Panama: Holidays

Miami of the South

Backpacking

Backpacking in Panama

The Southernmost country on the Central American isthmus, Panama has always had a vibrant, multi-faceted culture. Since the construction of the Panama Canal, it has also been an industrially significant country with economic clout and a booming tourist industry. From Caribbean beaches to Pacific breaks, hiking adventures to sparkling nightlife, Panama City’s surroundings have got something for everyone, which explains why it has become such a popular destination for backpacking breaks in recent years.

A backpacking holiday in Panama City offers scope for a fantastic adventure and is also an inexpensive way of experiencing the city’s wealth of culture and natural beauty.
Panama City has many cheap and efficient hostels for those on backpacking holidays on a budget and a great wealth of options for accommodation, in a wide choice of locations and standards. The city centre houses the largest selection of affordable places to stay but others in places like San Felipe are also highly recommended. The average price to expect for a reasonable dorm bed is around $15, although this will rise during the peak summer period. For cheap and more secluded beach locales choose to Isla Taboga, only a short ferry ride away, while those seeking hostels in the heart of the popular nightspots and close to creature comforts should head for Calidonia, La Exposicon and El Cangrejo.

Excellent transport links make the city a useful starting point for backpackers in Panama to explore the beautiful surrounding hinterland around Panama Veijo, pristine beaches of Colon and stunning other wildlife hotspots that litter Panama and the nearby Pacific and Caribbean coastline.
 

Beach

Beach in Panama

Though Panama City is found on the Pacific Coast, it is not known for great area beaches. If you are hanging out in Panama City and want to escape to a sandy stretch for a day or two, nearby Taboga Island is an ideal choice. It’s a very tranquil island, where relaxation is induced the minute you get off the ferry or airplane. The white sand beaches here are nice, and you can find a few Taboga hotels that will have you right by the sea. Taboga Island is also great for hiking, and it figures prominently in Panama history. Those heading on to other Panama beaches might just consider visiting Taboga Island for its historic value, saving yourself for the better beaches found elsewhere.

  • Other Panama beaches found near the capital are Farallon and Santa Clara. They are quite picturesque, and the calm water is great for swimming. As a side note, the beaches in Panama are known to have powerful riptides, so it’s always a good idea to keep that in mind. At Farallon, the Decameron Resort is just one of the Panama beach hotels that you might consider staying at. You’ll find beaches closer to Panama City, but they tend to be dirtier and lacking in sand quality.

If you were pick the best Panama beach scene, the San Blas Islands are a worthy candidate. Found in the autonomous and northeastern Comarca de Kuna Yala Province, the San Blas Islands number in the hundreds, and most are uninhabited. While you’ll find some of the more rustic Panama beach hotels here, it’s worth roughing it a bit to enjoy this slice of paradise. These are the kinds of beaches that you see on the covers of travel magazines, and palm trees are certainly in big supply. The coral reefs found just offshore many a San Blas Island are great for scuba diving and snorkelling, and should you want to get away from the world, you can hang out at an isolated beach on one of the many uninhabited islands. The Kuna Indians, who control this region, are a culturally-rich society that is among the more interesting in all the Caribbean.

  • On the north-western Panama coast, the Bocas del Toro archipelago is another top Panama beach destination. Isla Colon is the main hub for travellers exploring these island beaches in Panama, and you can always head out to one of the Panama beach hotels found on nearby islands. Snorkelling and scuba diving are again excellent here, due to the coral reefs and abundance of colourful fish. Red Frog Beach and Playa Larga are just two of the great Bocas del Toro beaches, and they can be found at the stunningly beautiful Isla Bastimentos National Park. There are a healthy amount of Panama travel packages that include either a stay on the San Blas Islands, or one on the Bocas del Toro islands. Back on the Pacific side, the Pearl Islands are starting to receive mention as an up and coming Panama beach
City Breaks

City Breaks in Panama

Although Panama City is not a particularly large urban environment, City break holidays still offer a wide range of hotels and activities, which come in a host of differing standards and styles to suit everyone. The city centre has a wealth of fine hotels around San Felipe; with the majority of higher end hotels found by Punta Paitilla and the quieter regions of Bella Vista. Slightly more affordable options are located downtown, also the most family-friendly area.

Entertainment of all varieties is available throughout the year in Panama City: a cavalcade of events, festivals and expos ensuring that, regardless of the time of your visit, there is plenty to keep you occupied. Panama City also boasts a few decent shopping districts throughout the city centre and its myriad of weekly markets. In terms of food, Panama City is brimming with great restaurants and superb cafes, making eating out one of the highlights of city breaks.

The city centre, Calidonia and El Chorillo has an eatery for every kind of holidaymaker and is also home to many reputable pubs and bars. Otherwise, Balboa and El Cangrejo are where those with a taste for the finer things should aim to find themselves, two of the best locations for those looking to enjoy a city break in Panama City without budgetary constraints.
 

Cruises

Cruises in Panama

Taking a cruise through the Panama Canal on your way to/from other destinations is one of the most common ways tourists have gotten to know Panama. A fascinating and educational visit that can be enjoyed by many, canal transit for is a great way visitors to explore Panama’s beautiful waterways and enjoy sights not possible from the shore. Plenty of tours and packages are available for extended breaks around the Pacific and Caribbean, but Panama City offers a unique experience of a cruise holiday on the world famous Panama Canal.

The Panama Canal, nearing its 100th year anniversary, is Panama’s most popular tourist attraction. The best way to experience the canal is in a cruise onboard the Pacific Queen. During your transit, you will have the unique opportunity to see the Canal up close in operation. Tours start at the Panama Canal Dredging Division in Gamboa, located at the north end of the Gaillard Cut, where the Chagres River flows into the Canal. The Gaillard Cut (also known as Culebra Cut because its curves resemble a snake) is one of the main points of interest for visitors because it was carved through the Continental Divide and this section of the Canal is full of history and geological value. Panama’s cruise vessels travel the Cut's 13.7 km on the way to Pedro Miguel Locks, offering a range of deals to suit every taste and budget. As you transit the Cut you will be able to appreciate the continuous maintenance that this area requires, because it is very susceptible to landslides. Before reaching the Pedro Miguel Locks at the southern end of the Cut, you will be able to view the new Centennial Bridge which crosses over the Canal.

Next, your vessel will enter Pedro Miguel Locks, which is one of the two sets of locks on the Pacific side, and here the vessel is lowered 9 meters in one step. You will then enter Miraflores Lake, which is a small artificial body of fresh water that separates Pedro Miguel from Miraflores Locks, the latter being the final set of locks before reaching the Pacific Ocean. At Miraflores Locks the vessel is lowered 18 meters in two distinct steps.

Once in the Pacific Ocean the vessel will sail to the beautiful Flamenco Marina where passengers disembark. On the way to Flamenco, you will pass under the Bridge of the Americas, and later, you will be able to admire the Bay of Panama and Panama City's splendorous skyline. So whether you choose to a cruise holiday along Panama’s world-famous Canal or fancy an extended break on the nearby Pacific or Carribean, Panama City is a great destination full of delights.
 

Culture and Arts

Culture and Arts in Panama

The capital of Panama is a modern, thriving commercial centre stretching 10km along the Pacific coast from the ruins of Panama Viejo in the east to the edge of the Panama Canal in the west. The old district of San Felipe (also known as Casco Antiguo or Casco Viejo) juts into the sea on the south-western side of town. It's an area of decaying colonial grandeur, striking architecture, peeling paint and decrepit balconies.

Attractions include the 17th-century Metropolitan Church, the Interoceanic Canal Museum of Panama, the Plaza de Bolivar, the Presidential Palace, the History Museum of Panama and the sea wall built by the Spaniards four centuries ago. Via Espana's banking district is the complete opposite to this yesteryear charm, with aggressively modern buildings and sophisticated entertainments.

Attractions on the fringes of the city include the Panama Canal, the 16th-century ruins of Panama Viejo, the Summit Botanical Gardens and Zoo, the tropical rain forest of the Parque Nacional Sobrerania and the 265-hectare (655-acre) Parque Natural Metropolitano.
 

Disabled Needs

Disabled Needs in Panama

The capital of Panama is a modern, thriving commercial centre stretching 10km along the Pacific coast from the ruins of Panama Viejo in the east to the edge of the Panama Canal in the west. The old district of San Felipe (also known as Casco Antiguo or Casco Viejo) juts into the sea on the south-western side of town. It's an area of decaying colonial grandeur, striking architecture, peeling paint and decrepit balconies.

Attractions include the 17th-century Metropolitan Church, the Interoceanic Canal Museum of Panama, the Plaza de Bolivar, the Presidential Palace, the History Museum of Panama and the sea wall built by the Spaniards four centuries ago. Via Espana's banking district is the complete opposite to this yesteryear charm, with aggressively modern buildings and sophisticated entertainments.

Attractions on the fringes of the city include the Panama Canal, the 16th-century ruins of Panama Viejo, the Summit Botanical Gardens and Zoo, the tropical rain forest of the Parque Nacional Sobrerania and the 265-hectare (655-acre) Parque Natural Metropolitano.
 

Family Holiday

Family Holiday in Panama

With a multitude of attractions, beautiful settings, museums and fun activities on offer, there is plenty for kids and adults alike on a family holiday in the Panama City. Find your feet with a City tour, it only takes about two and a half hours and gives you a good bearing of the city and its landmarks. A typical city tour will take in the ruins of Old Panama, Colonial Panama (El Casco Viejo) as well as the modern sections. Also be sure to take a tour of the world-famous Canal area, which can be combined with the city tour. Both partial and full transits are available, depending on the dates.

Further afield is Mi Pueblito - an exact replica of a small interior town at the turn of the century. Government offices, shops, a school and a tiny church surround a cobblestone plaza, complete with fountain. A museum devoted to the “pollera,” Panama’s national dress, and folklore shows are offered every Thursday. Recent additions have been replicas of an Afro-Antillean village and dwellings of the Kuna and Choco Indians. For families vacationing in Panama who fancy getting back to nature, Eco-Touring tours in the Metropolitan National Park are highly recommended.

The Metropolitan National Park, situated only 15 minutes from downtown Panama City, is the most accessible rainforest in the region. It is the only tropical forest in Latin America located inside a major urban centre. And this is to say nothing of Panama's stunning natural attractions, which include virgin rainforests and palm-fringed beaches, which lie less than an hour from the heart of the downtown. Panama City is geared for tourism, so there are many types of holiday accommodation available for a stress-free family holiday. Food is plentiful and very varied in Panama City with many restaurants, cafes and ice cream bars scattered around the city. Overall, a family break to the Panama City makes for a great holiday, and one that your family will never forget.
 

Gay and Lesbian

Gay and Lesbian in Panama

Panama City is a great destination for a gay and lesbian holiday. Central America's most cosmopolitan city is overflowing with trendy new clubs, cool boutique hotels, gay friendly neighbourhoods and great attractions. Panama is a mostly Catholic country and although the gay and lesbian scene here is not underground, it is discreet.

There are a couple of clubs in Panama City that operate without much fanfare; and attacks, raids, harassment, and so on are thankfully not very common. There are few, if any, venues or events directed at the lesbian-only scene, yet lesbians are welcome at gay venues. However, while there is no gay beach, the resort beaches are generally uncrowded and sun-drenched. Overall, Panama City does have a selection of areas good for gay and lesbian holidays, but it does not boast the largest array of clubs and bars.
 

Honeymoon

Honeymoon in Panama

Panama City provides the ideal setting for a romantic, idyllic and unforgettable honeymoon along one of the most stunning coastlines in the world. The natural beauty of the city and surrounding hinterland; the national parks, the rainforest parks and wonderful beaches all add up to the perfect getaway for honeymooners.

Alongside the fantastic food and drink, there are many activities for honeymoon couples around the Panama City; from adrenaline-rush activities like surfing, sailing and cycling to visiting the picturesque parks and cultural landmarks or simply relax and enjoy some of the best settings in all of Central America. For those looking to get away to more secluded environs, take a trip to the beautiful Taboga Islands or further afield to Colon to see some awe-inspiring sights perfect for honeymooners. With many guest houses, hotels and apartments all around Panama City the you’re sure to find something to suit your budget and many of these places provide romantic suites for couples on honeymoon.
 

Party Holiday - Singles Life

Party Holiday - Singles Life in Panama

Despite not being biggest city in Central America, a lively party atmosphere and miles of sun-drenched beaches ensure there is something to suit most holidaymakers looking for a party break in Panama City. Liberal licensing laws allows hotels unlimited opening hour and there are several 24-hour bars - check the free monthly listing magazines for up-to-date lists of venues and events. There are a wide assortment of bars and pubs in San Felipe, El Cangrejo and Balboa as well as fine restaurants along Calidonia.

Panama City centre is perhaps the best place to go if you are looking to get amongst some fun, as well as do some shopping or simply laze around the pristine beaches and clear blue surf. In addition, smart wine bars, live music venues and clubs for all-night party holidaymakers are within close range of the city centre, especially in Bella Vista and Punta Paitilla. Guest Houses, Hotels and Apartments are all easily available in a scope of prices that will suit any budget and many are situated nearby the best night spots.

Singles and partiers alike can enjoy Panama City’s sun-drenched parklands and awe-inspiring sights; activities such as sailing, surfing and water-skiing more ideas if you are looking for some adventure.
 

Couples Holiday

Couples Holiday in Panama

Perfect for a romantic break with a special someone, Panama city is a wonderful destination for a couples holiday. Located at the Pacific entrance of the Panama Canal, Panama City is a lively destination with fascinating historical sites, great restaurants, exciting nightlife, and ecological tours. For great views of the Panama Canal and the City, bike, jog or stroll along the Amador Causeway, a pretty roadway that connects four small islands.

Also, the Museo Antropolgico Reina Torres de Araz, is a great place to see artifacts from pre-columbian Panama. Alongside the fantastic food and drink, there are many activities for couples around the Panama City; from adrenaline-rush activities like surfing, sailing and cycling to visiting the picturesque parks and cultural landmarks or simply relax and enjoy some of the best settings in all of Central America.

For those looking to get away to more secluded environs, take a trip to the beautiful Taboga Islands or further afield to Colon to see some awe-inspiring sights perfect for couples looking for a romantic backdrop. With many guest houses, hotels and apartments all around Panama City the you’re sure to find something to suit your budget and many of these places provide romantic suites for couples on holiday.
 

Golf Activity Holiday

Golf Activity Holiday in Panama

Panama has the best championship golf courses in all of Central America. The two most well known golf facilities in the area are the course at Coronado and the Summit Golf Resort. Coronado is an 18-hole par 72 course offering 7,092 yards of professional play. This course is especially beautiful for its fruit trees, including the abundance of Mango trees, which surround the greens and fairways. To put it simply, the course is considered a "jewel" in all of Latin America.

Nestled in the forests of the Panama Canal watershed lays Summit Golf and Resort. This luxurious complex includes two courses, the first of which has 18 holes and the second, designed especially for kids, has 6 holes. Summit Golf and Resort is the only facility of its kind in Latin America equipped with GPS technology. This resort also caters to children by offering a family centre, day care and games for all ages. The Summit Golf and Resort is just a twenty-minute drive from downtown Panama.
 

Sailing Activity Holiday

Sailing Activity Holiday in Panama

Panama City is the great destination for a sailing holiday. Whether you are a beginner or an experienced sailor, there are several fine opportunities to sail in and around Panama City. Beginners can learn to sail in the enchanting surroundings of the Panama Bay, leaving from San Felipe or further afield in Punta Paitilla whilst experienced sailors can explore the Panama coastline and drink in all the fantastic scenery from the Pacific Ocean. Organised tours also allow you to experience the thrill of real sailing and are freely available along the Canal, towards Colon and the Caribbran Sea.

Sailing holidays in Panama City are available all year round and the prices vary depending on the time of year and the length of time you wish to sail. While there are not a huge amount of sailing hire companies in the Panama City, those available are close to the city centre and coastline, well serviced with many competitively-priced deals and are very safe.
 

Hiking Activity Holiday

Hiking Activity Holiday in Panama

Located only one hour from Panama City lies the mountain development of Altos del Maria. To arrive at Altos del Maria you drive from sea level straight up into the mountains that look down upon the Pacific beaches.

The development has a number of hiking trails and waterfalls and it is possible to walk to a point in the mountains where you can see both the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans at the same time. When you find this point you immediately think New York on one hand and San Francisco on the other. The development also has an extensive reforestation project in which you will find not only Caribbean pine trees, but also local trees such as Cedro Espino and Caoba Nacional.

If you like gardening then you will love Altos del Maria: the rich volcanic soil makes gardening fun: you will see flowers and plants that you would normally buy in a nursery in the U.S. growing in the wild. If you decide that you want some nightlife beyond the mountains, the drive from Altos del Maria to Panama City is an easy one. The road has recently been upgraded so that there are two-lane highways going into and out of the city. And in the near future a new bridge will be built over the Canal that will shorten the trip from Altos del Maria to Panama City from an hour and a half to one hour. I highly recommend Altos del Maria to anyone who is thinking about locating themselves in Panama: clean, cool air without the noise of the city. The international airport is only an hour and a half away and the beaches below Altos del Maria offer sun, surfing, fishing and modern services.
 

Shopping Holiday

Shopping Holiday in Panama

Tourist guides frequently refer to Panama City as "a bargainers’ paradise" or "a shopping Mecca." Because of numerous free trade zones, shopping is the second most popular occupation in the city. Driving in from the airport on the Tumbo Muerto road, one passes the Centro Comercial Los Pueblos, which advertises itself as the biggest shopping mall in Central America. For a more "authentic" experience, one might try to visit the early morning, wharf side market at Salsipuedes, where produce and fishing boats jostle for space to sell their bounty.

There are also a few malls further afield, and the Amador Causeway has a shopping centre with a great range of stores, where seasoned holiday shoppers can spend a good part of the day. Vía España is one of Panama City’s main avenues, and here you’ll find a nice array of stores, both high and low end. Avenida Central is a fun street to do some Panama shopping it has quite a lively atmosphere, and you’ll find plenty of cheap stores here, not to mention all kinds of interesting street vendors.
 

Cycling Activity Holiday

Cycling Activity Holiday in Panama

Cycling Holidays through Panama City is an exciting and rewarding experience with world class stops and an opportunity to experience some stunning sights cycling along the Panama Canal, from Panama City to the Caribbean coast. Bicycles are a very common form of transportation in Central America and hire shops are affordable and easily located throughout the city.

The ease of bicycle ‘parking’ and the many cycle paths around Panama City make cycling faster and more convenient over short distances than either buses or cars. Panama City’s surroundings make it the perfect city for cycling with its many extensive and scenic bicycle paths/cycle lanes. Some buses also allow you to attach bikes to their roof, giving you greater flexibility as you travel around a scintillating city couched along some glorious coastline.
 

Winter Sun

Winter Sun in Panama

Panama City enjoys a temperate climate year-round and is a perfect destination for holidaymakers who fancy a spot of winter sun. Panama summer runs from May to September while their winter extends from September into December.

Panama City’s sun-drenched climate gives an average temperature of roughly 20°C during December, meaning plenty of winter sun so you won’t have to bring scarves and sweaters if you are looking to spend a Christmas in Panama. Also be sure to stick out the winter sun and enjoy the spectacular new year’s eve celebrations, a giant street party in the heart of the city and along several of the main beaches and streets of the city centre.