The Best Day Trips You Can Take From Panama City, Panama

Discover the top day trips you can take from Panama City, Panama! From exploring the lush rainforests to relaxing on pristine beaches, this article highlights the best destinations to visit just a short drive away from the city.
boats on the sea near buildings during daytime
Photo by Francisco Rioseco on Unsplash

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Are you planning a visit to Panama City and looking for day trips that allow you to experience the best of this stunning country? From exploring the engineering marvel of the Panama Canal to exploring lush rainforests and pristine beaches, there is no shortage of amazing things to see and do. Here are some of the best day trips that you can take from Panama City, complete with tips for making the most of your adventure.

Exploring the Panama Canal

As one of the most impressive engineering feats in history, the Panama Canal is a must-see attraction for anyone visiting Panama. A trip to the canal is the perfect way to learn about the history and culture of the country while basking in the breathtaking views of passing ships.

The Panama Canal is a 48-mile-long artificial waterway that connects the Atlantic Ocean with the Pacific Ocean. It was built by the United States in the early 20th century and was completed in 1914. The canal has played a crucial role in global trade, allowing ships to avoid the long and dangerous journey around the southern tip of South America.

Today, the Panama Canal is one of the busiest shipping routes in the world. It is estimated that over 14,000 ships pass through the canal every year, carrying goods such as oil, grain, and consumer goods.

Miraflores Locks

The Miraflores Locks is one of the best places to get a glimpse of the canal in action. The museum here provides an informative presentation on the construction, history, and evolution of the canal. Enjoy the engineering wonder of the locks and watch as ships of all sizes pass through the canal.

The Miraflores Locks were the first set of locks built during the construction of the Panama Canal. They are located on the Pacific side of the canal and are responsible for raising and lowering ships a total of 54 feet to allow them to pass through the canal.

Visitors to the Miraflores Locks can watch as ships are guided through the locks by a team of skilled workers. The locks are an impressive sight to behold, and visitors can learn about the complex engineering that went into their construction.

Gatun Locks

The Gatun Locks, located on the Caribbean side of the canal, is another great place to witness the passage of ships. Here, you can also learn about the wildlife and ecology of the region while enjoying the picturesque scenery.

The Gatun Locks are the largest set of locks on the Panama Canal. They are responsible for raising and lowering ships a total of 85 feet, allowing them to pass through the canal and into the Caribbean Sea.

Visitors to the Gatun Locks can watch as ships are guided through the locks by a team of skilled workers. The locks are an impressive sight to behold, and visitors can learn about the complex engineering that went into their construction.

The Gatun Lake, which is adjacent to the Gatun Locks, is a man-made lake that was created during the construction of the Panama Canal. The lake is home to a diverse array of wildlife, including monkeys, crocodiles, and exotic birds.

Agua Clara Visitor Center

Opened in 2016, the Agua Clara Visitor Center is the perfect place to see the widened Panama Canal in action. The center features a museum and a viewing platform that provides stunning panoramic views of Lake Gatun and the ships passing through Agua Clara Locks.

The Agua Clara Locks were built as part of the recent expansion of the Panama Canal, which was completed in 2016. The expansion project included the construction of a new set of locks on both the Pacific and Caribbean sides of the canal, allowing larger ships to pass through.

Visitors to the Agua Clara Visitor Center can learn about the history of the Panama Canal and the recent expansion project. They can also watch as ships pass through the Agua Clara Locks, which are an impressive engineering feat.

The Agua Clara Locks are responsible for raising and lowering ships a total of 85 feet, allowing them to pass through the canal and into the Caribbean Sea. Visitors can watch as the locks fill with water and the ships are guided through by a team of skilled workers.

The Panama Canal is a true marvel of engineering and a testament to human ingenuity. A visit to the canal is a must for anyone visiting Panama, and the Miraflores Locks, Gatun Locks, and Agua Clara Visitor Center are all great places to witness the canal in action.

Discovering Panama’s Natural Wonders

Beyond the canal, Panama is home to some of the most stunning natural wonders in the world. From lush rainforests to national parks, here are some of the best day trips for nature enthusiasts.

Soberania National Park

Just a short drive from Panama City, Soberania National Park is a lush jungle paradise that is home to diverse flora and fauna. The park is situated on the banks of the Panama Canal and is a popular destination for birdwatchers, hikers, and nature lovers.

The park is home to over 500 species of birds, including toucans, parrots, and hummingbirds. If you are lucky, you might even spot the elusive harpy eagle, one of the largest and most powerful birds in the world.

Aside from birdwatching, visitors can also explore the park’s many trails and waterfalls. The Pipeline Road is a popular hiking trail that winds through the heart of the park, offering stunning views of the rainforest canopy and its inhabitants.

Metropolitan Natural Park

Located in the heart of Panama City, the Metropolitan Natural Park is a haven for the city’s nature and wildlife lovers. The park features numerous trails for hiking and birdwatching, as well as incredible views of the city skyline.

The park is home to a wide variety of wildlife, including sloths, armadillos, and white-tailed deer. Birdwatchers can spot over 250 species of birds, including the striking blue-crowned motmot and the vibrant keel-billed toucan.

One of the park’s most popular attractions is the Ancon Hill, which offers panoramic views of the city and the surrounding rainforest. The hike to the top of the hill is challenging but rewarding, and visitors are often treated to sightings of exotic birds and monkeys along the way.

Barro Colorado Island

Barro Colorado Island is a research station located in the middle of Lake Gatun, offering a unique opportunity to explore the local flora and fauna of Panama. This island is a restricted area, and visitors must make prior arrangements with the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute to explore.

The island is home to a vast array of wildlife, including monkeys, sloths, and anteaters. Visitors can also spot a wide variety of birds, including toucans, macaws, and parrots.

The research station offers guided tours of the island, allowing visitors to learn about the ongoing research and conservation efforts taking place on the island. The tours provide a unique insight into the complex ecosystem of the rainforest and the delicate balance required to maintain it.

Whether you are a seasoned nature enthusiast or just looking for a break from the hustle and bustle of the city, Panama’s natural wonders are sure to leave you in awe. So pack your hiking boots and get ready to explore the lush rainforests and national parks of this beautiful country.

Beach Escapes Near Panama City

For those seeking a day of relaxation and sunshine, Panama City is surrounded by some of the most beautiful beaches in the world. Here are some of the best beaches for a quick getaway.

Isla Taboga

Isla Taboga is just a short boat ride from Panama City, making it a popular destination for visitors. The island boasts beautiful white sandy beaches and crystal-clear waters, perfect for swimming and sunbathing.

But there’s more to Isla Taboga than just its beaches. The island is home to a small village with colorful houses and narrow streets that are perfect for exploring. You can also visit the island’s historic church, which dates back to the 16th century and is said to have been visited by famous pirate Henry Morgan.

If you’re feeling adventurous, you can hike up to the top of the island’s highest point, Cerro de la Cruz, where you’ll be rewarded with stunning views of the surrounding ocean and mainland Panama.

Playa Blanca

Playa Blanca is a pristine beach located on the Pacific coast of Panama. It is known for its calm waters, and you can take a dip or stroll on the soft sand. You can also try your hand at some water activities, such as paddle boarding or kayaking.

But if you’re looking for something more laid-back, you can simply relax on the beach and soak up the sun. There are also plenty of beachside restaurants where you can enjoy fresh seafood and other local specialties.

For those who want to stay overnight, there are several resorts and hotels in the area that offer luxurious accommodations and amenities.

Isla Contadora

Isla Contadora is known for its crystal clear waters and coral reefs, making it an ideal spot for snorkeling and diving. You can also enjoy a scenic boat tour of the island and surrounding waters.

But there’s more to Isla Contadora than just its underwater attractions. The island is home to a variety of wildlife, including monkeys, iguanas, and a wide range of bird species.

You can also explore the island’s history by visiting the abandoned mansion of former dictator Manuel Noriega, which is now covered in graffiti and street art.

And if you’re looking for a unique experience, you can take a day trip to nearby Saboga Island, where you can hike through lush forests and swim in secluded coves.

Cultural and Historical Experiences

Panama has a rich cultural history, and there are plenty of day trips where you can learn about the country’s past and experience its vibrant culture.

One of the most fascinating cultural experiences in Panama is visiting the Kuna Yala indigenous community, which is located on the San Blas Islands. Here, you can learn about the Kuna Yala’s unique way of life, which revolves around fishing, farming, and handicrafts. You can also try traditional Kuna Yala dishes, such as coconut rice and fresh seafood, and buy handmade molas, which are colourful embroidered panels that are unique to the Kuna Yala people.


Located on the Caribbean coast, Portobelo is a UNESCO World Heritage Site that was once a Spanish colonial-era trading hub. Visitors can explore the many ruins and colonial-era buildings, including the famous Church of San Felipe. The church is particularly noteworthy because it houses the Black Christ, a wooden statue of Jesus that is believed to have miraculous healing powers. Every October, thousands of pilgrims flock to Portobelo to pay homage to the Black Christ and participate in the town’s famous festival.

Aside from the church, Portobelo is also home to several forts that were built by the Spanish to protect their treasure ships from pirates. The most impressive of these forts is the San Lorenzo Castle, which is located at the mouth of the Chagres River. The castle offers stunning views of the Caribbean Sea and the surrounding jungle, and is a must-visit for history buffs and nature lovers alike.

Casco Viejo

Casco Viejo is the historic old town of Panama City, home to numerous historic buildings, churches, and public squares. Explore the cobblestone streets, colourful buildings, and enjoy local food and drinks. One of the most impressive buildings in Casco Viejo is the Presidential Palace, which was built in the early 20th century and is now open to the public for guided tours. The palace features beautiful neoclassical architecture, and is home to many important works of art and historical artifacts.

Another must-visit site in Casco Viejo is the Panama Canal Museum, which is located in the old customs house. Here, you can learn about the history of the Panama Canal, which is one of the most important engineering feats of the 20th century. The museum features interactive exhibits, artifacts, and historical documents that help bring the story of the canal to life.

Embera Village

Experience the rich indigenous culture of Panama by visiting an Embera village. Here you will learn about traditional dances, crafts, and food, and can even take a canoe ride down the nearby river. The Embera people are known for their intricate basket weaving, and visitors can watch skilled artisans create beautiful baskets, plates, and other objects using natural materials such as palm leaves and seeds.

During your visit to the Embera village, you will also have the opportunity to try traditional Embera food, which includes fish, plantains, and cassava bread. The Embera people are also known for their music and dance, and visitors can watch performances that feature traditional instruments such as the maracas and the flute.

Adventure and Outdoor Activities

For those who enjoy a little adventure and exploration, Panama has plenty to offer. From picturesque mountain towns surrounded by lush rainforests and waterfalls to luxury eco-resorts located in the heart of the rainforest, there’s something for everyone.

El Valle de Anton

El Valle de Anton is a charming mountain town located in the province of Coclé. Surrounded by lush rainforests and waterfalls, this picturesque town is a popular destination for nature lovers and adventure seekers. Take a hike through the rainforest and discover hidden waterfalls, or visit the local hot springs for a relaxing soak. If you’re interested in wildlife, you can explore the nearby butterfly farm and learn about the different species found in the area.

Gamboa Rainforest Resort

The Gamboa Rainforest Resort is a luxury eco-resort located in the heart of the rainforest, offering incredible views of the lush jungle and wildlife. The resort is situated on the banks of the Chagres River, which feeds into the Panama Canal. Guests can take a guided hike through the rainforest and discover the diverse flora and fauna that call it home. Alternatively, you can enjoy a boat ride through the Panama Canal and learn about its history and importance to the country. After a day of exploring, relax by the pool and soak up the tranquil atmosphere.

San Blas Islands

The San Blas Islands offer a unique tropical paradise experience. These islands are home to the indigenous Kuna people, located off the Caribbean coast of Panama. Visitors can enjoy swimming, snorkeling, and sunbathing on the pristine beaches. The crystal-clear waters are perfect for spotting colorful fish and marine life, making it a popular spot for diving enthusiasts. Learn about the Kuna culture and their traditional way of life by visiting one of the local villages and meeting the friendly locals.

Whether you’re looking for a relaxing getaway or an action-packed adventure, Panama has something for everyone. With its diverse landscapes, rich culture, and warm hospitality, it’s no wonder why this Central American gem is quickly becoming a top tourist destination.

Tips for Planning Your Day Trips

Panama City is the perfect destination for those seeking adventure, history, and culture. With so many amazing things to see and do, planning your day trips can be overwhelming. Here are some tips to help you make the most out of your Panama City day trips.

Transportation Options

When planning your day trips, make sure to book transportation in advance for the destinations that require it. Boats, buses, and taxis are all popular means of transportation within Panama. If you’re feeling adventurous, you can also rent a car and explore on your own. Keep in mind that traffic in Panama City can be hectic, so make sure to plan accordingly.

Best Time to Visit

The best time of the year to visit Panama is between December and April when the weather is dry and perfect for outdoor activities. However, keep in mind that this is also the high season, so prices may be higher and popular destinations may be more crowded. If you’re looking to save money and avoid the crowds, consider visiting during the rainy season from May to November. While it may rain frequently, the rainforests and nature reserves are lush and beautiful during this time of year.

What to Pack

When packing for your Panama City day trips, make sure to pack comfortable walking shoes, a hat, and sunscreen for the sunny weather. If you’re visiting rainforests and nature reserves, insect repellent and long-sleeved clothing may be necessary to protect against mosquito bites and other bugs. It’s also a good idea to bring a reusable water bottle to stay hydrated throughout the day.

Now that you have some tips for planning your day trips, it’s time to explore all that Panama City has to offer. From the world-famous Panama Canal to the historic Casco Viejo neighborhood, there is no shortage of things to see and do. If you’re feeling adventurous, consider taking a day trip to the San Blas Islands, where you can swim in crystal-clear waters and experience the indigenous culture of the Kuna people. Or, head to the Gamboa Rainforest Resort for a day of zip-lining and wildlife watching.

Whatever your interests may be, Panama City is sure to have something that will leave you with unforgettable memories. So start planning your trip today, and get ready for an adventure of a lifetime!


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