Top Hikes in Panama: Epic Trails for Travellers

If you’re someone who loves hiking, Panama should absolutely be on your to-visit list. Home to lush highlands, Caribbean beaches and metropolitan cities, this is a country known for its diversity. Hiking in Panama presents a whole range of adventures, most of them cheap and easy to do! 

If you’re looking for the best hikes in Panama, you’ll be pleased to hear that you’ve found the right corner of the internet. During the time I spent in the country, I barely took my hiking boots off! Below, I’ll outline all of the top hikes in the country, including everything you need to know about the difficulty and duration of each. Grab your trekking poles, we’re off on an adventure! 

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11 Amazing Panama Hikes For Your Bucket List

1. La India Dormida

  • Distance: 3.5 km/2.1 miles
  • Duration: 2 hours
  • Difficulty Level: Challenging

Located in El Valle de Antón, just a couple of hours outside Panama City is the epic La India Dormida Hike. Translating to ‘Sleeping Indian’, this hike is so-called because the shape of the mountain is said to resemble the silhouette of a woman laying down. 

la India Dormida hike
I think this photo shows just how sweaty I got on the La India Dormida hike!

It is a relatively short hike but it is still demanding. El Valle can be very hot and humid which adds to the level of challenge. I recommend tackling this hike early in the morning to maximise your chances of getting a dry window and completing the trail before the sun is too high in the sky. 

The hike begins officially begins at Piedra Pintada, a large rock famous for its petroglyphs believed to be from ancient indigenous cultures. You’ll pass over some very steep, rugged terrain so make sure you are wearing decent hiking shoes or boots. Once you arrive at the top of the mountain, wait for the clouds to clear! 

Although most of the trail is fairly intuitive, I’d recommend having an offline map to follow just in case. It costs $3USD per person to do the hike. Remember to bring plenty of water – you’ll need it! 

2. Pipeline Trail 

  • Distance: 6.1 km/2.1 miles
  • Duration: 3 hours
  • Difficulty Level: Moderate

When it comes to hiking in Panama, Boquete is a dream destination. Boasting warm weather with a fresh breeze year-round, the conditions are absolutely perfect for trekking enthusiasts. The Pipeline Trail is located in the Bajo Mono region just outside town and is easy to access by public transport (colectivos). 

Walking the Pipeline Trail Boquete
Watch out for the squirting water pipes on this trail!

There is a charge of approx. $5USD per person to do this trail and you will be required to sign in at the shack close to the trailhead. This is one of Panama’s most popular trails, therefore it is well-beaten and generally easy to follow. 

The trail gets its name from the pipelines that characterise the trek. Watch out they don’t spray water on you! The highlights of this trail include the wildlife spotting opportunities – it is possible to see the elusive resplendent quetzal here – and the one thousand-year-old tree. 

When you think you’ve reached the end of the trail, ford a small stream and continue on a little further. There is a hidden waterfall waiting for you at the end of the trail. Please note: this final section of the hike is not safe if the river is in spate. 

3. Plantation Trail

  • Distance: 12.6 km/ 7.8 miles
  • Duration: 3-4 hours
  • Difficulty Level: Moderate

This out-and-back trail is located close to Panama City, in Soberania National Park. Also known as Camino de Plantación, it is very popular among bird watchers who flock to the area to get a glimpse of some of Panama’s most exotic birdlife. 

Sloths are one animal that it is possible to see in Soberania National Park.

This jungle trail is well-marked and not too exposed, making it a good activity for a sunny day (which feels like most days in Panama City)! The trail is well-maintained and is also commonly used by cyclists. Despite this, the trail still feels largely wild – expect rocky and muddy terrain.  

Be sure to keep an eye out for snakes which are often sighted in this area. Owing to the jungle setting, it is advisable to wear proper hiking boots or shoes. Getting to this trail is easy if you’re using a service like Uber, however, finding a ride back to Panama City can be a challenge. You may find you need to hitchhike. 

4. Starfish Beach

  • Distance: 2.6 km/1.6 miles
  • Duration: 45 minutes
  • Difficulty Level: Easy

Probably one of the most popular things to do in Bocas del Toro is head over to the idyllic Starfish Beach. While most people head there via a tour or on board a boat taxi, there is a really nice hike which takes you from Bocas del Drago (where the colectivo drops you off) along the coast and finally to Starfish Beach. 

Walking to starfish beach
You’ll likely get wet feet if you’re walking to Starfish Beach!

Although Bocas isn’t particularly known for its hikes, this wee jaunt shouldn’t be missed. You’ll skirt mangrove forests, skip through the shade of palm trees and take in the views with few people for company (until you get to the beach that is!). 

This walk will require you to get your feet wet so I advise wearing sandals or flip-flops. I wore my trail runners which was a bit of a mistake – I ended up carrying them and walking barefoot instead! 

5. El Pianista Trail

  • Distance: 7.9 km/4.9 miles
  • Duration: 3-4 hours
  • Difficulty Level: Moderate

This popular trail near Boquete weaves through jungle cloud forest, ideal for those hoping to spot birds and wildlife while they hike. The views are breathtaking, even with the moody clouds which hang low over the landscape. If you reach the highest point of the trek when it is clear, you’ll be rewarded with incredible views over Boquete. 

Jungle foliage in Boquete
Visitors should not attempt El Pianista in bad weather!

The trail is generally considered moderate in difficulty but would certainly be more challenging in wet weather. If you have hiking poles, you may find that they come in use on this trail as parts of it are steep. Be aware that hikers regularly report encountering aggressive dogs on this route. If you do come into contact with these animals, do not engage with them. They’ll probably leave of their own accord but if not, shaking a stick at them should do the job. 

You may remember hearing about this trail back in 2014, when two Dutch hikers, Kris Kremers and Lisanne Froon, disappeared while hiking it. A memorial to them both marks the top of the trail. For this reason, as well as tricky terrain when wet, a guide is often recommended. Even if guided hikes aren’t your style, you should certainly consider bringing a hiking buddy.

It is always good to have an offline copy of your trail map. After all, phone signal comes and goes, especially in more remote areas! To make sure that I don’t get caught out, I use AllTrails Pro. It allows me to download trail maps direct to my phone and also tracks my journey, compiling my stats at the end. I also love sharing my adventures with the AllTrails community! Try a 7-day free trial of AllTrails Pro here.

6. Volcán Barú

  • Distance: 27 km/16.7 miles
  • Duration: 8-10 hours
  • Difficulty Level: Challenging

This impressive Baru Volcano is one of Panama’s best attractions. The summit marks the highest point of the country, clocking in at a towering 3,474 metres above sea level! This high-altitude trek should only be taken on by those of a good fitness level who have allowed themselves time to acclimatise. 

Hiking up to Baru
Hiking up to the summit of Volcán Barú.

Most people tackle the trek overnight to try and time their arrival at the peak for sunrise. If you’re planning to do this, don’t forget to bring a head torch! The journey up is long, steep and largely uneventful. You’ll be following the same road that the jeeps take so be aware that from around 4 am, you’ll be required to move out of the way for every vehicle heading to the summit.

The trail is not particularly pretty and very rough on the knees – bear this in mind if you have suffered from knee issues in the past. I met people during my time in Panama that had tackled the entire hike up, only to find themselves too battered to actually summit the volcano. Only attempt this hike if you are confident you can make it up and back down again!

While the route up is a little uninspiring, the opposite is true of the views from the summit. Sunrise is a magical time to spend on the mountain and you’ll feel on top of the world after making the hike there. Time your visit right on a clear day and you can see both the Caribbean and Pacific oceans from the very top! 

7. Cerro Ancón

  • Distance: 3.5 km/2.2 miles
  • Duration: 1 hour 15 mins
  • Difficulty Level: Moderate

Ancon Hill is a small pocket of nature perched smack bang in the middle of the capital Panama City. Standing at 199 metres high, the top of Cerro Ancón offers breathtaking views over the city. Better still, it is also one of the best places in the capital to spot exotic Panamanian wildlife – keep your eyes peeled!  

Panama City neighbourhoods
Views from Ancon Hill.

The route up to Ancon Hill is easy to follow and once you get to the top, there are a couple of different viewpoints to enjoy. Make sure you head to the one which showcases the vista over the iconic Panama Canal – it is very cool seeing this marvel of engineering from another viewpoint. From the other viewpoints, you’ll also be able to see the swanky high rises of the capital and the Casco Viejo neighbourhood. 

Although Ancon Hill is close to Casco Viejo, I wouldn’t recommend walking from there as the route will take you through one of the capital’s most dangerous neighbourhoods, El Chorrillo. I naively tried to do the route on foot on my second day in the city and was turned around by a policeman. It’s far better to use Uber!

8. Cerro de la Cruz

  • Distance: 3.5 km/2.2 miles
  • Duration: 1 hour 15 mins
  • Difficulty Level: Moderate

Taboga Island floats 20 kilometres off the capital and makes a great day trip from Panama City. Also known as the ‘Island of Flowers’ it is a pretty destination which is well worth exploring. Much like Panama City itself, it gets super hot and humid here. While this is not the perfect hiking weather, the sunny days guarantee beautiful views! 

Cerro de la Cruz views
Taboga hike is home to the Cerro de la Cruz trek.

Cerro de la Cruz is one of the highest points on Isla Taboga and easily the best hike on the island. Located in the south, Cerro de la Cruz is marked with a big cross so it’s easy to see where you’re headed! 

While this hike isn’t that long, parts of the route are steep so good walking shoes are advisable. Don’t tackle this in flip-flops! This trail is moderate in difficulty due to the rugged terrain and long grasses which hide all manner of creepy crawlies. However, the real challenge comes from the sweaty weather. I was all but ready to pass out by the time I reached the top so remember to take some water with you! 

Once you arrive at the cross, take a minute to relax and take in the sprawling view. You can see the sandy shores of the island from the top, the nearby Isla El Morro and the colourful town below. 

9. Amador Causeway

  • Distance: 3.5 km/2 miles
  • Duration: 2 hours 25 minutes
  • Difficulty Level: Easy

Walking the Amador Causeway is one of the best free things to do in Panama City. Commonly used by locals as a jogging and cycling route, the trail is beautiful and showcases one of the nicest parts of the city.

Amador Causeway
The Amador Causeway showcases cosmopolitan Panama.

The Amador Causeway connects the Panamanian Islands of Perico, Flamenco, Naos and Culebra to the mainland. These islands would have once been used to guard the Panama Canal. These days, the Amador Causeway hosts a range of upmarket restaurants and offers some of the very best views back to Casco Viejo and downtown Panama. It is also possible to see the Bridge of the Americas where ships wait to transit through the canal. 

The trail is easy but very exposed, meaning suncream is a definite must. I got very burnt when I walked the causeway! Luckily, there is a nice ice cream shop along the route where you can cool off. 

This is a popular area so it is likely to be quite busy, especially in the dry season. If the weather looks threatening, make sure you bring a rain jacket or umbrella. There are very few places to shelter from a tropical downpour along the trail! 

10. Lost Waterfalls

  • Distance: 6.8 km/4.2 miles
  • Duration: 3 hours
  • Difficulty Level: Moderate

The Lost Waterfalls hike in Boquete is definitely one of my favourite hikes in Panama. A fun day full of towering cascades, rope scrambles and incredible wildlife, it is an adventure worthy of Indiana Jones! 

Waterfall 2 and person
For epic waterfalls, this hike cannot be beaten!

There are three waterfalls en route and a few steep sections of trail. The entrance fee (approx. $10USD) is funnelled back into trail maintenance which is easy to see from the path. There are rope installations to help hikers up the steepest and most slippery parts. 

Best completed in dry weather, the trail itself is rather wet year-round, due to the cloud forest setting. This slippery terrain, coupled with a real downpour, would make parts of this hike very unpleasant! 

11. El Camino Real

  • Distance: 45 km/28 miles
  • Duration: 4 days/3 nights
  • Difficulty Level: Challenging

The only multi-day hike in Panama to make our list, the Camino Real is for the most intrepid adventurers. This trail links the Pacific to the Caribbean and dates back 500 years! It would have once been used by the Spaniards back in the 17th and 18th centuries to transport treasures across the Americas. This was the beginning of Panama’s future as the isthmus of the world. 

On this trail, you’ll hike through primary rainforest in the Chagres and Portobelo national parks and along barely visible paths which have nearly been reclaimed by nature. It is a true adventure which will have you navigating rivers and scrambling up rocks. 

The Portobelo area is commonly touted as an area where tourists should take extra precautions to avoid becoming a victim of crime. This, combined with the fact that the trail is not easy to follow, means that the most popular way to experience Camino Real is on a tour with an experienced guide. It is advisable to book well in advance.

Notable Mention: Sendero los Quetzales

Prior to its closure, the Quetzal Trail was one of the most popular hikes in Panama. This 8km trek starts from close to Boquete and takes approximately five hours. It was a popular trail for twitchers, many hoping to spot the resplendent quetzal en route. 

The resplendent quetzal was regularly sighted on Sendero los Quetzales.

The trail closed back in 2019 (there is conflicting information about exact dates) and has yet to reopen. While there have been several reopening dates spoken about between the locals, Sendero los Quetzales is still closed at the time of writing. If you have any updates on the accessibility of this trail, please leave a comment below! 

Hiking in Panama FAQs

What’s the best time of year to go hiking in Panama? 

Mid-December to mid-April are the best months to go hiking in Panama. That is because this time coincides with the dry season. While this is the best time for clear, dry days, bear in mind that Panama has a tropical climate and it can rain at any time. 

How safe is hiking in Panama?

Two Dutch tourists disappeared while hiking the El Pianista trail in Boquete back in 2014 and were never found. Despite this, hiking in Panama is generally safe, provided trekkers take the standard precautions. For example, bring enough food and water, apply suncream and carry an offline map. 

What to wear hiking in Panama?

Due to the hot and humid weather, quick-dry clothing is recommended for hikers in Panama. Long trousers or leggings are also advised to keep any creepy crawlies away. No matter the time of year that you visit, always bring a packable rain jacket, suncream, mosquito repellent and plenty of water. 

Where are the best places to hike in Panama? 

Boquete was my favourite place to hike in Panama, however, there are also plenty of great trails in El Valle. 

Before visiting Panama, I had no idea that it was such a haven for hikers. While I certainly got my fair share of blisters on the country’s trails, I would still love to go back and discover some more hikes. 

Do you have any other amazing hikes in Panama that you would add to this list? Share them in the comments!