I’ve visited Panama twice, and both times were brief. This itinerary should take you 12 days minimum, but of course, the more time you have to explore the better.
Stay in Casco Viejo which has been declared a world heritage site. The city is made from extremely old buildings, churches, ruins of churches and is set right on the water. Truely beautiful!
A popular hostel is Luna’s Castle USD$16, which has a bit of a party scene and a bunch of funky artwork. It seems to be a big hit amongst backpackers as it was booked out when we arrived. Instead we stayed in Magnolia Inn hostel USD$15, which was a little cheaper and more chilled with friendly people.
The entrance to the lookout is $15, so our taxi driver took us to a free ‘lookout’ which was really just the side of the road. Perhaps it was because of this that we found it pretty underwhelming. There is a museum there that’s apparently really great. But for budget travellers, there’s definitely ways around the entrance fee.
Parque Natural Metropolitano
Short walk through some jungly area. It has a really beautiful view of the city at the end. You’ll more than likely see others walking through as it’s pretty touristy. For this reason you probably will not see the advertised monkey or sloth… but who knows.
Pedasi & Playa Venao
Pedasi is a pretty chilled town with a growing tourist population, there’s a bunch of actives such as fishing, diving and surfing. Selina hostel (USD$14/ dorm) is super nice with a bunch of activities and free shuttle to Playa Venao.
But, only 20 minutes away is the beautiful Playa Venao which we recommend you go straight to. Playa Venao is a super beautiful cove stretching around 2km long. There are no stores, a couple bars, cafes and restaurants and you can only buy food from trucks that come through, or going back to Pedasi.
If you wake up in the morning and walk along the beach there is a good chance you’ll run into some monkeys, pretty birds or even whales. The place has a bunch of wildlife if you’re savvy enough to spot it. Stay at Hostel Venao (USD$10/ dorm) which is owned by a friendly Aussie named Leaf.
The surf there is pretty good, there are both point breaks and beach breaks which barrel. There are multiple spots on both sides but the southern end has larger waves.
Nothing short of a Jungle paradise. It’s a little pricey and the cheapest hostels (USD$10/ dorm) are about a 15-20 min walk to the surf break and don’t have internet. This place, unless you’re willing to pay a little extra $$$ is not digital nomad friendly.
Santa Catalina has a beach break (that wasn’t really working while we were there) and a point break which can only be surfed at high tide, but beware, the rocks are a little dicey- for experienced surfers only.
Bocas Del Toro
Caribbean vibes, a group of islands where time really slows down. There’s a whole lot of activities to do here from (seasonal) surfing, snorkelling, hiking, bike riding, horse riding, parting and exploring. Truely, something for everyone.
We stayed in Hostel Heike ($11USD/ dorm), located on Isla Colón which is a pretty chilled place with friendly people and good vibes.
Seafood is pretty cheap on the island and lobster rolls are a must.
It’s pretty easy to get from island to island so unless you’re looking for something specific, don’t fret.
There’s a bunch of cool places we missed, such as: