Providing the bridge between Central and South America, Panama is an important yet overlooked country. Only slightly larger than Ireland, the ‘Crossroads of the World’ is a great destination for high-end travellers and backpackers alike.
As Panama is relatively under-visited, it can be difficult to know where to start when it comes to planning a trip there. Luckily for you, the below Panama itinerary can help!
My two months in the country have put me in good stead to help you plan your trip. Below you will find routes for one week and ten days of travel in Panama. So kick back and relax, all you need to do now is book your flights!
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Epic Panama Itineraries
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1-Week Panama Itinerary
The following Panama itinerary is a whistle-stop tour of the country’s main highlights. It has been created to optimise your time in the country which means it is jam-packed, allowing little time for relaxation!
If you’re looking for a more slow travel experience, check out this suggested one-month backpacking route around Panama. There is so much more to see and do than the below Panama itinerary allows for!
Panama City – 2 nights
The capital Panama City is one of the most easily accessible cities in Latin America. Serving a range of domestic and international flights from both Europe and North America, it is generally easy to reach. Your trip to Panama will likely begin here.
Day 1 – Spend your first day in the capital exploring the beautiful Casco Viejo district. The city’s Old Town has plenty of character, with luxury hotels set in colonial buildings to crumbling graffiti-filled streets along the outskirts. A walking tour is a great way to explore this part of the city and get a feel for Panamanian culture.
Head to the city’s fish market for a cheap and delicious lunch. This is a fabulous way to sample ceviche, one of the country’s most famous dishes. From the fish market, you can walk the Cinta Costera and head to Ancon Hill in the afternoon.
Get an Uber here to avoid walking through any sketchy neighbourhoods. When you’ve reached Mi Pueblito, head up the path towards the flag that waves from the hill above. During your walk, keep an eye out for Panamanian wildlife – this is a great place to spot sloths and other exotic animals.
Make the most of your evening by enjoying dinner and drinks in one of the many rooftop restaurants in Casco Viejo. These offer a fantastic view of the city skyline lit up and provide the perfect backdrop for a toast to your trip. Stay in Casco Viejo overnight.
Day 2 – Rise early in the morning and grab a traditional Panamanian breakfast at Cafe Coca Cola in Casco Viejo. This is the oldest cafe in the city and offers great value for money. From there, head out on a trip to the famous Panama Canal, one of the city’s best day trips.
While it is possible to visit the Miraflores locks independently using public transport, I’d advise hopping on a tour. Not only will you save a lot of time but having a guide to explain how everything works is a worthwhile experience. Check out some recommended Panama Canal tours here.
Once you have finished your visit or tour of the canal, head to the Amador Causeway. Here you can grab lunch in one of the swanky restaurants or cool off with a raspado from one of the street vendors. Walk the Amador Causeway right up to where the boats depart for Taboga Island and the Pearl Islands and enjoy a bit of duty-free shopping.
Head back to your accommodation in Casco Viejo and enjoy some food at Mahalo Cocina y Jardin before turning in. You’ll need to get an early night because you’ll be heading out early tomorrow on your San Blas trip!
Recommended accommodation in Panama City:
San Blas/Guna Yala – 1 night
Day 3 – Prepare to be picked up early by your tour provider. You will then be whisked away to the San Blas islands (a.k.a. Guna Yala). The journey by car will take several hours so if you’re feeling tired, you can catch some shut-eye while you travel.
Once you arrive at the dock, hop on board your boat and prepare to be whisked off to one of the archipelago’s many islands. Enjoy the day snorkelling, playing volleyball and relaxing on some of the finest beaches that the Caribbean has to offer. Stay on one of the San Blas islands overnight.
Panama City – 1 night
Day 4 – Enjoy a couple more hours in San Blas paradise that morning before you embark on your journey back to Panama City. You will likely arrive back in the city early evening. Grab some food close to your accommodation when you arrive and pack up your stuff ready for a new destination tomorrow.
Bocas del Toro – 2 nights
Day 5 – Take a morning flight to the Bocas del Toro archipelago. Once you arrive on Isla Colón, head out to Starfish Beach. If you have arrived early, consider getting a colectivo to the beach and doing the hike. Alternatively, you can pay for a water taxi to take you there. (This is the quicker option.)
Spend the remainder of the day enjoying the beautiful beach and spotting starfish. If you are lucky enough to see these wonderful animals, do not touch them – it can be harmful.
Return to Bocas Town and head off to the famous floating bar for a few drinks. Enjoy food, drinks and an epic sunset here. After this, grab a water taxi back to your accommodation in Isla Colón.
Recommended accommodation on Isla Colón:
Also read: Things to Do in Bocas del Toro, Panama
Day 6 – Head out on a day trip to Cayos Zapatilla. Depending on the tour that you choose, you will likely stop at a few notable places in the archipelago on your way to this beach paradise. Once you get there, enjoy sunning yourself on the sand and taking in the magnificent views.
Depending on your flight on the final day of your trip, you can either return to your accommodation in Bocas Town, ready to fly out of the archipelago early tomorrow morning or catch a water taxi to Isla Bastimentos.
If you are leaving Panama late the following day, I’d advise heading to Bastimentos Island overnight so you can see a little more of what the archipelago has to offer. Visit the Firefly Restaurant for a delicious seafood dinner before turning in.
Recommended accommodation on Isla Bastimentos:
Day 7 – Those with an early morning flight will need to make their way to the airport in Bocas Town to fly back to Panama City before catching their connecting flight home.
If your flight leaves Bocas later that day and you are on Isla Bastimentos, head to the beautiful Red Frog Beach and spend the morning sunning yourself or doing yoga on the hidden deck.
Catch a water taxi back to Bocas Town for lunch. Cafe del Mar is a great eatery with a range of dishes to suit various dietary requirements. After lunch, grab a taxi to the airport and hop on board your return flight to Panama City.
10-Day Panama Itinerary
If you have ten days, follow the above week-long Panama itinerary but add Boquete into the mix. Instead of flying from Panama City to Bocas del Toro, head from the capital to the mountain town of Boquete.
You can either get a bus from Panama City, transferring in David or fly to the city of David and catch a bus from there to save time.
Spend two nights in Boquete, enjoying the cooler climate and incredible hiking opportunities. There are countless amazing treks in Boquete but I would wholeheartedly recommend you do at least one of the following:
Spend your second day at Boquete Tree Trek where you can take on Panama’s Hanging Bridges, go zip lining over the cloud forest or embark on a coffee tour.
When your time in Boquete comes to an end, arrange a transfer from Boquete to Bocas del Toro – these can be booked with various tour agencies across town. From here, pick up the above Panama itinerary again. Those spending 10 days in Panama should spend an extra night on Bastimentos Island on Bocas del Toro, and use the extra time during the day to explore the incredible Nivida Bat Cave.
Recommended accommodation in Boquete:
- Best Places to Stay in Boquete, Panama
- Getting From Panama City to Boquete
- Things to Do in Boquete, Panama
Panama Itinerary FAQ
How many days are enough in Panama?
In my opinion, the longer the better! While a week or 10 days will provide a good introduction to this country, I’d recommend staying at least a month if you want to get off the beaten track a little too.
Is Panama cheap or expensive?
Panama is not the cheapest country in Latin America nor is it the most expensive. The United States Dollar is commonly used in Panama which keeps prices comparatively high. For a reference point, Panama is cheaper than Belize and Costa Rica but more expensive than Colombia.
Are two weeks enough for Panama?
Two weeks is an ideal length of time for vacationers visiting Panama. If you are staying for two weeks, follow the one-week Panama itinerary and double the amount of time spent in each place. You will certainly find plenty of interesting attractions and activities to fill your time!
Which of these Panama itineraries are you choosing? Share the highlights from your trip in the comments!