A convergence of old and new, Panamá continues to showcase its rich cultural and natural histories today. From its ancient indigenous cultures to lush jungles to stunning beaches, there’s something magical about the Latin American country that every traveler should have the chance to explore.
While impossible to see every gem in Panamá on one trip, there are three can’t-miss spots around the country promising an all-encompassing view of just Panamá’s diversity.
Located a 45-minute flight from Panamá City (PTY), this northwesternmost province of the country is full of forest-covered mountains, mangroves, reefs and consistent surf breaks. La Amistad International Park and Bosque Protector de Palo Seco offer chances to see incredible wildlife. For cultural immersion, visit the Naso Tjër Di indigenous community to explore the lands, sleep in their villages and learn about their customs with a certified guide. Beautiful beaches; world-class snorkeling and diving; Afro-Caribbean culture; and a diversity of coral, marine life and fauna await at Isla Colón, Isla Carenero and Isla Bastimentos. Bocas town is the place to be come nightfall, where lively restaurants and bars beckon travelers for a tasty meal and memorable evening.
Extending along the Pan-American Highway, a 25-mile stretch of road lined with beaches and mountainsides, Pacific Riviera is a beach lover’s dream come true. At Coronado, a popular beach for locals, you’ll find deep black sand. Alternatively, golden beaches come aplenty at spots like Bijao, Playa Blanca and Buenaventura. Surf havens include Chame, particularly in February when kite surfers flock to the beach, as well as El Palmar, Playa Malibu and Playa Teta. Fishing season (December–February) and tuna season (March) also see many come to these destinations. Beyond the beaches, nature lovers can enjoy Anton Valley, Chorros de las Mozas and Chorro de los Enamorados waterfalls, La India Dormida mountain, and Ruta de la Caldera.
No trip to Panamá is complete without some time in the capital, where modern and traditional architecture come together in a unique cityscape. In addition to beautiful hotels appearing throughout Cusco Antiguo, the city is also home to some of Latin America’s 50 Best Restaurants, including Maito, Fonda Lo Que Hay and Cantina del Tigre. See all three of the city’s distinct sectors or “cities” (the old, the rebuilt and the modern) all at once by hiking up the city’s highest point, Cerro Ancón. About 650 feet up, this overlook is a must-visit. And don’t forget to check out the tropical rain forest within the city (yes, you read that right) at Metropolitan Natural Park. In fact, the park makes Panamá City the only national capital on the world with a tropical rain forest within its city limits.
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