25 Attractions You Must Visit in Panama at All Costs

Planning to visit Panama? Who wouldn’t? Over 2.5 million tourists visit the country each year, enjoying what the country has to offer. It has various attractions that can cater to your interests. It doesn’t matter whether you’re traveling alone, with your partner, or with the whole family.

For first-timers, the sheer number of tourist spots can make the ordeal overwhelming. That’s why in this guide, we compiled some of the best attractions in the country. Read on and learn more today.

1. Panama Canal

This location is one of the most visited in Panama City. It’s a 48-mile artificial waterway used to connect two big oceans—the Atlantic and the Pacific. Its recent expansion doubled the capacity of the Canal.

Every year, an average of 14,000 ships transit through this passageway. It’s also an attractive tourist spot since you can watch passing ships at designated areas. You can go to the Visitors Center and the Miraflores Locks to get the best view.

2. Casco Viejo

This neighborhood is another famous part of Panama City. It used to be an area infested by infamous gangs in the days of yore. Now, it’s considered a protected district by UNESCO.

Casco Viejo is a neighborhood with some renovated colonial houses. But its main draw is its fine-dining restaurants and some of the greatest coffeehouses in the city. Also, if you want a good place to stay in, this neighborhood has boutique hotels worth trying.

3. Biomuseo

Aerial view of the Biomuseo on the Calzada de Amador in Panama City

This tourist attraction is the most famous museum in Panama City. It’s designed by the world-famous architect, Frank Gehry. It’s located in Amador, and it has eight galleries that showcase the Panamanian isthmus’s origins.

Aside from its origin, the Biomuseo also discusses the isthmus’s impact on our world’s biodiversity. It’s a must-visit if you want a more educational trip with your family.

4. Panama Viejo

This location is a historical site since it’s the remains of the old Panama City. Pedro Arias de Avila, one of the Spanish Conquistadors in 1519, founded the now ancient tourist hotspot. The ruins are some of the oldest monuments you’ll ever visit in Panama City, making it a UNESCO heritage site.

5. El Tornillo

Panoramic view of the skyscraper named "el tornillo", which means "the screw"

El Tornillo’s English translation is “the screw”. Its other name is the F&F Tower, and it’s one of the most noteworthy skyscrapers in Panama City. It’s located in Calle 50, considered as the financial district of the metropolis.

It’s a 774-foot tall structure with a unique, screw-like shape. This form is one of the finest examples of Latin American innovation in architecture. With that, it became one of the Emporis Skyscraper Award winners in 2011.

6. Soberania National Park

This national park is close to the Gamboa Rainforest Resort, near the border of the Colon Province. It’s around 15.5 miles away from Panama City, which means you’ll need to have a quick road trip.

Your travel time is rewarding since the park offers a memorable jungle experience. Here, you’ll have the opportunity to view rare species of animals. Some of these include monkeys, eagles, parrots, and jaguars.

7. Cathedral of Santa Maria la Antigua of Panama

Front view of the Cathedral Church in Casco Viejo in Panama City

Simply known by the locals as “La Catedral,” this is one of the best churches you should visit. If you’re visiting Casco Viejo, don’t forget to drop by this Catholic church. It’s an ideal place for silent prayers and religious contemplation if you’re into those.

8. Iglesia del Carmen

Also known as the Church of Our Lady of Mount Carmen, this Gothic icon is at the very heart of Panama City. Most people agree that the Iglesia del Carmen is one of the most majestic buildings in the country. It’s built in the 20th century, but its architectural design is straight out of the Medieval period.

The Iglesia del Carmen is also the most visited church in Panama. If you want to mingle with other devout Panamanians, this is the place to be. Who knows, you might end up making a local friend.

9. Bocas Del Toro

Peer and rancho in Bocas del Toro next to mangroves trees

One of the Caribbean’s main beach destinations, Bocas del Toro is a set of low-lying islands. It isn’t far from the Costa Rican border, but it’s famous for its excellent, soft-sand beaches. The best part is that you’ll get to gaze on its clear, azure waters.

Bocas del Toro has a relaxing ambiance, drawing in lots of young travelers. Some of them can stay for months or even years. You can surf, swim, dive, or just relax on the beach.

The best part is that this is a budget-friendly tourist destination. The boat trip’s price is the same since the government mandated it. It’s a safe place since guides can help you find a secure parking space and accommodations in town.

If you want a romantic getaway with your spouse or loved one, Bocas del Toro is for you.

10. Sunset Coast

The west coast of the Azuero Peninsula is known also as Panama’s Sunset Coast and is one of the few places in Panama that lets you watch the sunset over the Pacific Ocean. It’s generally undiscovered, so you’ll mostly encounter small towns. If you want to stay away from the general tourist destinations, you can enjoy your time basking on its wide, open beaches.

Take note, this is rural Panama, meaning foreigners aren’t as plentiful. Most of the tourists here are locals, so it’s better to learn some useful phrases in Spanish. Regardless, every mile you take toward the Sunset Coast will take you further from the usually traveled paths.

If you’re into surfing, this area is an absolute haven for you. The wide, open beaches seethe with the Pacific Ocean waves. You won’t need to worry about sharing a wave with anyone in this place.

11. Boquete

This wonderful mountain town has a great climate. If you want to get away from the tyrannical heat of Panama’s coastal and lower regions, Boquete is the place to go. It’s relaxed and safe since it caters to expats and tourists alike.

Boquete is appealing since you’ll find a lot of high-quality hotels, luxurious inns, and gourmet restaurants. Also, this town serves as Panama’s main coffee-growing region. It’s also teeming with fauna and flora, making it ideal for a nature trip.

Are you a serious hiker? If so, you can arrange for a hike up the Baru volcano. You’ll need to leave in the early morning hours along with a reputable guide, making it possible to get to the summit for a rewarding view of the sunrise.

12. San Blas Islands

Isla Coiba part of the San Blas islands

A trip to the San Blas Islands will give you the taste of a true adventure. These islands are picture-perfect. It has white sand beaches lapped by clear waters, making it the ideal place for a postcard.

Take note, these islands are far from the beaten track. As a result, you need to prepare for rustic accommodations. It’s an off-the-grid trip, so make sure you’re physically ready.

If you want to visit the San Blas Islands, you need to contact the indigenous Guna people. They will book you a package that will include transport, basic meals, and accommodations.

13. Santa Catalina

Surfers are in luck since Santa Catalina is one of the top destinations on the Pacific Coast. This small town’s relaxing ambiance is something all surfers can appreciate. It has small hotels and guesthouses that keep you at a relaxed pace.

If you’re not surfing, you’re not out of luck. You can try out snorkeling and scuba diving since there are lots of good spots within its vicinity. 

Not interested in the ocean or getting yourself wet? If so, the surrounding countryside is a good alternative. After all, you can get horseback tours that can be just as exciting.

14. Los Cangilones

River gorge near the town of Boquete in Panama

This location is near Boquete, so make sure to visit it as well. It’s the best place to take a break from the chilly climate of the mountain town. Los Cangilones has a warmer climate, and you’ll find that its hot days are surprisingly enjoyable.

Los Cangilones is a unique geological location. The river becomes narrower, forming into a gorge. It then opens up once more at the bottom, forming a shallow pool.

Take note, you need to pay a small fee for admission. Regardless, this tourist spot is great if you bring your family along.

15. Punta Chame

Most travelers’ itineraries won’t mention this place. Despite this, Punta Chame is the best location for kiteboarding in Panama. It’s located on a peninsula facing the Pacific Ocean, making it an endless stretch of beach.

The water isn’t deep, which is beneficial to kiters. This feature makes it easier for them to stand up in the water while working with their kiteboards. The best part is that its winds are consistent between December and April.

16. Playa Coronado

A perfect spot for relaxation, Playa Coronado has miles of beach. The sand in this place has this interesting mixture of black and gold sand that sparkles under the sun. It has a lot of beachfront hotels, but most of the accommodations come from private houses or condominiums.

Playa Coronado also has American chain restaurants as well as a large mall. If you’re living in the United States, these locations will make you feel more at home. It’s especially the case if you’re trying to escape the cold, northern winters.

17. Santa Fe

Panoramic view of the city of Santa Fe in Panama

The turnoff for Santa Fe and San Francisco is a few hours away east of Panama City. It takes you far from the coastal regions and into the mountains. The end of this path is at the Santa Fe National Park.

This area isn’t well-discovered in Panama, making it ideal if you want to stray from the beaten path. Santa Fe is a mountain town, like Boquete, but it’s more rustic compared to the latter. It doesn’t have famous restaurants, but dining with local restaurant owners can be an endearing experience.

Take note, most people here don’t speak English. If you’re planning to visit this town, make sure to polish your Spanish-speaking skills. Another thing to remember is that almost all restaurants in Santa Fe close every Tuesday.

18. Ciudad del Saber

Its translation in English is “City of Knowledge”. The Ciudad del Saber is a neighborhood sponsored by the Panamanian government. It’s a place where academic institutions, NGOs, and tech companies make their home.

The Ciudad del Saber has a big park as well as a host of sports amenities. This area used to be a military headquarters occupied by the United States. Now, it’s a tourist attraction with a residential area.

19. Puente de las Americas

Bridge of the Americas which connects North and South America.

Known as the Bridge of the Americas, this road bridge connects Panama City to other inland regions on the Pacific Coast, and links North to South America. It spans over the Panama Canal’s entrance, with a Mirador (point of view) at one end. 

The Mirador has a Chinese Memorial monument. This landmark commemorates the Chinese community that made Panama their home back in the late 1800s and built the railroad system for the country which contributed to the country’s growth.

20. Lost & Found Hostel

It’s rare for a hostel to become a top tourist attraction in Panama. But the Lost & Found Hostel, in the province of Chiriqì, earned the reputation for most backpackers. It takes about 15 minutes of hiking to get to this establishment.

The good news is there are lots of hiking trails nearby. The hostel serves meals, but you can bring your food to cook. Also, its sprawling property means you can be as active or as lazy as you want.

21. El Valle de Anton

Welcome message on tiles at the open market of El Valle de Anton in Panama.

This location is the only inhabited volcanic crater in the world. El Valle has a lot of mountains and forests, making it a hiker’s ideal destination. You’ll find a lot of hiking trails to explore, as well as waterfalls to admire.

For a weekend trip, you should go to El Valle’s Sunday market. It’s bustling with activity, with locals selling fresh, locally-grown produce as well as souvenirs.

22. Embera Indians Village

Group of Embera girls playing music and dancing for the tourists in Panama

Do you want to understand Panama’s indigenous origins better? If so, you should visit one of the few Embera villages—home to one of the major indigenous groups in Panama. 

You can reach this area by a dugout canoe, traveling up the Chagres River. On your way, you’ll see some thatch houses and the jungle. Upon your arrival, you’ll have some good activities in place.

You can watch traditional dances and music performances. It’s a magical experience that lets you learn more about the Emberran culture. Before you leave, make sure to buy some handcrafted souvenirs to remember your stay and support the local indigenous community.

23. Portobello

Are you fond of pirates and the history surrounding them? If so, Portobello is a must-visit place for you. The forts that ended the infamous English buccaneer Sir Francis Drake withstood the test of time, becoming a historical tourist attraction.

Aside from pirate history, Portobello is also a religious location. It has the church of San Felipe, which houses the statue of the Black Christ. This draws thousands of people in pilgrimage during late October.

If you get hungry, go to El Palenque and grab some lunch. It’s a scenic spot near the edge of the water. As for accommodations, you should try out the El Otro Lado, a boutique hotel with lots of hip amenities.

24. Fish Market

Kuna woman selling fish at the fish market in Panama City.

The fish market in Panama City is open every day, from 6 A.M. to 5 P.M. Also known as Mercado de Mariscos, It’s a great place whether you’re looking to eat or buy freshly-caught seafood from the local fishermen. For the latter, we suggest getting a ceviche since it’s one of the best dishes in this location.

This location brings people from all walks of life, whether it’s other tourists or Panamanians. Most will have friendly faces, so don’t hesitate and start interacting!

25. Cerro Ancon

You can see this verdant green mountain regardless of where you are in Panama City. If you’re looking to take a break from the highly-urbanized areas, this place is your best bet. It’s one of the best natural locations in the metropolis, with the Panamanian flag soaring at its pinnacle.

You aren’t allowed to bring any vehicle on its roads. With that, you’ll have ample opportunity to do some urban hiking. Your reward is seeing the city in a panoramic view, as well as the local fauna that lives in the area.

Visit Panama Today!

With the sheer number of attractions, it isn’t that hard to get overwhelmed. But if it’s your first time visiting Panama, this list has some of the best tourist spots in the country. Don’t hesitate and plan out your trip with these in mind.

You can also get a travel agent and get an itinerary. Take note, most will only take you to the mainstream spots. If you want to visit the more exotic side of Panama, you’ll need to get off the beaten track.

Did this guide help you? We’ve got more useful travel guides for you to discover. Feel free to read more of our tips and tricks right here, today!

Matt Romero

I’m Matthew Romero, one of the guys behind PanamaLifeInsider.com I am incredibly passionate about Panama, its beautiful territory, and all the incredible opportunities which offer to people coming here from all over the world both either visiting and settling. In this blog, I decided to share my passion with you!

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