Is Panama Worth Visiting in 2024 – Reasons To Visit & Not To Visit

ARE YOU WONDERING IF PANAMA IS WORTH VISITING FOR YOUR NEXT VACATION?

Panama. Paradise on earth. You’re thinking: is Panama worth visiting? Well, if you’re looking for a stunning and unique country to explore, the answer is YES!

This Central American country has been gaining popularity as a top travel destination due to its diverse culture and natural beauty.

Man posing on a wall with the skyline of Panama City in the background. Is Panama worth to visit?

Is Panama Worth Visiting in 2024?

Let me give you the scoop on Panama! I’ve got to say, this country is absolutely worth a visit. Where else can you gaze at stunning coastlines on both the Caribbean and Pacific sides, explore dense rainforests, and see incredible engineering like the Panama Canal – all in one trip?

From the moment we set foot in Panama, we knew we were in for a treat. The culture here is a mix of African, Spanish, and Indigenous influences, and you can feel that diversity in everything from the food to the music.

This was especially noticeable in Bocas Del Toro, our first stop.

And don’t even get me started on the natural beauty of this place! With over 30% of the country’s land set aside as protected areas, you can bet there’s an abundance of wildlife and beautiful forests and greenery everywhere you go.

What is Panama Known for?

Need some specifics? Well, how about visiting the San Blas Islands? These picture-perfect islands offer crystal-clear waters, white sand beaches, and a chance to immerse yourself in the ancient traditions of the Kuna people.

Or maybe you’d prefer to hike through the cloud forests of Boquete, where you’ll see an astounding array of plants, birds, and animals, including the elusive quetzal bird.

And let’s not forget about Panama City! This modern metropolis is home to some of the chicest bars, restaurants, and hotels in Central America.

You can sip a cocktail on a rooftop bar overlooking the skyline, explore the Old City’s colonial charm, or take a stroll along the Amador Causeway, which offers stunning views of the city.

The country has a diverse ecosystem with rainforests, mangroves, coral reefs and mountains as well as hundreds of unique species of animals and plants.


Best Things To Do & Places To See in Panama

There are so many amazing things to do and see in Panama that it’s hard to know where to start. One of the top attractions is the Panama Canal, an engineering marvel that connects the Pacific Ocean to the Caribbean Sea.

For nature lovers, Panama offers an abundance of wildlife and stunning landscapes. Hike through the dense forests of the Darien National Park, or visit the Boquete region, where you can see waterfalls, birdwatching, or hike up the Baru Volcano.

All these things make Panama worth visiting!

1. Cross the Panama Canal

One of, if not the best thing to do in Panama is to cross the Panama Canal.

There’s something truly magical about crossing the Panama Canal, and it’s an experience you won’t soon forget. Whether you’re a history buff, an engineering enthusiast, or just someone who appreciates natural beauty, a trip through the canal is a must-do when visiting Panama. Trust me, you’re in for one exciting ride!

⭐️ Experience the inspiring engineering and breathtaking landscapes of Panama by crossing the Panama Canal!

2. Go Diving at Bocas Del Toro

A must-visit destination in Panama is Bocas del Toro. This group of islands offers some of Panama’s best beaches and water activities, from snorkelling and diving to surfing and paddleboarding.

The dives we did here were the best dives we’ve done in all of Central America. Amazing colourful coral reefs, rays, sharks, starfish, shipwrecks, and even seahorses.

Diver in the ocean in Panama, with nothing but open blue water behind him

3. Visit Starfish Beach

In the north of Bocas Del Toro lies Starfish Beach. And the name says it all. It’s FULL of big starfish!

Beautiful white sand beaches with crystal clear water, and starfish everywhere. Just be careful not to touch them, since the chemicals on our hands are dangerous for them.

If you don’t like crowds, be sure to go in the morning!

You can read our full guide on this here.

4. Hike to the Lost Waterfalls

If you are looking for an adventurous hike with stunning views of nature, ‘The Lost Waterfalls’ trek near Boquete, Panama is a must-do. This 4.5-kilometre hike, which takes around 3 hours to complete, is a moderate-level hike that takes you through the forest to the base of the three cascading waterfalls.

The trail starts north of the small hill town of Boquete, which is located in the heart of the Chiriqui Highlands. As you hike along the path, you will get to see some of the most beautiful natural scenery the area has to offer. You might even get lucky and spot a Quetzal!

As you approach the waterfalls, the sound of the water crashing against rocks will grow louder and louder. Finally, you will reach the base of the first waterfall – a stunning cascade of crystal-clear water tumbling over the rocky outcrops.

The second waterfall is a short hike away and offers an even more stunning view. If you are feeling adventurous, take a dip in one of the refreshing pools below the waterfalls, or just relax and enjoy the surroundings.

5. Visit Panama City Old Town

The contrast between the tall skyscrapers and Casco Viejo is massive. On one side you have beautiful, colourful, old buildings, and on the other giant skyscrapers. It’s impressive.

The cobblestone streets and buildings make you feel like you have travelled in time. Find one of the beautiful bars or restaurants, or enjoy the view of the skyscrapers in the distance. Casco Viejo is definitely worth visiting in Panama.

Old colonial buildings in Casco Viejo, Panama City, with the skyline visible in the background

6. Explore the San Blas Islands

The San Blas Islands of Panama are a gem of the Caribbean. Featuring crystal-clear waters, white sandy beaches, and vibrant coral reefs. This area has over 365 small islands, most of which are uninhabited. They are located off the southeastern coast of Panama, near the border with Colombia.

The San Blas Islands are home to the Kuna Yala people, a tribe of indigenous Panamanians who have preserved their traditional way of life for centuries. Visitors to the San Blas Islands can experience their unique culture and traditions while enjoying the natural beauty of the islands.

Snorkelling is a popular activity, as the waters are home to diverse marine life and coral reefs. The coral reefs of the San Blas Islands are shallow, which makes them perfect for snorkelling.

Other things include island hopping, relaxing on the beaches, and sea kayaking. The calm and serene waters of the San Blas Islands make it an ideal destination for those who want to disconnect from the rest of the world and enjoy a peaceful trip.

The San Blas Islands offer a unique combination of stunning scenery, cultural heritage, and adventure. Visit this tropical paradise and create memories that will last a lifetime.

⭐️ Escape to paradise by visiting the stunning San Blas Islands of Panama!

Man entering the crystal clear waters of San Blas

Where to stay in Panama

Accommodation could be hard to choose. Let me help you!

Panama City

Our favourite area of Panama City is Casco Viejo. The old town. There are LOADS of options to pick from. Here are my recommendations:

📍 Mid-class: Oasis Hotel

Hotel Oasis in Panama City is a comfortable and affordable option for people looking for a convenient location near the city’s attractions. The hotel offers rooms with modern amenities, on-site dining, and a pool. With friendly staff and a pleasant ambience, Hotel Oasis is a great choice for us budget-conscious travellers!

Book your stay now at Hotel Oasis!

📍 High-end: Villa Palma Boutique Hotel

This luxurious hotel is charming and cosy. It provides a restful retreat for travellers. With its lush gardens, beautiful outdoor pool, and comfortable rooms, the hotel is an excellent choice for those seeking peace and tranquillity in the midst of the bustling city.

Escape to Villa Palma Boutique Hotel in the heart of Casco Viejo!

Boquete

Boquete is a picturesque mountain town in Panama, known for its stunning scenery and year-round temperate climate. Adventure seekers will appreciate the numerous hiking trails that line the banks of the Chiriqui River and ascend up Baru Volcano.

Nature enthusiasts will love all of the bird-watching opportunities provided by La Amistad International Park and the stunningly clear star-filled skies.

📍 Budget option: Hostal Boquete

A cosy and welcoming hostel located in the charming town of Boquete. With its rustic decor, comfortable rooms, and friendly staff, it is the perfect choice for travellers seeking budget-friendly accommodation in the heart of the town. Not to mention the AMAZING showers!

Book now at the cosy and welcoming Hostal Boquete!

📍 Mid-class: Selina Boquete

Who doesn’t know the Selina hostels? A trend hostel chain. With its colourful decor, lively ambience, and comfortable rooms, Selina offers an amazing experience. Guests can enjoy a variety of activities, including hiking, yoga, and live music events.

Book now at Selina Boquete for a vibrant and trendy stay!

📍 High-end: The Haven – Hotel & Spa

A luxury boutique hotel that offers guests an unparalleled experience of relaxation and rejuvenation. This adults-only hotel is situated in the beautiful El Valle de Antón, slightly outside of Boquete, surrounded by forests.

With its state-of-the-art gym, beautiful spa, and gourmet restaurant, The Haven ensures a perfect wellness accommodation with plenty of opportunities for rest and relaxation.

Experience ultimate relaxation at The Haven – Hotel & Spa!

Bocas Del Toro

Bocas del Toro is a beautiful region that consists of nine main islands and many other small cays. It has a unique blend of Caribbean and Latin American flavours, from its lush vegetation and bright blue waters to its laid-back island lifestyle and exciting nightlife.

Man posing on a scooter with beautiful Caribbean water in the background

📍 Budget option: Surfari Bocas

Surfari Bocas is an affordable hotel just off the main road of Bocas Del Toro. Its laid-back vibe attracts travellers looking for a comfortable but affordable experience. It’s the perfect place to enjoy the best of Bocas’ natural beauty and adventurous lifestyle.

Experience the best of Bocas’ natural beauty for yourself!

📍 Mid-class: Selina Red Frog

Selina Red Frog is a unique hostel located on Red Frog Beach. The lively atmosphere, colourful decor, and beachfront setting make Selina a top choice for travellers seeking a fun and lively accommodation. Guests can enjoy surfing, paddleboarding, and yoga while taking in the stunning ocean views.

Book your beachfront stay now at Selina Red Frog!

📍 High-end: Punta Caracol Acqua Lodge

An exceptional eco-lodge. The lodge is built on stilts over the Caribbean waters, offering stunning views of the surrounding tropical greenery and the ocean. With its charming cabins and an outdoor restaurant, Punta Caracol is a unique and unforgettable destination for nature lovers and adventurers.

Book accommodation on stilts over Caribbean waters!

crystal clear water with visible starfish, at starfish beach in Panama

Best Time To Visit Panama

Panama is in the tropics, so it is very hot and humid all year round. The best time to visit is during the dry season, which is between December and April. The weather is more predictable, and there is less rainfall and fewer storms.

If you want to avoid crowds and enjoy a more budget-friendly trip, consider visiting Panama during the rainy season. Although it will rain frequently, it usually only lasts a few hours, and the country’s lush greenery is in full bloom. No matter the time of year, Panama is worth visiting!


How Many Days Is Enough In Panama?

Ideally, it’s worth visiting Panama for about two weeks. I recommend visiting Panama City, Boquete, Bocas Del Toro, and potentially the Darien National Park. Although the last one is not the easiest to get to, and is a little out of the way from the rest.

If you’re short on time, 8 days could also work. In just 8 days, it’s possible to see Panama City including the Panama Canal, Boquete, and the Bocas del Toro islands. If this feels a little too rushed for your liking, leave out Boquete and just see Panama City and the beautiful islands of Bocas Del Toro.

You’ll likely fly into Panama City, spend a few days there, and move on to your next stop.

Girl dramatically posing in front of a waterfall in Boquete, Panama

How To Get To Panama

Panama is located in Central America and is bordered by Costa Rica and Colombia. If you’re flying to Panama from the United States, there are direct flights available from many major airports in the country.

You can also directly fly into Panama from other countries in Central and South America, as well as many European countries. Once you arrive, you can easily get around by taxi, rental car, or public transportation.

A more adventurous option would be taking a sailing boat from Colombia. Sail through the San Blas Islands region and enjoy their peaceful, stunning white sand beaches.

Or take a shuttle from Costa Rica into Panama, as we did.

A pirate-ship like sailboat, parked at one of the 365 San Blas Islands in Panama

Is Panama Worth Visiting – FAQs

Right, we’ve discussed a lot already! But you might have more lingering questions. I’ll try to answer them below!

Is Panama Safe?

When it comes to safety, Panama is one of the safest countries in Central America. It has a low crime rate. However, it’s always advisable to take precautions and avoid wandering in unfamiliar areas, especially at night.

Even though Panama is a safe country for tourists, visitors should keep their wits about them and pay attention to their surroundings.

During our whole trip, there hasn’t been a second where we felt unsafe. There are some areas in Panama City you should avoid, though. Avoid the areas of Calidonia, El Chorillo and San Miguelito. And beware of pickpockets in busy areas and bus stations!

Is the Panama Canal worth visiting?

Absolutely! It’s one of the most incredible pieces of engineering in the world and a must-see for all tourists in Panama. Watching large ships pass through is an incredible sight to behold.

Is Panama expensive to live in?

Living in Panama can be a bit on the expensive side. But this doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s not worth it! There are plenty of ways to stretch your budget and many great experiences that come with living in Panama.

There is something for everyone and plenty of opportunities to make the most out of what you have. It’s important to keep in mind that while some aspects may be costly, if you plan ahead and budget wisely you can still get a lot out of living in this beautiful country.

The cost of living in Panama is generally lower than that of the United States and Western Europe. Depending on your lifestyle and where you decide to live, costs can range from moderate to quite high. It is worth visiting Panama before making this decision!

Due to the way taxes work in Panama, many people find that they can save money while employed in Panama.

Is Panama cheaper than Costa Rica?

Generally speaking, Panama is slightly cheaper than Costa Rica. If you’re looking to stay in hostels or do a lot of outdoor activities, you will find that Panama offers cheaper options compared to Costa Rica.

Is Panama Expensive to Visit?

Panama can be expensive or affordable, depending on your travel style and preferences. In general, it’s a relatively affordable destination compared to other destinations in Central America. Prices for accommodation, food, and transportation vary A LOT depending on the region you visit.

Panama City, being the capital, is generally the most expensive area, while rural areas and small towns tend to be more affordable. If you’re on a budget, you can sleep in hostels and budget accommodation, eat street food, and use public transportation to help keep costs down.

Activities and tours in Panama, such as ziplining, snorkelling, and boat tours, can be pricey. To save money, consider researching and booking activities in advance or look for group deals.

Overall, Panama CAN be a budget-friendly destination, but it’s important to plan your trip according to your budget and travel style.

A girl crossing a suspension bridge over a river in Boquete, Panama

Is Panama City Worth Visiting?

Yes, Panama City is definitely worth visiting! As the capital and largest city in Panama, it offers a unique blend of modern and traditional culture. The city is known for its impressive skyline, lively nightlife, and delicious cuisine.

Panama City is also home to several world-famous landmarks, such as the Panama Canal and Casco Viejo, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. You can explore the city’s museums, shops, and markets, which offer a glimpse into the country’s rich history and diverse culture.

The city also has several urban parks and outdoor spaces, which are perfect for strolls and people-watching.


Is Panama Worth Visiting – Final Thoughts

Panama is definitely worth a visit! With its beautiful beaches, lush rainforests, vibrant cities, and welcoming people, it’s an ideal destination for both first-time travellers and seasoned explorers.

From exploring San Blas Islands to visiting the Panama Canal or admiring the stunning sunsets from Boquete, there are plenty of sights to see and activities to do in this beautiful country.

No matter what your budget level is, you’ll be sure to have an unforgettable time when visiting Panama.