what to do in panama city panama

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If you’re heading to Central America, Panama City is an awesome spot to visit for a few days. Wondering what to do in Panama City, Panama? Make sure to check out these fun activities and places to see!

What to do in Panama City, Panama

With delicious food, historical monuments, and beautiful nearby islands, you’ll have plenty of things to do in Panama City, Panama.

I didn’t know much about the top things to do in Panama City, Panama before visiting. So naturally, when my flight landed at 3:00 am and I was getting over my jetlag, I searched “what is there to do in Panama City?” I was so pleased to learn that this city is filled with interesting things to see and do!

The city is modern and easy to navigate. Delicious food is everywhere, accommodation is relatively inexpensive, and both English and Spanish are widely spoken. While I spent only a few days in Panama City, I definitely could have stayed longer.

In addition to sharing my own experiences, I reached out to some awesome travel bloggers and asked them to share their favorite things to do in Panama City. If you’re heading to Panama City and wondering what activities to do, this post has you covered!

Visit the Panama Canal

Visiting the Panama Canal should be on every traveler’s bucket list. From Panama City, you can easily visit the famous Miraflores Locks – the place where ships from the Pacific are raised up to the Chagres River and Gatun Lake for safe passage.

To get to the Miraflores Locks, you can either take an Uber or take the subway to the Albrook Mall Bus Station and take a shorter taxi ride the rest of the way there.

At the visitor center, you’ll enjoy a museum, restaurant, and several observation decks where you can watch the ships begin or end their voyage through the Panama Canal.

When deciding what to visit in Panama City, the Canal should definitely be a top pick. You can read more about what to expect when visiting the Panama Canal in this post!

Explore Casco Viejo

By Holiday From Where

Panama City is an incredible place that stands out from a distance. But outside of the bustling city life and beautiful high rise buildings, you’ll find Panama Cities’ old quarter, Casco Viejo.

As soon as you arrive in Casco Viejo you will notice the vibe changes. You go from the busy city streets to a more laid back atmosphere. This is reflected in the colorful colonial-style buildings.

Casco Viejo is the most trendy and hip area in the city with incredible nightlife, fashionable boutique stores, and bars complete with rooftop terraces.

One of my favorite things to do in Panama City was to stroll through the streets of Casco Viejo. During the day this area is surprisingly empty and you will only really see a handful of other tourists. This seemed strange to me since there were so many things to do here.

We started by visiting the Panama Canal Museum. From there we walked through the streets to the Paseo Las Bovedas and walked through the stalls set up by local artisans selling different artsy trinkets and souvenirs.

After this, we made our way to The Golden Altar, a beautiful church home to the famous Golden Altar, of course. Another spot to see is the Museo de la Mola, a beautiful museum where you can learn about native culture.

There is also a host of shopping that can be done here if that is your thing. In all honesty, my best advice is to just let yourself get lost in the streets and enjoy the beauty that is Casco Viejo.


what to do in Panama City Panama: Explore Casco Viejo in Panama City

Visit Contradora Island

By CK Travels

Contadora Island is located in the Pearl islands and is easy to reach from Panama city – just two hours away by ferry or a short 15-minute flight. There are eleven beautiful white sand beaches and the waters are crystal clear and turquoise. The island boasts many luxurious hotel resorts and beachside villas so it can be visited as a weekend break.

Diving and snorkeling are very popular activities on the island as there is an abundance of coral and tropical fish. Other fun things to do include dolphin and whale watching, kayaking, island hopping, fishing, and hiking.

There are plenty of beachside restaurants which serve delicious fresh fish ceviche and ice cold local beers. Transportation on the island is limited to golf-carts, scooters, and bicycles –  all of which can be rented for the day.

Ferry prices to Contadora Island are around $100 for a return ticket, which is a bit pricey so keep an eye out for discounted fares on the Oferta Simple website. We recommend booking your tickets online in advance as the ferries usually sell out.

See Mercado de Mariscos

By Travel Drafts

Mercado de Mariscos is the city’s fish market. It’s the best place to buy and eat fish and seafood in Panama City. Mercado de Mariscos is located in Avenida Balboa & Calle Eloy Alfaro, close to Cinta
Costera. You can have a nice walk down the promenade and to Casco Viejo, the most traditional area of Panama City.

A fish market may not sound like the typical “What to see in Panama City, Panama” destination, but besides the opportunity to buy fresh fish inside, the outside area has several restaurant stalls selling fish dishes, particularly ceviche. The several ceviche cups we ate in Mercado de Mariscos were easily the best dish we had in Panama. Plus, it’s a bargain, at 3 USD per cup!

To top it off, there’s a dining site one the second floor where the chefs cook the fish you may in the market. It’s a real experience.

where to eat in panama city panama

Hike to Ancon Hill

By Our Backpack Tales

The Ancon Hill (‘Cerro Ancon’) is one of the most popular spots in Panama City. At 654 feet, it gives an amazing view of the Panama Canal and the city center.

The best way to reach the base of Ancon Hill is to catch an Uber, due to the cheap cab fares! The trail opens at 5:30 am and there is no entry or parking fee. Start early to avoid the intense and tiring heat.

Carry lots of water and wear some good hiking shoes for a comfortable experience. The hike through the steep trail only takes around 30 minutes and gives glimpses of some wildlife like the wild sloth and woodpeckers.

A massive Panama flag will greet you as you reach the top and it is such a wonderful view to behold! Sitting on one of the many park benches and soaking up the view on the highest point in Panama City is indeed a great feeling.

You can find cabs making their way to and fro from the base so the return should be easy.

Rent Tandem Bikes on the Amador Causeway

By Gumnuts Abroad

After spending a month backpacking in Guatemala, Panama City was like a breath of fresh air. This modern city has a lot to offer travelers and we were blown away by all the fun things to do. One of the best things we did was to hire a tandem bike and cycle along the Amador Causeway. Cheesy, I know!

The Causeway stretches into the Pacific Ocean at the southern entrance of the Panama Canal. It’s a popular spot in the early morning and late afternoon when the locals come out to walk, jog, cycle, and skate the two-kilometer long walkway. 

Visitors can explore the Biomuseo and Marine Exhibition Centre or shop for that unique Panamanian gift. And there are plenty of cafes and restaurants where you can replenish your energy stores while enjoying views of the city skyline and ships waiting to enter the canal.

The easiest way to get to Amador Causeway if you don’t have a car is by taxi. Besides tandem bikes, there are both single and family options available for hire as well as scooters and inline skates.  

Visiting the Amador causeway panama city

Take a Catamaran Tour of Taboga Island

By The Traveling Stomach

Hop aboard a Red Cat catamaran for a day out on the ocean where you’ll sail in style across to nearby Taboga Island. All drinks are included during the tour so you can enjoy a cold beer whilst lounging on the large netting out the front of the catamaran spotting the many ginormous cargo ships float by on their way to the famous Panama Canal. 

Stop off for a quick dip in the refreshingly cold water before docking at Taboga Island. Known as the ‘Island of Flowers’ Taboga is a popular day out for locals coming for a slice of the more tranquil life away from the hustle and bustle of the city.

Wander around exploring the town, or chill out on the beach with a drink and a fun game of volleyball with your shipmates!

On the way back enjoy more of Panamanian sunshine as the drinks continue to flow and the music amps up for a boogie on board, spot pelicans nose-diving into the ocean in search of their lunch. 

See Taboga Island Catamaran Tours on Get Your Guide Here!

take a catamaran tour of taboga island panama city panama things to do

Eat at El Trapiche

By Tanamatales Travels

Like in other Central American countries (El Salvador, Guatemala), the food in Panama is a unique amalgam of Native American, Caribbean, and Spanish flavors.

If you are visiting Panama City, head to El Trapiche, a restaurant that has been serving typical dishes for over 35 years.

As a starter, try one of the many fritters on the menu.  I love the shredded beef empanadas and the carimañolas (yucca rolls). Alternatively, order the sancocho, a potent chicken stew.

For mains, the options are varied.  You can choose to have the Gallo Pinto (rice, beans, and pork), chicken tamales, smoked pork chops, tasajo (cured meat) in creole sauce or roasted pork.  If you have problems deciding, well, the Panamanian Fiesta dish includes tastes of about 8 different dishes.

Leave room for dessert because I am sure you will like to try the passion fruit cheesecake or the homemade flan (custard).  Ask for the drinks prepared with tropical fruits since they taste delicious.

El Trapiche has three locations for your convenience (Via Argentina, Albrook Mall, San Francisco).


Drink Craft Beer

By My Adventures Across the World

Beer on tap and especially craft beer isn’t much of a thing in Central America, so if you are a beer lover, you will be pleased to know that you can stock up on quality beer when visiting Panama City.

La Rana Dorada started as a small “cerveceria” located in the Casco Viejo, in a place with stunning views of the skyline, and quickly became so popular that it now counts 7 different pubs scattered around town and also offers beer tasting tours. 

If you aren’t interested in a tour, you can still enjoy a sampler of the best beers as soon as you sit down at the pub – waiters will be offering you one to help you make your choice. You can also grab a bite to accompany your beer. 

You have a choice of 6 different beers. The house specialty is the IPA: it has a fruity, almost citrusy flavor. 

Compared to industrial style beers you regularly get in Central America, beers at La Rana Dorada are a bit more expensive. It’s totally worth the price, as the quality is really good.

Where to Stay in Panama City, Panama

Wondering where to stay in Panama City, Panama? Check out these highly-rated options:


Planning a Trip to Panama?

I hope this post helped you decide where to go in Panama City, Panama! If you’re traveling around Panama make sure you also check out these travel guides!

What to do in Panama City, Panama. Read about top things to do in Panama City to help you plan your next trip

About the Author

Hi! I'm Nic. Let's chat about remote work and ways to incorporate more travel into your life. Whether you're here to find an online job or need some tips for planning your next trip, I've got you covered! More about me

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