I spent almost two weeks in Panama and discovered how much this small country has to offer, from zip lining through the forest, exploring the Caribbean and Pacific beaches to Panama City and the Panama Canal.
I entered Panama from Costa Rica and flew out of Panama City. I traveled with Intrepid Travel for the first part of my Panama trip but visited Panama City and the San Blas Islands on my own. I would say the best part of traveling with Intrepid was having the transportation arranged between destinations as it was a little trickier than in other countries I have visited. In general though I think next time I would visit Panama on my own. Here is my quick guide for what to see in Panama.
Bocas del Toro
This is the most popular place that people visit. I recommend staying nearby on Isla Bastimento. There’s a cute main street with lots of restaurants and bars on the water on the main Bocas del Toro island. You can take a motorboat between the islands for a few dollars per person (they charge more in the evenings). During the day you can arrange to visit Red Frog Beach, Starfish Beach, Cayo Zapatilla, go four wheeling, diving and more.
Unlike the rest of the cities I visited Boquete isn’t on the water. Sitting in the middle of the country the climate is much cooler. I was only there for a day, there’s not much in the main town. I went zip lining with Boquete Tree Trek which was definitely a highlight. If you have more time there is a popular hike to the top of Volcán Barú.
When you first arrive in Santa Catalina it doesn’t seem like much. There is one main street, there are not very many hotels on the water so they seem a little bit in the middle of nowhere and the beach right in Santa Catalina is a black sand beach. You are also on the Pacific side of Panama which has a much different vibe. To really enjoy Santa Catalina you have to get out of the main beach to visit beautiful Coiba National Park. I took a day trip and on the way we saw whales and dolphins! We also went snorkeling around the islands and saw several sea turtles up close. You can also stay overnight on one of the islands in the park as well if you are interested. If you are a big surfer the main beach in Santa Catalina has some great waves, big and small.
You will probably fly in or out of Panama city and I recommend staying a few days to explore the beautiful Casco Viejo.
SEE ALSO: A Guide to Panama City
San Blas Islands
Leaving from Panama City you can arrange a day, one or two night trip to the San Blas Islands. If you’re continuing on, you can sail from the islands to Cartagena, Colombia. This was my favorite place in Panama.
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