Are you looking for adventure, untouched nature and tropical beaches? Then you're in Panama at the right place. Besides being a beautiful country, the locals are very hospitable and the atmosphere is relaxed. Curious about what Panama has to offer? Then quickly check the highlights of Panama in this article!
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Modern and old Panama City
When you travel to Panama there is a good chance that you will arrive via Panama City. Unlike other capitals in Central America Panama City is definitely worth a visit. The contrast between the skyline with skyscrapers and the old town 'Casco Viejo' is what makes this city so nice.
Stroll the streets of Casco Viejo to admire the colonial buildings and visit the local market. In the market, indigenous communities sell their homemade souvenirs.
Do you want to escape the bustle of the city for a while? Then take a taxi/bus to Amador Causeway, this is a boulevard that connects Panama City with 3 peninsulas. From the boulevard you have a great view over the skyline of the city.
Archipelago Bocas del Toro
The next destination that cannot be missed on the list of highlights in Panama, is Bocas del Toro, an archipelago in the north of Panama. If you choose to travel to Bocas del Toro via land, you can expect a 10-hour bus/car ride to Almirante. From here you can sail to the archipelago in about 1,5 hours. Would you rather save time? Then it is also possible to fly to Bocas del Toro from Panama City.
Bocas del Toro consists of 4 large islands on which accommodations can be found, and dozens of smaller surrounding islands. These smaller islands can also be visited, but you cannot stay overnight here. Isla Colon is the main island, this is also the place that is busiest. Here you will find many restaurants, bars and nightclubs.
What is there to do in Bocas del Toro?
- Explore the island by bike
- Go surfing, snorkeling or diving
- Visit the most beautiful beaches
- Take a trip to the surrounding islands
- Relax and enjoy!
You can certainly enjoy yourself for a few days on Bocas del Toro. We found this such a relaxed place that we stayed here for a week.
The journey continues to the mountain village of Boquete. This place is easy to reach by bus/car. (This takes 4 hours from Almirante or 7 hours from Panama City.) The village is located in a valley and is surrounded by miles of jungle. The weather is also a lot more pleasant than the rest of Panama, which makes for a nice change. If you are looking for outdoor activities, Boquete is the perfect place.
In the jungle you will find beautiful hiking trails, viewpoints and waterfalls. When you hike here you are surrounded by leaves as big as yourself and the sound of tropical birds.
The safest option is of course to go into the jungle with a guide, but the hiking trails for small hikes are well marked and you can also do this on the basis of a route map. Always make sure you have good equipment including GPS and local SIM card in your phone.
A lot of coffee is grown around Boquete, so it is recommended to visit one of the coffee farms. If you have a bit more budget, you can also go rafting, climbing and quad biking in Boquete. It is also nice to stroll around the center. The vibes are very relaxed and the locals are very helpful.
Panama's most beautiful beaches: San Blas
A trip to the San Blas islands should also not be missing from the list of highlights of Panama. This tropical archipelago consists of 357 islands of which only 40 are inhabited by the Kuna Indians† Here you will find snow-white beaches with swaying palm trees, surrounded by the clear blue sea. From Panama City you reach San Blas via a somewhat unpaved road in 4 hours.
You will not find luxury resorts or large boats on San Blas, when you visit this archipelago you go 'back to base' where one island is even more primitive than the other. Besides visiting a touristic island located near a shipwreck, we also (accidentally) found a 'non-touristy' island.
On both islands we enjoyed the hospitality of the islanders, the beautiful beaches and the delicious fresh fish. There are relatively few activities to do, so it is mainly a matter of shutting yourself off from the world and enjoying 🙂
Panama offers the best of both worlds: tropical beaches and adventure activities. In short, an ideal backpacking destination!