What are the five best things to see and do in Panama?

Panama is rich with varied activities for all types of travelers, from spectacular beaches and wildlife to historical sites and lively nightlife. Here are Forbes Travel Guide’s picks for the five best things to see and do in this Latin American country: 
 
1. Feel the fish. Head to Starfish Beach, located on the Bocas del Toro archipelago on the Caribbean coast of western Panama. Here you can both observe and walk among the ocean’s starfish.
 
2. Watch the whales. Boating tours are popular in and around Panama’s many beach islands — hop on board and go whale watching. The season runs from June through mid-October and December through February.
 
3. Catch some tunes. In Panama City’s historic center, you’ll find Bar Platea, a fun joint with live bands playing jazz, salsa or rock several nights a week. While you’re in the neighborhood, take time to meander through the streets to see the Colonial buildings.
 
4. Visit a golden altar. Located in Casco Viejo, the historic district of Panama City, the Church of San Jose is famous for its enormous, draw-dropping golden altar (made from carved wood and covered in gold flake).
 
5. View the locks. What would a visit to Panama be without catching a glimpse of the famous canal? Head to the Miraflores Locks (about 10 miles west of the Panama City center) in the afternoon for a chance to see a ship shimmy it’s way through the locks.

  • On July 6, 2012
    Forbes Travel Guide Inspector answered the question: Forbes Travel Guide Inspector

    What is one of the up and coming beach areas in Panama to visit?

    Bocas del Toro, a cluster of islands on the northwestern coast of Panama, is an up and coming beach area for tourists. Forbes Travel Guide editors recommend it for its natural beauty, pristine Caribbean beaches and reasonable prices. The province borders Costa Rica and is often used as a crossing for both countries. Bocas del Toro is part of the Bocas del Toro Archipelago, and the most developed and popular island is Isla Colon. However, if you’re looking for more seclusion, you can stay on some of the smaller surrounding islands just a short taxi ride away from the mainland. Snorkelers and divers will want to visit the national marine park located on the island of Bastimentos for a chance to experience the gorgeous, pristine Montastraea Reef.
  • On July 6, 2012
    Forbes Travel Guide Inspector answered the question: Forbes Travel Guide Inspector

    What is the best thing to bring home from Panama?

    Panama may be known for the ubiquitous Panama hat found everywhere from malls to street vendors, but if you are looking for something that is genuinely native, our Forbes Travel Guide editors recommend you bring home a bottle of the official Panamanian liquor, Seco. The spirit is made from fermented sugar cane and is typically used in place of vodka or rum in cocktails — you can easily add a splash of this liquor for a new take on your favorite drink. A word of warning: sip slowly as Seco is 80 percent proof. To enjoy the strong liquor the way the locals do, mix it with milk and some crushed ice for a creamy, refreshing cocktail.
  • On July 6, 2012
    Forbes Travel Guide Inspector answered the question: Forbes Travel Guide Inspector

    Where is the best nightlife in Panama?

    The Panamanian people love to party and it’s no surprise cosmopolitan Panama City has loads to offer for those seeking a seriously good nightlife scene. There are several areas that are popular in the evenings and our Forbes Travel Guide editors recommend these three: Casco Viejo, Amador Causeway and Calle Uruguay. Casco Viejo is located in the historic district of the city and has a more casual laidback feel with low-key bars and nightclubs on nearly every corner. Amador Causeway is growing in popularity as a nightlife spot, with several new bars and a more upscale and refined take on late-night revelry. Calle Uruguay may be the best and most notorious neighborhood for nightlife — it’s lined with party spots ranging from sports bars to huge nightclubs to live music venues.
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  • On July 6, 2012
    Forbes Travel Guide Inspector answered the question: Forbes Travel Guide Inspector

    What are the five best things to do with kids in Panama?

    Panama is as suitable for the kids as it is for anyone other visitor, with a slew of fun activities bound to keep any child’s interest. Our Forbes Travel Guide editors chose the five best things to do with kids in Panama:
     
    1. Visit the Punta Culebra Marine Exhibition Center. This open-air museum on Isla Naos, located 15 minutes from the center of Panama City, is run by the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute. Kids can learn all about marine life by visiting exhibits, aquariums and the touching pool where they can feel starfish and sea turtles.
     
    2. Go bike riding on Amador Causeway. The Amador Causeway is a pathway that takes you from the main center of Panama City to four tiny islands as it overlooks the entrance of the Panama Canal. You can rent bikes at the entrance and make pit stops at any of the many restaurants along the way.
     
    3. Check out the Panama Canal. You’ll want to take your kids to see one of the world’s most historical and significant waterways — head to Miraflores Locks for an impressive view of massive ships gliding through the tight canals. If your kids want to learn more, head to the onsite museum to see a retrospective on the construction of the famous canal.
     
    4. Schedule a tour through Monkey Island. Take a boat tour on Lake Gatun and see different species of monkeys and exotic birds on Monkey Island (located in the middle of the lake). You’ll make a stop at a natural spring pool where kids can take a dip in the water.
     
    5. Play at Avalon Grand Panama. Book a night at this resort (about 30 minutes north of Panama City) to take advantage of the offerings — a guided jungle tour, a tropical zoo and Jungle Falls, the biggest waterpark in Central America.
  • On July 6, 2012
    Forbes Travel Guide Inspector answered the question: Forbes Travel Guide Inspector

    What are the five best things to see and do in Panama?

    Panama is rich with varied activities for all types of travelers, from spectacular beaches and wildlife to historical sites and lively nightlife. Here are Forbes Travel Guide’s picks for the five best things to see and do in this Latin American country: 
     
    1. Feel the fish. Head to Starfish Beach, located on the Bocas del Toro archipelago on the Caribbean coast of western Panama. Here you can both observe and walk among the ocean’s starfish.
     
    2. Watch the whales. Boating tours are popular in and around Panama’s many beach islands — hop on board and go whale watching. The season runs from June through mid-October and December through February.
     
    3. Catch some tunes. In Panama City’s historic center, you’ll find Bar Platea, a fun joint with live bands playing jazz, salsa or rock several nights a week. While you’re in the neighborhood, take time to meander through the streets to see the Colonial buildings.
     
    4. Visit a golden altar. Located in Casco Viejo, the historic district of Panama City, the Church of San Jose is famous for its enormous, draw-dropping golden altar (made from carved wood and covered in gold flake).
     
    5. View the locks. What would a visit to Panama be without catching a glimpse of the famous canal? Head to the Miraflores Locks (about 10 miles west of the Panama City center) in the afternoon for a chance to see a ship shimmy it’s way through the locks.