Destinations - Things to Do
Amador Causeway (Flamenco Island)
The Amador Causeway, once the home of a US Army base, has quickly become one of Panama’s most popular tourist destinations. Comprised of three small islands and extending 2-3 miles from the mainland, the causeway offers visitors wonderful views of Panama City, Bridge of the Americas and commercial vessels as they commence or complete their transit through the Panama Canal. The walking path that runs the full length of the causeway is tiled with red brick, and lined with tropical trees and comfortable benches. Open and well maintained, the path is popular with pedestrians, roller bladers, skate boarders and runners, particularly on weekends.
The northernmost portion of the Causeway is home to TGIF’s Country Inn and Suites, Figali Convention Center, and the Balboa Yacht Club, which has a long pier and fleet of private yachts anchoring along the Canal. As well, the newly completed Biodiversity Museum, which was designed by world renowned architect Frank Gehry, is now open to the public. If you don't want to walk, there are bicycle, carriage and scooter rental shops.
As you head south along the Causeway, the first island you reach is Noas, which is home to the Smithsonian’s Naos Laboratories and Marine Exhibition Center, also known as Punta Culebra (tel:212-8793). Resting along the Panama Canal, Naos Island has a small commercial center, hotel, and several restaurants. As well, the launch to Taboga Island departs from Naos Island (see Taboga Island) - just before reaching the entrance to Punta Culebra turn left. Further south along the Causeway is Perico Island, which resides off to the left and inside Panama Bay. Here you’ll find a very large commercial center, complete with retail stores, bars, restaurants and art galleries. Continue along and you’ll soon reach Flamenco Island, the largest and last of the Causeway’s three islands. Off to the left you’ll find a Bennigans Restaurant, and just behind that a marina. Further ahead there’s a large shopping complex, containing numerous bars, restaurants and tourist related businesses. To the left, towards the water, there’s a second marina and commercial center, where you’ll find numerous souvenir shops and restaurants.
The Causeway is a must see for anyone visiting Panama. With gentle breezes, spectacular scenery and fine dining, the Causeway has something for everybody.
Rising approximately 654 feet, Ancon Hill towers over Panama City and offers visitors unparalleled views of the surrounding area, including Casco Viejo, Panama City, Panama Bay, Panama Canal Administration Building, Albrook Airport, and the southern most portion of the Panama Canal, i.e. Miraflores Locks, Pedro Miguel Locks, and the Causeway. Ancon Hill has two different lookout areas. For views of Casco Viejo, Panama City, Panama Bay, and everything else that resides south of Ancon Hill, walk up the steep hill just off to the right as you reach the top. For views of Miraflores Locks, Panama Canal Administration Building, and everything north of Ancon Hill, turn left at the top and walk to the lookout area just beyond the parking lot.
- Hours: 8:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m. 7/week
- Cost: Free of Charge
Aqua Bus City Tour
The Aquabus City Tour is absolutely the newest and most exciting way to experience Panama City. The AQUABUS is the only amphibious vessel in Central America and it provides a once in a life time opportunity to view Panama City from land and sea. It is a very unique vehicle that drives through city streets and then plunges into the Bay of Panama and the entrance to the Panama Canal providing for a fun and unforgettable journey.
Barro Colorado Island (Smithsonian Institute)
The Smithsonian Institute offers daily tours to Barro Colorado Island, which is the largest forested island in the Panama Canal Waterway and home of the Smithsonian Biological Station.
- Tel: 212-8951
- Tours: Tues., Wed. & Fri. - departs 7:15 a.m. | Saturday & Sunday - departs 8:00 a.m.
- Cost: Adults - $70.00 | Students - $40.00
Bridge of the Americas
With an elevation of 364 ft. (118 m) and width of 5,007 ft. (1,669 m), the Bridge of the Americas connects the two land masses separated by to the construction of the Panama Canal. Built by the United States, at a cost of $20 million dollars, the Bridge of the Americas now forms an integral part of the Interamerican Highway, connecting both North and South America.
Prior to it's construction, ferry service was provided for approximately 30 years, and was the principal means of transportation between the eastern and western portions of Panama. Even today, docks on both sides of the canal are clearly visible and serve as a reminder of what once was.
With gravel in hand, the ceremony celebrating the commemoration of the Thatcher Ferry Bridge, as it was known at that time, took place on December 23, 1958. At this ceremony, United States Ambassador Mr. Julian Harrington and Panamanian President Mr. Ernesto de la Guardia Jr. were present, as well as numerous other dignitaries. The actual physical construction began on October 12, 1959, and took nearly two and one half years to complete. Inauguration took place on October 12, 1962, during which time gold metals and other commemorative items were distributed.
While it is currently referred to as the Bridge of the Americas, it was originally named after Mr. Maurice H. Thatcher, who cut the tape during the inauguration services. Few if any now refer to the bridge by this name.
On the western side of the bridge, and just off to the right side of the road, you’ll find a look-out area. From here, one can get a reasonably good view of the bridge, with Ancon Hill and Panama City in the background. As well, you can look north and see a bit more of the Panama Canal, towards Miraflores Locks. This is the only look-out area near to the bridge, and you are not permitted to walk across the bridge or stop while driving over it.
We also recommend visiting the the Causeway/El Amador, which, prior to the transfer of the Panama Canal in 1999, was a US Army Base. From the Causeway, which begins near the base of the Bridge of the Americas and runs along the Panama Canal, you will have a broad view of the bridge and the vessels passing under it.
For more information regarding the Bridge of the Americas, we recommend you visit the Panama Canal Museum in Casco Antiguo, as they have plenty of written literature and numerous photographs reflecting back on the construction phase.
Casco Antiguo (Viejo)
With it’s picturesque buildings, restaurants, expansive balconies, churches, ruins and museums, the historic community of Casco Antiguo has become one of Panama’s most popular tourist destinations. Once the commercial center for the Americas, Casco Antiguo has since lost its economic importance with the expansion of Panama City, but the area is currently experiencing a renovation. Many of the old, Spanish style architectural buildings have been restored, as had the red brick road that runs throughout.
Among the many meaningful structures you’ll find the Metropolitan Cathedral, Municipal Palace, Church of San Francisco, National Theater, Hotel Colonial, French Park, French Embassy, ruins of the Convento de Santo Domingo and Arco Chato, in addition to numerous governmental buildings and residential houses with beautifully maintained exteriors. Casco Antiguo is also home to numerous upscale restaurants, bars, boutiques, and eateries, in addition to several souvenir shops. As well, there are street vendors that congregate just in front of the French Embassy, by Las Bovédas, where they sell paintings, shirts, etc. Visitors to Casco Antiguo should visit the Panama Canal Museum, which is situated in front of Cathedral Park.
Metropolitan Natural Park
The Metropolitan Natural Park, encompassing approximately 265 hectares, is situated just outside the city district and serves as a wonderful retreat for those interested in escaping from the neighboring city. It is the only park in Latin America with a natural forest located within a metropolitan capital. The park has four trails, all of which are well maintained, easy to find, and offer the visitor something different. Printed material is available in both English and Spanish, as are more complete maps at an additional cost. Bilingual guides are available upon request, providing sufficient notice is given.
For more information about the Metropolitan Natural Park click here.
- Tel: 232-5552
- Hours: 6:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m. 7/week
- Cost: $2.00
Panama Viejo Ruins & Museum
Panama Viejo (Old Panama), is situated just northeast of downtown Panama City. The city was founded by Pedrarias Davila in August of 1519, and is the oldest Spanish settlement on the Pacific. At one time a thriving city, Panama Viejo benefited from the Portobelo trade fairs and most notably from Spain’s great bullion lifeline (shipments were said to pass through Panama while en route from Peru’s silver mines to Europe). Quickly, the city became a major center for merchants and landowners, with a population that presumably reached 10,000 by the mid-17th century. Destroyed in 1671 during Sir Henry Morgan’s invasion, the city was never rebuilt. Declared a Historic Site in 1976, the ruins or Old Panama enjoy government protection, and have been administered by the foundation Patronato Panama La Vieja since 1995. Many of the structures have descriptive text in Spanish and English to assist tourists.
The Panama Viejo Museum is located just east of the ruins, along the water's edge. The museum is rather small but has several nice artifacts, paintings, and photos of the area that makes up Panama Viejo.
- Hours: Tuesday - Sumday (8:30 a.m. - 4:30 p.m.)
- Cost: Museum - $4.00 | Museum & Ruins - $6.00 | Museum, Ruins & Mirador -$7.00
Sightseeing Panama Bus Tours
Sightseeing Panama is an international company that offers bus tours of the Panama Canal and Panama City. Your ticket allows you to HOP ON and HOP OFF at any one of their many stops for a specified period of time. Stops include Albrook Mall, Panama Canal, Museum of Biodiversity, Flamenco Island (Causeway), Casco Antiguo (Viejo), Multicentro Mall, Panama Viejo and Multiplaza Mall.
Statue of Balboa
Situated along the newly redesigned Balboa Avenue (Cinta Costera), the Vasco Núñez de Balboa Statue is a historical monument paying tribute to the Spanish adventurer and first European to glimpse the Pacific Ocean, in 1513. Holding the Spanish flag in his left hand and a sword with his right, the Vasco Núñez de Balboa statue overlooks Panama Bay and is surrounded by benches and well manicured plants and flowers. The statue was sculpted by Miguel Blan and Mariano Benlliure and later donated by King Alfonso XIII of Spain. With representatives of some 15 Latin American countries present, President Belisario Porras inaugurated the monument on September 29, 1924.
Located just 30 minutes outside of Panama City, Summit Gardens provides visitors with a opportunity to view many of the animal species found in Panama and throughout the Central & South American region. The facility has a small portion allocated for plants and orchids, however, the majority of the 700 hectares are dedicated for recreation and animal viewing, with tapirs, monkeys, scarlet macaws, and numerous other animal/bird species present. Signs point to areas of interest, connected by narrow, well maintained trails. Trail maps are provided at the park entrance when you enter.
Summit Gardens has two unique offerings, the Harpy Eagle Museum and Jaguar Exhibit. The Harpy Eagle Museum has interesting facts, illustrations and photos of these magnificent birds of prey, which happen to be Panama’s national bird. A captive Harpy Eagles is on display outside, just behind the exhibit, and can be observed throughout the day. The other exhibit, better known as "Jaguar World", is a small enclosure where visitors can view these powerful cats up close.
- Tel: 232-4854
- Hours: 9:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m. 7/week (Harpy Eagle Museum: 9:00 a.m. - 4:30 p.m.)
- Cost: $5.00
Pipeline Road - Soberania National Park
Arguably Panama’s most famous birding destination, Pipeline Road is situated inside Soberania National Park, which itself is located within the Panama and Colon provinces. The park, measuring 48,287 acres (19,541 hectares) in size, was established in 1980 and contains numerous trails, one of which is Pipeline Road; there are several other trails nearby. Measuring approximately 10.5 miles (17 km) in length, the road is very well maintained and has a base composed primarily of dirt and stone. There are very few open areas that offer expansive views, most of the trail is lined with thick forest. As well, there are no benches or seats along the trails. The first 5 miles (8 km) are relatively flat and provide for easy walking. As well, there are several small bridges you’ll need to cross, all of which are very safe. The second half of the trail has more hills, some of them fairly steep, but the road itself is in good condition.
The park ranger station is open daily between 6:00 a.m. - 4:00 p.m., and the entrance fee is $5.00 p/p - if you enter the park before 6:00 a.m. you will be asked to pay upon departing. A map of the park may or may not be available, so be sure to ask for one. Pedestrians can enter or leave the park at any time, there is a door to the right side of the ranger station that is never locked. Vehicles, however, can only enter after 6:00 a. m. You can, upon request, stay overnight inside the park, which costs $10.00 p/p in addition to the entrance fee. Your vehicle can also stay overnight inside the park.
Rainforest Discovery Center (Pipeline Road)
Just off Pipeline Road, approximately 1 mile (1.6 km) in from the park entrance, is the Rainforest Discovery Center. The facility offers visitors a 130 ft. (40 m) observation tower and network of trails. Ideal for birders and nature lovers.
- Tel: (Panama Office): 264-6266 | 264-6267
- Cost: $30.00 p/p
Relatively clean and quiet, Isla Taboga contains a network of well maintained cement paths, many of which are lined with very colorful orchids. Small eateries and grocery stores line the main path, where you can purchase soft drinks and a variety of food dishes. The roads are narrow, and were not designed to accommodate automobiles; - there are no vehicles on the island. Aside from the network of trails that crisscross along the water’s edge and up into the hillside, there is one trail of importance on the island for hikers.
Known as "Cerro de las Tres Cruces", this trail takes you all the way to the top of Taboga Island where you’ll find an observation area offering panoramic views of Taboga Island, the neighboring islands, and on a clear day Panama City, El Amador and the Bridge of the Americas. As well, you’ll see numerous species of sea birds gliding and resting along the southern side of the island where the Taboga Island Wildlife Refuge is located. The hike to the top can take approximately 1 - 1.5 hour(s), depending on your physical condition and interest in the local flora and fauna. Virtually the entire trail, most of which is wide and well maintained, is uphill aside for a few small sections. There is very little if any canopy cover along the trail, and depending on the time of year you make the journey the vegetation can be somewhat sparse. The southern portion of the island is much more sparse than the northern part, all of which is clearly visible from the observation area. Blue Morpho butterflies, small lizards and a host of different bird species can all be seen while hiking up the trail. The trail begins just a short hike from town, just follow the cement trail until it ends and the dirt road begins. Continue until the road forks, then turn right.
Some of the island’s interesting attractions are the museum, Church of San Pedro, and altar honoring the Christ of Buga, which contains a small garden exhibiting a profusion of colorful flowers. On the back side of the island lies the Taboga Island Wildlife Reserve, which serves as a refuge for a variety of different sea bird species, some of which utilize as a refuge for reproductive purposes during the months of December - July.
Kayaking, swimming, fishing, snorkeling and scuba diving can also be enjoyed. As well, there are numerous boats that can be rented for fishing and scenic tours.