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Things to do in Panama

Things to do in  Panama

Welcome to Panama

From the kaleidoscopic reefs of Bocas del Toro to the dense, steamy jungles of Darien National Park, Panama forms a physical and cultural bridge between Central and South America, lapped by the Caribbean on one shore and the Pacific Ocean on the other. From glossy, sun-drenched Panama City to the tiny fishing villages scattered across the islands, Panama offers a heady mix of nature and culture, modern and traditional. History buffs can take a luxury cruise on the Panama Canal, passing through the Miraflores Locks and stopping in Panama City for a walking tour of UNESCO-listed Casco Viejo, the old colonial district. Many jungle treks and bird-watching trips are also available from the capital. Top draws for nature lovers include Gamboa rainforest, El Valle de Anton, Gatun Lake, and Chagres National Park, home to native Embera people and Monkey Island. Divers and snorkelers flock to Bocas del Toro, not far from the Costa Rican border, for its legendary coral reefs and wrecks. Book a multi-day sailing trip to explore further along the Caribbean coast, and if you dream of deserted tropical isles, charter a private boat to the San Blas archipelago. Only a fraction of its 365 tiny islands are inhabited, despite miles of perfect white-sand beaches. And if time permits, you could sail all the way to Cartagena from here. With easy access to both Colombia and Costa Rica, Panama makes an ideal launch pad for extended trips in either Central or South America.

Top 15 attractions in Panama

#1
Panama Canal

Panama Canal

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The first ships sailed through the Panama Canal in 1914, shaving nearly 9,000 miles off what was otherwise a very long sailing trip around South America. The engineering marvel transformed global trade, and today, 100 years after it was first installed, the canal has once again been expanded with new locks and widened existing ones, modernizing Panama Canal transit by allowing larger ships to pass from Panama City on the Pacific Ocean side to Colon on the Atlantic Ocean side.More
#2
Monkey Island

Monkey Island

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Panama’s Monkey Island on Lake Gatun is home to four monkey species—mantled howler, white-faced capuchin, Geoffroy’s tamarin, and lemurine owl monkeys)—as well as crocodiles, toucans, sloths, iguanas, and numerous exotic birds. Riverboat tours to the island offer visitors the chance to observe the monkeys and other wildlife.More
#3
Casco Viejo

Casco Viejo

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Panama City's oldest and hippest neighborhood comprises a Tejas-tiled cluster of pastel colonial buildings at the tip of a heavily fortified peninsula. These ramparts successfully protected the first Spanish settlement on the Pacific Coast; today they make up a UNESCO World Heritage Site filled with plazas, churches, and narrow streets.More
#4
Amador Causeway (Calzada de Amador)

Amador Causeway (Calzada de Amador)

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The palm-lined Amador Causeway (Calzada de Amador) follows Panama Bay and then heads onto the Bridge of the Americas, which runs parallel to the entrance to the Panama Canal and leads to three small coastal islands. The 3.7-mile (6-kilometer) road includes popular paths for runners and cyclists and passes a number of sights.More
#5
Miraflores Locks

Miraflores Locks

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The world-famous Panama Canal is a must-see for visitors to Panama City, but to fully appreciate it, head to the Miraflores Locks. The engineering marvel in action is a mesmerizing scene, with some 700 tons (635 tonnes) of machinery, reinforced against the mighty Pacific, and cargo-laden ships squeezing through with just inches to spare.More
#6
Gatún Lake (Lago Gatún)

Gatún Lake (Lago Gatún)

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The tree-lined shores, tiny islets, and blue-green waters of Gatún Lake (Lago Gatún) cover what was once the fertile Chagres River Valley. When it was created in 1913, Gatún Lake was the largest man-made lake, buttressed by the biggest dam, in the world. Today, it forms an integral part of the famous Panama Canal.More
#7
Bridge of the Americas (Puente de las Americas)

Bridge of the Americas (Puente de las Americas)

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The Bridge of the Americas (Puente de lasAmericas)****spans the Panama Canal, which is perhaps the most important public works project in history. Made of steel and reinforced concrete, the bridge is 5,425 feet long, and at high tide, the clearance is 201 feet, under which ships crossing the canal must pass.Twenty million U.S. dollars went into building the four-lane bridge, which replaced smaller ones and greatly increased road travel and capacity over the canal. It was inaugurated on Oct. 12, 1962, and allows the passage of cars, bikes and pedestrians.The Bridge of the Americas was originally called the Thatcher Ferry Bridge, named after the ferry that used to operate on the canal before the span was built. Panama aptly renamed the bridge, since it not only connects the capital with the rest of Panama, but also unites Central and South America.The bridge is not just useful, it’s beautiful. Seen from different angles, whether on a sunny or cloudy day, at sunset or when it is brightly lit at night, the Bridge of the Americas is a piece of world history worth the effort to see.More
#8
Soberanía National Park

Soberanía National Park

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On the east side of the Panama Canal, Soberanía National Park—one of the most accessible of the country’s protected parks—is a paradise for hikers, fishers, and bird-watchers. Some 1,300 plant species, 55 amphibian species, and hundreds of mammals, birds, and reptiles call the park home.More
#9
Ancon Hill (Cerro Ancon)

Ancon Hill (Cerro Ancon)

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Visible from nearly anywhere in Panama City, Ancon Hill (Cerro Ancon) stands proudly above everything else in an otherwise flat region, with its immense flag flying high. At 199 meters above sea level, it’s the highest point within the city, and from the top you can see all the main points of interest. It’s possible to see not only the modern part of Panama City, but also the Panama Canal, the Amador Causeway, the Bridge of the Americas and Old City.In the middle of this bustling city, Ancon Hill serves as a little natural paradise. The forest has plenty of animals—sloths, armadillos, toucan and deer—and a slow walk up the hill provides the chance to see many of them. Once at the top, spend time watching the ships pass through the canal. It’s a pleasant walk from Mi Pueblito, and serious bikers take the challenge of riding up the hill. Go early to beat the heat, and don’t forget your camera!There’s also history wrapped up here. The name Ancon was used for the first boat that officially crossed the Panama Canal in 1914, and although it was under the jurisdiction of the United States during part of the 20th century, Panama took control in 1977.More
#10
San Blas Islands

San Blas Islands

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A string of 378 tiny islands dotted along Panama’s northwest coast, the San Blas Islands offer a welcome change of pace from the mainland. This region provides everything you’d expect from a Caribbean paradise: coconut palms, white sand beaches, azure waters, and a complete absence of electricity, tourist resorts, and stress.More
#11
Plaza de Francia

Plaza de Francia

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When visiting Panama’s Old City (Casco Antiguo), check out the Plaza de Francia on the far southeast side. This public square stands as a testimony to the people who worked on—and gave their lives for—the Panama Canal.Built in 1921 by Leonardo Villanueva Meyer, the square's main attraction is a 60-foot (18-meter) obelisk.The monument outlines the history of the canal and honors those 22,000 workers and engineers who died, mainly due to disease, while building it. The statues surrounding it show prominent people who participated in the construction at the time of the French involvement, and the Gallic rooster sitting on top of the obelisk is one of the national emblems of France.Besides the monument, near this plaza you will find the France Embassy and the Esteban Huertas Promenade. There’s also an impressive view of the Panama City bay, the Bridge of the Americas and the Amador Causeway.The plaza is also near the former Supreme Court building, which now serves as the National Institute of Culture and is home to the Anita Villalaz Theater, where theater performances, concerts and conferences take place throughout the year. In fact, you might recognize the building from some scenes in the James Bond movieQuantum of Solace.On one side of the plaza, vaults known as Las Bóvedas, which were originally part of the fortified wall around the Old City, are the source of legends and urban myths. Stop in at any of the stores in the area and listen to the shopkeepers tell you about the experiences prisoners once had in these dark recesses. In recent decades, the vaults have been restored and are now home to galleries, shops and a French restaurant.More
#12
Presidential Palace (Palacio de las Garzas)

Presidential Palace (Palacio de las Garzas)

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“Garzas” is Spanish for herons, and you’ll see the birds roaming freely in the Andalucian-style courtyard of the Presidential Palace (Palacio de las Garzas) in Panama City. The African herons were a gift celebrating the completion of palace renovations in 1922. The President of Panama lives in the upper floors of the building.More
#13
Biomuseo

Biomuseo

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In a country with so much biodiversity, it’s not surprising to see a museum dedicated to the natural marvels found here. The 4,000-square-meter Biomuseo was designed by Frank Gehry, the same architect who designed the beautiful Guggenheim Museum Bilbao. This site takes visitors on a journey through time to when the Isthmus of Panama was formed, joined two continents and divided oceans.There are seven permanent exhibitions that focus on art and science education here. When the isthmus was formed, there was an interchange of species between North and South America, an effect depicted in a series of 72 sculptures of those species. Audiovisual presentations also show the natural wonders of Panama’s ecosystems.Another exhibition consisting of 16 columns tells the story of the cultural diversity in Panama. Two aquariums examine how the Pacific and the Caribbean changed when they were separated by the isthmus, and another display explores the relationship between Panama’s biodiversity and the rest of the world.An outdoor Biopark serves as a living extension of the museum, with a selection of endemic plants that contribute to an understanding of Panama's biodiversity and makes for a pleasant place to take a walk.More
#14
Panama Interoceanic Canal Museum (Museo del Canal Interoceánico)

Panama Interoceanic Canal Museum (Museo del Canal Interoceánico)

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This popular museum and top Panama City attraction is located inside a stunning, well-restored colonial building that once housed the French and U.S. companies charged with building the canal. Visitors interested in learning more about the famous waterway can wander the halls of this beautiful four-story white and green structure where displays showcase information about the political, social and historical impact of the iconic Panama Canal. Although signage is in Spanish only, English-speaking guest can opt for audio tours for a small additional fee.More
#15
Bayano Lake Caves (Lago Bayano Caves)

Bayano Lake Caves (Lago Bayano Caves)

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Sparkling like a jewel at the edge of the enormous Darién wilderness, tranquil Bayano Lake (Lago Bayano) was created in 1976 and has been a scenic escape from the big city ever since. The famed Bayano Lake Caves, a Paleolithic cavern carved by water erosion over the centuries, riddle the lake’s undulating southern shore.More

Trip ideas

How to Spend 3 Days in Panama City

How to Spend 3 Days in Panama City

How to Spend 2 Days in Panama City

How to Spend 2 Days in Panama City

How to Spend 1 Day in Panama City

How to Spend 1 Day in Panama City

Top activities in Panama

Half Day City and Panama Canal Tour
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5 Hr Combo-Panama Canal boat ride+Monkey Isles+Rainforest walk & Local Breakfast
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Day Tour in San Blas Islands All Included Visiting 4 Islands
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Ocean to Ocean Panama Canal and Jungle Tour
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Private Tour Layover in Panama

Private Tour Layover in Panama

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Panama Canal Full Transit Tour

Panama Canal Full Transit Tour

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Panama City Bike Tour

Panama City Bike Tour

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US$17.99
Operators have paid Viator more to have their experiences featured here

Recent reviews from experiences in Panama

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Fantastic Tour!
German_G, Aug. 2022
Private Tour of the Historic Center of Panama and Canal
During our tour, Dennis was on top of things: checking the best times to visit the Canal, providing great recommendations for food and shopping.
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Fascinating View of the Panama Canal
Sara_W, Jul. 2022
Panama Canal Partial Tour - Southbound Direction
Excellent narration onboard in Spanish and English giving you history, real-time perspectives of the boats around you as well as animals onshore.
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A definite tour to take on your visit to Panama
Roberto_G, Jul. 2022
Ocean to Ocean Panama Canal and Jungle Tour
Perfect English by an awesome tour guide named Johnny!
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A Must Take Bike Tour
Tanya_G, Jul. 2022
Bike Tour in Panama City
We made about 6 stops and we were able to see a great deal during the bike tour.
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Loved being part of...
Tina_B, Jun. 2022
Monkey Island Tour from Panama City
The boat ride was amazing and got to see parts of the Panama canal
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Perfect morning
David_S, Jun. 2022
5 Hr Combo-Panama Canal boat ride+Monkey Isles+Rainforest walk & Local Breakfast
It was our first day in Panama City and this was a perfect way to see a ton.
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Must do experience
Melanie_B, Jun. 2022
Monkey Island
Our guide, Juan, is amazing and we got to see three types of monkeys up close.
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Excellent experience
Michael_T, Jun. 2022
Panama City Bike Tour
This was a great tour to see all around Panama City.
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Perfect for the layover! Wont regret!
Carla_P, Jun. 2022
Private Tour Layover in Panama
We got to see three important spots of Panama!
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Great drivers! Friendly and helpful!’
Jasmine_J, May 2022
Private Transfer Tocumen Airport to Panama City and Beach Resorts
She gave us some of the best recommendations of where to go what to see and where to eat.
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Excellent tour
Amber_G, May 2022
Ocean to Ocean Panama Canal and Jungle Tour
Great tour to see a little of everything Panama has to offer.
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Layover tour
Jeff_h, May 2022
Layover (Stopover) City tour and Panama Canal Visit
Great way to see Panama City and the canal.
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I would definitely recommend!
Lakiea_D, May 2022
Private Transfer Tocumen Airport to Panama City and Beach Resorts
He pointed out areas of interest and gave me suggestions of places to visit.
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Awesome tour.
Charles_T, May 2022
Cruiseline Excursion Colon: Panama City tour and Miraflores Locks
He was very knowledgeable and knew just what we wanted to see and do.
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Gonzo is an excellent...
Fion_M, May 2022
Full-Day Monkey Island and Indian Village Tour from Panama City, Panama
Gonzo is an excellent guide with fluent English and a vast knowledge of all things Panama related.
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Amazing tour with an amazing tour guide as
Patrice_C, May 2022
Panama City Bike Tour
This tour is a must on day 1 or day 2 for anyone looking to see more on Panama City and to learn more about the amazing history of this beautiful country.
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Great experience
waharland, Apr. 2022
Cruiseline Excursion Colon: Panama City tour and Miraflores Locks
We were met just outside the Colon port and driven to Panama city with a stop off on the way to see an enormous container ship and a smaller one sailing down the canals.
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AMAZING!!
Gea_A, Apr. 2022
Private Tour of the Historic Center of Panama and Canal
A great thing to do on your first day in Panama City to see what the city has to offer.
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Informative tour
Patryk, Apr. 2022
5 Hr Combo-Panama Canal boat ride+Monkey Isles+Rainforest walk & Local Breakfast
You get to see and find out a lot of information about the Panama Canal.
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Very satisfied
croftysb, Apr. 2022
Half Day City and Panama Canal Tour
Great way to see the city’s two best things - the canal and Casio Viejo.
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All about Panama

Currency
Panamanian Balboa (PAB)
Time Zone
EST (UTC -5)
Country Code
+507
Language(s)
Spanish
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