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The Best Day Trips From Panama City, Panama


Modified: December 27, 2023

by Antoinette Mcfall



Welcome to Panama City, a vibrant and bustling metropolis that serves as the gateway to some of the most incredible day trips in Panama. While the city is known for its modern skyscrapers and the famous Panama Canal, it is also surrounded by breathtaking natural beauty and fascinating cultural sites. From tropical islands to lush rainforests, there is an abundance of options for those seeking to explore beyond the city limits.


These day trips offer a chance to escape the urban hustle and immerse yourself in the stunning landscapes and rich history that Panama has to offer. Whether you are a nature enthusiast, a history buff, or simply looking to relax on a pristine beach, there is something for everyone just a short distance from Panama City.


In this article, we will explore the top day trips from Panama City, Panama, highlighting the unique experiences and attractions that each destination has to offer. So, get ready to embark on unforgettable adventures and discover the hidden gems that lie just beyond the city’s borders.


Taboga Island

Located just a short boat ride away from Panama City, Taboga Island is a small tropical paradise that offers a tranquil escape from the city. Also known as the “Island of Flowers,” Taboga is known for its beautiful beaches, colorful flora, and charming village atmosphere.


Upon arrival, you will be greeted by picturesque streets lined with colorful houses and friendly locals. Take a leisurely stroll through the village and immerse yourself in the laid-back island vibe. Visit the Iglesia de San Pedro, a historic church that dates back to the 16th century, and explore the quaint shops and cafes that dot the main street.


One of the main highlights of Taboga Island is its stunning beaches. Playa Restinga is a popular spot for sunbathing and swimming, while Playa Honda offers a more secluded and tranquil atmosphere. Relax on the soft sandy beaches, take a dip in the crystal-clear waters, or indulge in water activities such as snorkeling and paddleboarding.


If you’re feeling adventurous, hike up to the top of Cerro de la Cruz, a hill that offers panoramic views of the island and its surroundings. The hike is relatively easy and rewards you with breathtaking vistas of the ocean and the city skyline.


Before you leave Taboga Island, be sure to sample some of the delicious local cuisine. Fresh seafood is a specialty here, with restaurants serving up delectable dishes such as ceviche, grilled fish, and coconut rice. Pair your meal with a refreshing tropical drink and savor the flavors of the island.


Whether you’re looking to unwind on pristine beaches, explore a charming village, or embark on an exhilarating hike, Taboga Island is a day trip from Panama City that shouldn’t be missed. It offers a glimpse into the natural beauty and rich culture that Panama has to offer.


San Blas Islands

Located off the Caribbean coast of Panama, the San Blas Islands are a true tropical paradise that will leave you in awe of their beauty. This archipelago consists of over 360 islands, with pristine white sand beaches, crystal-clear turquoise waters, and vibrant coral reefs. The islands are home to the indigenous Guna Yala people, who have preserved their traditional way of life and customs.


Visiting the San Blas Islands is like stepping into a postcard. Picture yourself lounging on a hammock, surrounded by palm trees swaying in the gentle breeze, with the soothing sound of waves lapping against the shore. Snorkel or dive in the colorful coral reefs to explore the rich marine life or take a boat tour to hop between different islands and discover hidden treasures.


One of the unique aspects of the San Blas Islands is the opportunity to interact with the Guna Yala community. The Guna people have managed to retain their ancestral traditions and autonomous governance, making the islands a fascinating cultural destination. Visit a Guna village and learn about their traditional crafts, including intricate beadwork and distinctive handicrafts.


The San Blas Islands offer a chance to disconnect from the outside world and immerse yourself in nature. There is no Wi-Fi or cellular service on most of the islands, allowing you to truly unwind and reconnect with the beauty of the natural surroundings. Spend your days swimming, sunbathing, and exploring the pristine beaches, and your nights gazing at the star-filled sky.


It is important to note that visiting the San Blas Islands requires some planning and coordination, as the islands are only accessible by small planes or motorized boats. Additionally, respecting the cultural norms of the Guna Yala people is essential, including adhering to their dress code and rules regarding photography.


A day trip to the San Blas Islands is an opportunity to experience a remote paradise that feels like stepping into a dream. With their untouched natural beauty and rich cultural heritage, the San Blas Islands are a must-visit destination for those seeking an unforgettable adventure.


Gamboa Rainforest

Just a short drive from Panama City, the Gamboa Rainforest is a lush and biodiverse ecosystem that offers a unique escape into nature. Nestled within the Soberania National Park, this rainforest is a haven for wildlife enthusiasts and outdoor adventurers.


One of the best ways to explore the Gamboa Rainforest is by taking a boat tour along the Panama Canal. Cruise through the scenic waterways and witness the breathtaking sights of massive cargo ships passing through the locks. Keep an eye out for the abundant wildlife, including monkeys, sloths, tropical birds, and even crocodiles.


For a more immersive rainforest experience, embark on a guided hike through the Gamboa trails. As you venture deeper into the jungle, your guide will point out the diverse flora and fauna, providing insight into the intricate ecosystem that thrives here. You might catch a glimpse of toucans, howler monkeys, or colorful poison dart frogs along the way.


If you’re feeling adventurous, opt for a canopy zipline tour that allows you to soar above the treetops and get a bird’s-eye view of the rainforest. Feel the adrenaline rush as you glide through the air, surrounded by the lush greenery below.


Another highlight of the Gamboa Rainforest is the opportunity to visit the Panama Rainforest Discovery Center. This research and education facility provides visitors with a chance to learn about the local ecology and participate in wildlife observation. Climb up the canopy tower for a panoramic view of the rainforest canopy and keep an eye out for rare bird species.


After a day of exploring, unwind and relax at the Gamboa Rainforest Resort. Nestled amidst the greens, this eco-luxury resort offers comfortable accommodations, refreshing swimming pools, and dining options with breathtaking views of the surroundings.


The Gamboa Rainforest is a nature lover’s paradise and a perfect day trip choice for those seeking to connect with the biodiversity and serenity of a tropical rainforest. Immerse yourself in the sights and sounds of nature, and discover the wonders of the Gamboa Rainforest.


Isla Grande

If you’re looking for a pristine beach getaway within easy reach of Panama City, Isla Grande is the perfect destination. Located on the Caribbean coast, this small island is known for its stunning beaches, crystal-clear waters, and vibrant marine life.


As you step off the boat and onto the island, you’ll be greeted by stretches of soft white sand, swaying palm trees, and a sense of tranquility. Isla Grande offers a laid-back and unspoiled atmosphere, making it an ideal escape from the bustling city.


Spend your day lounging on the beach, soaking up the sun, and taking refreshing dips in the turquoise waters. The beach is relatively uncrowded, allowing you to find a serene spot to relax and unwind. Explore the underwater world by snorkeling or diving, and discover vibrant coral reefs teeming with colorful tropical fish.


For the more adventurous, consider taking a boat tour to explore the nearby coral islands and mangrove forests. Navigate through the labyrinth of canals, spotting turtles, birds, and other wildlife along the way. Witness the stunning sunset over the horizon and bask in the beauty of nature.


In addition to its natural charm, Isla Grande also offers a taste of Caribbean culture. Sample delicious local cuisine, such as fresh seafood, coconut rice, and plantains, at one of the island’s charming beachside restaurants. Enjoy a cocktail while listening to the rhythmic beats of Caribbean music and feel the island vibes.


For those seeking a bit of adventure, you can visit the nearby community of La Guaira and immerse yourself in the Afro-Caribbean culture. Learn traditional dances, participate in a drumming workshop, and gain insight into the vibrant traditions and customs of the local community.


With its pristine beaches, untouched nature, and vibrant culture, Isla Grande offers an idyllic day trip destination just a short distance from Panama City. Escape to this tropical paradise and create unforgettable memories of sun, sand, and Caribbean bliss.


El Valle de Anton

Nestled within the crater of an extinct volcano, El Valle de Anton is a charming mountain town surrounded by lush greenery and natural wonders. Located just a two-hour drive from Panama City, this picturesque destination offers a refreshing escape from the urban hustle and a chance to immerse yourself in Panama’s natural beauty.


One of the main attractions of El Valle de Anton is its stunning natural landscapes, including scenic hiking trails, cascading waterfalls, and the mesmerizing Tavida Waterfall. Lace up your hiking boots and explore the trails that wind through the cloud forest, taking you past breathtaking viewpoints and hidden gems.


For a unique experience, visit the El Níspero Zoo and Botanical Garden, which houses a diverse collection of native fauna and flora. Encounter exotic animals such as jaguars, monkeys, and sloths, and admire the vibrant display of orchids and tropical plants.


El Valle de Anton is also famous for its natural hot springs, which offer a relaxing and therapeutic experience. Soak in the warm mineral-rich waters and let the stress melt away as you take in the surrounding lush vegetation.


Another highlight of El Valle de Anton is the Sunday Market, where locals and visitors come together to browse and purchase a variety of handicrafts, fresh produce, and local delicacies. Sample traditional Panamanian snacks like empanadas and tortillas while strolling through the vibrant market atmosphere.


Immerse yourself in the rich culture and history of the town by visiting the El Valle Museum, which showcases artifacts and exhibits highlighting the area’s geological and cultural significance. Learn about the indigenous cultures that once inhabited the region and gain insight into their traditions and way of life.


Whether you’re seeking adventure, relaxation, or cultural immersion, El Valle de Anton offers a diverse range of activities and attractions. It is a destination that harmoniously blends natural beauty, cultural heritage, and outdoor adventure, making it a must-visit day trip from Panama City.


Embera Village

Immerse yourself in the rich indigenous culture of Panama by visiting an Embera Village. Located along the Chagres River, the Embera communities offer a unique opportunity to learn about the traditional way of life and customs of the Embera people.


Upon arrival at the village, you will be warmly welcomed by the Embera community. Experience the vibrant music and dance performances that showcase their cultural heritage, as well as intricate body paintings and traditional clothing adorned by the villagers.


Take a guided tour through the village and gain insight into the daily lives of the Embera people. Learn about their traditional crafts and see firsthand how they create beautiful handicrafts such as woven baskets, intricate beadwork, and carved wooden masks. You may even have the chance to purchase these unique handmade souvenirs.


The Embera people have a deep connection to the natural environment, and a highlight of the visit is a canoe trip along the Chagres River. Glide through the pristine waters surrounded by lush rainforest and listen to the stories and legends shared by the local guides. You may even spot wildlife such as monkeys, exotic birds, and caimans along the way.


Indulge in a traditional Embera meal consisting of fresh fish, plantains, and tropical fruits. Engage in conversations with the villagers, asking questions and fostering a cultural exchange that will leave a lasting impact. The warmth, hospitality, and resilience of the Embera people will undoubtedly make your visit a memorable one.


It is important to understand and respect the Embera’s cultural practices and traditions during your visit. Follow their guidelines, such as appropriate clothing and photography restrictions, to ensure a respectful and meaningful experience.


A visit to an Embera Village is not only a chance to immerse yourself in the culture and traditions of the Embera people, but it is also a way to support their sustainable and community-based tourism initiatives. By engaging with the Embera community, you are directly contributing to the preservation of their culture and way of life.


Embark on this cultural journey and create lasting memories as you connect with the Embera people and gain a deeper understanding of Panama’s indigenous heritage.



Steeped in history and filled with colonial charm, the town of Portobelo is a must-visit day trip from Panama City. Located on the Caribbean coast, Portobelo was once a bustling port and a key trading hub during the Spanish colonial era. Today, it is a UNESCO World Heritage Site that preserves its rich cultural heritage.


As you wander through the cobblestone streets of Portobelo, you will be transported back in time. Explore the well-preserved fortifications, including the UNESCO-listed San Felipe Fortress, which played a vital role in protecting the Spanish treasures from pirates and privateers. Climb to the top of the fort for panoramic views of the bay and the charming town below.


Another notable site in Portobelo is the Church of San Felipe, a magnificent structure that houses the famous Black Christ statue. This religious icon holds deep significance for the local community and attracts pilgrims from all over the country.


Portobelo is also known for its vibrant annual festivals, such as the Festival of the Black Christ, which takes place in October. During this time, the town comes alive with colorful parades, traditional music, and lively dances. It is a unique opportunity to witness and participate in the vibrant cultural traditions of Panama.


Take a stroll along the waterfront and admire the picturesque views of the bay, filled with fishing boats and sailboats. Indulge in fresh seafood at one of the local restaurants, sampling specialties such as ceviche, fried fish, and coconut rice. Explore the small shops and boutiques that offer handmade crafts and souvenirs, including the famous Congos masks.


If you’re interested in diving and snorkeling, Portobelo offers excellent opportunities to explore the vibrant underwater world. Dive sites such as Drake Island and the wreck of the San José galleon provide a unique glimpse into the region’s maritime history.


Portobelo is a treasure trove of history, culture, and natural beauty, offering a glimpse into Panama’s colonial past. Immerse yourself in the captivating stories and architectural marvels as you explore this enchanting town.


Contadora Island

For a luxurious and secluded getaway, Contadora Island is the perfect day trip destination from Panama City. Located in the Pearl Islands archipelago in the Pacific Ocean, Contadora Island is known for its pristine beaches, turquoise waters, and upscale resorts.


As you step onto the shores of Contadora Island, you’ll be greeted by the soft white sands and gentle waves of its idyllic beaches. Spend your day lounging by the pool or sunbathing on the beach, enjoying the tranquil atmosphere and breathtaking ocean views.


Contadora Island offers exceptional opportunities for snorkeling and diving, with its vibrant coral reefs teeming with tropical fish and other marine life. Explore the underwater wonders and immerse yourself in the beauty of the Pacific Ocean.


If you’re feeling adventurous, take a boat tour to explore the surrounding islands and discover hidden beaches and coves. Some tours even offer the chance to spot dolphins or humpback whales during the migration season.


Contadora Island is also home to upscale resorts and restaurants, which offer a variety of amenities and dining options. Indulge in gourmet cuisine, sip tropical cocktails by the pool, or pamper yourself with a relaxing spa treatment.


For a touch of history, visit the Perlas Museum, which houses a collection of artifacts and displays showcasing the history and culture of the Pearl Islands. Learn about the fascinating origins of the region and the importance of the pearl industry in Panama’s past.


Contadora Island provides a luxurious and peaceful retreat away from the hustle and bustle of city life. It is the perfect destination for those seeking relaxation, tranquility, and upscale amenities in a beautiful natural setting.


Soberania National Park

Escape into the lush greenery and biodiversity of Soberania National Park, located just a short drive from Panama City. This expansive protected area is a haven for nature lovers and outdoor enthusiasts, offering a diverse range of flora and fauna amidst its pristine rainforest.


One of the main attractions of Soberania National Park is its incredible birdwatching opportunities. With over 500 species of birds, including toucans, parrots, and the iconic harpy eagle, birdwatchers will be in awe of the avian diversity that calls this park home. Join a guided birding tour to maximize your chances of spotting rare and elusive species.


Explore the park’s extensive network of trails, which wind through the dense rainforest and lead to stunning viewpoints and cascading waterfalls. Hike along the famous Pipeline Road, known for its incredible biodiversity and easy accessibility. Keep an eye out for monkeys, sloths, and other wildlife that inhabit the park.


One of the highlights of Soberania National Park is the chance to take a boat tour on the Panama Canal. Witness massive cargo ships making their way through the locks, and admire the engineering marvel that connects the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans. Learn about the history and significance of the canal from knowledgeable guides.


For a more immersive rainforest experience, consider staying at one of the eco-lodges or research stations within the park. Wake up to the sounds of the jungle, embark on guided nature walks, and learn from experienced biologists and naturalists about the unique ecosystems and conservation efforts in the area.


Soberania National Park offers a retreat into nature, with its abundant wildlife, scenic trails, and panoramic views. It is a chance to reconnect with the natural world and appreciate the beauty and importance of protecting our ecosystems.


Panama Canal Expansion Observation Center

Experience one of the greatest engineering marvels of the modern world at the Panama Canal Expansion Observation Center. Located on the outskirts of Panama City, this state-of-the-art facility allows visitors to witness the impressive operations of the expanded Panama Canal.


The expansion of the Panama Canal, completed in 2016, was a monumental undertaking that doubled the capacity of this vital waterway. At the Observation Center, you can learn about the history and significance of the canal through informative exhibits and interactive displays.


Get a close-up view of the massive cargo ships as they navigate through the locks of the Panama Canal. The observation decks and viewing platforms provide a front-row seat to witness the incredible engineering feat of raising and lowering ships to match the water levels.


Knowledgeable guides are available to answer your questions and provide insights into the intricate operations of the Panama Canal. Learn about the economic impact of the canal on global trade and the importance of this strategic waterway for international commerce.


In addition to the main observation area, the center features a museum that delves into the history and construction of the Panama Canal. Discover the stories of the workers who built the canal and the challenges they faced during its creation.


After your visit to the Observation Center, take a scenic stroll along the Amador Causeway, a waterfront promenade that offers panoramic views of the canal and the city skyline. Enjoy a meal at one of the restaurants or browse the souvenir shops that line the causeway.


A visit to the Panama Canal Expansion Observation Center is a unique opportunity to marvel at the engineering marvel of the expanded canal. Gain a deeper appreciation for the ingenuity and impact of this historic waterway that continues to shape global trade and transportation.



Panama City is not only a vibrant urban destination but also a gateway to a plethora of incredible day trips that showcase the diversity and beauty of Panama. From tropical islands and rainforests to cultural villages and historical sites, there is something for every type of traveler.


Taboga Island beckons with its charming village atmosphere and pristine beaches, while the San Blas Islands offer an opportunity to immerse yourself in the indigenous Guna Yala culture and enjoy the breathtaking beauty of the Caribbean Sea.


The Gamboa Rainforest provides a chance to explore a lush ecosystem teeming with wildlife, while Isla Grande promises a secluded beach getaway with stunning marine life and Caribbean vibes.


Venture into the mountains and explore El Valle de Anton, a picturesque town nestled in the crater of an extinct volcano, where you can hike, visit waterfalls, and experience the culture of the region.


A visit to an Embera Village offers a unique opportunity to connect with Panama’s indigenous heritage and learn about the traditional way of life of the Embera people.


History buffs will appreciate a trip to Portobelo, a UNESCO World Heritage Site that showcases the colonial past of Panama, while nature enthusiasts will be captivated by the beauty of Soberania National Park and the chance to witness the operations of the Panama Canal at the Expansion Observation Center.


Whether you are seeking relaxation, adventure, cultural immersion, or a combination of all three, the day trips from Panama City will provide unforgettable experiences that will leave you with a deeper appreciation for the natural and cultural wonders of Panama.


So next time you visit Panama City, make sure to set aside some time to venture beyond the city limits and explore these incredible day trip destinations. The memories and experiences you gain will undoubtedly create a well-rounded and enriching travel experience in Panama.