Panama City is the most metropolitan capital in all of Central America and boasts some of the best nightlife, shopping and dining options that you will encounter on your travels. When you arrive, be sure to check out our extensive dining and nightlife guide and weekly events board, or feel free to ask the staff for personal recommendations. There are many day trips in and around Panama City such as visiting the famous ditch and ruins, going to sporting events, strolling around the old city, visiting native tribes in the jungles of the canal zone or hiking in the nearby highlands.
Casco Viejo is the historic heart of the city. A perfect way to start the day. Check out the Presidential Palace, Plaza Bolivar, el Teatro Nacional, Plaza de Francia, la Casa de Cultura, the Plaza de Independencia and Catedral Metropolitano, the Canal Museum, the ruins of Santo Domingo, Plaza Herrera, and la Iglesia de San Merced. If you want to keep on walking, you can follow Avenida Central all the way up to Plaza Cinco de Mayo, where you will find an artisanry market and access to the city bus system.
The most famous ditch in the world…and quite impressive at that. Take a trip to Miraflores Locks and watch as the ships are raised and lowered to sea level. The visitor center costs $ 15 and offers history and info about the building of the canal. To get there you can catch a bus from Albrook Terminal, look for the Gamboa or Paraiso bus to take you to Miraflores, or a cab will cost you between $5-$10 to get to Miraflores but agree on a price before leaving or try the bus! Big boats are usually only going through between 9am and 11:30am and again between 3:00pm and 5:00pm.
Panama Vieja, or Old Panama, was the original city, founded by the Spanish in 1519. The famous pirate Captain Morgan sacked the city, igniting its gunpowder stores and setting the city on fire. The city was then relocated to the current day Casco Viejo, which provided more protection for the city. There are extensive ruins, with the center piece being the Torre Principal. You can catch a bus to Panama Vieja from just around the corner on Avenida B by the police station, or you can catch a cab for around $3 – $5.
Located on a strip of land that until 1999 was US-owned territory, this long causeway linking three islands on the entrance to the Panama Canal is being developed rapidly. The Causeway is a point of pride for many Panamanians and offers a variety of shopping and dining opportunities, as well as amazing views of the city skyline. You can rent bikes near the entrance to the Causeway (check out the sweet golf cart style bikes that hold up to 5 people, lots of fun!), but you might be surprised at the lack of activity during the day.
Train to Colon
The historic Panama Canal Railway connects Panama City and Colon. The train is a restored locomotive complete with an observation car for taking in the beautiful views of the canal, Gatun lake and jungle along the way. The trip lasts about 1 hour and costs $22 (one-way), which includes a snack box and coffee. Bring a jacket as the train (like most buses in Panama) is overly air-conditioned. The train departs from Corozal Station (just north of the Miraflores Lockes) to Colon, Monday – Friday at 7:15am and departs from Colon in the evening at 5:15pm. Get more info at www.panamarail.com.
A quick day trip from Panama City, Isla Taboga offers a nice escape from the bustle of the city. The ferry ride provides beautiful views of the city and a nice chance to enjoy the ocean breezes. You can catch a ferry to Isla Taboga from Isla Naos on the Causeway. The trip costs $11 round trip and takes about 45 minutes. Monday, Wednesday and Friday there is an 8:00am and a 3:00pm boat, other weekdays there is only the 8:30am. Weekends and holidays there is an extra ferry at 10:30am so you can sleep in!
Located in a perfect location between the canal, Casco Viejo and the modern Panama City; Cerro Ancon offers amazing views on all sides and is a great way to get a good feel for the city. The hill is open daily from 6am to 6pm.
There are three main parks near Panama City, ranging from open fields and running trails (Parque Omar Torrijos), jungle walks (Parque Metropolitano) or a combination of both (Parque Soberania). Any one of these parks makes a nice escape into nature from the concrete jungle here in Panama City, and can all be reached within 15-45min. Parque Metropolitano offers some of the nicest hiking trails in the city, and a variety of wild-life that can be seen if you arrive at the right time (morning or late afternoon is best).
There are tons of shopping opportunities, ranging from the several metropolitan malls to street vendors to artisan stores. Other great places to shop include the Plaza Cinco de Mayo.There are also many malls here in the city: Albrook Mall is the best mall for the backpacker, with the best prices and the best variety. For a truly metropolitan mall experience, the Multiplaza and Multicentro offers the finest shopping in the city.