tropical palm trees in Belize

Accommodation – Hostel dorms with 6-8 beds cost $8-20 USD per night while private hostel rooms cost $15-30 USD for a single or double bed with private bathroom (in Belize, Costa Rica or Panama, you will pay on the higher end of that range).

Family-owned guesthouses or hotels are the next most affordable accommodation. These rooms average $25-40 USD per night for a private room with an ensuite bathroom. Many include breakfast, not to mention the added bonus of meeting a local.

In cheaper countries like Honduras, a private room can cost $15 USD per night while in a more expensive destination like Panama City, you can expect to pay on the higher end, about $40-50 USD per night.

Airbnb is also an option around Central America, with private rooms starting at around $30 USD per night. For an entire home or apartment expect to pay at least $70 USD per night (though prices are often double that).

Camping can be done easily at some hostels and in certain national parks. Many hostels have spaces where you can pitch a tent or string up a hammock for under $10 USD per night. National parks require camping fees that vary from country to country. See country guides for specifics on where to stay.

Generally, I’d avoid wild camping in this region (even where it is legal it is not advised due to crime, the heat, and wildlife).

Food – While the cuisine for each country in Central America varies, there is some overlap. Expect to find dishes centered around rice, beans, tortillas, meat, and seafood. Generally, you’ll find a mix of Spanish, Caribbean, and traditional Mesoamerican influences here. Fresh fruit is also huge, including favorites like bananas, plantain, mangoes, papaya, and more.

The cheapest food option is to eat at the roadside restaurants that dot the region. Buying your own groceries and cooking is also super affordable, though not all hostels have kitchen facilities.

At small restaurants serving regional cuisine, expect to pay around $5 USD for a meal. If you want really cheap food, you can find empanadas (fried pastries filled with meat, cheese, or potatoes) for under a dollar.

If you plan on cooking your own meals, head down to the local market and pick up fruit, vegetables, rice, and some meat or seafood for $20-40 USD per week depending on your diet.

The local markets have tons of fresh fruit for incredibly cheap, so fill up on that when you can. A typical restaurant meal per main dish and a drink is about $10 USD, however, western food costs about three times as much as local dishes — so skip it!

See each destination’s guide for more info and prices.

Backpacking Central America Suggested Budgets

On a backpacker budget of $30-55 USD per day, you can stay in a hostel dorm, eat some local street food, cook most of your meals, visit a few attractions (like museums and national parks), do some free walking tours, and take local transportation to get around. If you plan on drinking, you’ll need to add a few extra dollars to your daily budget.

On a mid-range budget of $75-150 USD per day, you can stay in a private hostel or Airbnb, eat out more, enjoy a few drinks, visit some historical sites and do some tours, and take coach buses and the occasional taxi to get around.

On a “luxury” budget of $180-290 USD per day, you can stay in a hotel, drink as much as you’d like, eat out for all your meals (including at Western restaurants), take private tours, rent a car for day trips, go diving, and even take the occasional flight. This is just the ground floor for luxury though. The sky is the limit!

Note that if you visit Costa Rica and Panama (the region’s two most expensive countries), you’ll spend on the higher end of these ranges (and above).

You can use the chart below to get some idea of how much you need to budget daily. Keep in mind these are daily averages – some days you’ll spend more, some days you’ll spend less (you might spend less every day). We just want to give you a general idea of how to make your budget. Prices are in USD.

Central America Travel Guide: Money-Saving Tips

While our country guides have more specific ways to save (every country in the region is very different), here are five general rules for saving money in Central America:

  • Visit the markets – Although eating out is cheap in Central America, it makes sense to shop at the markets for your food to take on day trips or to prepare at your hostel. Fruit is super cheap!
  • Hitchhike – Hitchhiking is one of the most popular ways to get around the region and used extensively by locals. You’ll find people regularly willing to pick up people and give them a lift. Just be sure to use common sense as some regions should not be traveled by hitchhiking.
  • Eat on the side of the road – The local eateries at the side of the road will be the cheapest food you can eat, costing just a couple of dollars per meal.
  • Avoid flying – Bus rides are longer, but if you are trying to see this region on a budget you shouldn’t fly. Flights are 5-10 times more expensive than the bus! An hour-long flight can cost hundreds of dollars. Avoid flying as much as possible!

Where to Stay in Central America

Each country guide has lots of suggested places to stay but here are some of my top top places to stay in the region:

  • The Red Hut Inn (Belize City)
  • Sophie’s Guest Rooms (Caye Caulker)
  • Dirty McNasty (Caye Caulker)
  • D’s Hostel (San Ignacio)
  • Maya Papaya (Antigua)
  • La Iguana Perdida (Santa Cruz, Lake Atitlan)
  • Casa de Grethel (Flores)
  • Hostal Los Lagos (Guatemala City)

El Salvador

  • Hostal Cumbres del Volcan Flor Blanca (San Salvador)
  • Hostel Casa Verde (Santa Ana)
  • Roatan Backpackers Hostel (Roatan)
  • Palmira Hostel (Tegucigalpa)
  • Iguana Azul (Copan Ruinas)
  • De Boca en Boca (Granada)
  • Bigfoot Hostel & Volcano Boarding (Leon)
  • Managua Backpackers Inn (Managua)
  • Hostel Life is Good (Ometepe Island)
  • Rocking J’s (Puerto Viejo)
  • Costa Rica Backpackers (San Jose)
  • Pura Natura Lodge Manuel Antonio (Manuel Antonio)
  • Camino Verde B&B (Monteverde)
  • Hostal Casa Areka (Panama City)
  • Magnolia Inn Casco Viejo (Panama City)
  • El Machio (Panama City)
  • Bambuda Castle (Boquete)
  • Bambuda Lodge (Bocas del Toro)

How to Get Around Central America

A sprawling town with old buildings in Honduras

Public transportation – Public buses are the most common (and cheapest) way to get around, with fares costing less than a dollar. These buses are often referred to as “chicken buses” because of the number of chickens and rice that is transported on them. They stop just about everywhere to let people hop on and off, and you’ll be crammed in tight with locals. They’re slow, but cheap.

Taxi – Taxis are common and affordable, but not all of them have meters. Be sure to check before you get into the taxi and if there’s no meter, negotiate a fare upfront.

On the higher end, taxi fares start at about $2 USD in Panama City and then they charge $2 USD per kilometer. In San Jose, Costa Rica, rates start at around $1 USD and then are $1.11 USD per kilometer.

Always ask your hotel/hostel staff how much your ride should be so you know in advance. When in doubt, have them call a taxi for you as well so you know you won’t get ripped off.

Bus – Longer bus rides and overnight buses between countries usually cost between $10-30 USD. They’re not always overly comfortable, but they usually have air-conditioning and some night buses have reclining seats.

Shuttle buses are a popular way to get travelers around the backpacking trail. All you need to do is show up at a travel agency (they’re everywhere) and negotiate a price and route. Make sure you’re clear about where the bus is picking you up — it’s not always a bus station. In some cases, you can just show up and pay the driver onboard.

Larger international buses also run between the larger cities and tend to have their own bus terminals. Some services include Tica Bus, Central Line, and Expreso Panama.

On Tica Bus, for example, you can get from Panama all the way to Guatemala. From Panama to Costa Rica is about $55 USD, and the price increases the further you go. These buses are more comfortable, but the smaller minibusses arranged through an agency tend to be cheaper.

Train – Trains are non-existent in this region. Stick to buses.

Flying – Flying between cities and countries is expensive and routes are limited. A flight from Guatemala City to Belize City can cost upwards of $240 USD while a one-way flight from Belize to Panama is over $375 USD! I would avoid this method of travel unless you are very pressed for time and have lots of money to burn.

Car rental – Roads and driving conditions vary widely here. Overall, you’ll want to be an experienced driver here if you are going to rent a car. Rentals cost around $15-35 USD per day for a multi-day rental. For the best car rental prices, use Discover Cars .

When to Go to Central America

The weather in Central America varies drastically depending on where you are thanks to its many distinct microclimates from coast to coast (and with the altitude in the mountainous areas). The dry season is from December to April, which is generally considered the best time to visit. This is also when most people visit so you can expect more crowds and inflated prices.

The rainy season is from April to December, with hurricane season being at its peak in September and October (especially on the Caribbean side). Having said that, the rainy season isn’t a bad time to visit. Mostly you’ll find periods of heavy rainfall, but plenty of nice weather otherwise. Humidity can be high, and mosquitos and tropical storms can be a nuisance.

In the mountains, temperatures can drop as low as 10°C (50°F). In the hottest places, it’ll soar into the high 30s°C (80s°F). Refer to our country-specific guides to get a better breakdown of temperatures and climates!

How to Stay Safe in Central America

While Central America is generally safe for traveling and backpacking, there’s no denying that certain precautions should be taken. There are certain parts of Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala that are currently best to avoid completely and theft and pick-pocketing is common in most cities around the region.

Additionally, there are lots of places you don’t want to go out at night (especially in big cities).

You can find the current situation for each country in their destination guide but here are some general rules for staying safe in Central America:

  • Avoid isolated areas, especially at night and in big cities.
  • Avoid night buses, where robberies are common, unless your hotel/hostel staff say otherwise.
  • Avoid taking drugs here. Penalties are stiff.
  • Be aware of your surroundings at all times.
  • Keep your personal belongings on you while using public transit (especially chicken buses).
  • Take taxis at night in foreign cities (ideally with other travelers).
  • Don’t wear flashy items or start flashing your phone around (especially at night).

Overall, violent attacks against tourists are rare. Petty theft is common here and you must be extremely vigilant to make sure you don’t get robbed — especially when on public transportation or in large crowds.

Don’t carry lots of cash on you and avoid flashing expensive gear. When you go out, only take as much money as you need.

Keep an eye out for common scams against tourists , such as fake ATMs, taxis that don’t use a meter, and questionable tour operators.

For more in-depth coverage of how to stay safe in Central America, check out this post we wrote that answers some frequently asked questions and concerns.

Solo female travelers should generally feel safe here, however, the standard precautions apply (never leave your drink unattended at the bar, never walk home alone intoxicated, etc.).

The most important piece of advice I can offer is to purchase good travel insurance. Travel insurance will protect you against illness, injury, theft, and cancellations. It’s comprehensive protection in case anything goes wrong. I never go on a trip without it as I’ve had to use it many times in the past.

Central America Travel Guide: The Best Booking Resources

These are my favorite companies to use when I travel. They consistently have the best deals, offer world-class customer service and great value, and overall, are better than their competitors. They are the companies I use the most and are always the starting point in my search for travel deals.

  • Skyscanner – Skyscanner is my favorite flight search engine. They search small websites and budget airlines that larger search sites tend to miss. They are hands down the number one place to start.
  • Hostelworld – This is the best hostel accommodation site out there with the largest inventory, best search interface, and widest availability.
  • Booking.com – The best all around booking site that constantly provides the cheapest and lowest rates. They have the widest selection of budget accommodation. In all my tests, they’ve always had the cheapest rates out of all the booking websites.
  • Get Your Guide – Get Your Guide is a huge online marketplace for tours and excursions. They have tons of tour options available in cities all around the world, including everything from cooking classes, walking tours, street art lessons, and more!
  • SafetyWing – Safety Wing offers convenient and affordable plans tailored to digital nomads and long-term travelers. They have cheap monthly plans, great customer service, and an easy-to-use claims process that makes it perfect for those on the road.
  • LifeStraw – My go-to company for reusable water bottles with built-in filters so you can ensure your drinking water is always clean and safe.
  • Unbound Merino – They make lightweight, durable, easy-to-clean travel clothing.
  • Top Travel Credit Cards – Points are the best way to cut down travel expenses. Here’s my favorite point earning credit cards so you can get free travel!

Central America Travel Guide: Related Articles

Want more info? Check out all the articles I’ve written on Central America travel and continue planning your trip:

Do You Need Travel Insurance for Costa Rica?

Do You Need Travel Insurance for Costa Rica?

The Best Tour Companies in Costa Rica

The Best Tour Companies in Costa Rica

The 6 Best Hostels in Panama City, Panama

The 6 Best Hostels in Panama City, Panama

Is Belize Safe to Visit?

Is Belize Safe to Visit?

Is Central America Safe to Visit?

Is Central America Safe to Visit?

How to Get Around Central America on a Budget

How to Get Around Central America on a Budget

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travel around panama

Amongst Endless Options, These Are the Best Beaches in Panama

Panama is a gorgeous country with more beaches than you can visit in one trip. Here are some of the best beaches in Panama.

Leah Jones • May 28, 2024

travel around panama

You cannot just simply “go to the beach” when you are visiting Panama. Technically speaking you can, but for the best trip possible, you would want to carefully consider which ones to visit. Panama is a Central American country that connects North and South America, bordered by Costa Rica to the west, Colombia to the southeast, the Caribbean Sea to the north, and the Pacific Ocean to the south. And on top of all that, it houses the world-famous Panama Canal. 

You can find lush rainforests, stunning beaches along both the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea and vibrant coral reefs throughout this country’s landscape. Its beaches range from hidden spots nestled between islands that are perfect for relaxing to beaches that are well-loved by surfers for their abundance of waves. There are also beaches for those that want to snorkel, hike, eat local food, drink and more. You’re going to want to know what beaches you most want to visit in Panama as there are so many that offer different experiences. 

Here are some of the best beaches in Panama you should consider. 

Panama Beaches Along the Caribbean Coast

beach in Bocas del Toro

Red Frog Beach

Red Frog Beach, located on Isla Bastimentos in Bocas del Toro, Panama, is the spot for visitors seeking both adventure and relaxation. The beach is renowned for its striking golden sand and lush surrounding jungle, which is home to the famous red frogs that give the beach its name. You can have a relaxing day swimming and sunbathing on the pristine beach or go exploring the vibrant marine life just offshore with some snorkeling.

Those seeking more adventure should try surfing, zip-lining through the rainforest canopy and hiking trails that lead through the dense jungle. Additionally, the area features eco-resorts and beach bars for unwinding with a refreshing drink while enjoying stunning ocean views straight out of a movie. All together, Red Frog Beach combines natural beauty with a range of activities, making it one of the best beaches in Panama. 

Starfish Beach (Playa Estrella)

Find Starfish Beach, also known as Playa Estrella, on Isla Colón in the Bocas del Toro archipelago. This serene beach is famous for its clear, shallow waters and its population of starfish. Snorkeling is a popular activity here as guests can get up close to the starfish and other marine life in their natural habitat.

You should especially visit Playa Estrella if you want to enjoy a laid back time. The calm, warm waters are also perfect for swimming and wading, so it’s great for families with children. Experience what relaxation is all about on the soft, sandy shores under the shade of swaying palm trees or on a leisurely stroll along the coastline. Local vendors often set up along the beach, so you can enjoy some fresh seafood, tropical drinks and local crafts whenever you are craving it.  

Bluff Beach

Bluff Beach is also situated on Isla Colón. It’s a stunning destination known for its expansive stretch of golden sand and powerful waves. This beach is particularly popular with surfers, thanks to its consistent and challenging surf breaks. For those less inclined to hit the waves, Bluff Beach is perfect for those ideal long walks on the beach with the sight of the crashing waves and the lush jungle backdrop. The beach is also a great spot for wildlife enthusiasts; the surrounding area is home to a variety of tropical birds and, during certain times of the year, the possibility to spot sea turtles nesting.

Swimming at Bluff Beach is not advisable because of the strong currents, but the natural beauty and tranquility still make a perfect setting for relaxation and nature appreciation. Additionally, there are a few beachside bars and restaurants where visitors can enjoy local cuisine and refreshing drinks, making it one of the best beaches in Panama for both experienced surfers and leisure.

San Blas Islands (Guna Yala)

wide shot of boat sailing in San Blas Islands

The San Blas Islands, known locally as Guna Yala, is a beautiful archipelago comprising over 360 islands off the Caribbean coast of Panama. These islands are celebrated for their crystal-clear turquoise waters, white sandy beaches and vibrant coral reefs. Want to do some snorkeling and diving? Try it here and explore the underwater wonders teeming with colorful marine life throughout the islands, including coral formations, tropical fish and even shipwrecks. That’s not where the exploration opportunities stop. Sailing or taking a boat tour around the islands is available to hop between different islets, so you don’t have to choose just one to get to know.

The San Blas Islands are also home to the indigenous Guna people. Make sure to fit in the time to get immersed in the local culture by visiting Guna villages, learning about their traditions and purchasing handcrafted molas and other artisan goods. It is always rewarding, and often appreciated by locals, to get acquainted with the culture you are visiting. Guna Yala also has tranquil beaches for sunbathing, swimming and just enjoying the tropical surroundings. Staying in eco-friendly lodges or overwater bungalows adds to the unique experience, making the San Blas Islands one of the best beaches in Panama for both adventure and relaxation.

Panama Beaches Along the Pacific Coast

suffer on wave

Playa Venao

Located on the Azuero Peninsula, Playa Venao is a popular destination for surfers, with great conditions and a laid-back atmosphere. The consistent waves make it a hotspot for surfers of all levels, with surf schools and rental shops available for beginners and experienced surfers alike. Beyond surfing, there’s water sports such as paddle boarding and kayaking to explore the calm waters of the nearby estuaries. The beach itself is perfect for sunbathing and beachcombing, with its wide, sandy shores and scenic views. Nature enthusiasts can enjoy hiking in the surrounding hills or taking guided tours to discover local wildlife and the lush landscape.

You should also visit Playa Venao if you are looking for a lively social scene. It’s got beachside bars, restaurants and cafes that provide delicious local and international cuisine, refreshing drinks and opportunities to meet fellow travelers. Playa Venao is overall one of the best beaches in Panama for a variety of activities with options for yoga retreats, horseback riding, nightlife and simply relaxing in a hammock while watching the sunset.

Isla Contadora

travel around panama

Isla Contadora is part of Panama’s Pearl Islands, and is a luxurious destination offering a range of both adventure and relaxation. It’s famed for its stunning beaches, such as Playa Cacique and Playa Larga, with their clear turquoise waters and pristine white sands. Snorkeling and diving are popular activities here for exploring vibrant coral reefs and encountering diverse marine life like colorful fish and sea turtles.

For a more leisurely experience, take a boat tour around the island to admire the beautiful coastline and to spot dolphins and whales in the surrounding waters. The island also features upscale resorts and charming boutique hotels that make for luxury accommodations and fine dining options. Visitors can also rent golf carts to explore the island, visit historic sites like the old church ruins or enjoy water sports such as kayaking and paddleboarding. 

Santa Catalina

This small village on Panama’s Pacific coast is a renowned destination for surfers and divers with a relaxed vibe. Famous for its consistent, world-class waves, Santa Catalina attracts surfers from around the globe, with breaks suitable for both beginners and seasoned surfers. Beyond surfing, this village serves as the gateway to Coiba National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage site known for its marine biodiversity. Encounter vibrant coral reefs, schools of tropical fish, manta rays and even whale sharks during diving and snorkeling trips to Coiba.

Deep-sea fishing opportunities and kayaking along the scenic coastline are also available in this area. On land, explore the lush jungle surroundings on horseback or hike to nearby viewpoints for breathtaking vistas of the Pacific Ocean. Turn it in at night at a selection of cozy accommodations, and continue enjoying Santa Catalina’s laid-back atmosphere at beachside cafes and restaurants serving fresh seafood and local cuisine. 

Playa Blanca

travel around panama

Playa Blanca is located on Panama’s Pacific coast in the Coclé Province and is a premier destination for beachgoers looking for the best beaches in Panama. This beach is ideal for swimming, sunbathing and beachcombing with its well-known white sand and crystal-clear waters. The calm, warm sea is perfect for water sports such as paddle boarding, kayaking and jet skiing.

The area is also famous for its all-inclusive resorts with amenities such as swimming pools, spas and gourmet dining. Nearby attractions beyond the beach include the Anton Valley for hiking through lush forests, waterfalls and a vibrant local market. Golf enthusiasts can tee off at the nearby world-class golf courses, while families can enjoy the various recreational activities and entertainment options available at the resorts. Playa Blanca really has a little something for everybody. 

Lesser-Known Gems

Though equally stunning, these are the beaches that less tourists know about but equally offer an unforgettable Panamanian experience.

Playa Las Lajas

Playa Las Lajas, located in the Chiriquí Province of Panama, is a hidden gem of Panama. Stretching over 13 kilometers, this vast, flat beach is perfect for leisurely strolls, beachcombing and enjoying the breathtaking sunsets over the Pacific Ocean. The gentle waves and shallow waters make it an ideal spot for swimming and boogie boarding, while the wide expanse of sand is perfect for sunbathing and playing beach sports.

The surrounding area is also great for nature exploration, including horseback riding along the beach and birdwatching in the nearby mangroves and wetlands. For a taste of local culture, visitors can explore the small, friendly village of Las Lajas, where they can enjoy fresh seafood and traditional Panamanian dishes at beachfront restaurants. 

Isla Taboga

Isla Taboga, known as the “Island of Flowers,” is a charming getaway located just a short boat ride from Panama City. The island boasts beautiful sandy beaches, such as Playa Restinga and Playa Honda, where visitors can relax, swim in the clear waters and enjoy sunbathing. Isla Taboga is also a haven for water sports enthusiasts with opportunities for kayaking, paddle boarding and snorkeling.

Wander through the picturesque village, visit the Church of San Pedro, one of the oldest churches in the Americas, or explore the remnants of old fortifications to discover the island’s rich history and cultural heritage. There are also hiking trails that lead up to Cerro de la Cruz, and provide panoramic views of the island and the surrounding ocean. The lush landscapes and abundance of tropical flowers responsible for the beach’s name make for scenic walks and excellent photography. Isla Taboga is truly one of the best beaches in Panama with its variety for everyone. 

Playa El Palmar 

Located on Panama’s Pacific coast near the town of San Carlos is Playa El Palmar, one of the best beaches in Panama for both chills and thrills. Known for its consistent waves, El Palmar is another hotspot for surfers of all levels because of its consistent waves. Also,  Local surf schools offering lessons and board rentals are available. You can of course do plenty of swimming, sunbathing and beachcombing with the beach’s golden sands and clear waters.

For those interested in watersports beyond surfing, options like paddle boarding and kayaking are available. For the fishers out there, Playa El Palmar’s marine life also makes it worthwhile to book a fishing trip. The beach is lined with palm trees that provide natural shade and a picture perfect setting for picnics and relaxation. Nearby, visitors can explore local eateries serving fresh seafood and traditional Panamanian dishes.

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  • Solo Travel

10 Affordable Solo Vacations Around the World

These are the top destinations for solo travelers on a budget.

travel around panama

Paul McKenzie/ Ascent Xmedia/Getty Images

Solo travel affords one the unique opportunity to explore at their own pace while stepping out of their comfort zone, making it one of the most rewarding and thrilling experiences. With that in mind, it’s no wonder why solo travel has become increasingly popular. But don’t just take it from us. “Kayak’s data is showing that solo travel in the U.S. continues to be a trend with a steady increase in hotel searches for one person vs. last year and vs. pre-pandemic levels (2019),” said Cara Johnson, Kayak’s consumer travel trends expert.

To determine the best affordable destinations for solo travelers, we tapped the pros over at Kayak to compile a list. From there, we narrowed down our top picks based on expert insight and research. As you peruse the list below, you’ll come across a few Caribbean destinations, as well as several cities throughout North, South, and Central America. Europe isn’t entirely out of reach either, though you’ll have to keep scrolling to see which city made the cut.

No matter where you plan on traveling solo to, Fora co-founder, T+L A-List advisor, and frequent solo traveler Henley Vazquez recommends planning “a few activities in advance so you don't feel overwhelmed with an abundance of unscheduled free time.” On the flip side, she says, "Don’t over-plan! You want to leave room for spontaneity.” She also advises saving a few locations on your phone ahead of time. That way, she says, “If you ever lose Wi-Fi or service, you know how to navigate.”

Denver, Colorado

Ixefra/Getty Images

Average cost: $523 for flight + hotel

From scenic hiking opportunities to craft brews galore, it’s safe to say the Mile High City offers something fun for everyone. Additionally, according to Vazquez, “Denver has a great airport which makes it easy to access from almost anywhere else in the country.” Solo travelers can take their pick of outdoor activities, including hiking and biking. “While normally it's not recommended to hike off into a national park solo, Denver has loads of fantastic trails and an active hiking population, so you'll never be alone on the trail (in a good way),” she tells T+L. Art enthusiasts, meanwhile, need not miss Meow Wolf , a walk-through interactive art exhibit, which, per Vazquez, offers “a totally immersive, mind-bending experience.” Pro tip: Stretch your dollar even further by purchasing the Denver CityPass , which saves you up to 43 percent on admission to top attractions like the Downtown Aquarium and Denver Museum of Nature & Science , among others.

Calgary, Canada

Average cost: $655 for flight + hotel

Known as the gateway to the Canadian Rockies, Calgary is Alberta’s largest city — and it truly offers something for everyone. Experience a taste of Calgary’s signature cowboy culture by planning your trip around the Calgary Stampede , a world-class rodeo show, music and arts festival, and carnival that takes place each summer. However, that’s not to say the urban oasis isn’t worth visiting at other times of year. The bustling downtown area is home to plenty of restaurants and coffee shops, such as Monogram Coffee Co. and Rosso Coffee Roasters , arts and entertainment (such as The Palace Theater for live music and theatrical performances at One Yellow Rabbit ), and local shops, including the Alberta Boot Company , where travelers can snag a pair of handcrafted Western boots. Lastly, it’s worth noting that Calgary boasts North America’s largest urban pathway and bikeway network , making it easy for travelers to explore the various neighborhoods, parks, public art installations , and more via bike (read: no rental car required!).

Mexico City, Mexico

Stephanie Pollak/Travel + Leisure

Average cost: $660 for flight + hotel

“Part of the joy of visiting Mexico City is wandering around beautiful neighborhoods like Polanco and Roma and experiencing the local architecture and culture,” says Vazquez before adding, “You can set your own pace and wander blissfully on your own.” Mexico’s vibrant capital city is also world-renowned for its food scene and is home to several highly esteemed restaurants like Contramar and Meroma . Plus, “Finding a seat at the bar is easy if you're dining for one — you could even create your own personal food crawl!” The travel pro also recommends joining a Context Travel tour to visit the Frida Khalo house, telling T+L that “their small group tours are affordable and their guides are great.” Free attractions, including the Bosque de Chapultepec and the Palacio Nacional , also abound.

San Juan, Puerto Rico

Taylor McIntyre/Travel + Leisure

Average cost: $678 for flight + hotel

San Juan, Puerto Rico has already been named among the most affordable spots for a beach vacation , with affordable flights and hotel options to suit every type of traveler. Best of all: You don’t need a passport to visit. Solo travelers can spend their days by the beach or exploring San Juan’s majestic Old Town, where the cobblestone streets are dotted with colorful buildings, shops, restaurants, and bars, (don’t miss La Factoria for craft cocktails!). Snap photos along the Instagram-famous  “Umbrella Street" (official name: Calle de la Fortaleza) before heading to the historic Castillo San Felipe del Morro fortress, complete with sweeping ocean views. While Old San Juan makes a great home base for exploring, Condado is another excellent option for beach lovers thanks to its oceanfront locale.

Panama City, Panama

John Piekos/Getty Images

Average cost: $730 for flight + hotel

“ Panama City offers a similar experience to visiting Mexico City, only it's a good bit smaller and less intimidating as a solo traveler,” says Vazquez. Plus, “It's relatively easy (and cheap!) to get to, and once you're there, it's easy to navigate the different neighborhoods.” She’s also quick to call out the “incredible” food and “amazing” history — and recommends all solo travelers pay a visit to the Panama Canal. While mornings are best spent sightseeing — can’t-miss attractions include the Biomuseo , the Panama Canal Museum , and the 573-acre, flora- and fauna-filled Metropolitan Natural Park   — afternoons and evenings are for bar-hopping around Casco Viejo, the city’s oldest and smallest quarter that just so happens to be teeming with nightlife. Last but not least, “The city also offers easy access to nature, so you can add on a few days for a fun outdoor adventure.”

Willemstad, Curaçao

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Average cost: $985 for flight + hotel

Pristine beaches, colorful architecture, a fascinating history, incredible diving, and a thriving arts and culture scene: Find all this and more on the Dutch Caribbean island of Curaçao. The capital city of Willemstad boasts some seriously stunning architecture done up in pastel hues, and it also serves as the gateway to beautiful beaches, including Blue Bay, which just so happens to be a beloved diving site. The isle is also home to the 1732 Mikvé-Israel-Emanuel Synagogue , the oldest synagogue in continuous use in the Americas. Visitors can embark on a self-guided street art tour of the city, which is teeming with colorful murals. A meal and a cocktail at Cast Away Beach Bar Restaurant at Playa Kalki is also a must. Plus, Curaçao is considered one of the most LGBTQ+-friendly Caribbean vacation destinations .

Nassau, The Bahamas

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Average cost: $998 for flight + hotel

Like San Juan, the Bahamian capital city of Nassau was also named among the best-value warm-weather vacation destinations thanks to its abundance of affordable flight options. Plus, it’s just a quick one- to three-hour flight from most East Coast cities, making for an ideal long weekend getaway. While nearby Paradise Island is home to some pricey hotels and attractions, it is possible to explore Nassau on a budget. For one, travelers can take their pick of pristine (and free!) stretches of sand, including the 2.5-mile-long Cable Beach and the mile-long Junkanoo Beach , which is within walking distance of the city’s famous Straw Market . Additionally, on a recent trip, I partook in a slew of low-cost activities, including a visit to the National Art Gallery of The Bahamas and a tour of John Watling's Distillery . The Queen's Staircase is located within the Fort Fincastle Historic Complex, which dates back to the late 18th century. After trekking the 60-plus steps, head to the Fish Fry (Arawak Cay), which is lined with colorful local eateries offering local delicacies like conch fritters and sky juice cocktails (coconut water, gin, and condensed milk served over ice) for a fraction of the price you’d find in local resorts.

Santiago, Chile

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Average cost: $1,049 for flight + hotel

With the value of the Chilean peso currently so low , there’s never been a better time for budget-conscious solo travelers to consider a trip to Chile’s capital city. “Santiago is beautiful and has access to all the incredible nature Chile has to offer, including Patagonia and wine country,” says Vazquez. However, that’s not to say you need to leave the city to enjoy some of the country’s best vinos — simply snag a seat at wine bars like Bocanáriz and Barrica 94 between sightseeing tours. And, speaking of the latter, don’t miss sites like La Chascona , the former home of famed Chilean poet Pablo Neruda, and the Gabriela Mistral Cultural Centre . Also, Vazquez explains, “What's great about traveling to Chile is most of the lodges include group activities and tours, so even if you’re solo, you're still connecting with other travelers each day.” She especially recommends Tierra Atacama , which just announced a $12 million refresh, and the Explora Lodge , which offers “a rich history of sustainability, originally owned by North Face founder Douglas Tompkins.”

Reykjavik, Iceland

Irjaliina Paavonpera/Travel + Leisure

Average cost: $1,053 for flight + hotel

The Icelandic capital is known for being one of the safest cities thanks to its friendly locals and low crime rates, making it a solid choice for adventure-seeking and nature-loving solo travelers. Fly there via Icelandair or PLAY , both of which offer low-cost flight options from many U.S. cities. Upon landing, hit the ground running and get exploring: Start at The National Gallery of Iceland , the famous Hallgrímskirkja church, or the National Museum of Iceland before refueling with a meal at OTO (which serves up Italian and Asian fusion) or a cup of coffee at Kaffitar or Reykjavik Röst . Also, consider renting a car or partaking in a tour to explore nearby sites like Mount Esja or the Fagradalsfjall volcano — both of which are within an hour’s drive of the city — as well as Gullfoss Falls, which is a bit further away (about an hour and 45 minutes by car) and well worth the trek. Meanwhile, Sky Lagoon is an easy 15-minute drive from the city and attracts wellness-seekers from all over with its geothermal baths.

George Town, Cayman Islands

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Average cost: $1,204 for flight + hotel

“ Sometimes, all you need is a solo beach vacation , and this is the perfect place,” Vazquez says of George Town, the capital of the Cayman Islands. “You can be on the beach reading a book within 30 minutes of landing!” Located on Grand Cayman — known for its beautiful beaches and top-notch diving — this bustling port city offers an abundance of activities that run the gamut from distillery tours to pickleball. Alternatively, sun-seekers can head straight to the stunning Seven Mile Beach, while history buffs and art enthusiasts will enjoy a visit to the Cayman Islands National Museum and The National Gallery of the Cayman Islands , respectively. Consider visiting in the summer or early fall, which coincides with the island’s low season. The result? Cheaper flights, lower rates on lodging, and fewer crowds.

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  • How we selected

We found 11 affordable overwater bungalows that start as low as $170 a night and still come with luxury amenities

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  • Overwater bungalows are among the most desired hotel accommodations in the world.
  • Many overwater bungalows cost thousands per night, but affordable options exist starting at $170.
  • We found affordable overwater bungalows in the South Pacific, Caribbean, Central America, and Asia. 

Insider Today

Few destinations in the world inspire more wanderlust than far-flung locales dotted with overwater bungalows (or alternatively called overwater villas). These lodgings are perched atop calm, shallow waters and crystalline lagoons that are striated into every imaginable hue of blue.

Fortunately, not all overwater bungalows have an astronomical financial barrier to entry. Cheaper options exist, and while less common, they're still in desirable areas like the South Pacific, Asia, and the Caribbean. These are the best affordable overwater bungalows, from rustic and eco-minded to over-the-top posh.

These are the best overwater bungalows, sorted by location and price.

Koro sun resort.

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Book Koro Sun Resort

Fiji's Koro Sun Resort sprawls over 160 acres on the island of Vanua Levu. The property has a spa, impeccable scuba options, and an overwater room category billed as Fiji's only floating accommodation.

Here, Edgewater Floating Bures are adults-only accommodations offering 380-square-foot rooms, each one floating within the resort's calm marina. A two-person kayak is tied to each bure's 120-square-foot private front deck, so you can hop right in the water for either kayaking or swimming. 

Hotel Kia Ora Resort & Spa

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Book Hotel Kia Ora Resort & Spa

Totally unspoiled with screensaver views in every direction, Rangiroa Island places you away from the over-saturated crowds of (big-spending) honeymooners on Bora Bora while still indulging in overwater accommodation luxury. Hotel Kia Ora Spa and Resort is located in the Tuamotu Archipelago, located on its largest atoll. The environment includes turquoise lagoons, wild coconut groves, and a stunning tropical garden.

There are 10 overwater bungalows. Each bungalow is decorated in a traditional Tahitian style and includes a glass panel in the floor to observe passing fish. When you aren't enjoying your direct access to the lagoon, you can bike into the island for a visit to the local wine cellar. 

Coconuts Beach Club Resort and Spa

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Book Coconuts Beach Club Resort and Spa

Located in the culturally rich but much lesser-traveled South Pacific destination of Samoa, Coconuts Beach Club Resort and Spa is located on Upolu's southern coast where you'll experience incredible sunrises and sunsets.

The intimate resort offers overwater fales with six indoor-outdoor accommodations boasting spectacular views of the beaches, lagoon, and ocean. Each has a large sun deck, an expansive bedroom with a King bed, and a high traditional Samoan ceiling. Private decks can be closed off with sliding glass doors for privacy and the use of AC. Open-air bathrooms have sunken tubs and waterfall showers. There are no phones or TVs, just total peace.

Punta Caracol Acqua Lodge

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Book Punta Caracol Acqua Lodge

This eco-lodge is located in Panama's Bocas del Toro area where white sand and turquoise water make the views and the atmosphere idyllic. Punta Caracol Acqua Lodge offers a uniquely untouched nature experience with the ocean right on your doorstep. You can snorkel among colorful fish, kayak through picturesque waters, or take a quick trip to Bocas Town to take in the local culture.  

Guests can enjoy their stay knowing that Punta Caracol Acqua Lodge is passionate about sustainability. On the premises, you will find solar panels for clean energy, a sewage purifying system to avoid pollution, and eco-friendly products in the bathrooms.

Eclypse de Mar Acqua Lodge

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Book Eclypse de Mar Acqua Lodge

Nestled on the border of Isla Bastimentos National Marine Park, Eclypse de Mar Acqua Lodge is a sea and jungle paradise. The on-site nature reserve, which spans over 7 acres, offers guided tours. Here, you will find trails, lagoons, and wildlife like sloths, iguanas, and colorful frogs. 

Each of the seven overwater bungalows is built with local wood and natural palm-leaf roofing. Inside, you will find a glass panel in the floor to watch passing marine life. No matter where you are at Eclypse de Mar Acqua Lodge, you will be immersed in nature.

Las Lagunas Boutique Hotel

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Book Las Lagunas Boutique Hotel

Las Lagunas is located in the heart of the Mayan world near the ancient ruins of Tikal, Uaxactún, and Yaxhá in Guatemala. Although it's just 10 minutes from the international airport, it feels isolated within the rainforest amid more than 300 acres of an untouched nature reserve. It's a perfect spot for bird watching, too. 

There are a set of 12 Waterfront Master Suites, connected by high-rise paths. Each is a one-bedroom bungalow with a cascade shower bathroom, and a deck with a hot tub overlooking the dazzling water.

St. George's Caye Resort

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Book St. George's Caye Resort

St. George's Caye Resort offers adults-only lodging that is located on a rustic but indulgent private island in Belize. There is a totally secluded feel but it's actually just seven miles from Belize City, so it's still easy and affordable to access.

The overwater bungalows feel like bargains compared to similar accommodations in other parts of the world. Prices start in the low $300s and include full board with no catch. You'll get a private porch with a hammock and thatched roof overlooking the Caribbean Sea on the west side of the island. These six cabanas are situated on a half-moon-shaped dock with prime sunset views. 

Pangkor Laut Resort

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Book Pangkor Laut Resort

Pangkor Laut Resort is located on a privately owned island situated three miles off the West Coast of Malaysia along the Straits of Malacca. Here, there are no other resorts, so you're isolated among secluded bays, impeccable beaches, and magical sunsets.

The island comprises 300 acres, but the resort developed just a fraction of that leaving it feeling lush and natural. Overwater accommodations sit on stilts above the tropical waters, each with an expansive balcony with loungers, a bathroom with an oversized tub, and a shower that opens to the sea.

Adaaran Club Rannalhi

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Book Adaaran Club Rannalhi

Adaaran Club Rannalhi is located at the tip of the South Male atoll in the Maldives, with easy access to the capital city of Male. A slate of daily activities includes morning or sunset fishing, a sunset photo tour (on which it would be nearly impossible not to nail some prize-worthy snaps), as well as a full menu of treatments at the spa.

The 34 large and private Water Bungalows all include direct access to the ocean waters from private sun decks with wooden ladders. Bungalows are quite large at nearly 750 square feet, and decor is modern and tropical, done in creams and vibrant colors. 

Pearl Farm Beach Resort

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Book Pearl Farm Beach Resort

With a spa, white sand beaches, and multiple dining options, Pearl Farm Beach Resort includes the accommodations of a luxury resort without costing a fortune. These overwater bungalows — known as the Samal Suites — are elegantly designed with beautiful wood detailing and wicker furniture. And, each bungalow is just steps away from your own private section of beach. 

Pearl Farm Beach Resort also includes two outdoor pools. The infinity pool will make you feel like you are right on the water, while the other pool is nestled among the lush greenery.

Panvaree Resort

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Book Panvaree Resort

For a truly unique overwater bungalow, look no further than Panvaree Resort. Located near Ratchaprapha, Thailand, this resort offers stunning natural beauty. Situated over a lake, the property is surrounded by picturesque mountain ranges and breathtaking limestone cliffs. 

The villas themselves are built with ornate dark wood and thatched roofs. Each bungalow comes with your own kayak to explore the lake below. Reviewers rave about the stellar service and food at this resort, which makes it stand out from similar properties.

FAQ: Overwater bungalow hotels

Where can i stay in an overwater bungalow.

Many of the world's overwater bungalows are found in Asia and the South Pacific, in places like the Maldives and Malaysia, as well as Fiji, Bora Bora, and Tahiti. This is because these areas are home to crystal clear, shallow blue waters that are suited to such accommodations.

While fewer, you'll also find some in the Caribbean and Mexico.

Are overwater bungalows worth it?

If you dream of stepping out of your room and dipping straight into warm, turquoise waters surrounded by incredible scenery, then you'll likely feel that the answer is yes. Overwater bungalows offer the ultimate in luxury, romance, and privacy, in most instances.

However, because of their idyllic accommodations, overwater bungalows will be more expensive than most hotel rooms simply because of the style, and also because remote locations mean it's more expensive to maintain upkeep and import goods and services.

Where are the cheapest overwater bungalows?

According to our research, the cheapest highly-rated overwater bungalow is Punta Caracol Acqua Lodge in Panama. In general, bungalows in Central America are cheaper than you'll find in Asia and the South Pacific.

For the cheapest prices, look to travel in off season, away from holiday periods, and when the weather might mean more rain.

How much does it cost to stay in a water bungalow?

If you travel in off season, it might be as low as $200 to $300 a night. However, on average, many prices seem close to $400 or $500. And if you opt for true luxury resorts, they likely will inch closer to $1,000, especially if you opt for all-inclusive or full-board packages and travel during popular times of the year and holidays.

How we selected the best overwater bungalow hotels

  • We considered price first and foremost, and every hotel on this list ranges from $170 to $600.
  • Every hotel offers overwater accommodations, plus access to beautiful beaches, activities, and scenery.
  • These budget-friendly options are found in top-end destinations such as the South Pacific including Tahiti, Central America and the Caribbean, and Asia, including the Maldives. 
  • All overwater bungalow hotels provide excellent service and picture-perfect amenities to ensure each property meets your lofty expectations.
  • We made selections based on our own travel experience, as well as past traveler reviews and rankings on trusted traveler sites such as Trip Advisor and Booking.com.
  • Most hotels are tailor-made for romance and ideal for couples (many are adults-only), though we've also included some options that welcome families or are affordable for solo trips.

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You can purchase logo and accolade licensing to this story here . Disclosure: Written and researched by the Insider Reviews team. We highlight products and services you might find interesting. If you buy them, we may get a small share of the revenue from the sale from our partners. We may receive products free of charge from manufacturers to test. This does not drive our decision as to whether or not a product is featured or recommended. We operate independently from our advertising team. We welcome your feedback. Email us at [email protected] .

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The 7 Best Urban Hiking Trails Around The World

O kay, I admit it: I am a city girl. I’ll take concrete and twinkling nighttime lights over too much greenery any day. But that does not mean that I don’t love walking. And here I mean walking; not strolling around Paris — although that is lovely — but walking as in striding steadily ahead, getting a little out of breath, and being unhindered by traffic lights or too many other pedestrians. However, I still want to be close to old and new architecture, please.

So, over the years, I have become an expert in searching out — and finding — some decent walks. I’ve even found hikes (although normal shoes such as sneakers will suffice) in close proximity to or even right within cities around the world.

Here I have collated some of my favorites for you to search out. They are not too strenuous, there’s not too much countryside, and a city is always within easy stepping distance.

1. Thames Path

The Thames Path in its entirety, following the River Thames from inception to estuary, is roughly 80 miles long. But, as this is about urban hiking trails, I only want to tell you about the stretch within London. I prefer to walk along the stretch starting at the O2 Arena, famous for James Bond’s The World is not Enough , past Greenwich and along the Southwark area. The area is known for Tate Modern, Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre, views across to St. Paul’s Cathedral, the London Eye, and Westminster. 

It is just under an 8-mile walk , but flat and alongside the river, which makes for easy and fast walking. That said, there are so many distractions along the way that you should plan a whole day and stop for lunch and any odd sightseeing detours. As you near London, after the stretch between Greenwich and the Tower of London, the path turns into a veritable sightseeing walk .

There are many separate sections of the Thames Path , all of which can be taken bit by bit and joined up. It’s all connected by public transportation.

2. Coulée Verte René-Dumont

Paris, france.

Paris is great for strolling, walking tours , and proper, longer hikes. Right behind the Opéra Bastille, an abandoned railway line sits above some lovely arches filled with shops, restaurants, and art galleries. Climb up and you will find the original High Line — the same one the New York High Line was modeled after. The Coulée Verte , also known as the Promenade Plantée, is a nearly 3-mile-long walk . 

It is beautifully planted, as gorgeous in spring as in summer and fall. It takes you from Bastille all the way along an elevated path, between buildings, through tunnels, all the way to the suburb of Vincennes. From there, you can add another mile and head through the park to the Château de Vincennes, a medieval fortress where you can catch the Metro Line 1 back into the city center.

This is a gorgeous walk, very easy for all fitness levels, with Paris architecture delighting you along the way. You’ll see huge statues on the police department, typical rooftops, modern architecture, and old train stations popping up at intervals. In spring, don’t miss the Jardin de Reuilly-Paul-Pernin along the way, which in April is filled with dark-red blossoms.

3. Peak Circle Walk

Hong Kong is not only one of my favorite cities, but it is also home to one of my favorite urban walks. The Peak Circle Walk comes with some of the best views in the world, having the entirety of Hong Kong, its islands, and waterways laid out below you. The walk is a nice circular walk, but it has one severe disadvantage: It is a little short. 

With only just over 2 miles, there is the temptation to walk around twice because it is so lovely. But then, you have all sorts of other fun things to do up on the peak — from the fun funicular ride up and down to viewpoints, shops, and restaurants. Maybe take a walk initially, have lunch, and then walk around again?

4. Cinta Costera 3

Panama city, panama.

This is another walk where the city skyline is the main draw. Panama City’s Cinta Costera 3 is a 4.3-mile circular walk along a busy beltway road. But it has parkland running alongside it and is popular with runners, bicyclists, families, and picnickers. Running in a near circle through the sea outside of Casco Viejo — the old town — you have the old harbor and the modern Panama skyline on one side with the open sea on the other. 

But for urban walking enthusiasts, there is an added bonus because, if you start at the southern end of Casco Viejo, you have completed the breakwater walk. You then can continue along Cinta Costera 2 and Cinta Costera 1, all the way into the modern end of Panama City through beautiful parkland and the selfie-inducing Panama sign.

5. Bondi Coogee Beach

Sydney, australia.

Now this is a truly stunning walk. Last time I walked along the Bondi to Coogee Walk , I even spotted a whale in the distance. Roughly 4 miles, this is a windy coastal path with a couple of manageable hills and tons of absolutely superb scenery. 

Starting off at the iconic Bondi Beach, past the famous Icebergs swimming pool and Mark’s Park, walk down to the lovely little Tamarama Beach, complete with a little bistro and around the corner from Bronte Beach. Continue on past the rather scenic Waverly Cemetery overlooking the sea, past the picturesque Clovelly Beach, and around Gordon’s Bay to Coogee. From here, buses take you back to Bondi or into the city.

In October each year, the absolutely wonderful Sculpture by the Sea takes over the stretch between Bondi and Tamarama. You’ll find sculptures dotted along the path, in the cliffs, and on the beaches, making for a perfect outdoor gallery.

6. Margaret Island

Budapest, hungary.

Just past the imposing château-like parliament building in Budapest lies Margaret Island . It is the island most boat tours round before heading back to Budapest but few visitors ever set foot on — despite the Romans already having appreciated this secret garden within the city way back in history. 

The island is connected to the mainland by a bridge at either end and you can walk down from the appropriately named Margaret Bridge (Margit Hid) to enjoy the dense greenery steps away from bustling Budapest. The 1.5-mile walk will take you about an hour. But chances are, it will take longer because there are many scenic spots to stop off and you’ll be tempted to sit on a bench overlooking the Danube. Don’t forget to bring a picnic!

7. Belgrade To Zemun

The lesser-known European capital of Belgrade offers not only a great place for a city break but also a hike along the Danube — from one capital to the former border town between empires, Zemun . Once on the border between the Ottoman and Austrian Empires, Zemun lies roughly 8 miles from the center of Belgrade. 

The walk along the river path takes you past the museum of contemporary art, countless houseboats transformed into restaurants, and finally into the tiny, colorful town of Zemun. From here, buses take you back to Belgrade. Whether you want to walk out from Belgrade or take public transportation to Zemun and then head back, make sure to stop at one of the scenic restaurants in Zemun for lunch with views across the gentle Danube.

Related Reading:

  • 16 Most Walkable Cities Outside Of The U.S.
  • 12 Most Walkable Cities In The U.S. According To Our Readers
  • My 10 Favorite Walkable Cities In Europe

This article originally appeared on TravelAwaits

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16 things to know before you visit Panama City in 2024

Richard Arghiris

Mar 10, 2024 • 8 min read

A young woman smiling on a balcony with Panama City in the background

Get prepared for your visit to Panama City with our guide to what you need to know before you go © Westend 61 / Getty Images

Panama's capital is a cosmopolitan cityscape with a skyline dominated by gleaming skyscrapers and streets full of culture, incredible food and enticing attractions.

Explore on foot and take a stroll along the bay while the Pacific breeze keeps you cool, before exploring Panama City's different neighborhoods and finding its colonial history etched on every street.

Tourist crime here is low and most are of the low-key, opportunistic type you'll encounter in any major city. Keep your wits about you, avoid the more rough-and-tumble parts of town and you'll be just fine. 

From planning your trip to local etiquette, here’s what you need to know before traveling to Panama City .

1. Where you stay depends on your budget and needs

Every neighborhood has its advantages and disadvantages. With cobblestone streets and Spanish colonial architecture, the historic quarter of Casco Viejo is the most memorable and romantic part of the city.

It has lots of high-end restaurants, luxury lofts and swanky rooftop bars, but a dearth of budget-friendly places to eat and its public transport links aren’t the best.

The Calidonia district in the southern part of the city occupies a grid of streets from Plaza 5 de Mayo to Calle 42 Este. Avenida Central bustles with market stalls, and the roads to the south are dotted with budget-friendly hotels.

The district is also near plenty of Metro trains and buses . You can pick up cheap street food during the day when kitchens open for local hospital staff and civil servants. After dark, however, Calidonia becomes shady and downbeat with limited dining options.

To the east of Calidonia, the so-called banking district is a patchwork of several districts or corregimientos , including modern and emerging neighborhoods that host the lion’s share of high-end lodgings and Airbnb rentals.

There are a few hostels and not nearly enough economical hotels. Many decent restaurants are dispersed throughout the banking district but are not always within walking distance.

If you’re in town to party, the Marbella and Bella Vista neighborhoods have great access to the bars and clubs on Calle Uruguay. El Cangrejo is an entertainment zone with a casino, good Metro train links on Vía España and a parade of restaurants on Vía Argentina. 

Dancers in traditional costume at the carnival in the streets of Panama City

2. Time your visit for budget-friendly deals and great weather

The high season coincides with the dry season  – mid-December to early April – when prices are generally higher. The major festivals of Christmas, New Year, Carnival and Semana Santa see a price increase in the capital, but not as much as the beaches , where most city-dwellers spend the holidays.

Mid-April to early December is the cheapest time to visit Panama City, as long as you don’t mind getting soaked by the rain.

Most deluges last only an hour or two in the afternoon, but the season gets wetter as it goes on. In the depths of it, the skies can be overcast for days, but the rains are usually intermittent and the cloud cover can bring relief from the relentless Panamanian sun.

3. You're better off with a Metro card than a car

Although a car is good for day trips out of town, don’t plan on driving much in the city. The one-way road system is baffling, city thoroughfares are often congested, and diversions are par for the course.

Instead, use Panama City’s public transport system , which includes a fleet of air-conditioned buses and Central America’s first-ever Metro train. Buy a three-in-one “RapiPass” upon arrival and gain access to Metro trains and buses, and the departure gates at Albrook bus station. 

4. Always keep a stash of low-denomination bills

You'll need to show your ID and sign a register if you pay for anything with a higher bill than US$20. Counterfeit money is an issue in the country, so all $50 and $100 bills will be scrutinized in Panama.

5. Don’t smoke in public

Legislation introduced in 2008 banned smoking in public places. People who smoke in non-designated areas are subject to fines of $25–100.

Two people wearing brightly colored clothing walk down a street smiling

6. Dress for comfort but look sharp

Panamanians like to dress up and look their best. The ostentatious displays of fashion on display in Obarrio include stiletto heels that somehow survive the assault course of the city’s pavements.

When socializing, casual attire is fine, but avoid wearing shorts and sandals to nice restaurants or social functions.

7. Tip hotel cleaning staff

If you stay in a hotel, leave a tip for the person who cleans your room – US$2–3 a day is fine. A 10% tip is often added in good restaurants, but not always – check the bill before paying.

In low-key local eateries, you may leave some loose change for the server. Unless they help with luggage, taxi drivers don’t expect a tip.

8. Don’t use drugs

Although Panama City is steeped in narco dollars, Panamanian society frowns on drug use, and the law does not tolerate it. If the police find you in possession of even small quantities of marijuana, you could spend several years in a Panamanian prison.

9. Don’t expect people to speak English

Panama City Spanish is Caribbean Spanish – extremely fast and heavily laden with jerga (slang). If Spanish is not your first language, you may struggle to catch it.

Don’t expect to find many English speakers during your day-to-day transactions. English is widely spoken in the business community, but not much outside of it, and mastering a few basic Spanish phrases  will help you get around.

10. It's safe to drink tap water

The tap water in Panama City is perfectly safe to drink. Save on plastic waste by refilling water bottles at a faucet. If you prefer purified water, you can refill at the 20-liter garrafones in most hotel lobbies.

A woman takes a photo of the city skyline viewed from within dense foliage

11. Prepare for environmental hazards

Panama City is an urban hothouse scratched out of the jungle. The elements are fierce – humidity is often 100%. You should take a day or two to relax and acclimate to the heat if you come from a cold-weather country.

Always apply sunscreen before going outside and keep an adequate water supply handy. Wear light clothes and a hat to keep the sun off your face. Bring a sturdy umbrella if you visit during the wet season.

Panama City suffers from flash floods during heavy downpours. If you get caught in a storm, you could end up wading through deep puddles. Traffic is generally heavy, and many parts of the city are not pedestrian-friendly. People living with asthma may find their symptoms are aggravated by fumes.

Sadly, the Bay of Panama is a dump for industrial effluence and untreated sewage, so the oceanfront malecón sometimes reeks.

12. Be aware of common scams

Scammers operate in all big cities and some target tourists. Be wary of strangers who tell unfortunate and earnest stories that end with them asking for money. If it seems suspicious, it probably is. Watch out for fake tour guides who ask for payment in advance and then stand you up.

Old-school taxi scams that involve going around the houses to increase the fare can happen anywhere in the world, but in Panama City, it’s common for taxis to simply overcharge. There are no meters in the cabs.

Fares are supposed to be based on zones, but in practice, they rarely are. If you look foreign, taxi drivers will bump up the fare. It's best to negotiate and agree on the price beforehand.

Two women wearing colorful tradition garb and head scarves pose for the camera in Panama City

13. Solo women travelers may receive unwanted attention

Panama City is typically safe for solo women travelers, but it's best to avoid walking alone at night in Casco Viejo, Santa Ana or Calidonia. Women may receive attention from chatty men on Metro trains or buses. If a man won’t leave you alone, ask a nearby older woman to assist.

14. Steer clear of sketchy neighborhoods

Thirty years ago, Casco Viejo was dicey. Today, things have somewhat improved, but there are still pockets of the old neighborhood where you should exercise caution.

If you’re staying in Casco Viejo, the 20-minute walk from the nearest Metro train station, 5 de Mayo, is risky at night. Use a taxi or an Uber instead. To the west of Casco Viejo, the neighboring El Chorrillo district is very dangerous and neglected. You should avoid this neighborhood entirely.

The district of Santa Ana, north of Casco Viejo, is bisected by the pedestrianized peatonal , a lively shopping street that is safe to walk during the day; stay alert in the crowds. The side roads east of the peatonal are sketchy, and you shouldn’t wander around them.

At its north end, the peatonal connects with Plaza 5 de Mayo, the National Assembly, a Metro station, a bus terminal and a grimy confluence of roads and flyovers. The area is lively into the evening, but stay alert and use a vehicle after 11pm.

North of 5 de Mayo, Avenida Central strikes into Calidonia district with street vendors and hustle. It's fine to explore in the day, but don’t flaunt expensive equipment or jewelry. Calidonia is spooky and seedy after dark. Avoid run-down or poorly lit streets.

15. Keep your documents handy

Everyone is legally required to carry a photo ID at all times in public in Panama. Tourists should carry their passport or a photocopy of their passport with the photo page and immigration entry stamp.

16. LGBTIQ+ travelers are welcome

Attitudes in rural Panama are somewhat conservative but less so in Panama City. LGBTIQ+ travelers are unlikely to encounter prejudice, and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity is prohibited by Panamanian law. There’s a lively gay scene in Casco Viejo and El Cangrejo.

This article was first published Aug 15, 2022 and updated Mar 10, 2024.

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