10 Best Cities in Panama (Travelers Love!)
Panama might not be as firmly established as a world-class travel destination as its neighbors Colombia and Costa Rica but don’t count out this tiny but mighty country. Panama has so much more to offer than just the Panama Canal; from black sand beaches with incredible surf to lush jungles and remote islands, it’s a true gem just waiting to be explored.
In this ultimate guide to the best places to visit in Panama, you’ll find all the cities in Panama worth adding to your itinerary. From laid-back surf communities to the bustling, cosmopolitan capital of Panama City, Panama has so much to offer – make sure to plan your trip before it’s as popular as its more famous neighbors!
Best Places To Visit in Panama
Looking for the best places to visit in Panama (beyond just Panama City!) to add to your itinerary? We asked experienced travelers about their favorite villages, towns, and cities in Panama and got some surprising answers! These are some of the places to visit in Panama that you don’t want to miss.
Check out our map of the best places to visit in Panama and make sure to add these incredible cities to your list. Feel free to click around and use the map as you plan your trip – you can even download it for easy access on the go.
Cities in Panama
1. Bocas Town
The capital of the Bocas del Toro archipelago, Bocas Town is one of the most memorable and laid-back cities in Panama. Known for its parties, backpackers, and water sports, Bocas Town is Panama’s Caribbean beach hub.
Bocas del Toro is one of the best places to visit in Panama to get in the water. Beginners, experts, and everyone in between can enjoy surfing, scuba diving, and water sports. Expect great beach days, incredible scenery, and amazing excursions and activities in this Caribbean island paradise.
At the center of Bocas Town is its historic town square, where vendors peddle Panamanian treats. It’s the nexus for town events like parades and festivals, where Christmas trees are decorated and national traditions followed.
Known as a party town, Bocas Town has hip hostels and a weekly event called Filthy Friday. You’ll need a boat to get to The Floating Bar, a Bocas Town highlight where you’ll enjoy live music, tacos, and drinks in the bay of Bocas del Toro.
Bocas Town is a great base for exploring the Bocas del Toro archipelago, and boat tours leave frequently from town docks.
Submitted by Mel of Mel On The Go
2. El Valle
El Valle de Anton is a small town located in the Cocle Province of Panama. It is situated in the crater of an extinct volcano, making it a unique and picturesque destination for travelers. Surrounded by lush forests and waterfalls, this is one of the best cities in Panama for nature lovers.
For those who enjoy hiking, there are great trails to lead you to the top of the volcano crater including Cara Iguana and La India Dormida, among some of the best places to visit in Panama. And when you finish hiking, relax in the therapeutic waters of El Valle’s hot springs or your boutique hotel pool – this is one of the highlights of a visit!
While El Valle can be a day trip from Panama City, you should spend at least 1 night here on your Panama itinerary if you’re really looking to experience all that this small town and its gorgeous surroundings have to offer. Its unique location, natural beauty, small-town feel, and outdoor activities make it a truly unforgettable experience.
Submitted by Melissa of My Beautiful Passport
3. Panama City
Panama City, the capital of Panama, is a vibrant, cosmopolitan city that offers visitors a unique blend of history, culture, and modernity.
One of the top reasons to visit Panama City is its rich cultural heritage, which is reflected in its many museums, art galleries, and historic sites. Visitors can explore the ruins of the historic city of Panama, walk along the cobblestone streets of the Casco Viejo neighborhood, or take in the vibrant street art scene that is rapidly emerging throughout the city.
Another reason to visit Panama City is its stunning natural beauty. Located on the Pacific Ocean, the city is surrounded by pristine beaches, lush rainforests, and scenic national parks. Visitors can take a boat tour of the Panama Canal, go snorkeling or scuba diving in the Caribbean Sea, or hike through the tropical rainforest in search of exotic wildlife.
Panama City is a great place from which to explore the rest of the country and its treasures, still considered hidden gems that few travelers experience firsthand.
Finally, Panama City is a great destination for anyone who loves good food, shopping, and nightlife. The city is home to a wide range of world-class restaurants, cafes, and bars, as well as an array of shopping centers, markets, and boutiques. Be sure to indulge your taste buds with yuca, fresh seafood, and churros!
Submitted by Pamela of The Directionally Challenged Traveler
4. Santa Fé
Santa Fé is a picturesque village located in the highlands in the province of Veraguas. Visiting Santa Fé one of the top things to do in Panama for travelers who like to stray off the beaten path and experience the authentic local culture of the country.
Not only is the town incredibly charming, but it is also surrounded by the lush green mountains of the Santa Fé National Park. Visitors can explore the park, consisting of primary rainforest, on their own or on a guided off-trail trek with a local guide.
Travelers can also enjoy the beauty of several spectacular waterfalls in the area like the Cascada de Bermejo, El Salto, and Alto de Piedra. Other fun activities are swimming with the locals in the Bermejo River and going on a coffee tour, making this one of the best places to visit in Panama.
There are only a handful of places to stay in Santa Fé, as this is one of the smaller cities in Panama if you could even call it a city. The eco-friendly Coffee Mountain Inn is a great accommodation option if you are a coffee lover!
Submitted by Annelies from Travelers & Dreamers
Boquete is one of the smaller cities in Panama that travelers love, known for its beautiful natural scenery and outdoor activities. It is situated in the province of Chiriqui, just 38 miles (60 kilometers) from neighboring Costa Rica.
Like neighboring Costa Rica, Boquete is surrounded by lush green forests, mountains, and rivers, making it an ideal destination for hiking, birdwatching, and rafting. The town is also famous for its coffee plantations, which produce some of the best coffee in the world. If you like waterfalls, make sure to visit some of the waterfalls in the area, including Las Tres Cascadas and San Ramon Waterfall.
Boquete has a pleasant climate, with temperatures ranging from 60-75 degrees Fahrenheit (15 to 25 degrees Celsius) throughout the year. Much cooler than the coastlines in Panama, Boquete makes for a comfortable visit year-round.
Boquete is also one of the cities in Panama with the most diverse community of digital nomads, long-term travelers, and expats who have contributed to its vibrant culture and culinary scene. Overall, Boquete is a must-visit destination for adventure travelers who are looking for a unique and unforgettable week in Panama.
Submitted by Melissa of My Beautiful Passport
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Penonome is one of the most beautiful cities in Panama you won’t want to miss. Located in the Cocle province, and it’s famous for its picturesque views, traditional buildings, and lively culture. Getting to Penonome is easy, and once you’re there, you’ll get a taste of the true Panamanian way of life.
If you’re a nature lover, you’re in luck. The Santa Fe National Park is just a short drive away from the city and it’s a fantastic place to explore the natural beauty of the area. You can hike, spot rare birds, or just relax in the serene environment, but make sure to bring a few key hiking essentials for the trip. It’s a unique experience that you won’t find anywhere else.
When you’re in Penonome, you should also visit the local market. The market is a bustling hub of activity where you can find all sorts of locally made crafts, fresh produce, and traditional clothing. You’ll get a chance to immerse yourself in the vibrant culture of the area and try some of the mouthwatering local food.
Overall, Penonome is a destination that you can’t miss if you want to experience one of the best places to visit in Panama that is still off the beaten path. The friendly people, stunning scenery, and exciting attractions will make your trip unforgettable.
Submitted by Leandro of Safari Nomad
As the third-largest of all cities in Panama, David is known to have a thriving business district and numerous shopping centers. But David is also steeped in rich history and culture, reflected in its charming colonial architecture, colorful local markets, and busy street life.
As you plan your Panama itinerary, be sure to add a stop in David. Visitors can explore the picturesque Parque Cervantes for ice cream and handicrafts, or the Mercado Central, where you can sample fresh fruits and vegetables. History buffs should visit the José de Obaldía Museum of History and Culture to see archaeological artifacts.
Outdoor enthusiasts will have plenty to do in David, with its proximity to the stunning Parque Nacional Volcan Baru and various hiking trails. Hike at sunrise for breathtaking views of the surrounding landscape.
Whether you’re seeking a cultural experience or an outdoor adventure, David is a must-visit destination considered among one of the most diverse and unique cities in Panama.
Submitted by Monica of This Rare Earth
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Once just a tiny beach town, Venao has quickly grown into one of Panama’s top destinations for beaches and surfing. Black sand beaches, incredible waves, and a laid-back atmosphere have made it a popular new favorite with travelers while still retaining its local flare.
You’ll love all the bars, cafes, and restaurants popping up in Venao, which make it a great destination if you’re looking to settle down for a few days or even a few weeks. It’s the ultimate surf town and beach town, and while there are plenty of cool day trips from Venao, most travelers enjoy it because it’s the perfect place to do absolutely nothing.
Venao is famously the home of Selina, the world-famous coliving and coworking spaces that have conquered the globe in just a few short years. Selina’s top-notch private and dorm accommodations are complete with coworking spaces, cafes, events, and plenty of opportunities to connect with fellow travelers.
Now in dozens of countries and hundreds of cities, Selina got its start here in Venao, meaning that a visit to the original location is a must. Book ahead if you can, though if Selina is all filled up, you’ll also love the town’s array of cute hostels and hosterías designed to cater to the growing number of tourists flocking to Venao.
Colón is one of the larger cities in Panama located on the Caribbean Sea. Famous for being the entrance to the Panama Canal, Colón is a popular destination with travelers and is the perfect place to visit if you’re looking to experience Panama’s most famous attraction firsthand.
The Panama Canal was built over 100 years ago and measures 51 miles (82 km) long; its decades-long construction process cost countless lives while also revolutionizing travel and trade to this day.
Visit the Agua Clara Locks Visitor Centre for a view of the famous Panama Canal and spend about an hour learning more about its history, and see cruise ships moving through. If you’re lucky, you might even spot a crocodile in the canal.
Another must-see in Colón is Fort San Lorenzo. The beautiful ruins of this historic military prison are notorious in pirate lore, as the fort was destroyed and burned by Captain Henry Morgan in 1670, which led to a detrimental siege on Panama City. There are views of the sea, and lots of wildlife to spot near the water or in the trees.
Colón is about an hour’s drive from Panama City and is a popular day trip destination, though you’ll find plenty to do should you stay the night.
While Colón has an average high temperature of 84 degrees Fahrenheit (29 degrees Celsius) year-round, like other Central American countries, the most popular time to tour there is during the dry season, between December to April.
Submitted by Kristin of Tiny Footsteps Travel
10. Santa Catalina
Santa Catalina may be just a tiny town on Panama’s Pacific Coast, but it’s an increasingly popular travel destination that seems poised to be one of the best places to visit in Panama if you’re looking for a beach escape.
Most travelers drawn to this tiny village are here for the surf, which is regarded among the best in Panama though manageable enough for even a beginner to enjoy. The black sand Playa Catalina is a favorite with great surfing waves; beginners will find waves more their size at Playa Estero.
Another great reason to visit Santa Catalina? It’s proximity to Coiba National Park. This is where many of the organized excursions to this pristine marine national park depart, making it a perfect destination for nature lovers and divers as well.
Even if you’re not a big surfer or diver, you’ll find something to love in Santa Catalina. Laid-back, relaxed, and perfectly dreamy, this tiny fishing village turned travel destination is something special to experience.