Cool destinations to visit in Panama

Cool destinations to visit in Panama

Here is a short list for some great and probably lesser known cool destinations to visit in Panama, there is MUCH more to see then just the Panama Canal, aldo thats probably a must when your visiting this beautiful country. Fore more to read on and thanks for some of the images to this story about Panama please see also, they offer many more destination and travel tips plus general information about Panama.

So here we go a short list followed by some images of probably lesser known destinations in Panama:

1.) Coiba Island

A paradise and worth a trip all by itself. Specialy for snorkeling and diving, but also for some hiking, swimming and sightseeing. With an area of 50.3 square miles, Coiba is the largest island in Central America, off the Pacific coast of the Panamanian province of Veraguas. Coiba National Park ( Parque Nacional Coiba) is a group of 38 islands. Unesco declared the entire Coiba National Park a “World Heritage Site”. Worthwhile also to visit the old prison and Isla Granito de Oro a marvel with crystal clear waters good for a swim or snorkeling. You must organize a trip here with a local travel agent, all visitors must register before hand with the local authorities (ANAM) and you can only stay at the rangers stations where rooms are basic and limited in numbers. Boats to here can be hired for example in Santa Catalina.

2. Fort San Lorenzo

This visit can be done as a day tour when visiting the Colon side of the Panama Canal. One must drive to the Gatun Locks first and from there to Fort Sherman where they have a check point and then to the Fort. You have a great view from the Fort and below is a small beach in case you want to go for a little swim in the Caribbean Sea. There are no reataurants or hotels here so bring your own lunch and have a little picknick at this magical spot, if your lucky you might even see some howler monkeys along the way or around the ruins.

3. Isla Grande

Since we are talking already about the beautiful Caribbean coast of Panama here is a beautiful spot to relax a few days and go for a swim or for diving around the area. Beach side restaurants, small hotels and a little resort are available here. Book in advance and best during the week as weekend it might be crowded with local visitors. Also on the way there plan a stopover in Portbello and old town with ruins from the Spanish area and little church that has the statue of the so called Black Christ.

4. The Dracula Orchid Farm in Cerro Punta

This is a magic place to visit in the mountains of Chiriqui that features guided tours to show of one of the most complete collections of rare American orchids (with a variety of over 2000 species). That place is pure magic and a delight for every nature lover. Hotels in the area include the Queztal in Cerro Punta or along the way the Hotel Bambito. The area is also a good starting point for birdwatching and tours to El Volcan Baru, but you must hire a local guide as one can get easily lost in those cloud forests.

5. The Pipeline Road and the Panama Rainforest Discovery Center

This area can be visited in a day tour from Panama City or from the Rainforest Resort Hotel in Gamboa where you can stay for a few days and do a variety of tours including to the monkey islands along the Panama Canal. From the City the drive is around 45 minutes along the Panama Canal, passing Miraflores and Pedro Miguel Locks and turning left after you pass under a small Railroad bridge where the turnoff is market by a sign that also indicates the limits of the Soberania National Park that starts there. Here you come first along the Summit Zoo also well worth a visit then the Plantation Road and Charko Hike, later the old bridge over the Chagres River unfortunately this bridge is in a shabby conditions and one wonders why they spend millions on the Canal expansion but can not afford a few thousands to fix that bridge. Anyway just after the bridge right turn off os to the Hotel Gamboa and strait on passing Gamboa to the Pipeline Roand and to the Rainforest resort see this website for some details and maps. From here you can hike along the Pipeline Road and or drive to the Rainforest Discovery Center, see also more details and fees on their website here. This area is a paradise for nature lovers and birdwatchers. A warning again stay on the roads and never wander off into the forests or you will get lost!

6. La Tavida – Cerro la Vieja

We cuote from Cerro la Vieja (The old Lady’s Mountain) is located about 40 minutes up into the mountains from Penonome in Chiguiri in the province of Cocle. Up there you find the Eco Lodge called Posada Ecológica Cerro La Vieja, unfortunately they closed on January 2014 but still have the cabañas available at the waterfall (see the Posada Ecológica Cerro La Vieja website here for up-to-date info) Around the Hotel there are a few trails to go hiking and bird watching and don’t miss to visit the impressive waterfall La Tavida close by where the water rushes down from a height of 30 meters and you may take a refreshing bath. The cabañas at the falls are a great place to hang out for a weekend, you wont regret it!

Now there are MANY more beautiful spots to visit in Panama so start and discover some yourself and please let us know what you found! So enjoy and have a great time!

Here we attach a few images that highlight some of the destinations mentioned here:


Bio Museum, Panama City, Panama

Here is another cool must see if you are in the region and have a chance to do so! The Biodiversity Museum (also known as Biomuseo or Biomuseum) in Panama City, Panama. As they say on their website: Come visit the only building designed by Frank Gehry in Latin America, and learn how Panama changed the planet. Eight galleries tell us about the origin of the Panamanian isthmus and its gigantic impact on the planet’s biodiversity.

The is the only one in its class in the region, the cool architecture by itself is well worth a visit. Designed by world known architect Frank Gehry (in his first incursion in Latin America), the building was conceived mainly to tell the story of the appearance of the Isthmus of Panama three million years ago, and how this sprouting joined lands and divided oceans, changing life on Earth and generating the climate we now know. It is a dramatic example of how living creatures and their relationship with the environment can become unknown and powerful agents of change.

This museum is located in Panama City at the entrance of the Amador Causeway, along the Panama Canal, see the google map here for directions. Opening hours are Monday thru Friday 9:00 am – 3:00 pm, Saturday and Sunday 10:00 am – 5:00 pm and Tuesday Closed.

Come visit the only building designed by Frank Gehry in Latin America, and learn how Panama changed the planet. Eight galleries tell us about the origin of the Panamanian isthmus and its gigantic impact on the planet’s biodiversity.

For easy access to visit the museum you also may jump on the City Sightseeing Bus (Hopp on hopp off system) their “Double Decker” “Open Top” buses connect this point and many other interesting spots in the city including the Panama Canal, so its easier then to rent a car and get lost in the cities horrible traffic jams. Check their local website here for tour maps.

For more info including entrance fees please see the Biomuseo website here.

Attached are a few images from a visit to the Bio Museum last year.

Rainforest Discovery Center, Panama

This cool visit should be on top of the list of every nature lover who visits Panama. Not everywhere you can discover the rain forest that close to the city like in Panama and for birdwatchers its a must see place. The attached images show a few impressions from there and a few of the beautiful hummingbirds and other exotic bird species you find around the area. Besides the birds you might also see some Howler Monkeys, Capuchin Monkeys, Sloths or some Agouti and or Coati in the area.

A word about the weather: In the rainy season from April till the end of the Year, make sure to take a rain poncho along, it can pour down in an instant without much warning, if there is a ligthning storm going on stay at the rangers house. Now that being said I personally like the rain season best as the forest is very saturated with green colors and not as dry as in the January to May dry season. Also use adequate foot wear as it may be a bit swampy in some areas.

From the The Panama Rainforest Discovery Center brochure: Visitor Center: 140 square meters of open structure with terrace, 2 bathrooms and a small gift shop. There is parking for 8 cars and car access by 600 meters of dirt road from Pipeline Road. Hiking trails extend from the center to the forest. The center is energy self-sufficient with solar panels and a rain water collection system from the roof for bathrooms. 70% of construction materials come from old houses in the Canal area. The gift shop offers bottled water, sodas, snacks and souvenirs for sale.

Tower: 100 feet observation tower with a 200 meter walkway from the visitor center. Spiral stairs and 4 rest platforms every 25 feet. This painted steel tower has been specially designed by the Panamanian architect Patrick Dillon and was constructed entirely by hand.

Forest trails: There is a 1.1 kilometer circuit of forest trails. These trails are from mild to a moderate difficulty level, made of gravel and 1.2 meter wide. There are 2 rest areas along the trails, one small wood deck on the Calamito Lake shore for aquatic wildlife observation, and another wood deck in the forest with benches.

The Panama Rainforest Discovery Center is located 1.6 km from the Pipeline Road entrance. After arriving at Gamboa town at the end of Gaillard Highway, drive 3 more km following the signs for Panama Rainforest Discovery Center. The Panama Rainforest Discovery Center is open daily from 6 a.m. to 4 p.m. except Christmas and New Year days. For more info and prices see the The Panama Rainforest Discovery Center website here. Now a word about the fees they charge I may seem a bit expensive at first sight, but remember they have limited visitor numbers to the area and they do need to maintain allot of infrastructure and for the knowledgeable guides on site. So better spend a few bucks here then all of it at the mall. 😉

If you are not familiar with the area best find a guide or stay at the Gamboa Rainforest resort from where they have guided tours in the area. Never wander of the roadways or marked hike paths into the jungle as you can get lost easily and some poisonous snakes are in the area as well. Also plan in a stop over on the road coming from Panama at the Summit Garden Zoo where you can see the Harpy Eagle and some other inhabitants of Panamas rain forests.

Coiba National Park - Panama

A visit to the Coiba National Park in Panama

The Coiba National Park is a group of 38 islands including Coiba Island (Isla Coiba), a jewel of the Veraguas province in Panama in the Pacific Ocean. Coiba is well known to divers and a paradise for any explorer with many still unknown species to discover or just to relax and take a swim or snorkel around Isla Granito de Oro, plus make the trip down its coast to visit the old prison facilities. Coiba can be reached by boat either from Santa Catalina, Puerto Mutis or El Banco with any of the local boats. The only overnight facility available in the Coiba National Park is at the ANAM ranger station on Isla Coiba, that offer some basic cabins, they must be reserved and visiting permissions established well in advance at ANAM in Santiagio de Veraguas. We recommend you arrange your trip with a local travel agent to do all those things for you. You need to bring all food and beverages with you as there are no facilities on the island to buy anything. For more details on the Coiba National Park see this website here. This trip is an adventure and only suited for those who can live without a whatever star rated hotel.

From Wikipedia:

Coiba is the largest island in Central America, with an area of 503 square kilometres (194 sq mi), off the Pacific coast of the Panamanian province of Veraguas.


Coiba separated from continental Panama about 12,000 to 18,000 years ago when sea levels rose. Plants and animals on the new island became isolated from mainland populations and over the millennia most animals have diverged in appearance and behavior from their mainland counterparts. The island is home to many endemic subspecies, including the Coiba Island Howler monkey, the Coiba Agouti and the Coiba Spinetail.

Coiba was home to the Coiba Cacique Indians until about 1560, when they were conquered by the Spanish and forced into slavery. In 1919 a penal colony was built on the island and during the years that Panama was under the dictatorships of Omar Torrijos and Manuel Noriega, the prison on Coiba was a feared place with a reputation for brutal conditions, extreme tortures, executions and political murder. Nobody knows exactly how many people were killed in the prison during this period, but sources claim that the number could be close to three hundred. As such, the island was avoided by locals, and other than the prison, was completely undeveloped.

After the prison was closed down in 2004, its pristine condition made it ideal as a reserve. It is now said that the prison is haunted by the ghosts of prisoners. One story is that a guard was chasing a prisoner, but the prisoner was a ghost. The guard was so scared that he shot himself. It is also one of the last places in Central America where the Scarlet Macaw can be found in large numbers in the wild. The island is about 75% forested with a large fraction standing as ancient forest. Coiba Island is home to rare plant species found only on the island. The island also harbors tree species that have long disappeared from the mainland due to deforestation and overharvesting.

The island was declared a National Park in 1992 and in July 2005, Unesco declared the entire Coiba National Park a “World Heritage Site”.

Panama Canal - Panama

The Panama Canal’s alomst 80 Km waterway connects the Atlantic Ocean with the Pacific Ocean. Located on the Isthmus of Panama at the smallest strech of Central America between the 2 Oceans. Now many might cross the Panama Canal on one of the many cruise ships that frequent these waterways see the Panama Canal Cruise website for examples and many images of those ships or some visit Panama and have the opportunity to discover some of the many hidden gems that can be found around the Canal. Panama counts on a big international airport and serves as connecting airport for many international destinations, so reaching Panama is easy by air. The tourist industry in Panama offers many great deals as surely there is one in your price range available.


Some of the facts about the Panama Canal:


In the attached images we show some of the marvels that can be found around the Canal such as in the Gamboa area the Soberania National park a great place for hiking and birdwatching at the discovery center, tours from the Gamboa Rainforest resort to the monkey island for example, the Panama Canal Visitor Centers located in Gatun and Miraflores, the Fort San Lorenzo on the Atlantic coast, the Sumitt botanical garden and zoo, the Causeway and Panama City with the fantastic Biodiversity Museum and much more. And when ya done you can go to one of the many shopping malls in Panama that offer great bargains!

A great way to see the Canal is on the partial or complete transits of the smaller tourist boats that are offered or in the old classic passenger cars of the Panama Canal Railroad that lets you see the Canal closeup. For a little history of the Panama Canal for those interested please see this website.