If you’ve ever been to Panama City, you’ll likely have feelings of déjà vu. The most cosmopolitan city in Central America and Panama’s capital has a skyline that rivals that of Miami Beach; and a population reminiscent of a Mediterranean city in Europe. A popular retirement location for decades, the city is also becoming a favorite among tourists seeking seaside escapes, nature and wildlife-laden trips and unique historical and cultural destinations. What’s more, you can have all of these experiences while staying in the capital. Here are some of the best Panama City day trips.
Best Panama City Day Trips
Seaside Retreats and Beaches
One of the best things about Panama City, and to an extension, Panama itself, is its close proximity to both the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea; thus giving travelers plenty of options when it comes to finding a spot for your beach getaway.
Not far from the city is Taboga Island, a preferred deserted getaway by those with limited time to spare. Easily reached by ferry from the Balboa Yacht Club, the trip itself only takes half an hour one way from the Amador Causeway. Along the way, you’ll get scenic views of the city skyline and will have a front row seat to the busy line of ships waiting for their turn to cross the Panama Canal. Once you get to the island however, you’ll be welcomed by an array of small boats and fine golden and white sand where you can sunbathe in peace especially during the week. There are a number of eateries to choose from serving seafood and traditional Panamanian dishes. In addition to the beaches, history buffs will also appreciate the island’s history.
It shouldn’t come as a surprise to the well-versed traveler that the string of small islands collectively known as Pearl Islands land on this this list of best Panama City day trips. Popular among reality television shows for its scenic and unspoiled beauty; Pearl Islands offer guests with the perfect day long beach getaway. With the closest island just an hour away; you’ll have plenty of time to enjoy the sunshine and breath of tropical air throughout the day. What’s more, the islands are also popular for whale watching; so you can take advantage of two activities in one swoop.
Nature and the Panamanian Ecosystem
One of the most underrated features of Panama is its biodiversity. Many travelers (including myself) didn’t quite realize how extensive the country’s flora and fauna are. Panama City alone is dubbed to be one of the best places in the world for bird watching and within the city confines are acres of protected parks that contain plant and wildlife unique to the country itself.
A tour of Monkey Island provides travelers with the perfect introduction to the superb wildlife within Panama. Reachable in less than an hour from Panama City; this trip will have you enjoy up-close and personal encounters with some of the country’s friendliest mammals. You will get a sneak peak at the dense rainforest that is also home to different types of birds and other jungle reptiles. As you float around a small boat on Lake Gatun, you’ll get to see all five of the monkey species including capuchins and howlers, but also be prepared to encounter sloths, turtles, iguanas, even crocodiles during your trip.
Pro traveler tip: don’t forget to bring bug repellent and comfortable shoes. This section of the country is a mosquito haven all-year long.
What was once an island limited to research scientist, Barro Colorado now welcomes a limited number of tour groups; to experience this living laboratory that hosts close to 500 birds and mammals and over a thousand species of plants and insects. If you’re wondering which of the best Panama City day trips focus on the country’s ecosystem, that you ought to take, then look no further. Administered and run by the Smithsonian Institute of Tropical Research; the Barro Colorado is one of the most researched places in the world when it comes to biodiversity.
The Embera Tribe
A day trip to visit with the Embera tribe is truly a unique experience and according to feedback from travelers, one of the best Panama City day trips to take while visiting. Tour groups usually begin their journey via rail or by rental car that traverses along the Panama Canal, passes through Soberania National Park and drops you off the shores of Lake Alajuela where the people of Embera welcomes its visitors. During the trip, you’ll get to watch native dances and observe how the women (who are known for their crafts) weave baskets. You’ll also get an opportunity to witness how they hunt for fish and partake in a traditional blessing.