Top Six: Day Trips From Panama City

Top Six: Day Trips From Panama CityAs you may already know, Panama’s capital is a bustling city, with a great deal to offer to both tourists and residents. It’s as modern as can be…and it owes much of that to its truly strategic location.

Panama City is home to Tocumen International Airport (known as the Hub of the Americas), as well as a busy domestic airport offering flights to islands, beach towns, and the verdant countryside. It’s one of the world’s most convenient bases—a launch point from which one can explore a diverse and alluring list of destinations. A short drive from Panama City, you’ll find quaint mountain towns, black and white sand beaches, and a host of tourist attractions. A short flight or boat ride will get you to pristine islands surrounded by clear blue waters.

Intrigued? If you’ve seen the city and are looking for a different way to spend the day, consider one of these fun and fascinating day-trip destinations:

1. Pretty little Taboga Island:

Known as the island of flowers, Taboga is the totally underrated neighbor of the more upscale Contadora Island. Though Contadora is a short flight or ferry ride from Panama City, you’ll spend about $85 or more for round-trip transportation. With round-trip ferry rates currently running $20 or less, Taboga makes for a much less expensive day trip with very little fuss!

If you’re short on time, catch the express ferry, which takes only 30 minutes and offers free wifi onboard. Once at Taboga, hike the “three crosses trail” to the top of the hill to take in the pretty flowers and get photos of the amazing cove. Then head to the Calaloo Beach Fishbar & Grill. You’ll find everything you need to enjoy Taboga’s white sands and baby blue waters…beach chairs and umbrellas, cool beverages, and seafood (of course).

2. Educational Barro Colorado:

An hour’s drive from Panama City will get you to Gatun Lake, part of the Panama Canal system and site of the created island that is Barro Colorado. If you’re looking for a fascinating and educational destination (ideal for a family day-trip), it doesn’t get much better than this. Thanks to the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute, visitors to Barro Colorado can spend the day hiking and spotting monkeys, toucans, sloths, bats, crocodiles, and much, much more. Just remember to book far in advance…visitor numbers are strictly regulated to protect this valuable eco-system.

A full tour will take you from morning till late afternoon, including transport time from Panama City, lunch, and two to three hours of hiking with a guide. You’ll learn about fascinating trees, birds, animals, fungi—you name it—as well as the studies designed around them. A word to the wise: wear long pants and spray yourself with repellent before going. It’s naturally buggy in the tropics and a few big bites are to be expected when walking in jungly areas. That said, visitors agree—it’s well worth it to see such a bio-diverse habitat.

3. Cool green Cerro Azul:

If you’re looking to escape the city heat, head to the mountain town of Cerro Azul. It’s hard to believe that this little hamlet is a mere hour’s drive from the capital. The altitude—about 2,500 feet—helps keep Cerro Azul cool and breezy. It is surrounded by the Chagres National Park, where you can go hiking and spot some of Panama’s most colorful flora and fauna. In town, towering pines, Swiss-style cottages, rivulets and waterfalls, and a geese-filled lake provide the perfect backdrop for stunning selfies.

There are no big resorts or shopping malls here…it’s all about the raw beauty of the mountains and the Chagres River watershed. By the way, the park is massive, stretching from Cerro Azul to the Caribbean shores of the Colon Province. You can visit with the indigenous Embera community that lives here and learn a great deal about traditional life among Panama’s most ancient cultures.

4. Exciting Chame Beach:

Particularly adventurous types may want to head the opposite direction, to the Chame beach district. Just over an hour’s drive west of the capital, Chame is making a name for itself as a destination for kite-surfing, wakeboarding, and other daredevil pursuits. Just ask the folks at Nitro City, a unique sports resort that attracts professional and amateur thrill-seekers with wakeboarding cables, paintball, a dirt-bike track, pool…and of course, the pristine beach. After spending a full day in the sun, rest your aching muscles in front of massive picture windows, take in the impressive collection of sports memorabilia, or enjoy the delicious food. Though it’s fun to visit any time of year, Panama’s “summer” season (December through April) is the best time for kiteboarding.

5. Beach resorts in upscale Farallon:

If you just want to relax on a pretty beach, the Farallon region of Rio Hato may be the place for you. About two hours by car from Panama City, Farallon boasts long stretches of white sand that slope down to surprisingly bright blue waters. Here the Pacific is warm and gentle, and there is plenty to keep you occupied. You’ll find golf courses, restaurants, swimming pools, ATV rentals, parasailing and more. High-end resorts here include the Royal Decameron, Playa Blanca, and the especially luxe JW Marriott Buenaventura. Beaches in Panama are public, so all can access the waterfront…but if you’re in the mood to splurge, a stay at a hotel in panama city panama is a great way to pamper yourself!

6. The verdant crater town of El Valle de Anton:

Known to locals simply as “El Valle” this tiny town has long attracted Panama’s elite with cool, spring-like weather and a host of natural attractions. It’s a two-hour drive from Panama City—the last 45 minutes of which take you on a sinuous road with spectacular views. There’s so much to see in El Valle, it’s worth going for a full weekend rather than just a day. There are hot springs, hiking trails, and habitats for butterflies, snakes, and Panama’s famous (and severely endangered) golden frog. This is the only place in the world where you can see square-trunked trees and it’s one of the world’s largest inhabited craters. A small tourist trade trickles through El Valle, so there are plenty of pretty little inns and eateries. Best of all, El Valle’s town market is a delight. Filled with fresh produce, plants, flowers and handicrafts, it’s got something for everyone.


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