The ultimate Panama travel route

For a long time, Panama was not really on my radar. However, it is one of the most beautiful countries in Central-America. It has great beaches, tropical islands, rainforest where you can spot incredible wildlife and great hiking. That mixed with the friendly locals ands laid-back lifestyle makes for a perfect holiday destination. This travel route gives you a great mix of relaxing beach destinations and adventurous hiking spot. With this guide to my travel route for Panama it should be easy to make the perfect itinerary for your trip. I’d recommend taking 3 to 4 weeks for this route.


Panama travel route

Panama City

Your travel route through Panama is likely to start in the capital, Panama City. Although there are many places I prefer to Panama City, it’s a great place to start your trip. The city is quite safe, has a cute old center with many great restaurants and you’ll likely need a day to get over the jet leg. One of the top things to do is a visit to Metropolitan Natural Park, which is a rainforest in the city, where you can spot wildlife like coati and sloth. After a morning there, visit the fish market to try some ceviche! Of course, Panama City is most famous for the Panama Canal. Make sure to plan your visit to the Canals museums to coincide with some large ships coming in.

Panama City to Valle de Anton: Take the local bus from Albrook bus station (Gran Terminal de Transporte). Tickets cost $4.25 and buses depart every 30 minutes between 6:30AM and 6:30PM. The trip should take around 2.5 hours.

El Valle de Anton

I was drawn to El Valle de Anton by the incredible drone shots I saw online of the beautiful mountains surrounding the town. There are several great hikes, that are most impressive during the sunrise! After a morning of hiking, you can visit the hot springs or the butterfly garden. I’d recommend spending 2 or 3 days in El Valle de Anton.

Valle de Anton Cerro La Silla hikeValle de Anton La india Dormida hike

(Santa Fe)

With a little more time, I would have included this in our itinerary as well! If you like hiking and you love destinations a bit more off the beaten track, Santa Fe should be on your list. It could be described as the non touristy version of Boquete.

Santa Catalina

Our next stop was beach town Santa Catalina. It’s known as a surf and diving/snorkeling destination. The nearby Coiba National Park is Panama’s most impressive diving spot. In the right season you might see whale sharks and manta rays. Besides surfing and either snorkeling or diving there isn’t much to do, but it’s a lovely spot to relax for a couple of days! We ended up staying a week to surf, dive and relax.

Santa Catalina Panama


After our week of relaxing on the beach, it was time for some action. Boquete is surrounded by lush jungle, a volcano and incredible hikes. The hikes will lead you to beautiful waterfalls and you can see the elusive Quetzal bird here. If you wan a little break from the hiking you can go zip lining or take a coffee It’s also known to have some of the countries best coffee plantations.

Boquete pipeline trail

Bocas del Toro

Bocas del Toro is a collection of islands and one of panama’s most popular destinations. It’s know for its beaches and good surf. I have to say that I didn’t like Colon, the main island at all, but if you book a place at one of the other islands, it’s still possible to get the ‘paradise’ experience. We stayed on Bastimentos Island near the red frog beach. From here it was still easy enough to organize tours, visit the other islands and the beaches there were beautiful. I also loved all the jungle and wildlife on this island, but I suspect it will change over the years as they are building a lot on the island.

Bocas del Toro Beach

San Blas Islands

The perfect ending to our trip to Panama was sailing around the San Blas Islands. There are 357 tiny little islands, from which 50 are inhabited by the Kuna people. When visiting the islands, you can snorkel, sail, kajak and have a drink while staring a up at the stars. You can choose to book accommodation on the islands or to book a sailing tour and sleep on the boat. I recommend the sailing option, because it allows you to explore more islands and most accommodation on the islands is very basic. I’ve also heard mosquitos and sand fleas sometimes plague the islands in the evening so sleeping on the boat is more comfortable. We stayed on a boat with Captain Mike and slept in a tent on deck. Mike is not the most organized, but if you’re an easygoing person that doesn’t mind that, you’ll have a great experience.

San Blas islandsSailing San Blas Islands

How to get around Panama?

There are 2 options for traveling around Panama. You can either rent a car or take public transport/tourist shuttles. Having a car is a lot more convenient, since some spots don’t have tourist shuttles available every day. However, in general it is not too difficult to arrange buses and shuttles. We decided against renting a car, to save money and didn’t have any trouble getting around. However, if we would have chosen to include Playa Venao or Santa Fe a car would have been the better option.