Panama is a beautiful country located in Central America, near South America. Deciding where to go and not go in Panama can be challenging; each area is different and showcases something unique. A mix of cities, beaches, rainforests, small towns, and adventure, Panama has much to offer and is a fun country to visit for all types of travellers. This guide will show you the best places to visit in Panama, why to visit them, and what they offer.
Want an itinerary with most of these places already included? Check out my guide on how to spend one week in Panama.
Best Places to Visit in Panama:
When deciding where to go in Panama, here are some of the most popular and best places to visit:
Panama City is the capital of Panama, located along the Pacific Ocean in the province of Panama. The largest city in Panama, the metropolitan population is over 1.5 million. Founded in 1519, Panama City was destroyed in 1671 and relocated in 1673. Home to the Panama Canal, modern skyscrapers, and a rainforest, Panama City is a unique place to visit; it is the only city in the world to have a rainforest within its city limits.
Attractions in Panama City include Panama Viejo, Metropolitan Natural Park, Panama Canal tours, and the Amador Causeway. Featuring history, nature, and culture, Panama City is worth visiting on your trip to Panama.
Panama City is the major transportation hub of the country, home to Panama’s main airport and bus station. You will most likely start and end your trip in Panama City, but make sure you spend at least one night in Panama City. You will want to see what Panama City offers.
During my visit to Panama City, I visited the Panama Canal. I stayed at a hotel downtown with a rooftop pool and enjoyed looking out at the city skyline. It was one of the prettiest modern skylines I’ve seen.
Casco Viejo is the historic quarter of Panama City, a world heritage site since 1997. Resettled in 1673, after pirates nearly destroyed the original Panama City, Casco Viejo displays beautiful Spanish colonial architecture. This walled city protected them from further pirate attacks and kept people safe. In this trendy and unique neighbourhood, you will find boutique hotels, historic sites, cafes, and restaurants.
From Casco Viejo, you can have a great view of the modern Panama City skyline, featuring many skyscrapers. Like no other place in Panama, Casco Viejo is the second most visited place in Panama, after the Panama Canal, and is worth adding to your list of where to visit in Panama.
During my visit to Casco Viejo, I enjoyed walking through the beautiful streets and experiencing the local markets, plazas, and cafes.
Bocas del Toro
Bocas del Toro is an area of northwestern Panama containing a portion of the mainland and nine islands. Known for its beaches, culture, surfing, and rainforests, Bocas del Toro is a laid-back destination. While its primary income is tourism, Bocas del Toro does not feel like other tourist-run cities and features no big hotels, only small boutique hotels and overwater hotels.
Bocas del Toro is relaxed and safe for tourists, and the locals are helpful with directions. The beaches in Bocas del Toro are some of the most beautiful beaches I’ve seen in the world thus far.
There are many things to do on the islands of Bocas del Toro, including surfing, snorkelling, hiking, and relaxing in a hammock. Some of the most popular attractions in Bocas del Toro are Zapatilla Island, Starfish Beach, and Bastimentos National Marine Park. To commute around the islands, you can walk, use water taxis, or take private tours.
During my trip to Panama, Bocas del Toro was one of my favourite places to visit in Panama. I went snorkelling & scuba diving, spotted wild dolphins, toured a bat cave, and relaxed on beautiful white-sand beaches.
El Valle de Anton
El Valle de Anton, known as El Valle or Anton Valley, is a town of approximately 7600 in the south-central Cocle province of Panama. Located inside an inactive volcano, El Valle de Anton is a unique place to visit; it is the second-largest inhabited volcano in the world. Elevated from the rest of the mainland, Anton Valley receives cooler temperatures. Within El Valle, you will find waterfalls, hiking to volcanic peaks, horseback riding, and thermal pools.
Attractions in Anton Valley include a butterfly garden, an orchid center, a public market, and a small zoo. Its microclimate makes it a great place for flora and fauna to thrive. There are more than 100 local species of orchids and around 500 species of birds in Anton Valley. El Valle is the perfect place to visit in Panama if you enjoy nature.
During my visit to El Valle de Anton, I did the Cerro Cara Iguana hike, swam in pools, and enjoyed the relaxing slow pace of the town. A very different vibe from Panama City, each part of Panama is unique.
Boquete is a small and scenic mountainous town in the northern Panama province of Chiriqui, near the Costa Rica border. At 1200 m above level, Boquete features cool temperatures year-round. Its natural environment and lively arts and culture scene attract tourists and retirees. Boquete features the second-largest music festival in Panama, after Panama City. Within Boquete, you will find hiking, flowers, and coffee.
Attractions in Boquete include Baru Volcano, coffee plantations, lookout points, and river rafting. Baru Volcano is the tallest volcano in Panama. Boquete is a place to visit for those who like nature and small towns.
Looking for more places to visit in Panama? Try these.
Note: I have not travelled to these next two locations, but have been recommended them.
San Blas Islands
The San Blas Islands, also known as Guna Yale, is a collection of more than 300 islands along the Caribbean Sea, most uninhabited. Located along Panama’s north coast, the San Blas Islands are known for ecotourism. The weather is hot all year round, and beaches feature beautiful turquoise water.
The Guna Yale is home to indigenous people: The Kuna people. Pristine and minimally touched land, the Kuna run the Guna Yale and control its tourism. The Kuna people do not allow tourism developments to overwhelm the islands.
This beautiful and unique place in Panama is one of the most visited places in Panama. Visit San Blas for a taste of culture and nature with minimal amenities.
Santa Catalina is a small beach-side village in the southwestern Panama province of Veraguas. Located along the Pacific Coast, this small town is known for its fishing, surfing, and scuba diving. People often visit Santa Catalina due to its proximity to Coiba National Marine Park, rich in diverse marine life. Fairly undiscovered compared to the rest of Panama, the area is less developed and its natural beauty shines.
Now you can see what Panama has to offer and know the best places to visit in Panama to help plan your Panama itinerary. Enjoy Panama and its many features.
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Travelling to Panama? Read more:
- 7 Day Panama Itinerary
- Fun Things to Do in Panama City Panama
- Best Panama Canal Day Tours from Panama City
- Getting Around Panama
- Best Places to Visit in Panama
- Best Casco Viejo Walking Tours
- Hiking Cerro Cara Iguana
- Volcan Baru Jeep Tour
- Boquete Coffee Tour Review
- Scuba Diving in Bocas del Toro
- Casa Acuario Hotel Review
- La Selva Nomad Treehouse Review
- Best Bocas del Toro Hotels Over Water
- Fun Things to Do in Bocas del Toro
- How to Get to Bocas Del Toro
- How to Visit Nivida Bat Cave, Bocas del Toro