Any trip to Panama City, Panama should involve the lush green forests that surround the billion-dollar earning Interoceanic Way, the world-class biodiversity of exotic animals and birds that reside in them, the views from the Panama Canal and its big, elongated, trans-Atlantic cargo ships, the old colonial architecture and quaint cobblestone streets of Casco Viejo. Panama City lies between North and South America and its one of the best cities to visit in Central America.
Being a city that is located in a tropical country, it is one of the most biodiverse locations on the planet, due to the tropical geography that is a breeding ground for this increased biodiversity. When coupled with outdoor activities and great weather in the dry season, you’ll absolutely enjoy Panama City.
So, Here Are The Ultimate 19 Things To Do In Panama City, Panama And All Its Must-See Attractions:
1. Walk Through Casco Viejo
Casco Viejo or Casco Antiguo, is where the city used to be during the time when the Spanish ruled Panama. The Spanish crown rebuilt the city in Casco Viejo after its previous location of the city was attacked by pirate Henry Morgan in the 16th century. Casco is Panama’s historic district and it is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Checking out Casco Viejo is the quintessential thing to do in Panama City. That is because of its picturesque colonial architecture and buildings. Some of the best things to do in Casco are checking out the Plaza Herrera, Plaza Francia, the Paseo De Las Bovedas and the rooftop of the Casa Casco restaurant at sunset.
2. Hike The Cerro Ancón
Cerro Ancón (or Ancón Hill in English), is a hill located in the neighborhood of Ancón. This neighborhood is known for its suburban houses and lush vegetation. Hiking the Cerro Ancón is great because of the incredible views of the city, and the opportunities to see wildlife while hiking up the hill.
The area of Ancón is the habitat of animals such as the Central American agouti, deer, and toucans. While hiking you might be able to spot any of them.
3. See The Panama Canal
The place to see the giant ships traverse the Canal is the Panama Canal Miraflores Visitor Center. There are terraces and observation decks from which you can see the ships. The cost of entrance is 20$ for non-residents.
At the Visitor Center there is also a gift shop and exhibition halls to check out.
4. Walk On The Amador Causeway
The Calzada de Amador, or Amador Causeway in English, is a beautiful place and is one of the must-do things in Panama City. It’s literally a road built on the sea from the rocks that were extracted when building the Canal. In the Causeway you have excellent views of the Panama City skyline. It’s nice just to walk or bike through it, enjoy the sea breeze, take pictures, and eat a ceviche or an ice cream from one of the shops nearby.
From here, you can see the Bridge of the Americas, and spot wild raccoons as well.
5. Visit The Biodiversity Museum
Located on the Amador Causeway, is the Biodiversity Museum. Science lovers will enjoy the Biodiversity Museum, as the museum features exhibits about Panama’s natural history and animal biodiversity.
The museum’s architecture was designed by Frank Gehry, and it was his first design in Latin America. The cost of entrance is 18$ for non-residents.
6. Visit The Panama Canal Museum
To learn all of what was involved in the building of the Canal, i.e. the racism and social classes that existed while the Canal was being built, it is recommended to visit the Panama Canal Museum.
It is located in Casco Viejo, and the cost of entrance is 15$ for non-resident adults, 7.50$ for non-resident seniors and 5$ for non-resident children.
7. Do The Zipline On The Gamboa Rainforest
For those who love ziplines and wildlife, doing the Gamboa Rainforest zipline is a great option. The Gamboa zipline is Panama City’s only zipline, and it located near the Gamboa Rainforest Hotel, in middle of the rainforest. It offers the opportunity to spot animals such as sloths, monkey and birds.
8. Bird Watch on Gamboa’s Rainforest Discovery Center
The Panama Rainforest Discovery Center offers amazing bird-watching opportunities, around 15-25 different species of birds per hour of birding, to be exact.
The area surrounding Gamboa has achieved several prizes with international organization for its world-class bird biodiversity. Once there, you can see hummingbirds, toucans, eagles, and much more.
9. Take great selfies on Cinta Costera
The Cinta Costera and the most recently built Cinta-Costera 3 is great place for a selfies, taking a stroll, and trying out the Panamanian raspado, a great treat to have when it’s a hot day that is made from ice, condensed milk and fruit flavorings.
At the Cinta Costera 1, you have views of all the buildings that compose Panama’s upscale neighborhood Punta Paitilla, and Avenida Balboa. At the Cinta Costera 3, you have amazing views of Casco Viejo’s skyline, and it offers the opportunity for someone to take a great photo of you with the Casco skyline behind.
10. Check out the F&F Tower, Also Called El Tornillo
Located in Panama’s Calle 50(Or 50th Street in English) in Downtown Panama City, the El Tornillo tower is an architecture lover’s dream.
The F&F Tower, or colloquially known as “El Tornillo” in Panama City, was completed in 2011 and is one of most iconic buildings ever. Its unique helical design, which some describe as a “glass tornado falling from the sky” is really awesome.
A good spot for checking it out is from the outdoor seating of the Nación Sushi restaurant, which is inside of Soho Mall and offers great views of Panama’s Calle 50 and El Tornillo. Nación Sushi also happens to be one of the best places to eat in Panama.
11. Day Trip To Isla Mono
Animal lovers and ethical animal encounters’ supporters will enjoy a day trip to Isla Mono (or Monkey Island in English).
Monkey Island is an easy day trip from Panama City. It’s a not-long car ride from the city center to a dock where you then get on a boat that’ll take you to the island. You can see up to 4 species of monkeys in this tour: the howler monkeys, the white-faced capuchin, the red-crested or rufous-naped tamarin, and the incredibly cute night monkey or owl monkey.
What’s great is you don’t even have to get off the boat, as the monkeys just visit you on the boat, expecting to get bananas from tourists. Also, don’t worry as the monkeys are friendly.
To get there, you can book a tour from several tour agencies in Panama City, which will handle all the transportation and pick you up at your hotel or wherever you’re staying in the city.
12. Check Out The Ruins Of Panama Viejo
The place called Panama Viejo, or Old Panama, is where the original location that Panama City had in the year of its foundation in 1519 by the Spanish. It’s considered the first European settlement in the Pacific Coast of the American continent. The city remained there until the beginnings of 1670 when it was attacked by the English pirate Henry Morgan.
As a result of the pirate attacks the city was moved to what is known today as Casco Viejo.
13. Day Trip To The San Blas Islands
If there is a day trip that you must do in Panama, it’s the day trip to the San Blas Islands archipelago in the Caribbean coast of Panama. This archipelago is composed of more than 300 islands and they’re a must-have experience to have while staying in Panama City.
The preferred option by Panama City locals to get to the islands is in a 4×4 vehicle and a water taxi, which you book through one of several tour agencies in the city. To get to the dock where you then take the water taxi that gets you to the islands, you must first drive through very steep terrain that can only be handled by 4×4 vehicles.
For this reason, Panama City locals who don’t own 4×4 vehicles opt for booking the day trip through the tour agencies, as they handle the transportation to and from the islands and will also pick you up in your hotel or apartment.
14. Day Trip To Isla Taboga
Taboga is an island that is part of the Pearl Islands archipelago in the Gulf of Panama in the Pacific Ocean. It’s a different experience from the Caribbean Islands of San Blas, and if you go here you can say you were both in the Caribbean and the Pacific Ocean during your trip to Panama.
15. Take An Aerial Tram Through The Gamboa Rainforest
Near the Gamboa Rainforest Hotel, you can take a cool aerial tram through the rainforest which offers the opportunity to spot the wildlife of Soberanía National Park from above. Among the animals that you can see on the tram are sloths, monkeys, and birds.
At the end of the tram you can access an observation tower from where you can see the where Chagres River (an important river without which there would be no Panama Canal) feeds the water passage that allows ship transit in the Canal, the Lago Gatún, or Gatún Lake in English.
16. Hike the Pipeline Road Near Soberania National Park
Aside from the hiking trails in Parque Metropolitano and Cerro Ancón, you’ll want to check out the one called Pipeline Road near Soberanía National Park for its unique bird-watching and animal-spotting opportunities. In this way, it rivals Costa Rica’s biodiversity and opportunities for bird-watching.
The Pipeline Road is right next to the Panama Rainforest Discovery Center, and it’s one of the best rainforest trails in Panama.
17. Hike The Parque Metropolitano
The Parque Metropolitano (or Metropolitan Natural Park in English) is a big park near Panama City composed of around 232 hectares. It offers the opportunity for bird-watching and spotting various animals, as the park is home to around 378 species of animals (around 283 species of birds, 20 species of frogs, and 63 species of mammals).
For the chance to have different, but good views of the Panama City skyline, you’ll want to head to the Parque Metropolitano hiking trail. From the Mirador Cerro Cedro, you can have a completely different perspective of Panama City, and you’ll want to make sure to take a photo.
18. Go To The Kotowa Coffee Shop
From all the coffee shops in the city, you’ll want to have a cup of coffee in Kotowa. It is recommended that you go to the Kotowa coffee over others such as Cafe Unido, Duran (and even needless to say Starbucks) or other coffee shop. You can find several Kotowa coffee shops located throughout the city.
It is recommended that you try the one from the Pacamara variety as it is delicious and very full of flavor. The Pacamara and Geisha coffee beans are among the most expensive varieties of coffee in Panama and if your budget allows it try both.
19. Visit the Mercado Del Marisco
The Mercado Del Marisco (or fish market in English), which is very close to Casco Viejo, is your opportunity to have the some of the freshest, most mercury-free seafood in the world, in Panama City. It is recommended that you try the ceviche de conchuela, ceviche de corvina, and ceviche de concha negra, all of which are delicious.
Overall, Panama City is great addition to your travel bucket list. I hope you enjoyed this list on the best things to do in Panama City, Panama!