1. Take a City Tour
The best way to get to know Panama City is to take a City Tour. You can do this on your own by hopping on a colorful City Sight Seeing double decker bus. Or you can go with with a Tour Operators or your hotel for a tour. Most Panama City tours include the "three" Panama Cities: the ruins of the 16th century original city Panama Viejo,, the Spanish colonial city Casco Viejo, and the modern skyscraper city. The Panama Canal also is included in most city tours.
What you'll see on a City Tour:
The Ruins of Old Panama City: Founded in 1519, Panama City is the first city founded on the West coast of the Americas. All the loot stolen from Peru went through here making it the target of English pirate Henry Morgan who destroyed it in 1671. A new colonial Panama City, Casco Viejo was built in 1673 and today is Panama City's vibrant historical sector. Finally you'll visit the Panama Canal at Miraflores Locks with an adjacent museum. One of man's greatest accomplishments— The Panama Canal.
You can take a city tour on the Two-Decker City Sightseeing Bus Tour bus or on an amphibious bus that takes you into Panama Bay twice during your tour.. Aqua Bus.
2. Panama Canal Miraflores Visitor Center
The place to see the Canal is at the Miraflores Visitors Center at the Miraflores Locks. Just 20 minutes from downtown Panama City, your visit will be more interesting than you think. The Center features a museum with interactive exhibits and a short film on the building of the Canal. An outside terrace gives you close-up views of ships transiting through the locks. Visitor Center admission is $10.
3. Casco Viejo, Panama City's Historical Sector—a UNESCO World Heritage Site
A stroll through Casco Viejo, the 341 year old Spanish colonial sector built in 1671 is a must-do. Casco Viejo showcases Panama's Spanish Colonial and Canal-Era history. A vibrant. colorful neighborhood, it's recently undergone a renaissance- restored hotels and restaurants in handsomely restored buildings lie side by side with crumbling old buildings. Casco Viejo is a promontory- enjoy sea breezes and sweeping ocean and Panama City bay views. It"a also Panama City's hottest night life sector. Enjoy a great selection of restaurants and nightlife spots some with 360 views bay and city views.
Casco Viejo was also featured in the James Bond Quantum of Solace film.
If your coming to to Panama for tourism, we recommend staying in one of Casco's boutique hotels or hostels.
You can hire a Tour Operator or you can enjoy the area's sights using one of the walking tours in the PanamainfoGuid app, Lonely Planet or Frommers Guide.
Many foreigners are also choosing Casco Viejo as a place to live. Experts like Arthur Frommer of Frommer's Guides, have noted that Casco Viejo is on the way to becoming one of most beautifully restored Spanish colonial cities in the New World.
French and Spanish historical architecture, 17th century churches, a French monument to the 22,000 Frenchmen who died building the Panama Canal, an electric nightlife scene, savory cuisine, and the city's best souvenir shops. For special jewelry go to Reprosa. For a refreshing snack try Granclement—an old fashioned French ice-creamery. In the evening, Casco Viejo transforms into a thrilling night life scene/ For more complete info see our Casco Viejo destination Page.
4. Bike or stroll on Amador Causeway
Dazzling views of Panama City's skyline and of the Panama Canal make the Amador Causeway a very scenic place for open-air activities. Built using rocks excavated from the Panama Canal.The causeway connects four small islands and is a breakwater to the entrance of the Canal.
Enjoy fresh sea breezes as you walk , bicycle or jog. Bicycles for rent for just $5-10 an hour. There's restaurants for a variety of budgets, the best souvenir market and a yacht marina. Dine at one of the many restaurants and enjoy ocean, city and Canal views. TGIF at the Country Inn and Suites has the best views- While dining, watch ship going to and from the entrance to the the Panama Canal. See also the Bridge of the Americas that connectsNorth and South America.
5. Dine Out: Panama City- In the Top Ten Latin American Cities for Dining
Panama City's Restaurants are rated by Trip Advisor as one of the Top Ten Best Latin American cities for restaurants. As an international crossroads, Panama City restaurants offer a great variety cuisines for every price-range. Most restaurants are located in the business district, historic Casco Viejo, or the Amador Causeway.
We recommend that you try the local delicacies including ceviche, carimanolas, arroz con pollo, sancocho soup, hojadras. You can also try the Panamanian dishes while also enjoying folkloric dancing at either Tinajas or
6. Rainforest in the City: Ancon Hill and the Metropolitan Park
A Nature Hike With City and Canal Views: Ancon Hill
There's no better way to see Panama's past, present and future live than to take a hike up Ancon Hill where you'll have a bird-eye's view of Casco Viejo, modern Panama City and the Panama Canal. The path is through rainforest- if you go with a guide he will spot some wildlife like some sloths. Take this hike in the morning to avoid the scorching midday sun and afternoon tropical showers. It takes about 1.5 hours back and forth. You can take a taxi there and ask the driver to come back for you in a couple of hours.
Metropolitan Park Eco Tour
Panama City has the only Rainforest in the world within the city limits of a metropolis. The park is just a 20 minute drive from anywhere in the city.. The hike to the summit is an easy 45 minutes . you'll enjoy panoramic rainforest and city views. . Tour Operators offer guided nature tours of the park—if possible go with a nature guide who will point out sloths, exotic birds and explain about liife in a tropical rain forest.
At the Metropolitan Park - the Canopy Crane Tour: The Canopy Crane tour by Ancon Expeditions takes you up in a crane used by the scientists of the Smithsonian Institute to research the rainforest canopy and experience nature as close-up as it gets. A eco-experience plus spectacular views of the city, bay and Panama Canal. (Tel: +507-269-9415)
7. Enjoy the Nightlife
At nightfall Panama City becomes a nightlife hotspot. Casinos, clubs, and bars with exquisite views and venues come alive. Enjoy tropical drinks sensual Latin music and salsa dancing. Panamanians enjoy dressing to the nines, so be sure to bring something that will make you shine. The best nightlife spots in Casco Viejo where serveral roof top venues have sparkling bay views. Rana Dorada, a small micro-brewery in El Cangrejo and Casco are for beer lovers. For more info check out our Nightlife page.
8. Shop for Souvenirs and Native Handicrafts
Panamanian native handicrafts rival Mexico's in their beauty and creativity. Make sure and leave Panama with an authentic handicraft made by one of Panama's seven living indigenous tribes. The most popular souvenirs are "molas" - intricate reverse appliqué embroidery sewn by the women of the Kuna Indian tribe. Other handicrafts include the hand-woven baskets of the Embera Indians of the Darien jungle—similar to baskets woven by Navajo Indians—and tagua nut sculptures, which are tiny figures skillfully carved from the tropical tagua nut.
For a special jewelry gift, visit the Reprosa jewelry store and Rainforest Design cameo jewelry.
Reprosa has shops in the Business District and in Casco Viejo. Its jewelry collection includes reproductions of Pre-Columbian Indian art, reproductions of Spanish colonial jewelry and collections inspired by Panama's flora and fauna. There is a gift for every budget. (Tel:269-0457)
Rainforest Designs are stunning cameo jewelry with rainforest motifs carved by the Wounan Indians. They can be found at the Marriott Hotel Gift Shop,
Where to find souvenirs: The most complete selection is in the Artisans market on Amador Causeway- highly recommended. In Casco Viejo we recommend the Galeria de Arte Indigena—just off the French Plaa. For special Panama jewelry in Casco, go to Reprosa store.in Casco downtown Panama City, Gran Morrison variety store on Via Espana has a large selection of souvenirs plus the best selection of books about Panama.
9. Visit the Frank Gehry Biodiversity Museum
Set on scenic Amador Causeway, this museum is a Frank Gehry architectural triumph. The $90 million ocean-front project features interactive exhibits about how the emergence of the isthmus of Panama changed the ecology of the world forever and Panama's present eco- wonders.
10. For History Buffs: Panama Viejo- Ruins of the Original Panama City
It may already be on your city tour, Panama Viejo (Old Panama) was founded in 1519 by the Spanish. It was the first city on the West coast of the Americas serving as the gateway city for the Spanish conquest of Latin America. All the loot sacked from the Inca empire came through here. Once a thriving city of 10,000, today's extensive ruins are the result of an attack by English pirate Henry Morgan in 1671 which, along with a fire, leveled the city. There is a small museum, but go with someone who speaks Spanish, because the exhibits are mostly in Spanish.
How to Get Around Panama City
You can take a tour with a tour operator or go with City Sightseeing. Board their hop-on-hop-off emblematic red double decker buses which take you to the all major tourism attractions for just $29 for the day. Also check out the Panama Trolley which also goes to all the major Panama City Attractions for $28 a day.
More Things to Do in Panama City
Try Your Luck- Casinos
Over seven million dollars are gambled each day at Panama City's casinos, making it one of the region's top destinations in this area. Some of the best casinos are at the Sheraton, The Marriott, and the El Panama Hotel. The Veneto Wyndham Grand Hotel comes closest to a Las Vegas style casino and also has $700,000 prize poker tournaments.
For more Nightlife info see our page: Panama City's Top Nightlife Spots.
It takes just 30 minutes from downtown Panama City to get to the Summit Radisson Resort to play golf on a designer-course nestled into the jungle. The course is near the Canal and you can arrange transportation with your hotel. Tel: 322.4000. For more information visit our page on Golfing in Panama.
Check Out Our Top Ten Things to Do Near Panama City
Day trips from Panama City are right out of the pages of National Geographic. They include a visit to an authentic indigenous village, seeing monkeys cavorting on Monkey Island or sunbathing on an idyllic tropical Island. For more info go to: Top Ten Day Trips from Panama City.