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What to see and do in Panama – a guide to adventure, attractions and landmarks

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Panama is a booming tourist destination offering a bit of everything to make your trip the adventure of a lifetime. The Panama Canal is just the beginning; Panama has 10 provinces and there are things to do and see in all of them. The country has a rich history with its old towns, a vibrant city for the shoppers and party lovers, picturesque islands to sunbathe and relax on, beaches perfect for surfing and lots of nature to appreciate. Whatever type of trip you are looking for, you can find it in Panama. 

Elvis Aguilar

My Destination local expert on

Panama

Panama City

 

In Panama City you will get an amazing skyline, vibrant nightlife, multiple cuisine options, and many shopping malls. You can also visit two UNESCO World Heritage sites: Panama Viejo, the old city ruins, and Casco Antiguo, the old quarter showcasing multiple landmarks and beautiful colonial architecture. For eco-lovers, you have the Metropolitan Park, Soberania National Park and Gamboa Rainforest, perfect places to spot wildlife and nature. You can also head to Taboga Island for a beach day, and of course spend some time at the Panama Canal.

 

Panama Oeste

 

Panama Oeste (Panama West) is a newly created province perfect for the beach lovers. By driving one and a half hours west of the city you will encounter a set of beach towns from the Pacific side. The most popular ones are Gorgona, Coronado, Punta Barco, El Palmar and Rio Mar. They are all ideal for swimming, sunbathing and relaxing but the last two are also well known for surfing. In Coronado there is an upcoming town now offering several restaurant choices, a supermarket and even a shopping mall.

 

Cocle

 

Continue west and the next province you will hit is Cocle. The most famous attraction here is El Valle. In El Valle there are several natural wonders: Chorro El Macho - a great waterfall with a natural swimming pool and a canopy experience - the pozos termales (hot springs) and the sleeping Indian mountain to hike. The most famous attraction is the Golden Frog that you can see in El Nispero Zoo. You will also find amazing beaches in this province, Santa Clara and Farallon being the most popular ones.

 

Peninsula de Azuero

 

Formed by three provinces - Herrera, Los Santos and Veraguas - Azuero is also known as the ‘Dry Arc’ because it enjoys one of the best climates in the country. This region is also very popular for its Panamanian folklore and celebrations. In Herrera you can visit the Sarigua ‘desert’ in the Sarigua National Park and buy artisanal products. In Los Santos you can find Playa Venado (or Vena’o), famous internationally for its surfing, and Isla Iguana, one of the most beautiful islands in the country. In Veraguas the highlights would be La Yeguada Forest Reserve, Santa Catalina Beach for surfing and Coiba to enjoy pristine waters and scuba diving.   Chiriqui & Bocas del Toro

 

These are the westernmost provinces of Panama and despite their geographical proximity they both offer something different to the tourists who come here. Chiriqui is popular for coffee, bird watching, hiking trails and rafting. David is the capital of the province and is the proud owner of year-round hot temperatures as well as the popular Feria Internacional de David. Venture down to the coast at Boquete and soak up the rays on the beaches or head to the highlands with beautiful scenery and home to the Baru Volcano, the highest point in the country. Bocas del Toro, on the other hand, is a Caribbean town, very laid back with beautiful beaches. The place to be there is Isla Colon - the hub of the province with several hotels, restaurants and nightlife.

 

Guna Yala & Contadora

 

Both Guna Yala and Contadora are perfect for relaxing amongst beautiful scenery. Guna Yala, popularly known as San Blas, is a set of 365 islands in the Caribbean Sea ‘owned’ by the Guna aborigines. It is completely virgin scenery with crystalline waters and paradisiacal islands. It is undeveloped and you can get in touch with the Guna’s culture by visiting their communities. Contadora is the main island in the Pearl Islands in the Pacific Ocean. The island is more modern with several hotels and restaurants options. This place also has pristine waters, beautiful coral reefs and is very popular for whale watching.