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panama tourism and travel

Panama City Activities

Amador Causeway (Flamenco Island)

Google Map - Amador Causeway

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 the Bridge of the Americas, Panama City, Panama Bay, 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, skateboarders, and runners alike, particularly on weekends.

The northernmost portion of the Causeway is home to the Radisson Hotel, Biodiversity Museum, and Balboa Yacht Club, the latter of which has a long pier and fleet of private yachts anchored along the Canal.

Google Map - Biodiversity Museum

Google Map - Balboa Yacht Club

As you head south along the Causeway—away from the mainland—the first island you reach is Noas, which is home to the Smithsonian Institute's Naos Laboratories and Marine Exhibition Center; also known as Punta Culebra. Resting along the Panama Canal, Naos Island has a small commercial center, hotel, and several restaurants. The ferry to Taboga Island also departs from Naos Island; just before reaching the entrance to Punta Culebra turn left and head for the pier. A bit further ahead and off to the left is Perico Island, which resides inside Panama Bay. Here you’ll find a very large commercial center with bars, restaurants, souvenir and retail stores. Continue along and you’ll soon reach Flamenco Island, the last and largest of the Causeway’s three islands. There are two large commercial complexes on the island. Most, if not all, of the stores in the upper complex have been closed. In the lower complex, you'll find several eateries, Panama City's only Duty-Free shop, and the Fuerte Amador Marina. This is where you want to go!

The Causeway is a must-see for anyone visiting Panama. With gentle breezes, spectacular scenery, and fine dining, the Causeway has something for everyone.

Getting to Amador Causeway

Google Map - Albrook Bus Terminal

Metro buses to Amador Causeway depart every 30 minutes from the Albrook Bus Terminal; look for the bus that reads "Amador." They do not depart from the same area as most other buses, but from just behind the Metro train station.

Ancon Hill

Google Map - Ancon Hill

Rising approximately 654 ft., 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 southernmost section of the Panama Canal, i.e. Miraflores Locks, Pedro Miguel Locks, and Causeway. Ancon Hill is open daily and there is no entrance fee.

Getting to Ancon Hill

There is no public transportation to and from Ancon Hill so you will need to take a taxi.

Barro Colorado Island (Smithsonian Institute)

Google Map - Barro Colorado Island

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.

Biodiversity Museum

Google Map - Biodiversity Museum

Designed by world-renowned architect Frank Gehry, and built along Panama City's Amador Causeway, the 43,056 sq. ft. (4,000 sq. m.) Biodiversity Museum is comprised of several exhibition galleries, a large public atrium, two immense fish tanks, and numerous interactive presentations. While short on physical exhibits, the museum provides visitors with plenty of historic information relating to the isthmus' formation and how it contributed to the creation of Panama and the entire Central American region. As well, the museum closely examines the region's initial inhabitants and the vast array of animal life, that, at one time, inhabited the region. Visit their web site for more information.

Getting to Amador Causeway

Google Map - Albrook Bus Terminal

Metro buses to Amador Causeway depart every 30 minutes from the Albrook Bus Terminal; look for the bus that reads "Amador." They do not depart from the same area as most other buses, but from just behind the Metro train station.

Bridge of the Americas

Google Map - 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 the Panama Canal. Built by the United States and costing $20 million, the Bridge of the Americas now forms an integral part of the Interamerican Highway connecting both North and South America.

Before its construction and for nearly 30 years, ferry service was the principal means of transportation between the eastern and western portions of Panama. Even today, remnants of piers on both sides of the canal are visible and serve as a reminder.

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 were 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.

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, Ancon Hill, and Panama City in the background. If you look north towards Miraflores Locks, you can see a bit more of the Panama Canal. This is the only look-out area near the bridge; you are not permitted to walk across it or stop while driving over it.

For more information regarding the Bridge of the Americas, we recommend you visit the Panama Canal Museum in Casco Antiguo. They have plenty of written literature and numerous photographs reflecting on the construction phase.

Getting to the Bridge of the Americas

There are no public buses that service the look-out area so you'll need to take a taxi.

Casco Antiguo

Google Map - Casco Antiguo

With its 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 government buildings and old, Spanish-style architectural buildings have been fully restored, and now exhibit beautifully maintained exteriors.

Among the many meaningful structures, you’ll find the Metropolitan Cathedral, Municipal Palace, Church of San Francisco, National Theater, Colonial Hotel, French Park, French Embassy, Arco Chato, and ruins of the Convento de Santo Domingo. Casco Antiguo is also home to numerous upscale restaurants, bars, boutiques, hotels, and souvenir shops. Street vendors, primarily of indigenous descent, congregate on street corners where they sell paintings, molas, etc. 

Visitors to Casco Antiguo should visit the Panama Canal Museum situated in front of Cathedral Park, for an in-depth look at the Panama Canal.

Getting to Casco Antiguo

Google Map - Cinta Costera (Balboa Ave.)

There are no public buses that service Casco Antiguo. If you want to walk, you can follow the Cinta Costera to its end; the path runs along Panama Bay, offering wonderful views of the city and park-like surroundings; passes just behind the fish market, a.k.a "Casa de Mariscos;" under the overpass that extends around Casco Antiguo; and then into Casco Antiguo.

Metropolitan Natural Park

Google Map - 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. The park has four trails, all of which are well maintained, easy to find, and offer the visitor something different.

For more information about the Metropolitan Natural Park click here, or visit their website.

Getting to Metropolitan Natural Park

There are no public buses that service the Metropolitan Natural Park so you'll need to take a taxi.

Panama Viejo Ruins & Museum

Google Map - Panama Viejo

Located just northeast of downtown Panama City, Panama Viejo was founded by Pedrarias Davila on 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 Spain’s great bullion lifeline (shipments were said to pass through Panama while en route from Peru’s silver mines to Europe.) The city quickly became a major hub for merchants and landowners, with a population that reportedly 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 enjoy government protection and have been administered by the foundation Patronato Panama La Vieja since 1995. On July 5th 2003 the UNESCO World Heritage Committee added the Panama Viejo Archaeological Site the World Heritage list.

The Cathedral and the ruins that surround it are the structures you'll most likely want to view and photograph. They have been very well preserved and most structures display descriptive text in both English and Spanish. The surroundings are clean and uncluttered with paths connecting relevant sites, making it easy to move around. The ruins across the street and further down the road are not nearly as impressive and have little value.

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 make up Panama Viejo.

Getting to Panama Viejo

Google Map - Albrook Bus Terminal

All Metro buses that read "Panama Viejo" pass by the museum and ruins. The bus stop is located before the museum, and from there you can walk to the nearby ruins. These same buses depart from and return to the Albrook Bus Terminal, and run along the Cinta Costera.

Pipeline Road - Soberania National Park

Google Map - Pipeline Road

Arguably Panama’s most famous birding destination, Pipeline Road is located inside Soberania National Park. 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. Measuring approximately 10.5 miles (17 km) in length, the road is very well maintained and composed primarily of dirt and stones. The first 5 miles (8 km) are relatively flat and easy to walk; there are several small bridges you’ll need to cross. The second half is a bit more challenging with some fairly steep climbs. Most of the trail is lined with dense forest, leaving very few, if any, areas with expansive views.

Getting to Pipeline Road

Google Map - Albrook Bus Terminal

There are no Metro buses that reach Pipeline Road, they only go as far as Summit Gardens. You will need to coordinate your own transportation.

Rainforest Discovery Center (Pipeline Road)

Google Map - Rainforest Discovery Center

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.

Sightseeing Panama Bus Tours

Sightseeing Panama is an international company that offers bus tours throughout Panama City. Your ticket allows you to "HOP ON" and "HOP OFF" at any of their many stops, some of which include Albrook Mall, Miraflores Locks (Panama Canal), Museum of Biodiversity, Flamenco Island (Amador Causeway), Casco Antiguo (Viejo), Multicentro Mall, Panama Viejo, and Multiplaza Mall. Visit their website for more information.

Statue of Balboa

Google Map - Vasco Nuñez Statue of Balboa

Situated along the Cinta Costera, the Vasco Nuñez de Balboa Statue is a historical monument that pays 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 Nuñez 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.

Getting to the Statue of Balboa

Any Metro Bus that runs along Balboa Avenue (Cinta Costera/Albrook) will pass by the statue of Balboa.

Summit Gardens

Google Map - Summit Gardens

Located just 30 minutes outside Panama City, the majority of Summit Gardens' 700 hectares are dedicated for recreation and animal viewing, with a smaller section set aside for plants and orchids. Visitors have an opportunity to view a small sample of the many animal species found in Panama including several different species of monkey, tapir, scarlet macaw, and puma. Signs point to areas of interest, connected by narrow, well-maintained trails.

Summit Gardens has two unique offerings: the Harpy Eagle Museum and Jaguar Exhibit. The Harpy Eagle Museum, while relatively small, has plenty of interesting facts, illustrations, and photos of these magnificent birds of prey, which just happen to be Panama’s national bird. Just behind the museum, a large, outdoor exhibit retains a pair of captive eagles, which can be observed throughout the day through a mesh screen. The other exhibit, better known as "Jaguar World," is a small enclosure where visitors can view these powerful cats up close.

For more information, you can visit their website.

Getting to Summit Gardens

Google Map - Albrook Bus Terminal

Metro buses to Summit Gardens depart daily from the Albrook Bus Terminal, and take only 25-30 minutes.

Taboga Island

Google Map - Taboga Island

Clean and quiet, Isla Taboga contains a network of well-maintained cement paths, many of which are lined with colorful orchids. Small eateries and grocery stores line the main path, where you can purchase soft drinks and a variety of local food dishes. The roads are particularly narrow and not designed to accommodate automobiles; in fact, there are no automobiles on the island. Aside from the network of paths that run along the water’s edge and up into the hillside, there is only one trail of importance on the island for hikers.

The "Cerro de las Tres Cruces" trail guides you to the observatory at the top of Taboga Island where, on a clear day, you'll have expansive views of Taboga Island, El Amador Causeway, Panama City, Bridge of the Americas, and neighboring islands. The hike to the top takes approximately 1–1.5 hour(s), depending on your physical condition and interest in the local flora and fauna; Blue Morpho butterflies, small lizards, and a variety of different bird species can all be observed during your hike. Most of the trail, though well maintained and easy to navigate, is uphill aside for a few small sections and there is very little—if any—cover. Vegetation, depending on the time of year, can be very sparse.

Some of the island’s interesting attractions include the museum, Church of San Pedro, and altar honoring the Christ of Buga. On the south side of the island lies the Taboga Island Wildlife Reserve, which serves as a refuge and reproductive site for a variety of different sea bird species during the months of December–July.

Getting to Taboga Island

Google Map - Albrook Bus Terminal

Two companies offer regularly scheduled ferry service to Taboga Island. Barcos Calypso departs from La Playita on Naos Island; just before reaching the entrance to Punta Culebra turn left and head for the pier. Taboga Express departs from the Fuerte Amador Marina on Flamenco Island, the third and largest of the three islands. We recommend you visit their websites for more information regarding departure times and prices.

Metro buses to Amador Causeway depart every 30 minutes from the Albrook Bus Terminal; look for the bus that reads "Amador." They do not depart from the same area as most other buses, but from just behind the Metro train station.