Searching for things to do in Panama? With islands surrounded by crystal clear waters of the Caribbean Sea to sailing adventures in the Pacific Ocean, there are countless unique experiences. Panama is the place for island-hopping adventures.
Top Things to do in Panama
In Bocas del Toro, you’ll find both a laid back island vibe and a party island scene. To get to the San Blas Islands, you have options. I solo traveled to Valle Las Minas in the Chiriquí Province. (There is a lovely flower garden in the mountain city of Boquete that’s worth a visit.) From there, I stayed in Casco Viejo, a historic town in Panama City, before sailing through the San Blas islands to Colombia.
In this Travel Guide for things to do in Panama, we’ll cover:
- Best islands
- Best beaches
- Backpacking tips
- Solo Travel tips
Panama Travel Tips
The ocean water is crystal clear and ideal for spotting starfish, the people who live here are very friendly and laid-back, and there is a party every night of the week on Isla Colon. Panama’s official language is Spanish, and the US dollar is the currency used here. However, the country has its own coins.
- The weather on the coast can be sweltering, and in April, there are occasional showers in the mountains.
- Traveling by bus around the country is easy and inexpensive. Be sure to bring a jacket for those long-haul rides because the air conditioning is usually on full blast.
- Ferry rides from island to island in Bocas del Toro range from $1-$5 US dollars, and you don’t have to wait long before the next boat arrives.
- In most areas you can drink tap water, so you don’t have to spend money on plastic bottles.
- Bookmark this link to search for places to stay in Panama.
Let’s start with the crown jewel. There are 378 islands in the San Blas archipelago located in the Northwest of Panama in the Caribbean sea. The islands are spectacular and an ideal place to find inspiration, snorkel, and explore the coral reef or learn about the Kuna culture from the native people who inhabit some of the islands.
Some of the islands are so small you can walk around them in just a few minutes, and most of the time, they were empty during my visit. You can also visit the San Blas islands during a day trip, but I heard this can get very crowded.
Bocas Del Toro
Bocas del Toro is an island chain off the Caribbean Coast, and it’s one of my favorite places to visit in Central America. Isla Colon, also known as “Bocas Town” is where most people stay when they visit Bocas del Toro. I highly recommend that you take the time to visit Isla Bastimentos and Careneros too. I had an incredible time exploring several beaches, going on long bike rides with friends, and dancing all night long.
Where to Stay
Playa de las Estrellas
If you’re searching for calm crystal clear water and photos with starfish, this beach is a must-visit when you’re in Bocas Del Toro. Sip a cold beverage from one of the local restaurants on the beach.
Getting here: Take the bus from the center of town to Playa Boca del Drago, a beach with shallow crystal clear water. From here, you can either walk to Playa de las Estrellas or pay $1.50 US for a one-way ride on a boat. Take the boat to the beach and walk to the very end to avoid the large crowds.
Rent a bike in Bocas for $5 for the day. A total bargain to get to beaches like Paki Point. We rode 15 minutes along the coast to get to this beach. We wanted to visit Bluff’s beach but decided to stop and spend the afternoon at this beach. There is a restaurant with a comfortable lounge area where you can relax and spend an ideal day with your closest friends.
Blue Coconut is a bar, located only ten minutes by boat from Isla Colon. Enjoy your day swimming in the shallow waters and unwind in a hammock.
Party Island: If you’re looking for a party, this is one of the stops for Filthy Friday – an all-day bar crawl with a $35 US entrance fee.
Where to eat
My favorite place to eat in Bocas is Hungry Monkey Bocas. The staff is super friendly, and the cold press juices are a perfect treat to help you cool down from the heat.
Nightlife – Panama Party Island
The party scene in Bocas del Toro, Panama, starts at midnight, and the Reggaeton music doesn’t stop until 4:30 am. Start your night off at Selina Bocas for happy hour, then head to La Iguana Surf Bar or Summer Beach Club, depending on the night of the week. The party scene is a laid-back island vibe, so you don’t have to worry about getting too fancy. Head over to Aqua Lounge for Reggae night and dance the night away!
Bastimentos Island was my first stop in Panama. The island has no cars, which makes it less busy than Isla Colon. Old bank is quiet, and many of the accommodations have ocean views. It’s a 20-minute walk to Wizard Beach, or you can take a quick boat ride to Red Frog Beach. You’ll have to pay a $5 US entrance fee to get to that beach, but it’s worth a visit.
Where to Stay
Carenero Island is a smaller island located a short boat ride east of Isla Colon. It’s only $1 to get here. The water is shallow and perfect for swimming. Aqua Lounge is an over the water hostel and bar with excellent views of Isla Colon. Bocas Beach Club has over the water beds where you can relax and enjoy a drink. Walk around the island and soak in those coastal views, but watch out for those sand flies. Mosquito repellant is a must, especially during sunset.
Panama Mountains and other cities
Lost and Found Hostel
After several days at the beach, it was time to head to the mountains. I traveled to Lost and Found Hostel with my German friends after hearing great reviews from fellow travelers. Located in Valle Las Minas, in Chiriqui, Panama, the public bus leaves you on the side of the road, and you’ll have to hike 15 minutes with your suitcase or backpack to get here. (Thank you, Anusch and Anika, for helping me with my luggage. This is one of the very few times I wish I had a backpack instead of a suitcase and I’m so grateful for your help!)
The views from the hostel are spectacular, and if you stay three nights, the 4th one is free. I wanted to stay four nights, but I found out that the sailboat from Panama to Colombia was leaving in a few days, so I had to hustle to get to Panama City after only two days. Most people take part in scavenger hunts or take advantage of the tours offered here, but I just used the time to relax. Whatever you do, visiting this place is well worth it on your journey through Panama.
Most people come to Boquete to hike Volcan Baru or take a coffee tour, but I was looking for another way to unwind. When you arrive in this mountain town, take a stroll to Boquete Brewing Company for a craft beer or walk through Mi Jardin es Su Jardin. The entrance fee is only .50 cents, and there are spectacular views of many different types of flowers, the river, and mountains.
I stayed at Hostel Blasina for $10 US a night. This place is more like a home than a hostel, with free breakfast, tea, and cookies.
To get to Panama City from Boquete, you have to travel to David and continue the journey from there. I started this adventure at 6 am and arrived in Casco Viejo around 3 pm. I only had one night to spend in the city, so I decided to check out this historic district in Panama City. The views of the skyline from Luna’s Castle Hostel are spectacular, and I wish I had stayed a little longer to explore more.
Where to Stay
Still searching for things to do in Panama? The San Blas Islands are spectacular and an ideal place to find inspiration, snorkel and learn about the Kuna culture. Isla Colon, also known as “Bocas Town” is where most people stay when they visit Bocas del Toro. I highly recommend that you take the time to visit Isla Bastimentos and Careneros too. If you found any of these things to do in Panama helpful to plan your backpacking, girl’s trip, or solo adventure, we’d love to know!