All the Best: Top Ten Things to Do Nearby Panama City

Monkey Island Tour Panama Canal

1. Monkey Island Boat Tour

A thrilling, fun and up-close encounter with rainforest nature. Tour by boat the islands in lakes of the Panama Canal waterway through pristine rainforest where you'll see four types of monkeys cavorting in the jungle—they often jump onto your boat—as well as other animals like crocodiles and exotic birds. A delicious typical Panamanian lunch is included on a floating jungle lodge. We recommend Jungleland Explorer for this trip- we rate this tour the #1 best day tour in Panama. For a tour visit the Jungle Land Explorer or Ancon Expeditions.

2. Embera Indian Village Tour

Embera Natives Dance

Right out of the pages of National Geographic, an unforgettable encounter with a living Indian culture in Panama's rainforest. You'll take a motorized canoe, the only means of transport in the jungle, up a scenic rainforest river to an authentic Embera Indian village on a river bank. The village consists of rough wood and palm homes on stilts typical of the jungle Indians. The Emberas will perform a tribal dance, offer you body paintings with rainforest dyes and their exquisite handicrafts. You'll share a typical meal and learn about their way of life, traditions and beliefs.
For more info contact a Tour Operator.

3. Gamboa Rainforest Resort at the Panama Canal

Gamboa Rainforest Resort Panama

Gamboa Rainforest Resort, 45 minutes from Panama City offers ecotourism experiences through day tour packages which include a pick up from your Panama City hotel. You can sign up for a ride on the aerial tram through the rainforest canopy, to visit outstanding nature exhibits and dining on a restaurant terrace with views of the Chagres River and the Panama Canal. Call 314.5000 or visit the Gamboa Rainforest Resort website for more info.

Los Lagartos Restaurant at the Gamboa Rainforest Resort: Dining at Los Lagartos Restaurant at the Gamboa Rainforest Resort is both a dining and an eco-event. On the Chagres River at the Gamboa Rainforest Resort the fare is with tropical and international dishes with international buffet on Sundays. As you dine view with huge ships floating silently by in the Panama Canal.The big attraction is a "show" of tropical wildlife from the deck: ask a waiter to give you some bread to throw to the river below. Alligators, colorful tropical birds, dozens of large turtles and fish will all flock to gobble up the bread pieces. Great fun. And guess who wins this tropical animal food fight?

Hours: 11am to 6pm. Tel: 314-5000

4. Beach Day on Panama's Riviera

Royalton Resort Beach Panama's Riviera

Just 1 hour from Panama City begins Panama's Rivera, a string of lovely, uncrowded beaches. One of the best things about Panama's Pacific is that the water is warm! You can drive or go with a tour guide. On San Carlos beach, there's the Centro Turistico with day trip facilities- good beach, bathrooms, showers, pools etc. The cost is $25 per person for weekdays and $30 on a weekend. The all-inclusive Decameron Resort also offers day passes.
If you don't want to pay to enjoy a beach, Santa Clara and El Palmar beaches are the best for day trippers. They have beach-side restaurants where you can also use the facilities for 25 cents. For more information visit our Panama's Riviera destination page.

El Valle Day Trip

El Valle is a quaint flower filled mountain town 2 hours from Panama City which is situated inside a massive extinct volcano crater. The main attractions are its large artisans market, mountain views, a great restaurant, a thrilling Canopy Zipline Tour through rainforest canopy, thermal springs and a small tropical zoo Nisperos. We recommend lunch at the famous gourmet restaurant Casa de Lourdes. For a budget meal, lunch at Pinocchio's Pizza or a have the delicious Panamanian chicken soup "Sancocho" at local cafe. For more information visit our El Valle de Anton destination page.

6. Golf at Tucan Country Club and Summit Golf Club

Just thirty minutes from downtown Panama City, both Tucan Resort Community and Summit Golf Club are perfect for a gold day trip in lush tropical scenery. Recommendation: From April thru December it's best to go in the morning because it often rains in the afternoon. Ask your hotel to arrange a taxi to take you back and forth.Golfing in Panama.

Island Taboga Panama

7. Beach Day on Taboga Island by Speed Boat

From the Balboa Yacht Club on Amador Causeway (Tel:228-5196) take the fast boat to Taboga Island. The 30-minute, 12-mile trip is just $6. One of the best things about trip is ocean ferry trip -enjoy ocean breezes, views of Panama City's magnificent skyline and ship activity at the entrance to the Panama. Taboga itself is not yet developed as a tourism destination- so this is good trip if you don't mind a certain lack of perfection in facilties and signage etc. Once on Taboga, make your way to the beach in front of the old Taboga hotel to enjoy warm Pacific waters. Then stroll the tiny town once a pirates haven . There's simple restaurants and a church founded in 1550- the second oldest in the Western hemisphere. Return on the 4:30 p.m on a slow boat, the Calypso Queen Ferry (Isla Naos, Amador Causeway; 507-314-1730; $6.

8. Whale Watching in the Pearl Islands

Whale Watching Panama

An amazing two-fer: enjoy magnificent whales plus the incredible tropical beauty of the Pearl Islands. This trip is only July-October. Anne Gordon of Whale Watching Panama, an American and wife of an Embera indian, is one of Panama's best guides. From Panama City, she offers both day tours and 2-5 night stay overs in the islands.

9. Portobello Bay Day Trip on Panama's Caribbean

Portobello Ruins Panama Colón

A picturesque bay side town with the ruins of four Spanish forts and a restored customs house. About a two hour trip from Panama City on the Atlantic Coast, Portobello is set on a scenic Caribbean bay. During the Spanish Colonial era it was the trans-shipment point for all the treasure Spain looted from Inca Empire. Treasure was stored, displayed in fairs and then shipped to Spain. The fabulous treasures stacked high in the customs house made Portobello the favorite target of English pirates like Sir Francis Drake who attacked the city's forts repeatedly. Sir Francis met his demise in waters nearby and was buried in an iron casket that has still not been found. You can drive yourself or go with a tour operator. For more information visit our Colon Province on the Caribbean destination page.

10. The Discovery Center in Soberania National Park

Discovery Center Tower Panama

The Discovery Center in the Panama Canal Rainforest is open every day from 6AM to 4PM. Here you'll find a 40m Observation Tower with breathtaking views above the forest canopy and hiking trails in Pipeline Road's world famous for birding. Check out our listed Tour Operators.


Panama Canal Mini-cruise

Another way to experience the Panama Canal is to take a "mini-cruise" day trip. You can take a partial transit for a half day or a full transit for a full day. We recommend the partial transit. Go with Panama Marine Adventures. Their Pacific Queen does partial transits every Saturday. Full Canal transits are once a month. For more Panama Canal info visit our Panama Canal destination page.

Summit Gardens and Tropical Zoo in the Former Canal Zone

A tropical zoo with exotic animals and birds unique to Panama's jungles set in a lush 80 year old botanical garden with over 15,000 tropical plants. Summit is being renovated, but is still quite run-down by US standards, but if you enjoy intense tropical vegetation and a close look lots of tropical critters, this is the place. A main attraction is the Harpy Eagle compound and the tropical Jaguar compound. The Harpy Eagle is the world's largest predator bird. This magnificent bird, which lives only in Panama and is close to extinction, stands three feet tall and has a wingspan of up to 7 feet. Admission is just $2.

Historic Ocean to Ocean Train Ride

 Historic Ocean to Ocean Train Ride

Ride the historic Panama Canal Railway, the original and world's first trans-continental railway. Inaugurated in 1855, it was built for the California 49ers coming from the East coast on their quest for fortune during the Gold Rush. You'll coast in luxury observation cars across the Isthmus from Panama City on the Pacific, to Colon on the Atlantic Ocean in about 90 minutes. Along the way, enjoy views of the Panama Canal and lush rainforest surroundings. The train departs in the morning and returns in the late afternoon, so you will need a tour operator to take you on activities during the day. Shopping in the Free Zone is the most popular tour.

Barro Colorado Island

Barro Colorado Island is a living tropical laboratory run by the Smithsonian Institute of Tropical Research unique in its class. Located in a man-made lake forming part of the Panama Canal, it hosts an amazing 381 bird species, 102 mammal species and 1316 plant species. Previously only research scientists were allowed on the island, but now tour operators can take tourists on day trips along its nature trails. Check out our listed Tour Operators.


Canopy Tower- One of the Top Ten Ecolodges in the World

Canopy Tower Eco-Lodge Panama

You may be in a modern metropolitan city, but you are just an hour away from one of the top ecolodges in the world. Called by Travel and Leisure magazine one of the top ecolodges in the world and lauded by more travel publications than any other Panama destination, Canopy Tower is just an hour from Panama City by car. It offers a close-to-nature experience, world class birding and nature observation and gourmet food. If you're a birder, this experience will be one of your best. From this tower in the tree tops, like a giant tree house, you'll have a panoramic view of the jungle with florescent colored birds, hear howlermonkeys roar, spot monkeys and sloths in the trees and tropical mammals on the ground. The accommodations are comfortable and the food excellent. Located just 30 minutes from Panama City in Soberania National Park, part of the Panama Canal rainforest. Three night minimum stay. Check out Canopy Tower.