10 Top Tourist Attractions in Panama

While visitors to Panama may come for the Panama Canal, they stay for everything else. Known as the “Crossroads of the Americas,” Panama is not only the geographical point where North America meets South America but also where the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans meet in the country’s famed canal. The original meaning of the word “panama” means “abundance of fish,” and fishing is just one of the many water sports and activities that visitors to Panama can enjoy. More highly developed than neighboring Central American countries, Panama enjoys a modern infrastructure, making travel through the tropical paradise easy and convenient. Here are the top tourist attractions in Panama that are well-worth visiting.

10Playa Las Lajas
Playa Las Lajaswikipedia/Ayaita

Playa Las Lajas is a beautiful beach that extends for more than 13 km (8 miles) along the Gulf of Chiriqui on the Pacific Coast. With little current and perfect water temperatures, Las Lajas is ideal for swimming and bodysurfing. Rustic shacks and cheap restaurants are clustered on the beach at the end of the road. For now it remains a hidden treasure still undiscovered by the large hotel chains and hordes of tourists.

9Isla Taboga
Isla Tabogaflickr/Roman Jr.

Located about 20 kilometers from Panama City, Isla Taboga is Panama’s favorite escape out of the city to bathe in its sandy beaches, ride Jet Ski’s, speed boats and fishing charters. First settled by the Spanish in 1515, Isla Taboga has a charming village with the second-oldest church in the western hemisphere, a few narrow streets with a few restaurants and great views to Panama City from the top of the Island.

8Pearl Islands
Pearl Islandsflickr/Chodaboy

Indigenous peoples populated the Pearl Islands until Spanish Conquistadors discovered the archipelagos’ wealth of pearls in the 1500s. The islands gained new popularity after being featured on the reality television show Survivor. The islands feature lush forests surrounded by white sandy beaches. Contadora Island is the most developed of the Pearl Islands, with several resorts and an airstrip. Visitors can charter private yachts to cruise and explore the islands.

Where to Stay in Pearl Islands | Pearl Islands Guide

7Amador Causeway
Amador Causewayflickr/cormac70

The Amador Causeway connects the three islands by the entrance to the Panama Canal to the mainland. From the causeway, there is a terrific view of Panama City, and the Bridge of the Americas. Many Panamanians like to spend their weekends jogging, riding a bicycle or rollerblading down the causeway, or having a meal or drinks in one of the many restaurants and bars on the islands.

Where to Stay near the Amador Causeway

6Sendero Los Quetzales
Sendero Los Quetzalesflickr/tripleyew

Sendero Los Quetzales near the small town of Cerro Punto is one of Panama’s most beautiful trails. The 9 km (5 miles) route starts east of town and takes between four and seven hours. The trail winds through the cloud forest of Parque Nacional Volcán Barú and follows the Río Caldera, crossing it several times en route. It ends in the mountains above Boquete. The trail can also be hiked in reverse, but it’s entirely uphill from Boquete. Because the trail is not well marked it is recommend to hire a guide or join an organized tour.

5Santa Catalina

The international surfing community has tried to keep this idyllic spot a secret, but the word is out that Santa Catalina offers world-class surfing. Located on the Chiriquí Gulf, the town doesn’t offer a lot in the way of amenities, but its beautiful beach surrounded by jungle forests makes it an ideal destination for those who wish to enjoy Panama’s natural beauty.

Santa Catalina Guide

4San Blas Islands
San Blas Islandsflickr/whl.travel

Located in Eastern Panama, the San Blas Islands is the best place to explore the rich culture of Panama’s indigenous people, the Kuna. The Kuna people view this area as their own but are warm and welcoming to visitors. One member of the tribe is stationed on many of the area’s tiny tropical islands, and for a nominal fee, they allow visitors exclusive use of the island for the day.

Where to Stay in San Blas Islands | San Blas Islands Guide

3Coiba

The waters of Panama are unmatched in their level of marine diversity, and nowhere is this more evident than in the Coiba National Marine Park. The island of Coiba is the largest island in the park, as well as the largest island in all of Central America. More than 800 species of marine life are present in the area. The park is known as one of the best places to enjoy snorkeling and scuba diving on the Pacific Coast.

Coiba Guide

2Bocas Town
Bocas Townflickr/Roman K

The capital of the Bocas del Toro Province, Bocas del Toro is a favorite spot for scuba divers, and as the dives are shallow, it’s particularly suited for particularly for beginners. An extensive coral reef features colorful varieties of tropical fish. Discovered by Christopher Columbus in 1502, the area remains one of the most popular tourist attractions in Panama. In Bocas del Toro, visitors routinely hike through the lush rainforest to enjoy empty stretches of beautiful shoreline.

Where to Stay in Bocas Town

1Panama Canal

The Panama Canal stands as one of the world’s greatest feats of engineering. Visitors can take either a partial or complete crossing of the canal. Crossings take four to eight hours. Many visitors choose to explore the canal by visiting the Miraflores Locks Museum. From the restaurant located at the top floor of the museum, visitors can watch transiting vessels in the canal below.

Panama Canal Guide

More Panama tourist attractions can be found in the Explore Panama page.

Map of Tourist Attractions In Panama

Elsewhere on the Web

14 comments

  1. You are covering all the beautiful places of central America and best part of this that you are also providing brief description of all the places.

  2. I’ve been guiding tours in Panama the last two years, and yes! This is a real top list of hot places to visit in Panama. I do recommend diving, snorkeling, fishing, trekking and hiking activities. You’ll find adventurous spots at the capital, Panama city, and into the all country.

    Thanks for sharing quality info!

  3. Santa Catalina,Pearl islands and Volcan Baru are most attractive places in panama. I decided whenever i have one week vacation, Really wanna to visit these places..

  4. Marion C

    Hi everyone,
    If you are with family wanting to spend a day out on a sailing boat and spend the day at isla de Taboga, I know a great deal (55$/pers i think) lunch and drinks included!

  5. Summer

    So for someone who is from the Caribbean where sun, sea and sand is an everyday occurence, is there anything else to see besides the Panama canal?

  6. Kristin from MN

    Has anyone taken the ferry to the Pearl Islands or the boat to San Blas? We will be there this winter. I want to go to both of those places, but I’m very prone to motion sickness. Have you heard if people that suffer motion sickness tend to get sick on the ferry/boat rides to these islands? Thanks!

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