You could make it easy for yourself with Panama. You could say “Oh, how beautiful Panama is” and then add a few pictures and you’re done. Fortunately, however, the country is so much more than “just” beautiful. It is contrasting, diverse and impressive – with wild nature, Bocas del Toro and Panama City as a chaotic capital Our blogger Anika explains.

Fully loaded fishing boats sail along the harbor in front of the skyline of Panama City.
Tradition meets modernity: the fishing boats are moored in the harbor in front of the impressive skyline of Panama City.

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Oh, how diverse is Panama City!

At first glance, the capital of the Central American country is chaotic, full of construction sites and traffic, in a word: noisy. It is not for nothing that the metropolis is referred to as the “Dubai of Central America”, which is mainly due to the income from the Panama Canal.

 Even if Panama City can be overwhelming at the beginning, I found the city to be ideal for arriving, because after a long flight there is nothing better than throwing yourself directly into the hustle and bustle of an unfamiliar metropolis.

First stop: Get out of the chaos and into the romantic old town of Casco Viejo , which can be reached on foot along the harbor with a short stop at the fish market. Here, between listed colonial buildings and narrow streets, things are much quieter than in the rest of the city. Rather sleepy during the day, the old town is ideal for admiring the many beautiful buildings and stopping off in one of the cafés for an iced coffee.

 In the evening, chic and modern restaurants or bars open their doors and music pours out everywhere. But above all, you should be high up and overlooking the city’s night skyline with a cocktail in hand.

Colorful colonial buildings line the streets of Old Panama City in San Felipe.
In Casco Viejo, the old town of Panama City, also known as “San Felipe”, you will find decorative colonial buildings.
Strings of lights between the facades of the houses illuminate the streets of Panama City's old town at night.
The district at night is a hotspot for good drinks, delicious food and great views.

Second stop: The Natural Science Biomuseo in Panama City. It is located directly on the Panama Canal and is worth a visit simply because of its architecture, which is well worth seeing. From an open-space atrium with adjoining café, both open to the public, it leads to various galleries, which are still being expanded:

In “Panamarama” you can experience the country’s ecosystem using multimedia, and in the subsequent exhibition room it is explained why Panama is known as ” living bridge” between North and South America and is therefore crucial for the exchange of species between these continents. If you want to understand Panama’s biodiversity, you should definitely put the museum on the list – I also liked to go for a walk along the Panama Canal afterwards.

Speaking of which: If you want to visit the locks, you should go to the Miraflores Locks. A taxi there from the old town costs around ten US dollars, depending on your negotiating skills. To make it worthwhile and to see the huge container ships, it is best to go in the morning or early afternoon – and possibly combine the visit with dinner overlooking the canal.

A colorful roof landscape adorns the natural science museum "Biomuseo" in Panama City, America.
The colorful roofscape of the museum is reminiscent of the architecture of traditional Caribbean houses.
Various boats and ships navigate the Panama Canal along the promenade.
The promenade along the Panama Canal is good for a stroll and starts right at the museum.

Tips for Panama City

From the city to the archipelago – off to Bocas del Toro!

With the overnight bus, which starts at the Albrook bus terminal at around 6 p.m. and arrives in Almirante at around 6 a.m. the next morning, it is more pleasant and comfortable than expected to get from the city to nature.

 From Almirante on the mainland it is only a stone’s throw – more precisely a boat trip – to Isla Colon, the main island of the Bocas del Toro archipelago. I found this last part of the journey particularly beautiful, as the boat left in pitch black darkness and approached the main island of Colon with the first rays of the sun. Hello paradise!

There’s a lot going on in Bocas Town, that’s for now. There is hippie flair in the air here, the Caribbean houses are brightly painted, tourists and locals alike ride bicycles on the streets. Sightseeing tours and hotels are endless; the island is also known as a surfer’s paradise! If you like tourist hustle and party, you should stay. 

If you prefer to hike on remote jungle paths and prefer peace and quiet, you should do the same and take a boat to the neighboring island of Bastimentos . An immensely green nature and wonderfully wild beaches await you there.

A water taxi floats in the water of Panama City overlooking Bocas del Toro in the evening sun.
From the mainland to Bocas – the water taxi arrives with the first rays of the sun.
A red scooter is parked in front of a yellow and green colonial-style house richly decorated with plants and flags in Bocas del Toro, Panama.
In Bocas, the houses are colorful, life is loud, the mood is great: a feel-good place for everyone who likes hustle and bustle.
Two pancakes with maple syrup and pieces of melon were arranged on a white plate.
Eat freshly made pancakes with pineapple, bananas and maple syrup all day long!

Located directly on the beautiful and clean Red Frog Beach on Bastimentos Island, Palmar follows sustainable principles to protect the island’s rainforest. Surrounded by the most fascinating sounds of the jungle – howler monkeys, cicadas, birdsong – and the sound of the waves of the Caribbean Sea, I really felt like I had arrived here. 

I stayed in a glamping tent, which was simpler than the rooms and suites in the complex, but I was able to immerse myself completely in nature.

It’s a dream to spend a few days in Bastimentos, whose national park is known as the “Galapagos of the North”. There is no shortage of activities: yoga, snorkeling and diving with possible turtle and shark sightings, jungle tours, zip-lining, the organic farm up in the hill,  … so much is possible here! Just like doing nothing all day long but burying your feet in the sand, slurping up coconuts and looking out for the red frogs.

At the accommodation Palmar on the island of Bastimentos there is a wooden terrace with chairs between palm trees and a view of the beach.
The sprawling, fully sustainable development Palmar is located right on the beach and is run by three young Americans.
Among the trees, shrubs and palm trees of the jungle of Bastimentos, Panama, the white roof of the Palmar can be barely discerned.
Welcome to the jungle! View of the jungle that almost swallows up the accommodation.
Fine sandy beach, turquoise water and palm trees adorn Red Frog Beach in Bastimentos, Panama.
From Red Frog Beach you can walk to other beaches where the wild waves of the Caribbean Sea roll in.
An uprooted tree in front of palm trees lies on the sandy Playa Polo beach in Bastimentos, Panama, America.
This beach can be easily reached on foot from Red Frog Beach: The original Playa Polo.

Tips for Bocas del Toro

By the way: It is also possible to fly directly from Panama City to Bocas del Toro. AirPanama flies to the Archipelago from Tocumen International Airport and Albrook Long Distance Bus Station.


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