Panama Travel Guide – The Best Places to Visit in Panama, Central America

Panama’s canal is a huge draw, but the country’s islands and intense biodiversity are what really set it apart. Located at the narrowest part of Central America, Panama is a tropical country with a Caribbean and Pacific coastline, and a mixture of indigenous and immigrant cultures.

The capital city, Panama City, is a big bustling hub with many high-rise buildings, and offers some great shopping and nightlife. It could do with more warmth and soul (in contrast to the lively old quarters of Havana, Cuba and Cartagena, Colombia) but it makes a good base for day trips.

A trip to the Panama Canal is a must, with the large container ships providing an impressive sight. If you can, try to time your visit to catch one passing through the canal, but be sure to take a boat tour for a better understanding of this huge engineering achievement. The old historic district, Casco Viejo, is worth a wander too; it’s not as liveable and lived-in as the colonial quarters of other cities but it is lovely and is a great place to stay the night.

Getting around is easy in Panama City, with a system of yellow licensed taxis. There are also minibuses and buses that go further afield and it’s also possible to rent a car.

The rest of Panama travel is much more rural with rainforest and mountainous areas making it ideal for hiking and exploring. The secluded beaches are a big draw for surfers.

Wildlife watching is a big draw for travellers with the Caribbean and Pacific coasts boasting both marine and terrestrial creatures. Look out for reef sharks, humpback and bottlenose dolphins, killer whales and whale sharks, and all 5 species of sea turtle.

Panama takes drugs seriously and getting caught with even a small amount of illegal substances can result in a serious prison sentence. It’s a good idea to be discreet, and keep any supplies in your hotel room or somewhere secure when you are out and about.

There is a lot of adventure to be had in Panama; snorkel or dive in the waters of the Caribbean and Pacific oceans, hike jungle trails to discover lost cities, or raft or kayak on the class 1 and class 4 rivers. Surf the world-famous waves of Bocas del Toro, or get off the beaten track to find a secluded beach. There are 2000 miles of coast, and over 1000 pristine islands to explore. You can go sailing, windsurfing or sail a yacht to and from the islands, or simply relax on the beaches.