We noticed that you're using an unsupported browser. The TripAdvisor website may not display properly.We support the following browsers:
Windows: Internet Explorer, Mozilla Firefox, Google Chrome. Mac: Safari.

What are the 3 top places to visit in Panama?

Los Angeles...
Level Contributor
25 posts
17 reviews
Save Topic
What are the 3 top places to visit in Panama?

Hi there,

I'm planning on visiting Panama the last two weeks of April for 10 days and not sure which places to check out. We are definitely very adventurous and going to check out the City, Bocas Del Toro for 3-4 days(avid surfers), but not sure on our third spot. San Blas or Boquete? If San Blas, is there anything to do and worth the flight? Also, how long do you recommend for Panama City and is there a lot to do?

Any help/tips would be greatly appreciated!

Isla Bastimentos
Level Contributor
421 posts
5 reviews
Save Reply
1. Re: What are the 3 top places to visit in Panama?

Panama City is like a little Miami without the nice beaches, lots of great restaurants and sightseeing but not really for adventurous types. Bocas is the Polar opposite, layed back, great beaches and wildlife, Surf usually not so good in April, lots of other things to do, The San Blas Islands are very popular and totally laid back with not much to do but explore beaches and Islands, quite primitive, as all the venues are run my the Indians. Santa Catalina on the Pacific side near Santiago is the premier surf spot in Panama that time of year. Enjoy!

Panama City, Panama
Level Contributor
5,784 posts
75 reviews
Save Reply
2. Re: What are the 3 top places to visit in Panama?

There is a lot to do in the city also. I would allow at least FOUR full days for PC and the following places

. Here is a link to some attractions:


Definitely Casco Viejo, the Canal, Panama Viejo, Monkey Island Tour at Gamboa.

El Valle is about two hours drive from PC and definitely worth the

trip. You would see cooler weather and a taste of the highland forests

of Panama. It is a pleasant little town nestled in the valley of a huge

extinct volcano. It is very easy to get around there, a tour guide is

not necessary to get there OR to get aorund there. There is a very

neat Canopy Advernture zipline tour, horseback riding, a great small zoo

with golden frogs and other exotic creatures a wonderful orchid farm.

You can walk to petroglyphs and waterfalls.

The local outside market has wonderful carvings and much else you would

love it! Go on Sunday when the maximum vendors will be there. If you

can't, it has many artisans on Saturday as well, but it is open every

day of the week, just less vendors during the week. In fact the entire

town is quiet during the week - a very sleepy little town.

We have taken the buses to El Valle and back to PC- very easy cheap

ride on a nice bus. The bus station at Allbrook Mall is very easy to

navigate even if you don't speak Spanish. Buses depart from Panama City at the Albrook Terminal

every 20-30 minutes from 7:00 am to 4:00 pm.

Although small in size, the mini-busses offer a comfortable, air

conditioned trip that takes about 2 ½ hours. The cost per person is $3.50 or so.

Right near PC there is Miraflores Locks and museum, Casco Viejo and

Amador Causeway with its great views of the canal entrance and PC skyline.

The marine research institute via Amador Causeway (turn in by the Mi

Ranchito restaurant) is an educational project of the Smithsonian

Tropical Research Institute (STRI). The Smithsonian first came to Panama

to study the effects of the canal on flora and fauna 100 years ago and

established a tropical research station some years later. It is in

Panama that STRI has its headquarters for tropical research activities

that span the globe. The Punta Culebra Nature Center is open seven days

a week and costs $2 for adults, $1 for jubilados, and $0.50 for kids.

The nature center is open every day from 10 am to 6 pm daily.

Sundays are especially popular with families out for a day on the Causeway, so may want to avoid Sunday here.

The site is gorgeous with a sandy beach (reserved for sea turtle

nesting) and a view of the approaches to the Canal at the point. There

are several outdoor aquariums with big turtles, sharks, lobsters,

miscellaneous large, colorful fish, and baby sharks. There are also a

number of glass tanks featuring exotic fish, eels, and the like in the

main building.

The petting zoo is where you can pet the sea creatures such as, a sea

star (estrella del mar), sea cucumber (pepino del mar), estrella

capitano or captain star, and the sea urchin (erizo del mar). The sting

rays (rayas) blend in with the bottom of the tank and like to swim away

if they get poked too much. Adults as well as kids have a great time.

The Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute, headquartered in Panama,

promotes understanding of the tropics and their importance for the well

being of humanity. It carries out relevant studies throughout the world

and promotes conservation of tropical ecosystems. For more information

about the work of STRI visit www.stri.org.

Gamboa Rainforest is another possibility, I loved the Monkey Island Tour and aerial tram through the jumgle. There is also an awesome butterfly

habitat building with native butterflies - many many of them !

Edited: 09 March 2011, 18:47
Nashville, Tennessee
Level Contributor
28 posts
17 reviews
Save Reply
3. Re: What are the 3 top places to visit in Panama?

hi there - I just got back from Panama. i would really only recommend a full day in Panama City. enough time to see the Canal and go to Casco Viejo (the old part of town. we ate dinner at Manolo Caracol which was AMAZING. definitely need reservations). if you are the active type than i would suggest renting a bike or walking the Causeway (do NOT eat at Mi Ranchito).

we spent the rest of our time relaxing on Bastimentos at Al Natural Resort. very relaxing. Red Frog beach is on the other side, not sure if there is surfing there but lots of reefs and high waves....

have fun!

Chicago, Illinois
2 posts
Save Reply
4. Re: What are the 3 top places to visit in Panama?

Looks like you've got a pretty good start on what to do in Panama, of course a lot depends on what you enjoy.

I myself enjoyed good restaurants, Scuba diving and the experience of the unspoiled jungle Panama has to offer.

There are several great restaurants in Casco Viejo. I like 'Mostaza' - take a cab in the evening.

Diving is great in the San Blas area and a good dive tour operator is Caribbean Jimmy's.


Don't expect 5 star accommodations here by a long shot but diving is second to none and the water is breathtaking.

One personon this thread recommended the monkey island tour but be careful as there are a lot of second rate boats operating out of Gamboa under similar names, many from prominent tour operators/hotels . It seems like they are trying to ride on the coat tails of what is one of the best tours in Panama -Jungle Land Explorers. There is a big difference in visiting monkey island with a disinterested tour guide hired a week ago and the experienced, knowledgeable staff of Jungle Land. Not only do you visit the canal ,the canal expansion and monkey island but you have lunch on a large house boat hidden deep in the backwaters of the lake in a setting that puts Tarzan movies to shame and there are some interesting live creatures on board. There are videos ofJungle Land here on trip advisor at


Los Angeles...
Level Contributor
25 posts
17 reviews
Save Reply
5. Re: What are the 3 top places to visit in Panama?

Awesome, thank you everyone for your comments. We will be arriving in Panama City Friday morning at 10am and flying back home Saturday evening, which gives us 9 full days. We were originally thinking 2 days in Panama City, 2 days in San Blas, 3 days in Boca Del Toro, and 2 days in Boquette. How realistic is it we will accomplish all? I really do want to check out Santa Catalina to surf since it has the best suring all year round and thinking of eliminating a day in San Blas and a day in Panama City to venture out to Santa Catalina/Boquette. Is this possible and if so, what is the best way to incorporate?

Fly from PC to San Blas back to PC

Fly from PC to David? Drive to Boquette.

Drive from Boquette to Bocas

Fly from Bocas back to Panama City

Doha, Qatar
Level Contributor
83 posts
12 reviews
Save Reply
6. Re: What are the 3 top places to visit in Panama?

Panama City is where you're likely to begin and/or end. It's worth a couple days. As others have said, the Old City (Casco Viejo) is cool. And there's a day trip to the canal. Isla Taboga is worth a visit if you have time.

Panama City: …blogspot.com/2010/09/so-nice-they-named-it-…

The Canal: joestrippin.blogspot.com/2010/09/ditch.html

Isla Taboga: …blogspot.com/2010/09/city-getaway.html

Undoubtably, most tourist head to the island chain Bocas del Toro. Personally i hated the main island of Colon, and much preferred Bastimentos.

Bocas: …blogspot.com/2010/08/gift-horses-mouth-bad-…

The less visited option is the San Blas islands. I didn't have time to go myself, but have hear nothing but great things.

Edited: 15 March 2011, 08:32
Level Contributor
123 posts
Save Reply
7. Re: What are the 3 top places to visit in Panama?

Personally I think that is too much jumping around in a relatively short time. the regional flights are famous for not being on schedule, although they might surprise you. I would do one night PC, then 3-4 Bocas, 3-4 San Blas or Boquete - then your final night in PC before flying back. I have had clients miss their international flight because of a delayed regional flight.

The drive from Bocas/Almirante to David/Boquete is well worth it - did it yesterday - very beautiful & interesting changes in scenery. Don't do it a rental car - hire a taxi($100) or a van - and don't do it in the dark.

Chicago, Illinois
Level Contributor
1,514 posts
116 reviews
Save Reply
8. Re: What are the 3 top places to visit in Panama?

Tell us more about getting someone to drive you (taxi?) from PC to David. How long does it take? I like catching local scenery. From David, I believe that is the jump-off spot to Boquete?

Level Contributor
123 posts
Save Reply
9. Re: What are the 3 top places to visit in Panama?

I was suggesting hiring a driver from Boquete to Almirante/Bocas. The drive from PC to David is long (7+ hours) and not particularly interesting and much more expensive.

Chicago, Illinois
Level Contributor
1,514 posts
116 reviews
Save Reply
10. Re: What are the 3 top places to visit in Panama?

Ah, so if you want to go from PC to Bocas, you fly to David then drive to Bocas? What kind of time are we talking about?