It is absolutely essential to see how Panama links two American continents that are South and North America. See below the map of Panama. Let us view 16 best tourist attractions in Panama in this blog post.
See Panama as an Isthmus which is a piece of land that connects two large land masses but with sea on its either side.
Panama links the South American country Columbia and the Central American nation Costa Rica.
Costa Rica in turns is connected with Mexico through Nicaragua and Guatemala. Mexico is considered as part of North America.
Panama’s land size is a staggering 74,100+ sq. km. The Caribbean Sea and the Pacific Ocean are on Panama’s north and south coast.
Geographically, Panama is a Central American country.
16 Incredible Tourist Attractions in Panama:
Panama is an incredibly beautiful country with tall mountains, beaches with the backdrop of tropical forests, rainforests, lakes, and even a desert. Sailing, whitewater rafting, bird watching, scuba diving, and snorkelling are the major adventure activities.
Panama’s whopping size of over 74,000 sq. km is extremely bio-diverse that is much bigger than the combined diversity of the U.S., Europe, and Canada. Imagine the number spectacular places to see in Panama. You may need three weeks of holiday to see all of the tourist attractions in Panama.
The Panama Canal is the foremost tourist attraction in Panama. It is an engineering marvel of the world and it is an extremely important sea passage connecting the Atlantic Ocean and the Pacific Ocean through the Caribbean Sea.
If a ship that leaves Florida wants to reach Ecuador, an important South American country, it has to navigate the entire length of South America’s east and south coast, go all the way through the west coast of South America. This was the scenario before the construction of Panama Canal in the country of Panama.
Now, the same ship from Florida, passes through Panama Canal, Columbia’s west coast and touches Ecuador.
The Panama Canal is one of the important and historical places to see in Panama.
Enlarge the image below to understand the geography and the sea route explained above.
Terrific feat, the Panama Canal-eh?
Darien National Park
This 5,800 sq. km National Park is the largest in Panama and is considered a World Heritage Site by UNESCO for the rich bio diversity. One must see it to believe the numerous flora and fauna that are not seen before. True to its name, this is a fine example of a tropical rain forest that attracts copious rain.
Among the rare birds of this NP, Darien NP is located over 300 km from Panama City, on the country’s southern side, bordering Columbia.
Take a look at its diverse geography:
- Serrania del Darien Mountain range
- Mangrove clusters
- Beaches on the Pacific Ocean side
- Tropical rainforest
The South American beauties namely the large Macaw can be easily spotted along with a few more species of Parrot family.
Harpy eagle, a handsome bird is endemic to Panama’s forests.
If you take some effort, you can reach a place called ‘Cana’, in the heart of the Darien National Park. It is worth your effort because; Cana is one of leading bird watching spots in the entire world. We all know the range of beautiful South American birds.
The swamps are habitat to the dreaded American crocodiles. The NP is home to numerous mammals including the rare Tapir.
Casco Viejo is invariably the first you see in Panama. It is an old part of Panama that is full of ancient churches, sprawling cathedral, and residence of the President of Panama, several shopping plazas, public watching squares, and the National Theatre of Panama.
This is what remains of the 19th Century Fort Lorenzo, one of the attractions of Panama. The setting is really spectacular.
The Fort was transformed into a national prison later. It is located in a city known as Colon.
It is facing the Caribbean Sea.
Panama City is 75 km away. Panama Canal is very close to Colon.
Colon is the second biggest city in Panama, next to Panama City. It is one of the wettest cities in the world, attracting considerable rain for nearly 10 months in a year.
The water body on which the promontory stands is Chagres River.
Soberania National Park
Soberania National Park is listed among tourist attractions in Panama . It is a very good location to go to the Panama Canal also. Even Panama City is located 25 km away only.
An important bird watching paradise, the Soberania NP’s star attraction is White-tailed Trogen.
As many as 525 species of birds live here. A professional ornithologist may have to spend a month to capture all of them in his camera.
I cannot resist the urge of posting here the images of a few beautiful birds.
- Orange-chinned Parrot
- Brown-hooded Parror
- Blue-headed Parrot
- Squirrel Cuckoo
- Violet Hummingbird
- Yellow-rumped Cacique
Among the animals, there are several species of rare monkeys that are not seen anywhere. They include:
- Mantled Howler Monkey
- White-faced Capuchin Monkey
- Panamanian Night Monkey
- Geoffroy’s Tamarin
Most of these mammals are endemic to Panama.
Las Cruces Trail
It belongs to another era (16th century) and it retains some of the stone path of the trail. Las Cruces Trail passes through Soberania National Park.
Guna Yala, in north-east Panama is where you have to go to meet the Gumas, the original inhabitants of Panama.
During your trip to Guna Yala, you can see some extremely beautiful but isolated beaches. You can visit Perro Island.
San Blas Island is its alternative name. A few uninhabited islets are sheer paradise on earth, from where, you would be reluctant to leave.
San Blas Islands and islets floating in the Caribbean Sea.
San Blas Islands are numbered at 365. Only about 15% of them are inhabited.
It would be a lifetime experience to visit at least 25 of these Panamanian islands. The customs of the Gunas are incredible. They are difficult to digest for the modern men.
Bocas del Toro
Bacas del Toro is one of the provinces of Panama, the Central American country. It is a very large province comprising over 4600 sq. km. It includes the area of nine islands too.
The legendary discoverer Christopher Columbus stepped on to one of the Bocas del Toro islands in 1502. Bocas del Toro archipelago are situated in the Caribbean Sea.
The province is rich in natural beauty with a couple of national parks that are home to dense rainforests, and spectacular beaches that seemed original beach destinations that are yet to be commercialized.
Out of the two national parks, one is a marine park.
This is a yellow sand beach called Wizaed Beach. Stroll on the beach up to a few kilometers to see the Red Frog Beach. If you are a snorkeler, you will encounter some awesome marine lives in this part of the Caribbean Sea.
Gulf of Chiriqui National Marine Park
Yes, there is a gulf in Panama. It hosts several islands and all of them are untouched by modernization.
The marine park strives to preserve coral reefs, mangrove forests, swamps, and marine meadow that are part of the geography of 25 islands. The marine biology includes manta rays, whale sharks, hammerhead sharks, and dolphins.
The islands constitute lush tropical forests, numerous insects, iguanas, and birds. It seems the Panama tourist attractions contain mainly rainforests, deserted islands, and terrific beaches.
The length of the cause way that connects a few island and runs along the Panama canal is five and a half km road built on the Pacific Ocean.
It is one of the major attractions of Panama and located just a few km outside Panama City.
With its crater situated at an altitude of 11,400 feet, it is an active volcano of Panama and it is a must-see in Panama. It is located close to the border of Costa Rica, another Central American country with the Caribbean Sea and the Pacific Ocean, on its either sides.
If you dare to climb up to the crater of the volcano Baru, you will be stunned to see both the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea. It is a sight you will never forget. Very few people in the world are lucky to get that view. Are you one of them?
I think this is the best place on the earth to watch the sunset.
Taboga Island is located in the Gulf of Panama. It lies very close to Panama City. Just 20 km is the distance between them.
Two gulfs with in another gulf.
Did you notice two more gulfs within the Gulf of Panama. They are named as the Gulf of Parita, and the Gulf of San Miguel. It is a unique marine geography and does not occur anywhere else in the world.
The important Panama Canal connects the Gulf of Panama and the Caribbean Sea. Since the Gulf of Panama is a part of the Pacific Ocean, and the Caribbean Sea is a part of the Atlantic Ocean, both of them are linked by the Panama Canal.
Though there is no dearth of beaches in Panama, a beach on an island is always special and serves as an excellent holiday destination.
It is frequented by the local Panamanians. They are captivated by the beauty of the beaches. In addition, the visitors are seen hiking the two small mountains that rise abruptly from the island.
As many as 200 islands and islets form the Pearl Islands archipelago. This group of islands is within the Gulf of Panama.
Enlarge the map and locate the Pearl archipelago written as “Archipelago de las Perlas”.
The majority of these islands are uninhabited. The Island of Contadora lures tourists with a few resorts. It is considered as prestigious to have housing property on this Pacific island. In fact, wealthy Panamanians own scenic vills on the island.
Other Pearl Islands archipelago that are worth visiting:
- Isla san Jose
- Isla Sabago
- Isla del Rey
- Galera Island
The overall beauty of the Pearl Islands invites television serial makers to shoot their films. Even BBC arrived here to shoot television series.
Video clip of Isla Sabago:
Pearl Islands make fantastic Panama tourist attractions.
Even though, this island occupies only 503 sq. km of land, it is ranked as the largest island in all of Central America.
Central American islands are all unique and differ so much from Asian tropical islands. The thick forests, tall mountains are habitat to exotic range of birds, and mammals.
Coiba Island is located near the city of Santiago. It can be reached in 20 minutes of flying time from Panama City. 25 km away from Santiago city, you can reach Puerto Mutis, a portal village. Ferries deposit you on Coiba Island’s shore in roughly 5 hours.
The diverse landscape on Coiba Island such as mangrove forests, tropical forests, lovely beaches that support a range of marine creatures, and coral reefs warranted the Panama Government to earmark a national park and christened it Coiba National Park.
All the birds and animals that live on the island are endemic. The geography and the wildlife are so unique that the UNESCO declared it as a World Heritage Site.
The sea that surrounds the Coiba Island is home to numerous species of killer whales including the Humpback Whales and the Manta Rays.
Coiba Island is one of Panama tourist attractions. Oh, I forgot! Coiba Island is situated in the Pacific Ocean.
Lake Gatun is unbelievably a man-made water body. It is catching rain water and hence it is a freshwater lake in Panama’s Colon City, the second largest city of panama. Additionally, the Chagres River also empties its water into the Gatun Lake.
It is located right at the beginning of Panama Canal, on the Atlantic Ocean side.
Gatun lake is among the major attractions of Panama because you have the opportunity to catch a very beautiful fish called “Peacock Bass”.
When you are touring the Colon province of Panama, you can take a look at this lake that occupies a staggering 425 sq.km of surface.As it is a part of the Panama Canal, ships pass through the lake for quite a distance.
Panama is a unique country in Central America and certainly an under-visited destination, even by the North Americans.