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Places to See in Panama

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There are so many places to visit in Panama ranging from historical buildings and churches to museaums, parks, rain forests, zoos, art galleries, volcanoes, waterfalls, white sandy beaches, mud baths, hot springs and stone age indian villages.

Panama City

See the 9th Wonder of the World

Panama Canal Often referred to as the ninth wonder of the world, the Panama Canal extends across Panama from the Pacific Ocean to the Atlantic Ocean. Seeing the Panama Canal really is a must-do. You can get to the Canal in just 40 minutes from downtown Panama City. The Miraflores Visitor Center is a state-of-the-art museum with excellent interactive exhibits of the Canal's history, people and ecosystem. Visit and find out why some say it’s the greatest engineering achievement for human kind!

While you are here check Out the Centennial Bridge. It is the famous bridge that crosses the Panama Canal. It earned the American Segmental Bridge Institute prize of excellence together with 7 other bridges in the Americas. Also see the National Institute of Culture Building and across from it and the French Embassy. For more on the Panama Canal click here

See the Golden Altar at the Church of San Jose

Panama City

One of Panama City's greatest treasures is the baroque Altar de Oro – the Golden Altar – located in the Church of San Jose.

In 1671, news of pirate Henry Morgan's approach reached the priest responsible for the Church of San Jose. Desperate to protect the church's most valuable possession, the priest painted the altar black. Morgan arrived ready to claim his prize, but the priest was able to convince him that a previous pirate had beaten him to the loot and that the black altar was merely wood. Legend also has it that the priest even wangled a donation toward a replacement altar from Morgan, which elicited the response, "I don't know why, but I think that you are more of a pirate than I am." Mass is still celebrated at the Church of San Jose, so use discretion when visiting.

Also admire the Scenery at Las Bóvedas - The Vaults, a waterfront promenade jutting out into the Pacific.

Be Entertained at the National Theatre

Teatro Nacional is a recently renovated performance center, with outstanding natural acoustics with seating for about 800 guests.

Understand Panama’s Modern History at the Museo del Canal Interoceánico (Inter-oceanic Canal Museum)

Humans have cris-crossed the Isthmus of Panama for millennia. This museum chronicles the latest chapters of that history, focusing on the time when European excursions searched for a route to Asia up to the modern era of canal building and administration. The story is told with photographs, educational videos, and historical exhibits, including original copies of canal treaties. Displays are labelled in Spanish, but if you call ahead, you can arrange a free guided tour in English.

Be Awed at the Church and Convent of Santo Domingo

In San Felipe (Casco Viejo) district of Panama City, see this magnificently maintained chapel, which was constructed in 1756. Inside, you'll find religious paintings and sculpture, sacred relics crafted from silver and bone, and an exquisite gold altar.

Fly to the Top at Palacio de las Garzas

Heron's Palace: the official name of the presidential palace. There are real herons in the compound.

Chill out at the Summit Botanical Gardens

This small zoo can be found in Soberania National Park, just 20 minutes from downtown Panama City. Among its popular residents are jaguars, scarlet macaws, tapirs, and monkeys – all housed in their natural habitats. The zoo's most prized exhibit, however, is the Harpy Eagle habitat. This species, also Panama's national bird, is the world's largest bird of prey and can reach weights of 20 pounds and boast wingspans of seven feet. This place is also known for its collection of palm trees – one of the most diverse selections at any garden. The park also offers bathroom facilities, a playground, and a restaurant.

Blow your Mind at the Parque Natural Metropolitano (Metropolitan Nature Park).

This unspoiled urban park covers 655 acres and is only a 10-minute drive north of downtown. The rainforest setting of this place is home to monkeys, white-tailed deer, sloths, and many birds, including orioles, toucans, and parakeets.

Visitors may stroll along several nature paths, the best of which is the 2 kilometer La Cienaguita trail, which affords gorgeous views overlooking the city. A greenhouse with native orchids, a small museum, a library, and a gift shop are onsite. Plus, if you call ahead, you can arrange a guided tour with a park ranger.

A veritable treasure of nature, these acres of pristine rainforest host 105 species of mammals, 525 species of birds and 124 species of reptiles and amphibians. In this national park, the best known trail is the Pipeline Road, very popular among birdwatchers.

Recently, a well traveled travel writer said that she had traveled to the deepest part of the Amazon, but not seen nearly as much nature in the Amazon as she saw in the Panama Canal Rainforest, just 30 minutes from the modern metropolis of Panama City.

See how They Lived at the Afro-Antillian Museum

This small but fascinating museum, located in a renovated church, chronicles the history of the Antillean immigrants who helped construct the Panama Canal. Artifacts include household items, musical instruments, artistic works, and photographs of both their new lives in Panama and their ancestral homes of Martinique, Haiti, and Jamaica.

Partake of a Little Culture at the Museum of Modern Art (Museo de Arte Contemporáneo de Panamá)

This facility, Panama's only private museum, showcases both native and international artists. Works on display encompass a variety of media, including sculpture, painting, photography, and silk-screen. In addition to its permanent collection, the museum hosts traveling exhibits, concerts, lectures, and workshops for children and adult.

Educate Yourself at the Marine Exhibitions Center & The Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute

At the Pacific entrance of the canal is the Centro de Exhibiciones Marinas, a research center for those interested in tropical marine life and ecology. Centro de Exhibiciones Marinas is managed by the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute.

Currently the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute operates a station and a small museum open to the public at Culebra Point on the island of Naos.

A new museum, The Bridge of Life Museum, is currently under construction on the causeway and is scheduled to be completed in 2009.

The Salón Bolivar is of outstanding historical importance, as the venue for Simón Bolivar's visionary attempt in 1826 to create a Pan-American congress, more than a century before such institutions became a reality.

More things to see just outside Panama City

Indians in panama Have a Mud Bath at Posada del Cerro la Vieja

This place is a just a quick trip from Panama City. What makes the place interesting is the unique mountain scenery. In the area you can hike trails, go horseback riding, check out a beautiful waterfall or relax in the herbal mud baths.

See how the Ethnic Indians Live at the Embera Indian Village

This is the real thing, right out of the pages of National Geographic: an authentic, unforgettable encounter with a living Indian culture. An hour and half from Panama City, take a motorized canoe (the only means of transportation in the jungle) to ascend the river to an authentic Embera Indian village along a river bank. During your stay, the Indians will share their native foods, perform tribal dances, show you how they weave their intricate baskets and explain their way of life, culture and beliefs.

See Taboga Island

The town of Taboga is run down like most small Panamanian towns, the best thing about the trip is the one-hour trip with ocean breezes, an unforgettable view of Panama Citys' striking skyline and the activity at the entrance to the Panama Canal.

See the Hot Springs at El Valle

El Valle is a small town located just a few hours outside of Panama City. The town itself is located in a long dormant volcano. The mountains in the area are great for hiking, eco-tours, relaxing in hot springs and much more. Additionally there is a nice Indian market selling locally produced products. For more on Panama City visit our Panama City page.

Things to See in Boquete

Boquete Town Understand how Coffee is Grown and Prepared

The Kotowa coffee tour is the best coffee-estate tour in the area. The 3 hours long tour describes the estate's history (emphasis on the estate's environmentally friendly methods of coffee production), shows the production facilities and the estate's processing mill with all the original machinery followed by a tasting session, during which guests learn what to look for in high quality coffee. Try to make reservations 24 hour before desired tour date. Tel. 720-3852.

Gardens to Visit

Mi Jardin es Su Jardin, just uphill from Café Ruiz, is a magnificent garden surrounding a luxurious private estate. There is no entrance fee, and the garden is open every day of the year. A great place to visit.

Only a 45-minutes walk from the center of Boquete is El Explorador. There is a cafeteria which serves breads, hot chocolate and many more of food and beverages and behind the cafeteria there is a garden like a page ripped from Alice in Wonderland. El Explorador is open only on weekends and holidays and the entrance costs about $1.00

Experience the Rain Forest

Boquete Tree Trek gives you a chance to safely experience the thrill of a zip-line canopy tour that can be compared to the most famous in the world. You will glide through the trees and encounter a world unknown. The tour is divided into 11 different zip-line cables over 3 kilometers in total length. Tel. 720-1635

See the Isla Boca Brava

You will experience the full sea side of the pacific coast in Chiriqui while still being close to shore. Tel. 720-1635.

See the Volcano - Vulcan Baru

Tour to the Volcano, at 3,475 meters altitude, when fair weather you will be able to look at the Atlantic and the Pacific oceans both at the same time. Tel. 720-1635. For more on Boquete visit our Boquete page.

Places to see in Bocas del Toro

Monkeys Panama Say Hello to the Sloths

Take a tour into the rain forest to see sloths, howler monkeys, toucans, parrots, iguanas and tiny, brightly colored, poison dart frogs. Beautiful anaimals and a wonderful place.

Visit the Cave & Shrine

Across the street from the town's lone soda (small store) is a plain cement walkway that veers off the road and down the slope of a hill. Nestled to one side, at the bottom of the ravine, near the mouth of a cave and a fresh water spring is a shrine to the Virgin Mary.

The area is shaded by a grove of trees and is quite cool even at midday in the middle of summer. Situated at the entrance to the cave, and placed all around the statue, are dozens of different colored glass candles. As you enter into the cave, the light from these candles flickers and bounce off the walls in a kaleidoscope of shifting colors.

Further into the cave, it is possible to look up and see thousands of small fruit bats sleeping upside down and hanging from the ceiling. There is a quiet serenity to the place that allows visitors to relax and enjoy the beauty of its surroundings.

Admire Elk and Brain Coral

Scuba diving & snorkeling in Bocas del Toro is in some of the best and most diverse waters in all of Central America. The cost however is about half what you would expect to pay in places like Roatan, Honduras. You can find over two dozen different types of corals, hundreds of species of fish, kelp forests, shipwrecks, caves and reefs all within an hour of Bocas town. With so many different types of diving experiences to be had, it is the perfect place to spend a couple of weeks exploring them all.

One popular destination for divers and snorkelers a like, is Hospital Point. At only five minute by boat from Bocas, this point is easily accessible and a great place to get your feet wet. The water is warm and clear and it is possible to see many different examples of coral such as brain and elk.

For those on a budget, a mask, snorkel and fins can be rented in town for as little as $12 for the day. They can then hire one of the many locals along the wharf to take them over by boat and then pick them up later in the day for no more the three dollars.For more on Bocas del Toro visit our Bocas Del Toro page.

A few More Places to See in Panama

See the Forts at Portobello & San Lorenzo

These are some interesting towns/ruins on the Caribbean coastline of Panama. In Spanish colonial times both towns were important trading centers. To protect these towns the Spaniards constructed two forts. Today you can visit these ruins and check out some nice local museums.

Experience the Perfect Beaches of the Pearl Islands

Located on the Pacific side of Panama, these islands are easy to get to, but not overly touristic. The islands are a grouping of 100 small islands. The beaches are fantastic, the waters are clear, and the plant and animal life is unmatched.

Go into the Jungle at Darien

Just to the south of Panama City lies the Darien Jungle. It is a relatively untouched rainforest. As such it is a great place to go to see nature at its finest. The jungle is incredible and the amount of animal life is staggering. You will need a tour guide to visit this area of Panama. If you have time this place should be high on your list of things to do in Panama.