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.
Day 1 – 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!
Day 2 – 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.
Day 3 – 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!
Day 4 – 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.
If you want to read more about our experience cruising the Panama Canal, CLICK HERE.
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!!
Would you like to explore Panama City? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below!
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