Panama has some spots that best can be described as a true paradise on earth. Here’s a perfect 2 to 3-weeks travel guide which will help you plan out your perfect holiday and discover the best parts including Panama City, San Blas, and Boquete.
Start your trip in Panama City
Most of the travelers start their trip to Panama City. The capital of Panama has so much to offer. The new business district is full of skyscrapers, rooftop bars, and nice restaurants. In this blog, we’ll share the best hotspots, restaurants, and rooftop bars. Especially at night, you can enjoy one of the most incredible skylines. The old part of Panama City, also known as Casco Viejo is one of the coziest areas in the city. Stroll around in the narrow streets, passing the colorful buildings and sit down at one of the many restaurants or rooftop bars. Besides that, you will find various parks and nature reserves in the city or just outside of it. Enjoy beautiful views of the city and the Panama Canal at Ancon Hill or bump into some sloths in the Gamboa Rainforest. And of course, you can’t leave Panama City without visiting the Panama Canal. In this blog, we’ll share 10 must do’s when you’re visiting Panama City.
Enjoy the islands of Bocas del Toro
Bocas del Toro is a province in the east of Panama with multiple islands. From Panama City, you can take a plane that takes you within 45 minutes to Isla Colon, the main island of Bocas del Toro. From Isla Colon, you can take a boat taxi to the other islands. The main island is the most touristy, but nice to stay for a couple of days. Selina hostel is one of the most popular and pleasant hostels to stay at. Looking for something quieter? I can recommend Kokos Acqua Lodge. Grab a delicious lunch at Cafe del Mar or enjoy fresh fish dishes at Tsunami Sushi. Tip: you can hail taxis that take you anywhere on Isla colon, which only cost 1 dollar per person.
Isla Solarte is my favorite island. Stay a couple of nights at Bambuda Lodge, a hostel surrounded by nature. From here you can hike to hospital point, which is a great spot for snorkeling. If you’re looking for some nice beaches, pay a visit to Bluff Beach and Polo Beach.
Explore the jungle of Panama in Boquete
The small mountain village of Boquete is surrounded by nature where you can make beautiful hikes. From the city center, you can take a shuttle bus which will drop you at the starting points of several hikes. These shuttle buses also pick you up and bring you back to the city center. One way will only cost 2 dollars per person. There are some hikes which you can do on your own such as the Pipeline Trail, the Waterfall Trail and even the hike to the volcano at night.
Besides the many activities in Boquete, this small village offers great restaurants. Enjoy the most delicious Italian food at RetroGusto bar or try a typical Peruvian dish at Valle de Cusco Restaurant. Spend the night at Bambuda Castle, a castle that has been transformed into a beautiful location which is only on a 10-minute drive from the center of Boquete. Another nice place to stay is Casa Azul, a bed and breakfast in the center.
Go surfing in Santa Catalina and explore the beauty of Coiba
Surfers, hammocks, beautiful and empty beaches and snorkeling with sea turtles. Santa Catalina is an absolute and still undiscovered destination in Panama. In addition to snorkeling, diving, surfing and relaxing, there is relatively little to do at this place. To fully unwind, book a few nights in the Santa Catalina Hotel.
Santa Catalina is the only place in Panama from where you can visit Coiba. Coiba is also called the Galapagos Islands of Panama. It is a protected nature reserve where you can only go by boat with a guide. It is now still a hidden paradise, without mass tourism, hotels or electricity. The journey can be a bit bumpy over the rough sea, but it is more than worth it. Coiba is a dream destination with white beaches, clear blue sea, fantastic underwater world, and pristine jungle. You can spot different species of animals here such as various fish, sharks, whales, and even crocodiles.
Enjoy the beauty of the San Blas Islands
From Panama City, you can easily book a day trip to San Blas. You can also choose to stay a few nights on one or several islands. Various trips are offered through hotels and hostels.
The San Blas Islands belong to the Guna Yala province where the residents (Indians) live in huts on the water, so don’t expect luxury if you stay here for a few nights. You can enjoy the azure blue sea, pearly white beaches with palm trees, delicious dishes with fresh fish and you can contribute to the natural environment of the Guna Yala residents. Most islands are very small and many are also uninhabited. Take a book or a ball to play with and enjoy the peace, tranquility and the breathtaking view.
How to travel through Panama
Panama is not a big country and public transportation is well organized. It is cheap and several buses leave every day. So this is a good option. Sometimes the distance is quite far so it saves you a lot of time to take a plane. Another option is to rent a car and drive on your own. The roads are good and it’s safe to drive but renting a car is pricey. There is also an organization called Hello Travel Panama. They’ll take you to different places throughout the country in a small van. This is a comfortable way to travel and it saves a lot of time because the bus does not stop several times and you do not have to change to another bus.
From Panama City to Bocas del Toro: 45 minutes by plane, with public transport it almost cost you around 12 hours.
From Bocas del Toro to Boquete: you can book a shuttle bus at Hello Travel Panama which will take you in 4 hours from Bocas del Toro to Boquete. This is including the ferry. You can also take public transport which will be around 6,5 hours.
From Boquete to Santa Catalina: Hello Travel Panama offers a direct shuttle to Santa Catalina. This is the fastest way to get there. It will take you 5 hours instead of 10 hours and 4 different buses if you use public transport.
Santa Catalina to Panama City: the best option is to use public transport. From Santa Catalina, you take to bus to Sona which will cost 1 hour. From there you can take the bus to Panama City. This is a 4-hour drive depending on the traffic but this bus is quite comfortable with big seats, airconditioning, and a tv screen.
Panama City to San Blas: book this tour via a travel agency, a hostel or a hotel. From Panama City, you travel by a small van to the border of the Guna Yala area where you have a passport control. This is followed by a tough ride of approximately 2 hours with razor-sharp curves through the jungle. Then you arrive at the coast, where you will be taken to the various islands by boat. Be aware that the sea can be rough.