Panama Travel Guide

Skyline Panama City

Skyline Panama City (Photo Credit: Mario Roberto Duran Ortiz)

Why Visit Panama?

Panama is great for exploring beautiful beaches, uninhabited tropical islands, unique Indigenous cultures and the best skyline in Central America. The country is home to some of the best attractions in Central American and arguably one the most overlooked countries in the region by tourists. In this part of Central America, the reputation of Costa Rica draws tourists north of the border – but in Panama you can enjoy a good mix of nature, culture, beautiful tropical islands, history and city life.

 Best Attractions In Panama:

  • Sail The San Blas Islands: The San Blas is a series of over 350 tropical islands, some inhabited, most not – and a pretty good attempt at a tropical paradise. Several of the islands are inhabited by the Kuna People, one of the indigenous peoples of Panama. Visiting the San Blas Islands was one of the highlights of our time in Central America. Like many backpackers we visited the islands as part of our sailing trip from Panama to Colombia (it comes highly recommended, see more details below).
  • Watersports In Bocas Del Toro: A popular collection of small towns, beaches and islands in the far north of the country. As with the San Blas Islands, Bocas Del Toro is another good attempt by Panama at a tropical paradise. Think of a laid-back place to surf, SCUBA-dive, snorkel and fish.
  • Visit The Jungle In Boquete: The town of Boquete lies within a stretch of mountainous jungle which connects with Costa Rica. The are several places to stay in this area, of which Boquete is the most touristy. There is plenty on offer here with the likes rock climbing, hot springs, zip-lining, cloud-forests, horse riding, coffee plantations and hiking. Decent place to retire apparently.
  • Enter the Darien Gap (at least some of the way): The land connecting Panama to Colombia is a great swath of dense jungle and swampland (there are no roads that connect the two countries). The area is known for it’s world class bird-watching, and this is the main reason tourists would visit this region (fly to Darien National Park). The other tourists that might visit are those seeking adventure and looking for a taste of the wild, inaccessible and potentially dangerous region of the Darien Gap. It might be a little reckless to go entirely into the Darien, but safe trips to the out edges of the Darien can and have been done.
  • Sail To Colombia: The trip involves 3 days exploring the islands before 2 days legging it over the open ocean to Colombia. Catch fresh fish for dinner, sail beside dolphins, spends your days lazing under the sun, land on tropical islands, at night build bon-fires on uninhabited islands. Read More Here.
  • The Panama Canal: What is there to say? This 80-km long canal is an impressive feat of engineering. Most tourists view the canal from Miraflores Locks located just outside of Panama city, but it is also possible to take a boat trip along the length of the canal.
  • Panama City: Panama City makes for a great gateway from which to check out the rest of Panama. The city is centrally located within the country and many of Panama’s top tourist destinations are only a short distance away. Luckily as well that the city makes for an interesting tourist attraction in its own right, with dense high-rise buildings surrounded by a belt of tropical rainforest and overlooking the ocean. The old town in Panama City is excellent, one of the best in Latin America and full of great architecture.
San Blas Islands

Taking a moment to relax, somewhere amongst the San Blas Islands

Panama Travel Tips

  • Panama’s major tourist season runs from from mid-December to mid-April during the countries dry season. Accommodation prices will also be highest during this period.
  • It is still possible to visit the country during the wet season (May-Nov), but you should expect a daily occurrence of short and heavy rainfall.
  • It is okay to drink the water in Panama with the exceptional of Bocas del Toro. In Bocas del Toro you should drink the purified water provided by the Hotel or Hostel, or bottled water is readily available.
  • The official language of Panama is Spanish. It is not too difficult to get around Panama with only limited Spanish (in our experience).
  • The dry season runs from December to April. The rainy season lasts from May to November.
  • The official currencies of Panama are the  United States Dollar and Panamanian balboa. This means U.S Dollars are widely accepted.
  • Unlike the rest of Central America, in most of Panama it is okay to flush your toilet paper down the toilet. If you are in rural Panama you may need to use the bin provided.
  • It is always handy to have small change and notes on you, as many shops and transport options may not have change for large denominations.

Bocas Del Toro

Map of Panama Travel Destinations:

Here is a map to show where some of the more common travel destinations in Panama are located.

The backpacker route highlighted on the map can undertaken by bus, with a sailing boat to check out the San Blas Islands and/or sail to Colombia. If you want to check out the San Blas Islands and/or sail to Colombia to can organise trips and depart from Panama City (after a short 4wd ride, normally included as part of the tours).

Map Of Panama Travel Destinations

Map Of Panama Travel Destinations

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