The first thing that comes to mind when most people think of Panama is the Panama Canal. The canal is an engineering marvel, and well worth a visit, but there is so much more to see in this Central American country! We’ve narrowed it down for you.
Here are 7 things to see and enjoy in Panama:
1. Panama Canal
The Panama Canal is an 82 km waterway that cuts across the Isthmus of Panama. The Isthmus of Panama is a narrow strip of land that connects Costa Rica and Colombia, essentially connecting North and South America.
This artificial, engineered waterway connects the Atlantic Ocean with the Pacific Ocean.
The best way to enjoy the canal is at the Miraflores Visitor Center, where you can observe ships transiting through the locks from observation decks, or check out the exhibits to learn more about the canal.
2. Biomuseo Biodiversity Museum
Located in Panama City, even the building itself is worth seeing because it was designed by none other than Frank Gehry and features his sweeping style and bold colors.
The museum has amazing natural history exhibitions. Of note is the 12-screen cinema in surround, with even a giant screen underfoot, making for a totally immersive experience, including being lifted up and flown through a storm!
Portobelo was once the greatest Spanish port city in Central America and is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The ruins here reflect a time of prosperity, colonial customs, the culture of the 16th century, and pirates! There is a museum, churches, a fort and a yearly Black Christ Festival.
4. Monkey Island
There are several tour companies that offer tours that take you to Monkey Island to see the many native species of monkeys that live there.
The tours are on the waters that surround the rainforest that runs along the canal, and visitors even get a chance to feed the wild monkeys.
5. Gatun Lake
Gatun Lake was born when the Chagres River was dammed to create the Panama Canal. The area that was flooded was the size of Barbados!
Even though the lake is artificial it remains a wild area, where you can see monkeys, three-toed sloths and crocodiles.
Part of the lake is used by the canal, so if you are on a boat cruise you will be able to see part of the waterway as well.
6. San Blas Islands
These are 378 atolls (islands) off the northern coast of Panama, 49 of which are inhabited. They are owned, operated and protected by the Kuna Indians, whose culture remains mostly unchanged. Some activities that you can enjoy are swimming and snorkelling, and visiting a sunken shipwreck.
Or, just enjoy some of the (mostly) deserted beaches and low-key lifestyle.
7. Casco Viejo
If you want excitement, there is Casco Viejo, or Old Quarter in Spanish. It’s the historic part of Panama City, and is known for its colonial architecture, culture and its edgy night life, filled with music.
Panama has something for everyone!