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Panama Itinerary: 7 Days in Panama

Last updated on March 26th, 2022

Panama is famous for the Panama Canal, but there’s so much more in Panama. Connecting Central and South America, Panama is an international hub of transportation and finance. Wedged between the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea, you will find some of the most beautiful beaches in Panama. Whether you enjoy history, culture, food, or nature, there is something for you to enjoy. This 7-day Panama itinerary will show you some of the best things to do in Panama.

One of the best and most beautiful places I’ve travelled to and I recommend visiting is the country of Panama. Home to tropical rainforests, stunning beaches, volcanos, city life, and many small towns, Panama is filled with nature and culture. 

How Many Days Do You Need in Panama?

With so many things to do in Panama and each area with its own vibe, you will want to spend 5-7 days in Panama. I found seven days, including travel time to and from Panama, good to see some of what the country of Panama has to offer without rushing. 

You can travel through Panama in less than five days, but you will have to limit how many areas of the country you can see and what you can do in Panama. If you have only one day in Panama, you will want to stay within Panama City. In seven days, I was able to visit three cities in Panama. 

I recommend you plan to spend at least 5-7 days in Panama on your trip, depending on your travel style. I have compiled a list of the best places to visit in Panama to help you decide where to go in Panama, why to choose them, and what they offer. This Panama guide will help you plan your 7 day Panama itinerary.

7 Day Panama Itinerary 

This itinerary for Panama focuses on three areas of Panama: Panama City, Bocas del Toro, and El Valle de Anton. You will spend a few days in each of these destinations. 

casco-viejo-panama-skyline

Day 1 in Panama: Panama City – Casco Viejo

Panama City is the metropolis capital of Panama. Featuring the Panama Canal, skyscrapers, and the old city of Casco Viejo, you will not want to skip visiting Panama City. Most flights fly into Panama City, so it’s a perfect place to start your Panama itinerary. You will spend the first 2 days of your trip in Panama City.

Casco Viejo Walking Tour – Self Guided

A great way to visit Casco Viejo is by a self-guided walking tour. During your walking tour, you have the opportunity to visit multiple historic attractions in Casco Viejo and experience the local culture. Choose the sights that interest you, or aim to see them all; I have included the list below.

What to See and Do in Casco Viejo – On Your Walking Tour

Plaza Bolivar 

Plaza Bolivar is a public square with old cathedrals, 19th-century architecture, and cute cafes. Also known as Plaza de San Francisco, after Iglesia San Francisco de Asis, one of the largest churches in Casco Viejo, which is located in Plaza Bolivar. The plaza features a statue of Simon Bolivar, a Venezuelan hero who helped revolt against the Spanish empire. With minimal vehicle traffic, Plaza Bolivar is a good place to take a stroll or sit on a patio at a restaurant.

National Theatre of Panama

The National Theatre is a historic building from the 18th-century featuring Neo-Baroque architecture. One half of the building contains ceiling fresco paintings by famous Panamanian artist Robert Lewis, and the other side is the National Palace. 

El Arco Chato 

El Arco Chato is an iconic flat arch from the Iglesia Santo Domingo ruins. The 17th-century church burned down in 1756, but the remaining arch is known as El Arco Chato. The arch stands 35 feet tall. El Arco Chato is a quiet and good spot to reflect while admiring this piece of history standing the test of time. 

Panama Canal Museum 

The Panama Canal Museum is a museum that focuses on the history and construction of the Panama Canal. The museum is located in a 19th-century building formerly used by the companies who worked on the canal. 

La Cathedral Metropolitana

La Cathedral Metropolitana, or Catedral de Panama, is an 18th-century church featuring Baroque architecture. It took more than 100 years to build the impressive structure. The church features two towers containing mother of pearl, with an interior featuring a marble altar. There is an exhibit inside the foyer which you can visit and learn about Christianity in Panama. 

Iglesia de la Compania de Jesus

Iglesia de la Compania de Jesus is the ruins of an 18th-century church and the former site of Panama’s first university. Damaged by a fire and later again by an earthquake, the ruins of the church remain. There is an entrance gate for safety, but you can see through the gate, all four walls are still standing and picture its history.

Iglesia de San Jose

Iglesia de San Jose is a 17th-century church famous for its golden altar. The golden altar is wood carved and covered in gold flakes. During a pirate attack in 1671, legend states the altar was painted black to protect it. After the attack on Panama Viejo, the altar moved to its present location. Iglesia de San Jose is a prominent point of interest in Casco Viejo. The plain church exterior can fool you you’re at the wrong spot, but you will know this is the golden church when you visit the interior and see the altar. 

Plaza Herrera

Plaza Herrera is a public square with old architecture, a hotel, and bars. The plaza features an equestrian statue of General Tomás Herrera, a local hero who fought to revolt South America from Spain and later for the freedom of Panama from Columbia. A tranquil plaza with a slower pace, feel free to rest for a while on a bench.

Day 2 in Panama: Panama City

panama canal panama

Miraflores Lock – Panama Canal 

Miraflores Lock is one of three locks along the famous Panama Canal. Since 1914, ships have passed through the Panama Canal using a series of locks to cross from the Pacific to the Atlantic Ocean. This artificial waterway cuts transportation time of ships down exponentially while providing valuable income for Panama. The Panama Canal is also known worldwide as one of the Seven Wonders of the Modern World, which assists in bringing tourism into Panama. It takes more than 11 hours for a ship to transverse the distance of the Panama Canal. 

At the Miraflores lock, there is a visitor center where you can watch ships pass through the canal from an observation platform. Within the Visitor Center, you can tour the lock and learn about the history of the Panama Canal. 

During my visit, we were lucky enough to watch a cruise ship pass through the canal. It was incredible to see this in person. 

Miraflores Lock Visitor Centre – Panama Canal

Hours of Operation: Tues-Sun 8 am – 6 pm, closed Mondays 

Cost: 10 Panama Balboa per non resident adult = approx $13 per adult 

Tickets can be purchased online 

Note: It takes a while to commute between destinations within Panama City; most take at least an hour. Allow for adequate travel time when planning your Panama itinerary. 

Today, you will head from Panama City to Bocas Del Toro. You can either fly or take the overnight bus. Plan your method of transportation ahead of time; you will need to know what time you leave Panama City. During my trip, our overnight bus left Albrook Mall at 6 pm. 

Day 3 in Panama: Bocas del Toro

Bocas del Toro is a relaxing paradise containing nine islands in Panama’s northwest. Featuring beautiful white-sand beaches with turquoise waters, Bocas del Toro is a great place to spend a few days, swim, and go snorkelling. You will enjoy your time here relaxing on the beach and exploring this small town. 

Playa Del Drago 

Playa Del Drago is a secluded beach in Bocas Del Toro. Featuring beautiful, calm turquoise waters and sugary-white sand, Playa Del Drago is a hidden gem in Bocas. 

Often confused with Starfish Beach, Starfish Beach is Playa Estrella. Playa Del Drago is near Playa Estrella, and you need to pass Playa Del Drago to reach Starfish Beach. 

You can get to Playa Del Drago from Bocas town by bus, taxi, or bicycling. 

During my visit to Playa Del Drago, we had the beach to ourselves and found a giant palm leaf to play with and take some fun photos. 

Playa Del Drago 

Hours of Operation: Daily 24 hours 

Cost: FREE

Playa Estrella

Playa Estrella is a beach in Bocas del Toro, known as Starfish Beach for its starfish sightings. At Starfish Beach, there are a few restaurants and cabanas with beach chairs for rent. You will be able to see starfish on the ocean floor, with more starfish the deeper you go into the water. 

Bring your snorkel gear for the best view of the starfish.

Please do not touch or bring the starfish out of the water; be respectful of nature. People touching starfish can harm them, and we want the starfish to thrive and be available for everyone to admire. Over the years, starfish are becoming rarer to see due to human behaviour, and we don’t want them to leave Playa Estrella entirely. 

During my trip to Playa Estrella, we walked to the beach, spotted starfish, and had the beach almost all to ourselves. We did not rent a beach chair and just stored our belongings on the sand. Seeing starfish in their natural habitat was one of the highlights of my Panama trip!

Tip: Playa Estrella can get busy, so it is best to visit in the morning to avoid crowds. 

Playa Estrella

Hours of Operation: Daily 24 hours 

Cost: FREE

We spent the rest of the afternoon: walking around town, checking out shops, relaxing in a hammock, and having a nice seafood dinner. 

You can choose to relax or further explore the islands. 

More Things to Do in Bocas del Toro

Red Frog Beach – a beautiful beach named after Panama’s red frog

Bastimentos Sky Zipline Canopy Tour – a tour with seven zip lines, a vertical rappel, and a sky bridge

Isla Solarte – a naturally raw island with lush jungles, hiking, and eco-accommodations 

Day 4 in Panama: Bocas del Toro

Zapatilla Island

Zapatilla Island is a set of two islands with beautiful turquoise water and white powdery sand. Surrounded by coral reefs and undeveloped, Zapatilla Island feels like paradise. Its calm and clear Caribbean waters make Zapatilla perfect for snorkelling and a great day trip from Bocas del Toro.

Zapatilla Island feels like one of those deserted islands you see on Survivor, but you wouldn’t actually mind being stuck here; Zapatilla is one of the most visited places in Bocas del Toro. 

How to Get to Zapatilla Island

There are two ways to get to Zapatilla Island: by a tour company or by hiring a private boat. 

There are day trip tours available that include access to Zapatilla Island. Multiple companies offer tours of Zapatilla along with other activities such as dolphin bay, sloth island, BBQ lunch, and snorkelling. Look into each tour operator to make sure you choose the right one for your time, wants, and budget. 

During my trip, my tour included: Zapatilla Island, searching for wild dolphins, sloth island, Bastimentos National Marine Park, lunch, and snorkelling. My tour was with Coopeguitour, and I enjoyed it. The tour started at 9 am and ended at 5 pm. 

snorkel bocas del toro

Be careful when climbing up into the tour boat after snorkelling. I lost my balance, fell off and hit my tummy off the ladder, ending up with a huge bruise, but I was okay and still had fun for the rest of the tour. 

Tips for Visiting Zapatilla Island and What to Pack for Zapatilla 

  • Plan according to the weather, as it is best to visit on a sunny or partly cloudy day. 
  • Pack food and drinks, as there are no restaurants or snack bars on this remote island. 
  • Whatever you bring to the island with you, ensure you take it when you leave. Don’t litter. 
  • Bring snorkel gear if you have your own. 
  • Check tour prices online and in-person, I personally found prices cheaper in-person.

Zapatilla Island

Hours of Operation: During tour times 

Cost: Tour cost varies

Today, you will return to Panama City from Bocas Del Toro to prepare to head to El Valle de Anton tomorrow. You can either fly or take the bus. Plan your method of transportation ahead of time; you will need to know what time you leave Bocas del Toro. 

Day 5 & 6 in Panama: El Valle de Anton

El Valle de Anton is a small town located inside an inactive volcano. With cooler temperatures and surrounded by jungle, El Valle is a perfect place to visit for nature lovers. Enjoy a slower pace and beautiful scenery. 

Catch one of the first buses of the day from Panama City to maximize your time in El Valle de Anton. 

el valle de anton panama

Hiking in El Valle de Anton – Hiking Cerro Cara Iguana

With El Valle de Anton located inside a volcano crater, hiking in Anton Valley is fun and scenic. There are three big hikes within El Valle de Anton: Cerro Cara Iguana, La India Dormida, and Cerro Gaital. The most popular hike in Anton Valley is La India Domida, and the most challenging hike is Cerro Gaital. 

During my visit, I chose to hike Cerro Cara Iguana, aka Cerro Iguana or Cerro Cariguana, as it provides the most scenic view of El Valle from above, 662 m above. 

There are two options for hiking Cerro Cara Iguana: hike up and back the same path, or travel in a circuit, taking one trail in and another out. I chose to hike up and back along the same trail. You will walk to the outskirts of town to reach the trailhead and begin your ascent. 

The view from the top of Cerro Iguana is beautiful and well worth the effort to reach the top. A highlight of my visit to El Valle de Anton. If you choose not to hike Cerro Iguana, make sure you pick at least one hike on your trip to experience what Anton Valley has to offer. 

Hiking Cerro Cara Iguana

Hours of Operation: Daily 24 hours

Cost: FREE

Map of the hike

Note: Do not hike at night for safety purposes, you could injure yourself from falling. 

A nice swim in the hotel pool after hiking

More Things to Do in El Valle de Anton 

Butterfly Haven – a butterfly exhibit with hundreds of butterflies in a rainforest setting

El Chorro Macho – a 35-meter waterfall with a swimming area at the bottom

El Valle Panama Hot Springs – small mineral pool to soak in with mud masks available 

Hike La India Dormida (The Sleeping Indian Girl) – popular hike with views over the valley

Hike Cerro Gaital – challenging hike with panoramic views of the valley 

Head back to Panama City on the afternoon of day 6 of your 7 days in Panama. The last bus out of Anton Valley leaves around 5 pm. Leave an hour or two before the last bus to not be stuck overnight in El Valle de Anton when your flight home is tomorrow. 

Day 7 in Panama: Return to Panama City 

Today you will fly home from Panama City or continue with your travels elsewhere. Your amazing 7-day trip to Panama is coming to an end. Depending on your departure flight time, you may have time for more exploring in the morning, or you may choose to relax. 

We chose to relax in our hotel’s rooftop pool for the morning before flying out of Panama in the afternoon.

rooftop-pool-panama-city

Here are some ideas of what to do if you choose to explore more before you leave Panama: 

Amador Causeway

Amador Causeway is the connection between the mainland the Causeway Islands. Built with rocks from the Panama Canal construction, the Amador Causeway serves as a breakaway to the canal’s entrance. Amador Causeway features restaurants, hotels, a trail, and the “Panama” sign. You can take a walk along the Pacific Ocean for a great view of the Panama skyline.

Metropolitan National Park

The Metropolitan National Park is a massive 573-acre park located in the heart of Panama City. The park features five hiking trails and views of Panama City’s modern skyline. Metropolitan National Park is the only wildlife refuge in Panama City and is home to many different species of flora and fauna. This massive park is a quick escape from the bustling city, only a short ride away from Albrook Mall. 

Have a safe journey, and I hope you enjoy your 7 days in Panama. 

7 Day Panama Itinerary – Recap 

Day 1 & 2 – Panama City 

Day 3 & 4 – Bocas del Toro

Day 5 & 6 – El Valle de Anton

Day 7 – Panama City 

Is Panama Safe? 

In general, Panama is a safe country to visit. Panama ranks as one of the safest countries in Central America. Local Panamanians are friendly, helpful, and laid-back. It is a medium safety level to vacation or live in Panama; be alert, avoid certain areas, and have fun.  

There is petty and violent crime in Colon, Panama, so it is recommended to avoid travelling to Colon. Another area to avoid in Panama is along the Columbian border; this is due to Columbian drug trafficking in the jungle.

As with other destinations, especially cities, be observant of your surroundings, don’t go out alone at night, and watch for pickpockets and scammers. We fell victim to a money scammer on our trip, we loaned him money through Paypal, and he never paid it back.

Safe places to go in Panama include, but aren’t limited to: El Valle de Anton and Boquete. These are popular destinations, so you will find other travellers and things to do in these areas.

During my visit to Panama, I never felt unsafe. Panama felt like one of the safest places I’ve travelled to so far, even with our money mishap. I would return.  

Is Panama Expensive? 

Panama is a country where you can spend a little or spend a lot and still have fun. I would say Panama is not expensive and would compare with other countries in Central America. You can choose to spend more money and experience Panama in luxury, or you can travel through Panama on a budget.  

getting around bocas del toro panama

Panama Transportation

Panama has many transportation methods and contains multiple airports, the main airport being PTY in Panama City. You can commute around Panama by metro, bus, taxi, plane, boat, bicycle, or walking. For detailed information on how to get around Panama, you can read this guide on Getting Around Panama, which includes transportation costs and how to use Panama’s transportation. 

What Language Do They Speak in Panama? 

Spanish is the official language of Panama. Approximately 14% of Panamanians are bilingual and speak Spanish and English, mostly in tourist areas or speaking some English. Try to learn basic Spanish phrases before your trip, and download an offline Spanish translator onto your phone using Google Translate. During my trip to Panama, my phone translator proved to be very helpful when trying to communicate with the language barrier.  

Helpful Phrases in Spanish To Learn Before You Go to Panama

  • Hola – hello 
  • ¿Qué tal? – how are you
  • Gracias – thank you 
  • De nada – you’re welcome 
  • Disculpe – excuse me
  • Lo siento – I’m sorry
  • ¿Cuánto cuesta? – how much is this?
  • ¿Dónde está el baño? – where’s the bathroom?
  • Si, por favor – yes, please 
  • No, gracias – no, thank you 

Helpful Tips for Visiting Panama 

  • The best time to visit Panama is the dry season, from December to April. 
  • The currency of Panama is the Panama Balboa, but USD is widely used.
  • Tap water is safe to drink in Panama City; drink bottled water outside the city.

Hope this information helped you plan your 7-day itinerary for Panama.

Happy travelling!

2 thoughts on “Panama Itinerary: 7 Days in Panama”

  1. Hello Melissa – you provided your information/itinerary to me on FB. Thank you so much!
    I thoroughly enjoyed reading your itinerary and recommendations for Panama. We are cruising in November and would like to take a 7-9 day vacation somewhere in Jan/Feb that it isn’t too costly (5k). Given the flight prices I saw on Next Departure do you think this visit is within our range? We do prefer mid to higher end accommodations though with a pool. Our dining preference is casual but with fun atmosphere like beach side eateries. We live near Ottawa Ontario and we prefer a pub with a wonderful menu over an expensive downtown restaurant. :). I was going to keep my eye out for St. Martin however, with this flight deal perhaps I need to revisit this.
    Thank you so much!
    Kim Shepherd

    1. Hi Kim! So happy to hear you enjoyed this Panama itinerary. Spending 7-9 days in Panama for two people, is definitely possible for under 5K. You can find mid to higher-end accommodations with a pool in Panama, I know there are quite a few to pick from within Panama City and a few in El Valle de Anton. Beach dining is available along the coasts of Panama, and you can find casual dining in the cities. St.Martin is a good pick for the beach, but if you like a mix of city, beach, and adventure, Panama will provide that. Let me know where you end up going 🙂

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