When most people think of Panama City, they automatically think of the Panama Canal. Of course, when one visits Panama, they have to see the Canal. But there’s so much more to do in Panama City! The city is huge, urban, and bustling with culture and diversity. We spent an incredible week in Panama City – with 3 full days in the city, 2 day trips outside the city, and a Panama Canal Tour. Here’s how to spend 3 amazing days in Panama City!
Start your day off exploring the old town. Casco Viejo, or Casco Antiguo, is Panama City’s historic district. Considered a UNESCO Cultural World Heritage Site, this old town dates back to 1673 and features vibrantly colored buildings and a picturesque red-brick road. Casco Viejo is home to some of the city’s best dining as well as some of the city’s best museums – Museo del Canal (The Canal Museum) and the Museo de la Mola.
Adjacent to Casco is the Paseo de Las Bóvedas is a vine and bougainvillea-covered esplanade runs along the top of the sea wall that the Spanish built to protect the city in its early days. It extends from Casco Viejo and is a great place to catch a view of the city skyline. There are also a ton of vendors lining the esplanade with some very cute handmade crafts.
Have a Geisha coffee at the many cafes in Casco and make sure you stay for a drink and dinner. Our personal favorites include Cafe Unido for coffee, Mahalo for breakfast, and Fonda Lo Que Hay for dinner.
On your 2nd day, have a hearty breakfast and go for a hike at Parque Natural Metropolitano. Also known as Metropolitan Natural Park, this urban rainforest is a 573-acre park located in the heart of Panama City. The park is home to over 220 bird species, 45 mammals, and 14 kinds of amphibians. There are also about 280 plant species, including trees that reach 115 feet high! You may not know this, but Panama is actually one of the most eco-diverse countries in the world. While hiking in the Park, we saw several coati, tons of hard-at-work leaf cutter ants, and a deer! It’s recommended that you go right when the Park opens or later in the day around 3pm for the best animal activity. Bring water, a rain jacket, and sunscreen!
Finish your day by doing some shopping at Panama City’s many malls. We loved Mulitplaza Mall and I did some serious damage at a bunch of stores that we don’t have in the US. For dinner, make reservations super early for Maito, one of Panama City’s best restaurants.
For your last day, visit Biomuseo, Panama City’s most unique museum. Located in Amador, it was designed by the famous architect Frank Gehry, and is made up of eight exhibits that focus on the origin of Panama and the country’s biodiversity. All the exhibits are presented in both Spanish and English, so it’s super tourist friendly. Staff all speak English as well and are very happy to explain exhibits or share their knowledge about Panama’s biodiversity. My favorite exhibit was the life-sized animal replicas. Did you know there used to be a sloth that stood at 10 feet tall?
After the Biomuseo, stroll along Amador Causeway. Named after Manuel Amador Guerrero, the first President of Panama, Amador Causeway is a 6km (3.7miles) long stretch of road extends into the Pacific Ocean. From the Causeway, you can see Panama City’s skyline as well as the Pacific entrance to the Canal. The Causeway was built using soil excavated during the canal’s construction and is a super popular running and cycling spot for locals and tourists. Halfway along the Causeway are numerous restaurants that offer delicious Panamanian food. We chose to eat at Fish Lovers Ceviche Y Bar, which specializes in fresh ceviche.
If your time is shorter, I would recommend skipping one of these days to visit the Canal. Must-do’s for me would be Casco Viejo, the Metropolitan Natural Park, and the Amador Causeway.