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Planning a trip to Panama? Follow this 2-week itinerary to see all of the best sites Panama has to offer!
Panama is so much more than a canal. This small country is the link between North and South America, home to unique foods, has over 1500 miles of coastline, is full of mountains and dormant volcanoes, and includes some of the most pristine islands you’ll find in the Caribbean.
Follow this 2-week itinerary to see the modernity of Panama City, jump into a slot canyon full of water, get slathered in nutrient-rich mud at a natural hot springs, go snorkeling with wild sharks, climb waterfalls, swim at a black sand beach, and so much more!
We spent over two weeks in Panama on an epic South American vacation. We didn’t have very high expectations of the country, which worked in our favor: our low expectations were blown out of the water! Panama is much more exciting and adventurous than we anticipated, and we’re now convinced that this small nation deserves much more worldwide attention.
If you’re looking for an exciting, fun, unique vacation from North America, Panama needs to be on your radar. Here are all of the best bucket list things to do in Panama!
Bucket List Panama: A 2-Week Itinerary
To make this Panama itinerary work we suggest renting a car to drive around the country. We used Uber and taxis in Panama City, then rented a car from Sixt Global when we were ready to explore other areas. Our car was modern and clean, and the price and professionalism from Sixt was the best we found in our research.
Days 1-3: Panama City
You’ll most likely be arriving in Panama via Tocumen International Airport. Tocumen is a 30-minute Uber ride from the center of Panama City, so you’ll be able to jump into the action as soon as you arrive!
I’ve already written about things to do in Panama City, so follow this if you only have a few days. In short, I suggest the following:
- Casco Viejo: Panama City’s colorful historic center full of picturesque buildings and great restaurants
- Panama Canal: this engineering marvel changed the world, and a visit to the Canal + museum is amazing
- Panama Viejo: Ruins of the oldest city in the Americas + museum of it’s destruction by pirates
- Mirador Pacific: Stroll the Panama City board walk for views of the ocean, street vendors, and the PANAMA sign
If you find more exciting things to do in Panama City, don’t worry- there will be more time here on your way out of the country!
Days 4-6: Valle de Anton
Valle de Anton (or Valle, as locals call it) is a small town 2 hours outside of Panama City. Valle de Anton is a small town built atop an ancient volcano (yes, you read that right: it’s inside a volcano!) Due to the mountainous region, you can imagine that the things to do in Valle de Anton surround the outdoors.
Valle de Anton is such a wonderful contrast to the modern, international infrastructure of Panama City that it’s the perfect second stop to understand the variety of activities and landscapes Panama has to offer!
Here are our top suggestions if you only have a couple of days in El Valle:
- Horseback Riding: Take a beautiful ride through the mountains to experience cowboy life in a small town
- Hike La India Dormida: Hike past waterfalls and mango trees early in the morning to catch a beautiful sunrise
- Los Pozos Terminales: A visit to these volcanic hot springs includes a purifying mud treatment
- Chorro Las Mozas: An easy hike down river rocks leads to the top of a stunning waterfall and swimmable pools
Our recommended place to stay in Valle de Anton is Casa India Dormida. This apartment-style hotel features 2-bedroom units with a full kitchen and patio complete with hammocks. It was so clean and comfortable and located just outside some of the best Valle de Anton things to do!
Days 7-9: Boquete
Boquete is a small town set in the mountains near the Costa Rica border. It was recently featured in AARP magazine as a top retirement destination for American Expats, a suggestion which was taken literally by many. The locals have adapted the town to meet the needs of incoming Americans, and the result is a walkable, beautiful, cultural town center full of delicious restaurants, a fantastic handicrafts market, and nice places to stay.
The town, itself, doesn’t offer much more for adventure lovers than hiking through nearby mountains, but the outlying area is full of exciting things to do. Within an hour of Boquete you’ll find a slot canyon you can swim through and a collection of natural hot springs.
Here are the most bucket list things to do in and around Boquete:
- Hike The Lost Waterfalls: This moderate trail leads to stunning views of three hidden waterfalls in Boquete
- Los Cangilones de Gualaca: An hour away, this slot canyon is full of water for epic cliff jumps and ends in a swimmable pool
- Caldera Hot Springs: Hike from the parking area to a spot with multiple built-up hot springs pools next to a hot river
Our recommended place to stay in Boquete is Bambuda Castle. This modern castle includes multiple hostel rooms, a delicious restaurant, and some of the most beautiful views of the valley! Plus, it’s a castle.
Days 10-12: Santa Catalina & Las Coibas Islands
Visiting the gorgeous islands around Panama needs to be on everyone’s bucket list! There are tons to choose from, and it seems like everyone has their favorites. You could consider taking a day cruise to the Pearl Islands from Panama City, staying in a hut on the San Blas Islands, touring the beautiful Bocas del Toro Islands, and more.
For our ultimate Panama 2-week itinerary we chose Las Coibas Islands. Las Coibas Islands are clustered about an hour’s boat ride from the miniscule town of Santa Catalina, only currently known to a few adventurous tourists and surfing enthusiasts. We liked that Santa Catalina and Las Coibas Islands were less popular than Bocas del Toro or San Blas, so we’d have a more authentic, less busy trip.
Santa Catalina, the starting point for a Las Coibas Islands tour, is perfect for adventurous visitors. Hostels and delicious restaurants are clustered near one of the few accessible, swimmable beaches of Panama. The main reason to visit Santa Catalina is, of course, a speedboat tour of a few islands in the Las Coibas archipelago. A tour will take you to four islands, where you’ll be able to enjoy the beach, sand, and sun while being led on snorkeling expeditions to see some of the best variety of tropical marine life in all of Central America.
We saw multiple whitetip sharks, barracudas, rainbow fish, grouper, sea cucumbers, sting rays, and lots more beautiful tropical fish on each of our island stops!
- Las Coibas Island: Ask your hotel to arrange a Las Coibas Island tour for you when you arrive
Our recommended place to stay in Santa Catalina is Vista Coiba Villas & Restaurant. Vista Coiba features a private beach, walking distance to the center of Santa Catalina, and a delicious on-site restaurant.
Days 13-14: Playa Coronado
You may be more familiar with Coronado Beach, California, but I assure you Coronado, Panama, is just as great!
The city of Coronado is just one hour west of Panama City, but couldn’t be more different. It has everything someone would need if living as an American expat in Panama, but without the huge commercial buildings and general frenzy of the city. In Coronado you’ll find golf courses, houses with yards, some of the best swimmable beaches in Panama (including black sand beaches. How cool is that?) and some great hiking.
We personally feel that Playa Coronado is the best location for American expats to settle in Panama, and loved all of the fun things to do here!
- Black Sand Beach: Swim what locals call the Black Sand Beach for a unique experience
- Altos de Campana Park: Hike in the fresh air for sweeping views of lush Panamanian hills and mountains
Our recommended place to stay in Playa Coronado is Solarium at Coronado Bay. This is one of the rare beachfront hotels, which places you steps away from the black sand beach. The rooms are comfortable and luxurious, and the hotel even offers an airport shuttle back to Panama City!
Day 15: Back to Panama City
Head back to Tocumen International Airport in Panama City after your time in Playa Coronado. Thanks to it’s close proximity, Playa Coronado is the perfect last stop before head back to the capital! Just be aware of your flight time: many people who work in Panama City live in Coronado, so traffic is quite heavy in the mornings and afternoons as commuters make their daily trip. If you’re flying during mid-day or other off-peak hours, don’t worry; the trip back should only take around one hour!
We hope you love Panama, and come to see it as the adventure destination it is. Panama has so much to offer, and is definitly worthy of more international tourists looking for a great time!