From crystal blue waters to lush tropical rainforests, travellers can pack a lot into their days in this small Central American country.
The 48 mile-long (77 km) international waterway known as the Panama Canal allows ships to pass between the Atlantic Ocean and Pacific Ocean, saving about 8000 miles (12,875 km) from a journey around the southern tip of South America, Cape Horn.
Set along the turquoise waters of the Caribbean coast with a wide variety of attractions – beautiful beaches, major historical sites, world-class birding, diving and snorkeling, with the second largest free trade zone in the world and a cruise ship port.
Reminiscent of Old San Juan, this elegantly crumbling old quarter of the city dates to the late 1600s. Now a UNESCO Heritage site, it is undergoing renovations daily, with lovingly restored buildings abutting picturesquely crumbling shells, and hip wine bars and coffee shops sharing real estate with art shops and churches from the 1670s.
Skip the ubiquitous chain restaurants in favour of authentic Panamanian fare at El Trapichein Panama City. Try all the local favorites like ropa vieja, arroz con pollo, empanadas, seafood stew, and all wash it down with a locally brewed Balboa cerveza.
This stunning archipelago is mostly covered in rainforest and spectacular white sand beaches – perfect for sunbathing, swimming, snorkelling or diving. Known for its laidback vibe and colour clapboard houses, Bocas del Toro is also one of the world's biodiversity hot spots.
See where the locals shop in Panama City’s only pedestrian district, Avenida Central. This part of town has seen better days, but it’s one of my favorite areas of the city for its vibrancy, street art, noise, and interesting people. It’s also easily accessible from Casco Viejo or the 5 de Mayo metro station.
The best time to visit Panama is during the summer dry season from mid-December to mid-April. This is also high season, and some hotels and resorts charge higher rates during this period. Caribbean destinations such as Bocas del Toro have a shorter dry season, usually September/October and February/March, but really showers can occur on any day.