Panama provides a passageway between two oceans, the mighty Atlantic and Pacific, while providing a land bridge between Central and South America. The man-made marvel, the Panama Canal, remains at the center, a miraculous shortcut through 51 miles of mountain and jungle.
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This intriguing country offers an ocean of adventure, from sublime coastline and dense rainforests to historic UNESCO World Heritage Sites such as Old Panama City and Coiba National Park. It is also the site of the world’s first transcontinental railway.
From the world-class waves of Bocas del Toro to the more than two-mile high Volcán Barú, Panama provides a paradise for outdoor sports enthusiasts, nature-lovers and history buffs. Discover an entire city in a volcano at El Valle de Antón. Explore some of the 300 uninhabited islands in the sun-blessed Bocas del Toro Archipelago and cast a line in the wonderful waterways of Panama, whose name fittingly translates to “abundance of fish.”
What To Do
Visit the native Embera Village for an authentic taste of Panamanian traditions.
Explore a city in an extinct volcano at El Valle de Antón, with its surrounding cloud forest, in Central Panama.
Hike through the lush rainforests of the 85-square-mile Parque Nacional Soberanía with its diverse wildlife and Rio Chagres, a river that remarkably drains into both the Atlantic and Pacific oceans.
Search for marlin in the morning in the blue waters of the Pacific, go freshwater fishing at renowned Gatun Lake and take a sunset sail in the Caribbean Sea all in a single day in Panama.
What To See
A cruise through the epic Panama Canal is one of the top attractions to experience in Panama.
Walk back in time in Panama City’s charming old quarter of Casco Viejo, founded in 1673.
If you would like to see plants in their natural habitat, a visit the extraordinary Summit Botanical Gardens and Zoo along the outskirts of Panama City is a must.
Discover more than 15,000 species of plants, plus a small zoo initially created to help soldiers identify the animals they might encounter in nearby jungles.
Explore a bevy of wildlife roaming freely throughout Panama’s vast wilderness, including howler monkeys, jaguars, three-toed sloths, frogs and innumerable birds.
Shopping is plentiful in Panama, especially in Panama City. For unique gifts, visit the specialty stores of Casco Viejo, the Old Town. Browse for bargains along the world’s longest pedestrian-only street, La Central, located near the waterfront in Panama City’s San Miguel district.
In Panama City, you’ll find endless opportunities to party. Panama’s beach towns, such as those along the most populated island of the Bocas del Toro Archipelago, Isla Colon, also know how to put on a show, night and day. Here, amidst the sparkling Caribbean sea, the living feels easy. Most happy hours begin around 5:00 p.m. and the fun times continue well into the evening.
Panama with Kids
Give your family a walking history lesson in 16th-century Panamá Viejo, the oldest European settlement on the Pacific coast of the Americas.
Discover the secret waterways and hidden island gems of Gatun Lake on a boat tour. Visit Monkey Island at the edge of Gamboa.
Explore the incredible wildlife and forests of Soberanía National Park. View some of the park’s 400-plus species of birds while enjoying its remarkably diverse flora and fauna.
Off the Beaten Path
If you vacation in Panama from mid-January through mid-March, visit Ingenio de Azúcar Santa Rosa, while this sugarcane refinery west of Aguadulce is in production.
Traditional Panamanian food and drink finds their roots in Spanish, American, Afro-Caribbean and other indigenous cultures. A Panamanian meal often includes meat, coconut rice and beans, local fruits and vegetables such as squash, yucca and plantains.
Snack on yucca frita, which is fried yucca root, and tastes like French fries, only sweeter. Locals also roll up fried yucca and stuff it with meat and boiled eggs for a delicious meal called carimañola.
Seafood ceviche served with fresh tortilla chips is also a favorite in this republic bordered on two sides by the sea.
Try the Panamanian snow cones, called raspados, or tres leches cake soaked in evaporated milk, sweetened condensed milk and cream for a sweet ending to your day.
When to Go
Panama celebrates Carnaval with festive music, dancing and a lively parade four days preceding Ash Wednesday.
The best time to experience the Pacific side of Panama, weather-wise, would be during the country’s drier months, December through mid-April. The mountainous areas can get cold at night.
The rainy season extends from mid-April to November. The eastern coast of Panama, north of the mountains, sees rain throughout the year. February, March, September, and October are usually drier. Temperatures in the lowlands remain warm, at times reaching around 90 F during the daytime.