Panama City, Panama is an incredibly cosmopolitan city with tons to offer. It can be hard to decide what things to do here, especially when your time visiting is limited. We spent four full days exploring the city and crammed a ton in during our time. We quickly fell in love with all this city has to offer! Not a lot of pre-planning went into this trip. We literally got to the hotel, pulled out a city map, figured out where everything was, and hit the road! If you are traveling to the area, here are our top spots you must visit in the city and how to work them all into just four days.
Morning Departure for Panama Viejo with a free afternoon and evening to explore the rest of Panama City. Be sure to catch some great spots like Iglesia del Carmen. Cool off with a late afternoon dip at your hotel’s rooftop pool, followed by dinner and sunset drinks at The Roof.
Panama Viejo – Located on the outskirts of town, Panama Viejo is the ruins of the original city. Here, you’ll find the perfect mix of historic sites juxtaposed against modern skyscrapers. This is a great spot to learn about the history of the area and learn about Captain Morgan and his attack on the city (yes, Captain Morgan was a real person). Admission rates vary, but if you decide to walk around the grounds on your own it will cost $8.00 each. Bring bug spray and water!
Morning Departure to Cinta Costera to spend the day outside, taking in the skyline views, riding bikes, etc. From there, walk to Casco Viejo for afternoon. Late afternoon, catch a cab to Ancon Hill, then return to Casco Viejo for dinner. Walk home along the bustling Cinta Costera to subway station.
Cinta Costera – My second favorite area of Panama City is Cinta Costera. This waterfront boardwalk is several miles long and is filled with activity. If you want to join runners, walkers, cyclists, families, and more, this is the place to be!
Come on Sunday morning when they shut down traffic on Avendida Balboa, making the area a haven for everyone who wants to get out and enjoy fun in the sun! Stop at the bike stand and you can rent bikes for an hour for only $4.00 each. Keep in mind that you will need to leave an ID with them as collateral. This is enough time to ride the length of the boardwalk and back again. At night, this waterfront stretch is even more alive! Here you can also snap a picture in front of the colorful Panama sign.
Just off the Cinta Costera is the Mercado de Mariscos. This is a great place to stop to cool off with the locals by enjoying super cheap drinks in the shade.
Casco Viejo – When Panama Viejo was destroyed by Captain Morgan in the 1600’s, the city was moved to the new location – Casco Viejo (aka Casco Antigua). Personally, this was my favorite place in Panama City. In fact, we liked it so much that we ended up back here again and again.
This area transports you back in time as you stroll down cobblestone streets while admiring colonial buildings, historic churches, and other preserved sites. We also found the best restaurants in this area.
Ancon Hill – While it appears this hill is within walking distance from Casco Viejo, it is best to fork out $5.00 for a cab here. A short 20 minute hike up this paved hill will take you to the highest point in Panama City. It offers views of the city center, ocean, Casco Viejo, Panama Canal, and more. There are spots to sit and enjoy these sweeping views before heading back down the hill. Quick tip – get your driver’s phone number for the return trip. Most are happy to come get you as taxis do not regularly swing by the area on their own.
Morning departure to Amador Causeway. Cab to Metropolitan Park in afternoon. Early evening rooftop pool followed by dinner and drinks at Salsipuedos in downtown Panama City.
Amador Causeway – This man-made causeway connects three small islands to the mainland and also serves as a entry/exit point for the Panama Canal. This is a great place to stroll while looking at the boats waiting for their turn into the canal. Rumor has it that there is also a Panama sign somewhere on the causeway, but we never found it. Head back to Cinta Costera for a photo opp instead. The causeway also has a variety of restaurants, marinas, and walking areas to enjoy, as well as the colorful Biomuseo.
Metropolitan Park – Another spot where you’ll need to take a cab to access. Admission to this park is $4.00 each and offers a lot of hiking opportunities. While the ascents are not horribly steep, the heat and humidity are intense here. I sweated so much during our 2 hour hike that the clothes I wore here were still wet when I started laundry at home three days later. Eew! Anyway, this park offers a serene escape from the hustle and bustle of the city. We were even fortunate enough to see a sloth! This is another spot were you will want to have mosquito repellent and plenty of water. Time at the pool feels great afterward!
Morning departure for Panama Canal cruise tour with late afternoon hotel return (get off the bus and walk – you’ll get there faster in rush hour traffic!!) Dinner and drinks in Casco Viejo!
Panama Canal – Perhaps one of the most famous achievements in engineering history is the Panama Canal. This modern marvel can be seen from Ancon Hill and Amador Causeway, as well as visiting the Miraflores Locks Visitor’s Center. However, if you really want to experience the canal, take a day tour of it by boat like we did.
By planning out busy days, we were able to visit the major spots of Panama City while also enjoying some downtime. You can easily explore this great city in a short amount of time too! Happy traveling!!
You did cram a lot in didn’t you It’s great that there is plenty to do and you don’t have to plan – a late afternoon dip sounds pretty good to me as well, maybe after a little cycle along the boardwalk? Great tips, pinned! #feetdotravel
The pool felt good after everything – it was so hot here!
Looks amazing! Always wanted to go to Panama for some reason but never been. I would love to do the San Blas Islands and all the things you’ve done. Also in love with the skyline of Panama city! Great photos and sounds like you had a really cool trip!
If we would have had a few more days, we would have gone to San Blas for sure! Thanks for commenting!
Wow, so much to do! I’ve never been there, but looks great to check out. I love the mix of old charming buildings and new architecture!
There is a ton to do and so much to see!
Panama City looks so cool! I’ve never been but I have looked into it a few times. I love the architecture, it all looks beautiful. Hope I can make it soon!
The architecture is the perfect mix of historic and modern. Just loved it!
Panama city looks fab! I love the architecture and the photos of Casca Viejo 🙂
Casco Viejo is such a great area! Couldn’t get enough of it!!
Oh this is great! Love how this is a well-organized and detailed post. I would love to go to Panama one day and they way you’ve presented it is making it very irresistible! Thank you for sharing! I’m hoping to do all of these when I do go there one day!
So glad you found it helpful and inspiring! I hope you make it there one day as well!
Your pictures are amazing, they really capture the best parts of Panama. I’ve never visited but really want too.
Thank you! Hopefully you’ll make it there one day – it’s a great city!
Is the public transport pretty chill there?
Yes! I actually have a separate post in the works which will discuss this. 😉
Love the architecture of Panama. Such an awesome combo of historic and modern buildings! We’ve never visited but think after seeing this we’re going to have to!?
You’ll love it!!
You did so much in such a short amount of time. I think I would have to spend most of my time enjoying the food, music, and parks!
Yep, that’s a great plan of things to do!
Firstly I know nothing about Panama City so this was a fascinating read, thank you. You guys did so much!! such stark contrasts between the old colonial buildings and the newer high rise architecture. Looks like a great city to explore!
Yes it was a great mix of new and old, and very cosmopolitan!! We really enjoyed Panama City!
You guys have managed to fit loads into your four days! Visiting the Panama Canal would be so cool but there also seems to be a great mix of architecture, natural beauty and fun activities. Definitely on my list of places to go to in Central America. Thanks for sharing
Hope you make it there soon – it was such a great city!
Wow – never realized Panama City is so big! And somehow, never had a vision of it as your typical, modern city. It looks very inviting! We’ve pinned this for later…just in case we find ourselves with tickets to Panama. 😉
Panama Viejo was my favourite part of the city. I loved visiting the old churches and admiring all the street art. But you’re right, it’s the mix of old and new that makes the city so attractive. You really did it justice!
I’m glad you found a place in Panama City to enjoy as well!