If you’re thinking about visiting Panama, you’re in for a treat. Often overlooked in favour of its cousin, Costa Rica, this country has a lot to offer!
Whether you want to discover the Panama canal, relax at white beaches in Bocas del Toro or hike to the top of a volcano near Boquete, Panama is full of adventures.
While 10 days in Panama won’t give you enough time to see everything the country offers, you will have enough time for your vacation not to feel rushed. And to make sure that you don’t miss out on any of the best things to do in the country, we have put together this complete 10-day Panama itinerary for you.
Keep reading and find out how exactly to have a fantastic time on your vacation!
Panama itinerary – 10 days in Panama
Days 1-3 Panama City
The first stop on this Panama itinerary for 10 days is Panama City.
It’s a very cool city to visit and a convenient starting point because it’s easy to get here. Many airlines fly to Panama City, so you shouldn’t have trouble finding a flight.
Panama City is a curious mixture of skyscrapers and a colonial Old Town, of tradition and innovation.
Plus, you can visit the Panama Canal on a day trip from here! Here are some recommendations for what to do in Panama City:
Highlights of Panama City
- Casco Viejo: The Old Town of Panama City is a UNESCO world heritage site. Panama City itself is the oldest continuous settlement of the Pacific Coast in the Americas, and the colonial centre you can visit today dates back to the 1700s. You’ll come across colourful buildings, cobblestone streets and a charming mixture of old and new. Recent renovations have helped restore the district, although some buildings are still almost in ruins. Near Casco Viejo, check out the fish market, a fascinating sight, especially in the mornings.
- Panama Canal: From Panama City, it’s an easy trip to the Panama Canal. The best place to visit this famous canal is the Miraflores Visitor Centre. Most of the Panama Canal is 26 metres higher than sea level, meaning that ships have to go through a total of twelve locks to travel from the Pacific to the Atlantic. At the Miraflores Visitor Centre, you can not only learn more about the canal and Panama, you can also watch ships as they traverse the Miraflores locks.
Or would you rather have a different perspective? Then you could book a Panama Canal cruise and go through the locks on a ship.
- Old Panama: We already mentioned above that the Old Town of Panama City, Casco Viejo, dates back to the 1700s. The settlement here is around 200 years older, though, and started at a site now known as Panama Viejo or Old Panama. Come here to see the remains of the first town, constructed in 1519, only six years after the Spaniards discovered the Pacific Coast.
- San Blas Islands: A day trip to the San Blas Islands is long but well worth it. The islands are famous for their turquoise water and white beaches. You can swim, snorkel or just relax in the sun. The easiest way to get here is by booking an organised tour.
Where to stay in Panama City
Panama City is huge, and you have plenty of options for accommodation. Here are some hotels with good reviews that you should check out:
Mid-Range: Tantalo Hotel is the perfect place to stay in Panama City if you’re looking for a solid mid-range option in the historic Old Town. The location is perfect, as you can easily explore the Casco Viejo from here. Plus, you can see the city from above on the rooftop terrace! Click here to see prices and availability.
A bit more comfort: The American Trade Hotel is a five-star hotel in the Old Town of Panama City. It’s located in a charming old building, which has been beautifully renovated. The rooms offer all of the comforts you might need, and there’s an outdoor pool if you want to go for a swim. Make sure to check it out!
Budget: If you’re backpacking through Panama and are on a budget but still want to stay in the Old Town, you’ll love Magnolia Inn. The hotel offers multiple affordable dorms. Everything is clean, and the common areas provide everything you need, including a well-equipped kitchen. Read reviews and check prices now!
Days 4-6 Boquete
The contrast between Panama City and Boquete couldn’t be larger. From the bustling city with its skyscrapers, you head to a small town in the highlands of Panama.
Boquete is one of the best destinations in Panama if you want to see wildlife or hike through the jungle. We recommend spending at least two full days here, so you have a chance to explore the area.
To get to Boquete from Panama City, you have multiple options. You can rent a car and drive, which should take around seven hours.
If that sounds too long, you can also catch a plane and take a short flight to David. From here, it’s only one hour by bus or taxi to Boquete.
And finally, if you’re backpacking in Panama and are on a budget, you can take a bus from Panama City to David and from there to Boquete. The whole trip takes around eight hours, so it’s only slightly slower than going by rental car.
Highlights of Boquete
- See the sunrise from Volcan Baru: The Baru Volcano hike is one of the coolest but also most exhausting activities we’ve done in all of Central America. You start your hike in the evening, climb to the top of the volcano and watch the sunrise from its top. We recommend taking a good rest before you start this hike. Otherwise, you might not make it all the way up.
If this sounds too exhausting or you’re not a fan of hiking, you can also book a 4×4 tour to see sunrise from the top of Volcan Baru.
- Jungla de Panama: We were lucky to interview Dorothy from the Jungla de Panama during our stay in Boquete. She runs a wildlife rescue centre, where she takes in neglected or injured animals. The goal is always to release them back into the wild, but many have such severe injuries that they wouldn’t be able to survive. So she takes good care of them. Dorothy and her kids offer tours through the rescue centre, and the fee for the tour pays for food and medicine for the animals.
- Coffee tour: Have you ever wondered where your coffee comes from? Visiting a coffee plantation is a must-do in Panama, and fortunately, you can find multiple near Boquete. Take a tour to learn about coffee beans, how they’re grown and how they’re processed before you can buy them in a shop back home.
- Lost Waterfalls trail: The Lost Waterfalls trail is one of the most popular hikes near Boquete, as it takes you through the jungle to three hidden waterfalls. Take your swimsuit because you have the opportunity to cool down and wash off your sweat in the waterfalls.
Where to stay in Boquete
Boquete might be small, but you can find many great hotels and guesthouses in town and the surrounding mountains. Here are some options with good reviews:
Mid-Range: Downtown Suites offers well-equipped suites in the centre of Boquete. All lodging comes with a kitchen and a terrace where you can sit and relax. If you need help deciding what to do, the staff at the tour desk can help arrange excursions. Click here for more information!
A bit more comfort: Valle Escondido Resort Golf & Spa is perfect if you’re looking for a bit more comfort. This beautiful resort is nestled into the mountains next to Boquete, only a short drive away from the city centre. Relax at the spa or the indoor swimming pool, play a round of golf or ask the staff for assistance in booking tours to Volcan Baru or the Lost Waterfalls. Click here to see photos and read reviews!
Budget: If you’re travelling on a budget, you should check out Agaseke Lodge. This hostel offers dorm beds, which is great if you’re a single traveller, but you can also choose a room with an ensuite bathroom if you want more privacy. There’s a shared lounge, a terrace and a garden where you can meet other travellers and use the well-equipped kitchen for cooking. Check out rates and availability now!
Day 7-10 Bocas del Toro
The last stop on this 10-day Panama itinerary takes you to the Caribbean sea.
Bocas del Toro is one of the most popular destinations in Panama, and it offers pristine beaches, palm trees, and the chance to see dolphins. The towns here are colourful, and the pace of life is just a bit slower than in the rest of the country.
Highlights of Bocas del Toro
- Starfish Beach: On Isla Colon, you can find one of the best beaches in Panama – Starfish Beach. The sand here is white, the water calm and it’s perfect for swimming. But the best part is the starfish that you can see in the water. You don’t even need snorkelling gear, you can see lots of starfish while going into the water. Don’t touch them if you don’t want to harm them, but instead, keep a distance and watch these fascinating animals.
- Cayos Zapatillas: If you’ve always wanted to lie on a beach on a deserted island, you should head to Cayos Zapatillas. You can book a boat tour that takes you to these two stunning tropical islands. Make sure to bring food and drinks, as these islands are truly deserted – you won’t find any bars or restaurants here. Instead, you’ll have quiet, the sea and beautiful beaches.
- Up in the Hill: If you like chocolate, then you’re going to love Up in the Hill. This organic chocolate farm sits in the hills of Isla Bastimentos, somewhere above Old Bank. Visit the colourful town and then hike up to Up in the Hill, where you can enjoy a cup of an organic chocolate drink. You can also go on a tour to find out more about the history of the drink and how cocoa is grown.
- Red Frog Beach: One of the best things to do in Bocas del Toro is to catch a boat to Red Frog Beach. You need to pay a small entrance fee to visit this beach, but it’s well worth it. Unlike Starfish Beach, for example, it’s not overrun with tourists at all, and the perfect location if you want to enjoy the sun and go for a swim. The beach got its name from the little red frog that lives in the surrounding jungle, so keep your eyes open, and if you’re lucky, you might see one of them.
Where to stay in Bocas del Toro
When searching for accommodation in Bocas del Toro, focus on the two biggest islands.
Isla Colon is the main hub for travellers. Here, you can find lots of restaurants, shops and travel agencies. It’s also the best place to stay if you want to meet other travellers and party.
Isla Bastimentos, on the other hand, is more laid-back and the perfect location if you’re looking for a place to relax quietly and enjoy yourself.
Here are some suggestions for where to stay:
Mid-Range: At Bambuda Bocas Town, you have access to a terrace overlooking the water. The rooms are modern and nicely decorated, and you can enjoy a traditional meal at the onsite restaurant. Click here to see photos and book your stay!
A bit more comfort: Have you ever stayed in an overwater bungalow before? If not, then don’t miss your chance! Eclypse de Mar Acqua Lodge offers high-end bungalows overlooking the sea and the water, direct access to the ocean for swimming and a glass panel through which you can see the underwater world! Click here for more information!
Budget: Bastimentos Hill Guest House is the perfect lodging if you’re travelling on a budget. The rooms are simple but clean, and you have access to a shared kitchen and a terrace, where you can relax in a hammock. There’s even a private beach if you want to go for a swim in the crystal-clear sea. Click here to see rates and availability!
Best time to visit Panama
The best time to visit Panama is during the dry season, from January to April. December is also an excellent month to visit Panama, with blue skies and high temperatures, but be aware that it can still be quite rainy in Bocas del Toro.
The dry season is also high season in Panama, so expect to share all tourist facilities with lots of other visitors. This is especially true around Christmas and Easter. If you want to avoid the crowds, avoid those public holidays!
From May to November, during the wet season, you’ll likely experience some rain. That doesn’t mean that it’s a bad time to visit Panama. You will still have lots of moments of sunshine, and the weather is perfect if you want to surf on the Pacific Coast.
What to take on your trip to Panama
Panama is a tropical country, and the key to being comfortable is taking light clothes.
In addition to summer clothes, pack a light jacket in case you get cold in the mountains. Also, bring a pair of comfortable walking shoes for exploring the area around Boquete.
For more tips and tricks, you should check out our tropical vacation packing list, where we go into all of the details of what you need for your trip!
How to get to Panama
By far, the easiest way to get to Panama is to fly into Panama City. International flights arrive at Tocument International Airport, around 25 kilometres from Downtown.
If you want to head directly to Bocas del Toro, you can also fly to San Jose in Costa Rica and catch a connecting flight to Bocas from there. Bocas del Toro only has a tiny airport, so your options are likely limited.
Panama is a stunning country with lots of options for adventurous travellers. Tourists often overlook it for Costa Rica, but we hope we could show you that it’s well worth a destination of its own.
Have you been to Panama before? What is your favourite part of the country? Leave us a comment below!
While you’re here, make sure to check out the following resources that will help you plan your trip:
- These are the best things to do in Bocas del Toro you shouldn’t miss
- Learn about animal rescue in our interview with Dorothy
- Are you a beach lover? These are the 10 best beaches in Central America!
- Check out our tropical vacation packing list, and don’t forget anything on your next trip
Until your next adventure!
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