Panama City

See the canal, explore Casco Viejo, swim in an infinity pool overlooking the city, and more!

Notice: This is going to be a lengthy post. I’ll try to keep it simple and organized, but I get so excited about everything we have done in Panama City, and I want you to enjoy it just as much!

Popular Must- Sees in Panama City

If you only have a day or two in Panama City, these are the places that should be at the top of your list!

The Canal Museum (Miraflores Visitor’s Center)
I’ve been here 10+ times and I will always go again. There are 4 floors of history about the Panama Canal, plus an informational movie! The top level is the observation area where you can watch freight liners, cruise ships, and even sailboats pass through the Miraflores Locks (hence, the name of the center). I’ve gone both in late morning and early afternoon to avoid traffic, and they’ve both been great for watching the ships pass.
FYI: There is a canal museum in Casco Viejo, so if you google “canal museum,” you’ll get the wrong one.
More info here.
Amount of time to allot: 2 hours + traffic to get there
Price: Non-Residents- Adults $20, Children 6-12 $12; Residents $1.50-$5

Time-Lapse Video from the observation level at the Miraflores Locks

The Amador/Causeway, the Biomuseo, and the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute
The Amador is neat to drive to; there are a couple of restaurants and an ice cream shop at the end that overlook a marina, plus you get a different view of the city. It’s worth it just for that.
Amount of time to allot: 30 min to 1 hour, plus more if you grab lunch

The Biomuseo in Panama City is great too- again, I have been there 10+ times. It was designed by Frank Gehry, so you know it’s funky. It has a lot of information on how Panama was formed over the years to become an isthmus.
More info on the Biomuseo here.
Amount of time to allot: 1.5 hours
Pricing: Non-Residents- Adults $11, Residents $5

Past the Biomuseo is the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute. It’s definitely worth a stop, especially if you’re in the area! There are resident sloths, as well as a frog exhibit, touch pools, and a sea turtle exhibit. More info on the Smithsonian Institute here.
Amount of time to allot: 1.5 hours
Pricing: Non-Residents $7, Residents $4, Children under 13 $2


Casco Viejo (sometimes also referred to as Casco Antiguo)
I love Casco. Walking around during the day is great- check out the graffiti, the street shops selling knick-knacks at the point, and get drinks and lunch at some cool spots. Going out at night is great too- bars, clubs, and restaurants on every corner. More on those recommendations below.
Pro Tip: If you’re taking an Uber, ask to get dropped off/picked up at “la entrada de Casco Viejo” by Lazotea & Santa Rita. Just walk the rest of the way- Casco traffic is unbelievably awful… and do you really want to talk to your Uber driver any more?
If you’re doing a day-time Casco visit and have a little more time, you should check out Mercado de Mariscos (not to be confused with “The Fish Market” restaurant, though that’s also good). Fishermen bring in their daily catches so you can buy all of your seafood here! There are also restaurants on the upper level- I’d recommend lunch or an afternoon snack here.
Just past the Mercado de Mariscos is the Cinta Costera 2; a green space between the city and the bay with walking/biking paths, and numerous workout areas. It’s fun to walk along here towards Punta Paitilla if you have the time!


Infinity Pool at the Hard Rock Hotel

Leisure
If you’re looking to just relax for an afternoon in Panama City, check out the Hard Rock Hotel Pool. You can buy day passes, and then swim or sit by the infinity pool overlooking the city.

Or, if you want to head to a park bandshell for a concert or show, check out Parque Omar (Anfiteatro al Aire Libre Parque Omar). They usually have a lot of fun and unique events- we experienced an orchestra playing video game theme songs!


Parks and Nature in Panama City

Lake Gatun– This is a great day trip to take from the city! I used Jungle Land Panama and booked a fishing excursion. The ride from the boat launch to the fishing area was awesome- it was great to see the canal from a different perspective than from the Miraflores locks. We fished for a few hours, went to the floating lodge (you can stay overnight here!!) for lunch and a swim, and on the way back to the boat launch we stopped by Monkey Island! Overall, it was a bit pricey for our group of 3, but I loved it and would absolutely do it again.
Amount of time to allot: At least 1 full day, more if you want to stay overnight on the floating raft!
Price: Packages per person start at $100

Ancon Hill– If you’re driving near the bridge (Puente de las Americas) you will be able to see Ancon Hill, with the Panamanian flag at its peak. Here is an article with directions to each of the entrances and a bit of history!
Amount of time to allot: 30 min hike each way, plus time at the top (~1.25 hours)
Price: Free if you hike all the way up, or you can pay a few dollars to drive to the top

Metropolitan Park– A natural park in the middle of Panama City! See sloths, birds, monkeys and more. Head to the visitor center first, buy your ticket, and then check out the butterfly farm and take the trail to the Cedar Hill Lookout to get a great view of the city. Get more info here.
Amount of time to allot: 2-3 hours
Price: Non-Residents- Adults $4, Residents $1

Gamboa & Rainforest Discovery Center– You can certainly do a tour here, or it’s very easy to just drive to the visitor center and get more information there. Make sure to go to the Observation Tower (200m from the visitor center). The area along Pipeline Road is well-known for bird watching, so don’t forget your binoculars! Get more info here.
Amount of time ot allot: 2 hours to all day
Price: Non-Residents- Adults $30, Children 6-12 $5; Residents $12, Resident Children $5


Restaurants and Clubs in Panama City

Yes, many of these are located in Casco Viejo. But let’s face it- that’s where the tourists and the money are! Also, these aren’t in any specific order, but I’ve put an * next to the places that we would frequent.

Lazotea*- A rooftop bar and restaurant with arguably the best views of the city. Grab a cocktail and enjoy the view.
Find their website here.
Location: Casco Viejo
Santa Rita– A more casual rooftop bar and Mexican restaurant, located next door to Lazotea.
Find their website here.
Location: Casco Viejo
Tantalo– Very popular among tourists, it’s a hotel, bar and kitchen with a rooftop (usually with a cover charge at night).
Check their calendar for DJs, pricing, etc here.
Location: Casco Viejo
La Rana Dorada*- Craft beer and bar apps, in a cool building! (Used to be by the entrance/the triangle to Casco, now located just a couple of blocks further toward Av. Central)
Find their website here.
Location: Casco Viejo, Vía Argentina, Costa del Este, San Francisco, Clayton, Condado del Rey, and Brisas del Golf
NacionSushi– If you’re feeling Sushi, this is the place to go.
Find their website here.
Location: Casco Viejo, Costa del Este, San Francisco, el Cangrejo, Albrook
The Fish Market*- They started as a food truck in an abandoned lot in Casco, and now they finally have a brick and mortar location in Costa del Este! Get the tzatziki fries, and try their catch of the day.
Find their website here.
Location: Costa del Este
Panadería los Venezolanos*- O.M.G. Venezuelan food. If you haven’t had an arepa (or better yet, a cachapa), are you even living? Go get lunch here.
Find them on the Degusta app.
Location: Vía Argentina
Finca del Mar– Grab a drink here as you’re walking around Casco. It gets hot, you should stay hydrated, and they have swings at their bar.
Find them on Instagram @fincadelmarpanama
Location: Casco Viejo
Esa Flaca Rica– Looking for a good burger? You can’t go wrong here.
Find them on Instagram @esaflacarica
Location- Costa del Este, San Francisco, and Centennial
CasaCasco– Located on the rooftop in the same building as NacionSushi, CasaCasco has a phenomenal rooftop overlooking the canal. Grab a drink and start the night here.
Find their website here.
Location: Casco Viejo
Casa Jaguar– A fun little club. Apparently also a Gastropub? I don’t know, I haven’t been there before 11pm.
Find their website here.
Location: Casco Viejo
Granclement*- Want ice cream? Sure, Ay Mi Negra is good, but have you tried the Lavender ice cream here? I’d fly back for that (if there was a good deal).
Find them on Instagram @granclement_icecream
Location: Casco Viejo
Miranda Bakery and Cafe*- Looking for lunch and dessert? Here you go!
Find them on Instagram @miranda_bakery
Location: San Francisco
Karamel Bakery– Custom desserts and a small breakfast menu in a cute little shop.
Find their website here.
Location: Marbella/el Cangrejo
Pan y Canela*- It’s a coffee shop with some pastries. We used to live right across from the Panama Pacifico location (it has since closed), and I would always get the quesitos. Just try them!
Find their website here.
Location: Clayton
Papppa Pizza*- I like pizza. A lot. Thankfully, we used to live across from here! Try the #17 Pizza Siciliana!
Find their website here.
Location: Panama Pacifico
Hard Rock Hotel/Rooftop– I’ve had a couple of late nights here (it’s a great NYE spot for all of the fireworks, by the way!) Another spot with cool views of the city and overpriced drinks. What more could you ask for?
Find their website here.
Location: Punta Paitilla