La India Dormida
Located in El Valle de Anton is a grand mountain called La India Dormida, “the sleeping Indian girl.” With several trails ranging from easy to extreme, have your pick of various sights full of gorgeous waterfalls. From the short and easy trail called the Chorro de las Mozas to another breezy option called Chorro el Macho. Other trails on offer like La Piedra Pintada grow in difficulty as you venture further up the mountain, naturally, leading to the top, which rewards hikers with an astounding view.
Metropolitan Natural Park
Panama City is the only metropolis to have a jungle within its city center. Hike through the many trails on offer in Metropolitan Natural Park. Explore the gorgeous scenery and exciting chance to see the exotic wildlife that calls Panama home. With trail names like Motmots, Mahoganies, Oak, Titi Monkey, and Small Swamp, the guides can help with which path is best based on your preference of difficulty.
Soberania National Park
This national park in Panama offers marked paths such as Pipeline Road, a bird lover’s paradise. Pipeline provides the opportunity to take in sights and sounds like Panama’s wildlife throughout the plush greenery of the jungle. The further you hike, the better your chance to see monkeys, sloths, coatimundis, and more of Panama’s furry regulars. Animals are most active in the morning, so hikers are encouraged to set out before 9 a.m. for the best experience. Other trails within this park include Plantation Path, The Pond Natural Trail, Trail of the Crosses, and Spirit of the Forest.
Everyone makes sure to visit Casco Viejo, and with good reason: it’s incredible. However, the less visited area, Panama Viejo, packs an interesting and impactful punch of important Panamanian history. Captain Henry Morgan destroyed Panama in 1671. Until then, it was the most important Spanish trading town on the entire Pacific coast. Left behind are the ruins that remain and still cover so much ground. From streets to the cathedral, churches to convents, a hospital, bridges, and walls made of stone, a backpacking trip is not complete without paying respects with a visit to the ruins of Panama Viejo.
Built from excavated rocks from the construction of the Panama Canal is the 6 kilometers (3.73 miles) that connect three islands known as the Amador Causeway. Popular among local Panamanians, it is rarely featured for visitors. Lined with restaurants and shops, locals love to bike along the Causeway, and you can, too, with plenty of bike rentals available there. The Amador Causeway boasts an outstanding view of Panama City from one side, and a view of the Panama Canal on the other.
Canal at Miraflores Locks
A visit to Panama City is not complete without a visit to the famous Miraflores Locks at the Panama Canal. Luckily, this is located very close to Clayton. Watch as the Panama Canal feeds into the Pacific Ocean, with the opening directly in front of the Miraflores Locks for viewers to watch in awe as the Canal works its wonders.
A Pacific beach so off-the-radar that it feels private, Pedasi is a famous surfer’s paradise just five hours from Panama City. With waves of warm water, this destination continues to fall short of featured places to visit in Panama. If you prefer a beach that feels exclusive to you, Pedasi will be paradise. If you are more interested in a populated beach, try Bocas del Toro.
A Caribbean seaside sleepy town that was originally named Puerto Bello, which translates to Beautiful Port, over time became what is Portobelo today. Built by the Spanish to protect their riches from the pirates in the 18th century, Portobelo is a UNESCO World Heritage Site with respect to the small town’s big, rich history. Often lost in the shuffle of larger, more popular nearby Caribbean towns like Colon and Bocas del Toro, Portobelo offers of a quaint paradise unlike any other.
San Blas Islands
This island chain is perfect for sailing, diving, and snorkeling. Backpackers often unite on the San Blas islands on the Caribbean Sea, as do travelers on a budget. Though there are also high-end resorts here, too. The islands have a rustic feel and offer a phenomenal off-grid escape, contrary to the regular, run-of-the-mill beach. San Blas is a world of islands all its own, and all are welcome.
Located in the mountains of the Chiriquí Highlands is a quaint village known as Boquete. Quiet and peaceful, Boquete is popular among retirees, and with good reason. The gorgeous landscape of coffee plantations surrounded by mountains is home to one of the top three private gardens in the world, “Mi Jardin es Su Jardin.” Equal, ample opportunities for hiking as well as cozying up and relaxing with a cup of Panamanian coffee make Boquete an incredible place to backpack through. Also on the list of things to expect is exceptionally delicious, world class food.
Bocas del Toro
This beachy bungalow town on the sea is equal parts Caribbean chill and epic beach party. Surrounded by the jungle and rainforest, surfers love to come to Bocas del Toro to catch the tide. Water taxis are everywhere waiting to take travelers to secret, secluded coves and extraordinary snorkeling locations. Bocas del Toro is the backpacker’s dream destination of Panama.
Quite possibly the most gorgeous seaside walk in Panama City is the majestic Cinta Costera, and it is completely free. Grab a seat on a park bench or let the kids have fun on the playground while catching the sunset over the ocean. The Cinta Costera runs along the ever-trendy, upscale Avenida Balboa, so when you’re ready to pull your wallet out, walk over for a bite to eat on a balcony overlooking the city if you wish to.
Another option for a free spectacle in Panama City along the water is the beloved Amador Causeway. Mostly favored by locals, this one often gets overlooked by travelers and expats until a local Panamanian informs them that they are missing out. Many folks love to walk and bike what is lovingly referred to as “the Causeway.” Should you wish to spend a little money, it is also lined with small cafés and Panamanian boutiques, as well as bike rentals.
Taboga Island is a quick, inexpensive ferry ride from Panama City, making it most easy to access for a day trip or weekend getaway. Lots of young travelers and Panamanians love to spend their weekends at the beach on Taboga Island, especially in the dry season. Two words: Beach party. Don’t miss the opportunity to revel in the bliss of Taboga Island.
Another super low-key beach on the Pacific side of Panama is Playa Coronado. A quick bus ride from Panama City, Coronado used to be an incredibly popular hotspot full of beach goers, but it has since seen lighter days of visitors, which makes it a much more luxurious, seemingly private beach for those looking to have a romantic, peaceful beach trip away from the bustle of the lively city.