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What To Do In Panama During A Layover


by Melisa Blackwood



Welcome to Panama, a vibrant and diverse country that offers a myriad of experiences for travelers, even during a layover. Despite the limited time, there are numerous captivating attractions and activities that can be enjoyed, ensuring that every moment in Panama is well-spent. Whether you're a history buff, a nature enthusiast, a foodie, or a shopaholic, Panama has something special in store for you.


During a layover in Panama, you can delve into the country's rich history by visiting the iconic Panama Canal, explore the charming cobblestone streets of Casco Viejo, indulge in the delectable local cuisine, and even embark on a day trip to the breathtaking San Blas Islands. Additionally, you can unwind and soak in the stunning views at the Amador Causeway and indulge in some retail therapy at the renowned Albrook Mall.


Panama's unique blend of modernity and tradition, coupled with its warm and welcoming atmosphere, makes it an ideal destination for a short stopover. With a plethora of options to choose from, you can curate your layover experience to match your interests and preferences. So, whether you have a few hours or a day to spare, Panama is ready to offer you an unforgettable taste of its beauty and culture.


Explore the Panama Canal

The Panama Canal is a marvel of engineering and a testament to human ingenuity. A must-visit during your layover, the canal offers a fascinating glimpse into its history and operation. Witnessing the massive ships passing through the locks is a sight to behold, showcasing the seamless blend of nature and infrastructure.


You can start your exploration at the Miraflores Visitor Center, where interactive exhibits and a viewing platform provide an up-close encounter with the canal’s operations. The museum offers insights into the canal’s construction, its impact on global trade, and the technological advancements that have shaped its evolution. As you watch vessels navigate through the locks, you’ll gain a profound appreciation for the precision and coordination involved in this intricate process.


If time permits, consider taking a partial transit tour, which allows you to experience the canal from the water. Cruising through the locks offers a unique perspective, allowing you to appreciate the scale and complexity of this engineering marvel. The knowledgeable guides on board provide engaging commentary, enriching your understanding of the canal’s significance.


For a memorable and educational experience, the Panama Canal is an unmissable stop during your layover. It’s a testament to human ambition and innovation, and exploring its wonders will undoubtedly leave you with a deeper understanding of its global impact.


Visit Casco Viejo

Step back in time and immerse yourself in the rich history and vibrant culture of Panama by exploring Casco Viejo, also known as the Old Quarter. This UNESCO World Heritage Site is a treasure trove of colonial architecture, charming plazas, and a tapestry of cultural influences that reflect the country’s storied past.


As you wander through the cobblestone streets, you’ll encounter an eclectic mix of architectural styles, including Spanish, French, and Caribbean influences. The area’s beautifully restored buildings house a plethora of boutique shops, art galleries, cafes, and restaurants, creating a dynamic and inviting atmosphere. Whether you’re seeking artisanal crafts, local artwork, or a taste of traditional Panamanian cuisine, Casco Viejo offers a delightful array of options to explore.


Be sure to visit notable landmarks such as the Metropolitan Cathedral, Plaza de la Independencia, and the iconic Golden Altar at the San Jose Church. These sites encapsulate the area’s historical and cultural significance, providing a window into Panama’s colonial heritage.


Moreover, Casco Viejo is a hub of creativity and expression, with its lively street art and live performances adding a contemporary flair to the historic setting. You might chance upon local musicians serenading visitors or talented artisans showcasing their craft, creating an immersive and dynamic ambiance that captures the spirit of Panama.


Exploring Casco Viejo is a journey through time, offering a blend of old-world charm and modern vitality. It’s a testament to Panama’s enduring cultural legacy and a must-visit destination during your layover.


Relax at the Amador Causeway

For a tranquil and picturesque escape during your layover in Panama, the Amador Causeway beckons with its breathtaking views and leisurely ambiance. This man-made road connects the mainland to four small islands in the Panama Bay, offering a perfect setting for relaxation and rejuvenation.


As you stroll along the causeway, you’ll be greeted by panoramic vistas of the Pacific Ocean, the city skyline, and the iconic Bridge of the Americas. The gentle sea breeze and the rhythmic lapping of the waves create a serene atmosphere, making it an ideal spot to unwind and soak in the natural beauty that surrounds you.


The Amador Causeway is not only a haven for tranquility but also a hub of recreational activities. You can rent bicycles and pedal along the waterfront, enjoying the scenic views and the refreshing ocean breeze. Additionally, the causeway is dotted with charming restaurants and cafes, where you can savor delicious local cuisine while savoring the stunning waterfront backdrop.


For those seeking a bit of adventure, the nearby Flamenco Island offers opportunities for water sports, including kayaking and paddleboarding. The crystal-clear waters and the gentle currents make it an inviting playground for aquatic enthusiasts, providing a refreshing break from the hustle and bustle of urban life.


Whether you’re seeking a leisurely stroll, a delectable meal with a view, or a touch of adventure, the Amador Causeway offers a delightful escape during your layover. It’s a place where you can pause, breathe in the tranquility, and appreciate the natural splendor that Panama has to offer.


Discover Panama City’s Food Scene

Embark on a culinary adventure during your layover in Panama City, where the vibrant food scene reflects the country’s diverse cultural influences and rich gastronomic heritage. From traditional street food to upscale dining establishments, Panama City offers a delectable array of flavors and culinary experiences that are sure to tantalize your taste buds.


One of the best ways to delve into Panama’s culinary tapestry is by exploring the local markets and street food stalls. Mercado de Mariscos, the bustling seafood market, is a paradise for seafood lovers, offering an abundance of freshly caught fish, ceviche, and other marine delicacies. The vibrant atmosphere and the aroma of sizzling dishes create an immersive and authentic dining experience.


For a taste of Panama’s traditional dishes, be sure to sample the iconic comfort food, sancocho, a hearty chicken stew, or the flavorful arroz con pollo, a classic rice and chicken dish. These time-honored recipes showcase the country’s indigenous and Spanish influences, providing a glimpse into Panama’s culinary heritage.


If you’re a coffee aficionado, Panama’s coffee culture will delight your senses. Visit specialty cafes to savor the renowned Geisha coffee, celebrated for its exquisite flavor profile and aromatic nuances. Engage with local baristas to learn about the art of coffee brewing and the significance of coffee in Panamanian culture.


Moreover, Panama City boasts a vibrant dining scene with a diverse range of international cuisines, from Japanese sushi bars to Italian trattorias. Whether you’re craving fusion cuisine or seeking a fine dining experience, the city’s restaurants offer an enticing blend of global flavors, reflecting Panama’s cosmopolitan character.


Exploring Panama City’s food scene is a journey of culinary discovery, where every dish tells a story of tradition, innovation, and cultural fusion. It’s an integral part of the Panamanian experience, inviting you to savor the flavors of the country and create lasting memories through its vibrant gastronomy.


Take a Day Trip to the San Blas Islands

Escape to paradise by embarking on a day trip to the San Blas Islands, a pristine archipelago off the Caribbean coast of Panama. This idyllic destination, home to the indigenous Guna Yala community, offers a serene and unspoiled retreat, making it an ideal excursion during your layover.


Upon arriving at the islands, you’ll be greeted by powdery white sands, crystal-clear turquoise waters, and gently swaying palm trees. The untouched beauty of the San Blas Islands creates a postcard-perfect setting, inviting you to unwind and bask in the tranquility of this tropical oasis.


Snorkeling and swimming in the vibrant coral reefs that fringe the islands are among the top activities to enjoy. Immerse yourself in the kaleidoscopic underwater world, where you’ll encounter a dazzling array of marine life and colorful coral formations. The warm, azure waters provide an ideal environment for snorkeling, allowing you to witness the mesmerizing beauty of the ocean’s ecosystem.


Interacting with the Guna Yala community offers a unique cultural experience. Engage with the locals, learn about their traditional way of life, and admire their intricate handicrafts, including molas, vibrant textiles that depict their stories and traditions. The warm hospitality of the Guna people adds a meaningful dimension to your visit, fostering a deeper appreciation for their heritage and customs.


Indulge in a freshly prepared seafood feast, featuring lobster, conch ceviche, and other local delicacies, served against the backdrop of the stunning island scenery. The flavors of the Caribbean cuisine, combined with the breathtaking vistas, create an unforgettable dining experience that complements the natural splendor of the San Blas Islands.


A day trip to the San Blas Islands promises a blissful retreat, allowing you to savor the unspoiled beauty of Panama’s Caribbean coast and immerse yourself in the rich culture of the Guna Yala community. It’s an opportunity to create cherished memories amidst the pristine allure of this tropical paradise.


Shop at Albrook Mall

Indulge in a shopping extravaganza at Albrook Mall, the largest shopping center in Panama and a premier retail destination that beckons with a diverse array of stores, boutiques, and entertainment options. Whether you’re a dedicated fashionista, a tech enthusiast, or a souvenir hunter, this expansive mall offers an unparalleled shopping experience during your layover.


Albrook Mall boasts an impressive selection of international and local brands, ranging from high-end luxury labels to popular fast-fashion retailers. Fashion enthusiasts can explore a myriad of clothing boutiques, shoe stores, and accessory shops, catering to every style and budget. Additionally, the mall features electronics stores, beauty and cosmetics outlets, and specialty stores, ensuring that every shopping need is met under one roof.


For those seeking unique mementos and authentic Panamanian souvenirs, the mall’s artisanal shops and gift stores offer a delightful assortment of locally crafted goods, including handwoven textiles, indigenous artwork, and artisanal jewelry. These treasures serve as meaningful reminders of your visit to Panama and make for thoughtful gifts for loved ones back home.


Beyond shopping, Albrook Mall provides a host of entertainment options to complement your retail therapy. The complex features a cinema, an arcade, and a variety of dining establishments, allowing you to unwind and enjoy leisure activities amidst your shopping spree. Whether you’re craving a gourmet meal, a quick snack, or a refreshing beverage, the mall’s dining options cater to diverse palates and preferences.


Moreover, the mall’s vibrant ambiance and bustling atmosphere create a dynamic and engaging environment, immersing you in the local shopping culture and providing a glimpse into Panama’s contemporary lifestyle. The energy and diversity of Albrook Mall make it a must-visit destination, offering a comprehensive retail experience that caters to every interest and inclination.



As your layover in Panama draws to a close, you’re left with a tapestry of unforgettable experiences that have illuminated the essence of this captivating destination. From the engineering marvel of the Panama Canal to the cultural charm of Casco Viejo, the diverse and enriching pursuits available during your brief visit have provided a glimpse into the country’s multifaceted allure.


Exploring the Panama Canal offered a profound appreciation for human ingenuity and the seamless coexistence of nature and infrastructure. Witnessing the colossal ships navigating the locks underscored the monumental impact of this engineering feat on global trade and connectivity.


Visiting Casco Viejo provided a captivating journey through Panama’s colonial heritage, where the fusion of architectural styles and the vibrant cultural ambiance painted a vivid portrait of the country’s history. The area’s artistry, culinary delights, and historical landmarks encapsulated the spirit of Panama’s past and present.


Relaxing at the Amador Causeway offered a serene interlude, allowing you to savor the breathtaking coastal panoramas and embrace the tranquility of the natural surroundings. The leisurely pace and the scenic allure of the causeway provided a rejuvenating escape from the urban bustle.


Delving into Panama City’s food scene unveiled a rich tapestry of flavors and culinary traditions, showcasing the country’s diverse cultural influences and gastronomic heritage. From traditional market delicacies to international dining experiences, the city’s culinary landscape offered a feast for the senses.


The day trip to the San Blas Islands epitomized the unspoiled beauty and cultural richness of Panama’s Caribbean coast, providing a blissful retreat amidst pristine shores and the warm hospitality of the Guna Yala community. The captivating scenery and immersive cultural encounters left an indelible mark on your layover experience.


Concluding your journey with a shopping spree at Albrook Mall, you were immersed in a world of retail diversity and entertainment, where the vibrant energy of the complex and the myriad of shopping options encapsulated Panama’s modern lifestyle and consumer culture.


As you bid farewell to Panama, the memories and impressions gathered during your layover serve as a testament to the country’s multifaceted allure and the wealth of experiences it offers, even within a limited timeframe. From its historical landmarks to its natural splendor, Panama has left an indelible mark, inviting you to return and explore its treasures in greater depth.