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Things to do in Panama City, A Central American Metropolis Worth Seeing

Things to do in Panama City: A Quick Guide

I used to work in a supermarket and every now and again there would be a Snickers/Mars bar competition – lurking inside 1 in 6 chocolate bars was a golden ticket for a free bar. Central America is kind of the same; lurking within the boundaries of one capital city is a unique mix of the old and the new, a Central American Metropolis that’s actually worth seeing. Luckily you don’t have to waste your time in the golden ticketless cities like Managua or San Salvador; Panama City is where it’s at! There a plenty of fun things to do in Panama City — here’s a quick guide.

The Panama Canal

One of the most popular things to do in Panama City is a trip to the Panama Canal. One of modern man’s most amazing feats of engineering, the Panama Canal is a world icon and is definitely worth a visit. The Miraflores locks are close to the city and if you’re lucky you’ll see them open for a massive ship to pass through. It’s a pretty cool sight and the museum is interesting enough. We took a taxi from Casco Viejo for around $6 and the entrance fee is $15. You can also take a cruise through the Canal but it seems expensive!

Things to do in Panama City -- The Miraflores Locks

Casco Viejo

The people in charge of restoring Casco Viejo seem to be big fans of Cartagena, and that’s definitely not a bad thing. This Spanish colonial suburb in Panama City has relaxing plazas, beautiful churches and plenty of colonial era houses with balconies full of flowers. It’s a great place for a stroll and you’ll feel like you’re in Spain instead of Central America.

Things to do in Panama City -- Casco ViejoThings to do in Panama City -- Spanish colonial churches

Hiking in Panama City

Far from just skyscrapers, colonial buildings and urban sprawl, Panama City is also home to a huge area of rainforest where it’s possible to spot all kinds of animals and birds. Gia saw what she thinks was an anteater and we heard heaps of birds, but a short way into our walk the skies opened and treated us to a huge downpour. We only had one umbrella and got completely soaked on the walk back.

Things to do in Panama City -- jungle hiking

Walking from Casco Viejo to downtown Panama City

One of the best things to do in Panama City is to walk from the past to the present, from the colonial grandeur of Casco Viejo to the skyscrapers of the downtown area. The views are great, either looking towards the city or back at the old town. We stopped off for lunch at the fish market for some cerviche and fried fish – a little more expensive than the cheap Chinese restaurants we’d eaten at previously but definitely worth it. Walking from Casco Viejo to downtown takes around an hour and a taxi back should only cost you a few dollars.

Things to do in Panama City -- Walking from Casco Viejo to downtown

Things to do in Panama City -- downtown Panama City

Panama City to Colombia

If you find yourself in Panama City for travel purposes then it’s likely you’ll either have just arrived from Colombia or you’ll soon be heading there. A lot of people fly, and there are good deals to be had with Vivacolombia, but a great alternative is to take a boat trip via the stunning San Blas Islands. We went with San Blas Adventures and it was awesome, check out the details of our trip (and photos of amazing Caribbean beaches).

Further reading: A Boat Trip from Panama to Colombia via the San Blas Islands

Things to do in Panama City -- San Blas Islands tour

If you’re getting a bit sick of Central American cities then Panama City could be your saviour. There are heaps of things to do in Panama City and it feels pretty safe (although we met a guy who had most of his things stolen from a taxi, don’t let you’re guard down!) and isn’t too expensive. It was by far the best capital city in Central America; we had to open a few prizeless chocolate bars to get there but it was worth it.

Further reading: Heading to Panama City? Check out this guide on Wikitravel

Have you been to Panama City? Are there any other cool things to do in Panama City that I missed?Can you offer some praise to any of the other big cities in Central America? Let me know!

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Jon Algie

A travel blogger from New Zealand who hates talking about himself in the third person and has no imagination when it comes to naming websites.
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