Welcome to this guide! Whether you are planning a trip to Panama or you are already here and looking for things to do, you’ve come to the right place. Before reading note that all prices were last updated in 2023, and they might have changed since then. Read the comments or go to the official pages for the most recent prices. If an activity doesn’t show prices it means that it is free.
If you use Google Maps to navigate Tralei has a Pinned map list with all the attractions listed in this article that you can access by Clicking Here.
1. Panama City
Panama City it’s the capital of Panama, a modern city full of skyscrapers, as a result of the money from banks as it is a tax haven, and from the fees charged to the ships for using their famous canal.
You can walk around the city but it doesn’t have much interest. If you want to see the full line of skyscrapers you should go to this viewpoint right next to the Seafood Market.
Another recommended activity to do in Panama City is to Visit Ancon Hill which has plenty of wildlife (we spotted 3 Sloths) and a view of both, the skyline on one side and Panama Canals and docks on the other.
2. Panama "Casco Antiguo"
Don’t be confused with the old panama location that shows in Google Maps, those are Panama ruins and there is a $10 fee for entrance.
The best way to sight see “Casco Antiguo” is by wandering around. It is very picturesque and it maintains the essence of the XX century Panama City. There’s paid parking in the area or you can park for free here.
If you park there you can just follow the road (Corredor Costero) when you are done visiting and it will give you a great viwe of the old town.
3. Lake Gatun
Lake Gatún is located around 45 minutes from Panama City. It is an artificial lake created with the goal of providing the necessary water for the Panama Channel locks. It is also a protected area that can only be accessed by accredited boats (private tours). One of the tours that is being offered is an excursion to “Monkeys’ Island” (Isla de Monos). On this tour you’ll be able to see, (not guaranteed), crocodiles, two different kinds of sloths, and three different species of monkeys, you will even be able to interact with Cariblanco monkeys! This tour is also known as Gatún Experience.
The tour that we did was a private tour that we arranged at Muelle Publico de Gamboa (click to see location) with Luis, which was our guide. We got to see all the animals and we also got a sail with an explanation included through the waters of the Panama Canal.
You can find this tour through an agency however, it is likely that you end up in a group. In case you want a cheaper private tour you can go with our guide, Luis, who will charge you $35/person. Click here to text him on Whatsapp and reserve your tour. (Let him know you are coming from Tralei)
4. Venas Azules
Venas Azules was listed in many travel guides so we decided to plan a full day to see them. With all the hype there was we expected more out of it. (Aerial views look amazing but from the boat, it does not look that stunning) The truth is that most tours were expensive, Between $50 and $70 dollars for two people. *Although we found out you can get the same price if you are up to 5 people.
The price depends mostly on your negotiation skills and how far you take the tour from “Venas Azules”. We found that the closest tour was from a small town called Jose Pobre. (Where we had to pay $5 to park in the middle of nowhere).
Note that the tour consists in going to Venas Azules which takes 15 minutes and just riding the boat around. (About 8 min) Swimming is not permitted and you can’t stop anywhere. For this reason, most tours stop in Playa Blanca and let you swim and stay on this beautiful beach.(Pics Attached)
We also want to point out that there was only one tour guide in Jose Pobre and that he didn’t act as a tour guide at all! He couldn’t answer most of our questions about Venas Azules and he did not explain anything if we didn’t ask him for explanations.
If you plan to drive your own car to Venas Azules we recommend staying on Isla Grande (Click here for the full guide to Isla Grande)
5. Bocas del Toro
Bocas Del Toro is one of the main touristy attractions of Panama. Bocas (How locals call it) it an island chain off the Caribbean coast. In order to visit it you need at least 3 full days on the islands. There are different ways of getting to the archipelago, the quickest way is to fly to the main Island (Colón), but it is also the most expensive.
We have another article covering transportation, reviews of the main activities, and do’s and don’t as there is a lot to cover. Click the button to check that article.
6. Parque Nacional Soberania
Soberania National Park, Parque Nacional Soberania in Spanish, is a park with plenty of wildlife and different hikes on the Road between Miraflores Visitor’s Center (Panama Chanel main visitor center) and Lake Gatún. It’s not a must-see, but more of a quick stop for a hike or swim and have the chance to see some wildlife. There is no entrance fee, unless you want to swim in the “Sendero del Charco” where they charge $2.5 per person.
These are the main hikes you can find (if you click on the link it will show you where the trailhead is)
- Camino De Plantación (12.6 Km Loop)
- Sendero del Charco(1.3 Km Loop)
- Camino de Cruces (10.3 Km Loop)
Note that most trailheads have non-surveilled free parking.
7. Panama Channel
The Panama Channel is why Pannama is known Worldwide and it’s the main source of wealth of the Country. The main visitor center is called Miraflores Visitor’s Center and we didn’t go in as we thought it was a bit overpriced. But if you really want to visit it they have:
- IMAX Theater to watch a 3D movie about the Panama Canal history and operations narrated by Morgan Freeman.
- Observation Decks and terraces of the Canal’s operation, the passage of ships through the locks, and how they move.
- 4 exhibition halls.
There is a great view of the canal driving on the Bridge of the Americas, the Centenario Bridge, and from Ancon Hill.
In case you don’t have a car and you want to visit the channel here is a tour that includes transportation to the canal and a tour around Panama City.
The entry price for foreigners is:
Tickets have to be purchased on site.
Note that in this article we only covered the attractions that we visited and that we could give extensive information. There are more must-sees in Panama, and we will try to research and add more information in the upcoming weeks. In the meantime, if you have any suggestions or advice for us to add to the article or for other travelers, do not hesitate in sharing on the comment section.
Thank you for reading!