San Felipe Neighborhood of Panama City (credit: RODRIGO ARANGUA/AFP/Getty Images)

Thanks to the creation of the Panama Canal in 1914, Panama has been at the center of international shipping. This country serves as a connection point between both sides of the country, offering easier and time-efficient access between the Pacific and the Caribbean. Being at the heart of international shipping, Panama has also become a popular tourist destination for those looking for a unique, interesting and warm place to visit.

(credit: Thinkstock)


Must-See And Do

Most travelers stick to the trail of Bocas de Toro, Boquete, Panama City and the San Blas islands. However, there are plenty of other places that are perfect for travelers to explore, offering plenty of things to see, do and experience in Panama. Fun activities in Panama include coffee tours, day hike tours and taking an island cruise around San Blas. Do not forget to make time to see the Panama Canal while there, which is made up of three sets of locks — Miraflores, Pedro Miguel and Gatun.

Other must-do activities include biking along the Amador Causeway, exploring Casca Viejo, hanging out at Bocas del Toro or discovering new sites at the Ruins at Panama Viejo. Those looking to relax will have fun canoeing to the Embera Indian Village where they can see local wildlife, listen to music, swim under a waterfall and shop from the tribe’s handcrafts. A must-experience tour is taking a ride on the Panama Canal Railway, which connects Panama City to Colon, running from ocean to ocean. Some other popular places to visit when in Panama include the Coiba National Marine Park, La Amistad International Park, the Pearl Islands and Volcan Baru National Park.

If you want to kick back and relax on the beach, you will find plenty of nice beaches in Panama. Some of these beaches include those in Bocas del Toro, San Blas and Santa Catalina. In addition to relaxing at the beach, there are many different water-themed activities available, including whitewater rafting, boating, kayaking, SCUBA diving, snorkeling and parasailing.

(credit: RODRIGO ARANGUA/AFP/Getty Images)


Transportation

When wanting to travel from one side of Panama to the other, it is best to take one of the many buses offering service throughout the country. There are buses that operate during the day and overnight buses that will travel from one side of Panama City to the other. The overnight buses are a bit more expensive. Some buses stay within the limits of most major cities, while others travel among different cities and regions in the country.

If at all possible, try to avoid taking intra-country flights. They are available from the airports in Panama, however, they are very expensive, thus making bus travel the most affordable option. It is also best to avoid taxis in Panama, mostly because drivers are less willing to negotiate and they end up costing a lot more than bus transportation or renting your own car while there.

If you choose to rent a car, it is best to ensure that the vehicle you are driving has GPS or that you have it on your phone. This is the best way to ensure you do not get lost or end up in some unfavorable neighborhoods. If you are driving a car, make sure to pay attention to your surroundings because locals have been known to drive in the wrong lanes and even up on sidewalks when they are in a hurry.

Places To Eat

You will find a variety of meals from all around the world when dining in Panama. You will find restaurants serving cuisine options from all around the world, including dishes from America, Italy, France, Spain and Morocco. Local-themed cuisine options are more affordable and include chicken, rice, beans and a lot of seafood dishes. Meals that are more westernized may cost more than traditional local cuisine options. Some of the best and most popular places to eat include the Country Store & Café, El Trapiche, Restaurante El Caribe, Mi Ranchito, Diablicos, Tantalo Kitchen and Maito.

(credit: Thinkstock)


Places To Stay

Those wanting to backpack their way through Panama will find affordable hostel dorm accommodations. There are even some private rooms available in some of the country’s hostels, or those wanting a bit of privacy can still find some affordable hotels offering a private bath and sometimes breakfast is included. Some of the most visited hostels in Panama include Luna’s Castle Hostel, Hostel Mamallena and Surfcamp Guanico, Inc.

In addition to hostels and budget hotels, there are plenty of other accommodation options in Panama. These options include hotels, resorts and bed and breakfasts. Some of the more popular places to stay in Panama include the Trump Ocean Club International Hotel & Tower, Miramar Towers, The Bristol Panama City and Grace Panama. Other popular hotels include Las Olas Beach Resort and Punta Caracol Acqua-Lodge.

Fun Facts

There are many unique and interesting things about Panama. Here are some fun facts for those wanting to learn a little bit more about Panama before visiting:

  • Panama is home to more than 900 different species of birds.
  • The indigenous meaning of Panama is an abundance of fish.
  • Panama is a large expat community with about 25,000 U.S. citizens living there.
  • Panama is located less than nine degrees north of the equator, offering beautiful temperatures in most regions of this county.

 

Panama is one country in the world that is not only easy to navigate through, but also offers a wide variety of activities. There is definitely something for everyone to do, no matter what their recreational preferences are. This is why Panama has become such a popular destination for those wanting to take a vacation away from their day-to-day lives.

Heather Landon (Heather Leigh Carroll) is a freelance writer with more than 20 years of experience. She has combined two of her passions – writing and travel – to share her experiences with others. You can read more of her articles at Examiner.com.