70 AWESOME THINGS TO DO IN PANAMA: THE BUCKET LIST

Most travelers spend a week in Panama and before continuing their travel onwards to Colombia or Costa Rica. I’ll be honest, I planned to spend a month in Panama and then head to Costa Rica. The reality was I never made it to Costa Rica. Panama captured my imagination. The adventures were real. There weren’t many tourists. It was cheap. I felt very safe. However, the best part about Panama was that I’d never heard of any of the hikes, waterfalls or beaches. Every day was an adventure and I ended up staying for 100 days, learning Spanish along the way and visiting a waterfall, hiking a mountain or exploring a beach almost every single day.

I made it my mission to create the largest ever adventure travel guide for Panama. I even explored some spots that the locals were surprised about. Panameno’s love their adventure and I met so many awesome locals along this journey. Thanks to all of you for making my 100 days incredible! This is a travel guide I am immensely proud of. I have put an unbelievable amount of energy into documenting these adventures so that I can share it with you all. This is my adventure guide to Panama.

I have split the activities up by region so you can plan accordingly depending on which regions you plan to visit. If you enjoy hiking, Boquete, El Valle de Anton, and Santa Fe are the three spots you must spend a week in. If you want those tropical beaches, Bocas Del Toro, Escudo de Veraguas and Santa Catalina are places in Panama you need to visit. For any other tips, you can search throughout the blog or don’t hesitate to message me on Instagram or via email.

 

What to pack? You might want to check out my Panama Packing List to see what I think are the essentials for exploring this awesome country from the hikes to the waterfalls.

My travel insurance: One last thing before you get started! Have you got your travel insurance for Panama yet? You can Click Here to find out how I get the best deal on travel insurance, which insurance recommend using in Panama and why I never travel without it. *This blog post involves photos of my bike crash.

 

CONTACT JERRY THE LOCAL GUIDE (MY BEST FRIEND IN PANAMA)

If you need a local guide or are looking for tips to travel through Panama I suggest contacting, Jerry,  one of my best friends from Panama.  He runs group tours to off the beaten path locations like Escudo de Veraguas and Bayano Caves. He is a local, indigenous guide who is incredibly funny, honest and knows Panama by the back of his hand. We explored all of Cocle together and went on some insane adventures and he became like a brother to me. If you have any questions or want help, tours, guides or tips he is your man.

Instagram: @jerryfit

WhatsApp: +507 6153 8924

Email: [email protected]

 

70 AWESOME THINGS TO DO IN PANAMA: THE BUCKET LIST

 

BOQUETE (CHIRIQUI PROVINCE)

Boquete has fast become one of my favorite adventure towns. It is nestled in the province of Chiriqui, which is in the north of Panama only a couple hours drive to the Costa Rican border. At almost 2000 meters above sea level, Boquete has a cool climate, which is perfect weather to explore all of the awesome hikes and waterfalls in the region. Boquete is also one of the best places to spot the famous Resplendent Quetzal bird in the canopy of the many forests

 

THE LOST WATERFALLS TRAIL

On one of the most stunning jungle trails in the world, we looked for the lost waterfalls of Boquete. Through luscious jungle, we trekked. Over muddy paths, we slipped and stumbled. From one patch of wildflowers to the next we discovered. Until we reached three, breathtakingly powerful and mind-blowingly beautiful waterfalls. The Lost Waterfall Trail Hike is one of the best things to do in Boquete and even in the whole of Panama.

The Lost Waterfalls Trail is the first thing most visitors do in Boquete. It is $7 entrance but quite easy to get to and only a short hike but it gives great value with three amazing waterfalls. It is the crowd pleaser and great for those who want a bit of an adventure, a waterfall but only half a day worth of effort.

View the full blog post: THE LOST WATERFALLS TRAIL HIKE

the lost waterfalls boquete

 

THE PIPELINE TRAIL

The Pipeline Trail is another great hike in the Bajo Mono region just outside of Boquete Town. Walk alongside a river through the jungle until you reach a massive yet slow-descending cascade at the end of the trail. On the way, you will discover a thousand-year-old tree and some unique wildlife. The trail takes about two hours and is a great way to spend a morning or afternoon when you are staying in Boquete town.

The Pipeline Trail is a nice short walk through the jungle, with a great chance of spotting a Quetzal bird. They say this is one of the best things to do in Boquete for spotting the Quetzal. we also spotted a snake, caterpillars and lots of beautiful plants along the way.

The waterfall is quite high but more of a trickle than an aggressive flow like those on The Lost Waterfalls Trail.

View the full blog post: THE PIPELINE TRAIL

pipeline trail boquete hike

 

EL PIANISTA TRAIL

El Pianista Trail fast became my favorite jungle adventure in Boquete with its narrow canyon-esque path. The trail is just 4km out of Boquete town and is a 3-4 hour out and back trail with more than 2000 feet of elevation. The trail leads you into a cloud forest, which essentially means at least half of the trail is inside the clouds. This turns the scenery into a dripping rainforest, where life is buzzing, water droplets are falling to the floor from every leaf and wildflowers and birds are plentiful.

We felt like the path was leading us through an undiscovered island. It was a truly immersive hike and being in the cloud forest was like nothing I’ve ever experienced before. I’m sure there are plenty around the world but I will really be seeking them out from this point onwards.

This trail harbors some dark secrets. In 2014, two Dutch girls in their early 20’s made it to the summit and then went missing. There was no sign of the girls until a few weeks later. There are huge holes in the story of what happened and how the investigation unfolded. The girls’ backpack was found 8 weeks later, bones including a foot still inside a boot were also found weeks later. The girls had hiked down past the summit into the continental divide. The area between Costa Rica and Panama. The Ngobe tribe were the people to discover the backpack and would have been the first contact for the girls had they come into trouble and looking for a way out according to the reports.

The conclusion from local police was that it was a hiking accident. However, some locals and sources think there was a third person involved and the girls were met with foul-play out in the jungle. There is now a memorial for the girls at the top of the summit. It was definitely one of the eeriest things to do in Boquete, knowing this story and the moody vibe due to the clouds in the forest.

View the full blog post: EL PIANISTA TRAIL

el pianista trail boquete

el pianista trail boquete

 

LA PIEDRA DE LINO HIKE

It may be one of the shortest hikes in Boquete distance wise but La Piedra De Lino will hurt your legs the most! This hike was a grueling 434 meters in elevation over just 1.3km. That means for every three meters you walk forward, you walk up one meter. However, the view of Boquete from the top rock is worth the climb.

La Piedra De Lino means the rock of Lino. Lino is a small section of Boquete only about four kilometers from the center of Boquete town. There were lots to see on the way up with flowers, berries, and glimpses of the view as we made our way to the top of the rock. Every time I turned back to look at the incline was an epic little view. There was no-one else on the trail at all and we felt like we were out in the jungle even though we had views back towards Boquete town!

The cool part about La Piedra De Lino is that you have views in multiple directions. You can look out to Volcan Baru, back into Bajo Mono or up to the east of Boquete. There were tons to look at. It would be a great sunset spot but unfortunately, we only head stormy weather. It was still a great adventure and one I would plan to do with the possibility of a sunset if you have the chance. It was one of the toughest things to do in Boquete for your legs although the pain is shortlived as the trek is only small.

View the full blog post: LA PIEDRA DE LINO (THE ROCK OF LINO) HIKE

la piedra de lino rock hike

la piedra de lino rock hike

 

LA PIEDRA DE ARTILLERIA HIKE

La Artilleria hike is a beautiful trail up to one of the most epic viewpoints in all of Boquete. However, it is a strange one. The hike is suggested as a hiking trail on a poster in my hostel but apparently on private property, of which the owner wants no hikers coming onto. We were rejected by the owner of the property but managed to wrangle our way to the top of the viewpoint. My philosophy is always if you aren’t doing anyone or anything harm, there should be no harm in it. If I have to bend the rules a little as long as no-one is negatively impacted by the process. Having said that, you can decide where your morals lay with trespassing!

At the top of the trail, we scrambled up the rocks and watched the clouds part to show us an amazing view of Boquete! It was definitely the best view we had during our hiking in Boquete and something I will never forget. In the opposite direction, we had rolling mountains with several layers and even a rainbow appeared. It was a day where everything seemed to turn out perfectly although this is one of the things to do in Boquete that won’t be recommended at your hostel.

View full blog post: LA ARTILLERIA HIKE

la artilleria hike boquete

la artilleria hike boquete

 

LA PIEDRA DE LA INDIA VIEJA HIKE

La Piedra de la India Vieja hike has in my opinion, the best views of any hike in Boquete. However, it also has the worst trail or from what I found… no trail. My legs had many a battle scar after this hike but boy was the rock viewpoint at the top worth it all and more. If you are up for an extremely tough jungle adventure, go for it. Otherwise, enjoy my photos and head to one of the other beautiful hikes in Boquete. That’s genuine advice, not a challenge. This was one of the toughest things to do in Boquete!

At the summit,  the view was totally unexpected. A jagged rock wall curved around right beneath me while mountains in all directions created an immensely atmospheric backdrop. Despite the rough journey up and the imminent rough journey down, I felt like I was on top of Boquete and I really was out here alone. I hadn’t seen a soul and I’m pretty sure no-one is hiking this trail for good reason! I hung out up top for just under an hour shooting the mountainscape from a multitude of angles.

View full blog post: LA PIEDRA DE LA INDIA VIEJA HIKE

la piedra de la india vieja

 

ROCK CLIMBING WALL

On the way to Bajo Mono, the location of the Lost Waterfall Trek and many more, there is an epic Basalt rock climbing wall. The best part about it is that is completely natural. Josh and I used to run here in the morning and work out on the grass amidst the beautiful mountains. However, in the late mornings and afternoons, there were rock climbing tours that would set up and take tourists through their paces at climbing the wall.

things to do in boquete

 

SENDERO LOS QUETZALES

Los Senderos Quetzales, translated to the Quetzal Trail, is one of the most popular hikes near the small town of Boquete in Panama. The Boquete region has a variety of trails to choose from yet Los Senderos Quetzales remains near the top of the list for visitors. The popularity of Los Senderos Quetzales is because this trail, in the Volcan Baru National Park, provides hikers a great opportunity to spot the elusive Quetzal bird.

The Quetzal is the national bird of Guatemala as it plays an important role in numerous types of Meso-American mythology. Additionally, the Quetzal is a very striking bird with impressive green feathers on its back while on its front it is covered in striking red feathers. The Quetzal also has a long tail. All of these features make it an attractive bird for bird-watchers to travel all the way to the Chiriqui region of Panama. El Sendero Los Quetzales is one of the most popular things to do in Boquete.

View full blog post: SENDERO LOS QUETZALES: THE TRAIL OF THE FAMOUS QUETZAL

sendero los quetzales panama

 

HIKE TO THE SUMMIT OF VOLCAN BARU

At 11:45 pm we set off in darkness, climbing a steep path into the mist of the night. Our mission was to reach the highest point in Panama in time to watch the sunrise from our viewpoint above the clouds. We were attempting the strenuous, overnight hike up Volcan Baru near Boquete, Panama.

After 13km of hard work, we made it to the summit! All that effort in the cold and the dark and now we were on top of the world. We looked out over to the horizon and all we could see was a blanket of clouds below us, the sign was trying to break through and then, it did just that.

This was one of my favorite things to do in Boquete and if you like a bit of adventure this one is definitely for you! I hope you get a beautiful sunrise at one of the most famous places in Pnama

View the full blog post: 27KM VOLCAN BARU HIKE OVERNIGHT FOR EPIC SUNRISE

volcanoes in panama, volcano panama, volcano in panama, volcano baru, baru volcano, volcan baru hike, voclan baru panama, volcan baru national park, parque nacional volcan baru

volcanoes in panama, volcano panama, volcano in panama, volcano baru, baru volcano, volcan baru hike, voclan baru panama, volcan baru national park, parque nacional volcan baru

 

 

THINGS TO DO IN CHIRIQUI PROVINCE (OUTSIDE OF BOQUETE)

Those are all of the hikes, waterfalls, and activities that I got up to in Boquete. However, while in Boquete I made a few day trips within Chiriqui Province. None of these trips were much more than an hour by car. It is quite hard to rent a car and DIY by bus isn’t the easiest but is possible. Many of the following activities are available on tours. I was lucky enough to make some local friends who showed me these places. Panama is still developing its tourist route, which means you get a lot of natural beauty but also some things to do in Boquete and surrounding regions are logistically difficult. If you mention any of these to your hotel staff that will likely know where you are talking about and be able to point you to a guide, tour company or even help you DIY it. I have added directions and helpful information with an individual blog post to all of the activities above and below to help you also. So, below are the waterfalls, hikes, and places I visited while in Boquete that aren’t technically in the Boquete region.

 

ROMELIO & KIKI WATERFALL

I’m standing behind a waterfall, watching the droplets majestically float down right before my eyes. I feel like I am inside the earth, inside a chamber watching the raw power of mother nature from the inside out. I am within the heart of Kiki Waterfall in the Ngäbe-Buglé region, Chiriqui. It was the second waterfall of the day after visiting Romelio Falls earlier with two local tour guides and a group of new friends.

These two waterfalls are a little tough to reach but if you can organize a crew it is an epic adventure for a day of waterfall chasing. I have linked the details of the guides in the full blog post which is linked below.

View full blog post: ROMELIO & KIKI WATERFALL IN NGÄBE-BUGLÉ REGION

kiki waterfall romelio waterfall chiriqui panama

kiki waterfall romelio waterfall chiriqui panama

 

CHOCLON WATERFALL

Choclon Waterfall is a beautiful twin falls at the end of a small gorge. The tiny amphitheater is the perfect place for a short hike and to hang out in the afternoon with friends on a sunny day. The water has a beautiful blue tinge to it and vines growing all around the walls of the waterfalls giving this spot a magical atmosphere.

View full blog post: CHOCLON WATERFALL IN CHIRIQUI

CHOCLON WATERFALL IN CHIRIQUI, PANAMA

 

CASCADA DEL TRUENO WATERFALL

When the destination of the day is ‘Thunder Waterfall (Cascada Del Trueno) you know the crew is heading somewhere aggressive, powerful and possibly a little bit extreme! Bundled into the back of a pickup truck, we wound our way through Chiriqui to Cordillera to begin the short trail. The 30-minute hike led us down into the amphitheater of dreams as the Thunder Waterall lived up to its name, slapping a rage of spray at anything that came within a 20m radius with pure fury.

View full blog post: CASCADA DEL TRUENO (THUNDER WATERFALL)

 

CABELLO DE ANGEL WATERFALL

After jumping a few barbed-wire fences, we made it down to the river in about fifteen minutes. It was here that we could hear the sound of the howler monkeys who weren’t happy about us invading their river. They never came to close to us. I stood and watched them for about 20 minutes. Every time I moved position slightly, they would climb around the trees and find a little hole to view me from. If we made eye contact they would jump away and climb to a new vantage spot. We played this game for a while and eventually I managed to grab a frame of one of the monkeys before they leaped away.

Cabella de Angel waterfall was huge! It flowed from two different sides and then converged into one, an almighty powerful force that rocketed into the pool below. The mist blew everyone and the rocks were incredibly slippery, which made it a fun experience but incredibly hard to shoot.

View Full blog post: CABELLO DE ANGEL WATERFALL

Cabello de Angel Waterfall Chirqui

 

CANGILONES DE GUALACA

Los Cangilones de Gualaca is a natural canyon slot in Chiriqui. It has stood the test of time and is thousands of years old. It’s a great spot to hang out with friends, cliff jump, and swim! Cangilon means bucket in Spanish or deep vessel for collecting water. This canyon is one hell of a long bucket and an epic spot to visit in Chiriqui.

View full blog post: LOS CANGILONES DE GUALACA

los cangilones de gualaca

los cangilones de gualaca

 

SINDIGO WATERFALL

Sindigo Waterfall in Chiriqui Panama is a great little spot with cliff jumping, a rope swing and beautiful blue water. What I am saying is… welcome to paradise!

The waterfall is in the Gualaca region and is unmarked from the road. We jumped a barb wire fence and headed down a small path. After hiking down a little path for 10-minutes we arrived at Sindigo Waterfall.

The scene was magical. Moss covered boulders created a swimming pool, which a sweet little waterfall poured into. From the top of the boulders, you can jump in from about 4-meters. This epic little spot even had a rope swing, which flung you all the way out into the middle of the pool.

The sun breaks through the canopy in the afternoon and turns this spot into a wonderland. The blue water shimmers and the light rays flow through in between the branches. It truly is a magical spot. We hung out for more than an hour jumping and swinging away with the waterfall our own private adventure spot!

View full blog post: SINDIGO WATERFALL IN CHIRIQUI

sindigo waterfall

 

JOGUATA WATERFALL

After more than a week in the town of Boquete, I had visited many waterfalls but none so far had a sizeable cliff jump. That all changed when I paid a visit to Joguata Waterfall in Caldera. An 8-meter jump from beside a waterfall into the pool below was enough to get my adrenaline pumping for the day.

To be honest it wasn’t my favorite cliff jump ever. The scenery was insane but I don’t like when I have to jump out over a ledge. Even if the ledge is small it still isn’t super fun when backflipping out over rocks. Having said that, I think I cleared it by a lot. It isn’t dangerous but be careful as always. Jumping forward and feet first is quite safe and easy! The water is quite deep where the waterfall crashes into the pool so aim just to the left of that but check the conditions first as you never know what lurks beneath the surface.

View full blog post: JOGUATA WATERFALL CLIFF JUMP

joguata waterfall cliff jump panama

joguata waterfall cliff jump panama

 

MACHO DE MONTE

I never made it to Macho de Monte because it was quite hard to get to and I didn’t have a car. It was also the rainy season and it can be a bit dangerous. However, it is something I am sad I didn’t get to see. It is a canyon that you essentially hike through to an epic waterfall. If you get the chance to visit Macho de Monte, don’t pass it up!

CHORCA WATERFALL

The other great adventure I missed out on was Chorca Waterfall. With 18 days in Boquete, I did a lot but you can’t get to them all unless you stay for a long time. Chorca Waterfall is a popular waterfall spot that had a ledge at the top you can hang out on. It isn’t too hard to get to from what I have heard!

 

WHERE I STAYED IN BOQUETE (FOR 20 DAYS)

Throughout my two weeks in Boquete, I stayed at Mamallena Hostel. I first stayed in a private room, which was on special for $21 a night and shared that with my friend. Then when my friends left I moved into the dorm for the price of $11 a night. Mamallena hostel is the main hostel in the town and is in a perfect location. It is right near the main street where you can get a taxi, colectivo van or bus. It is within one-minute walking distance to the grocery stores, bank and several cafes and restaurants.

Mamallena Hostel has a kitchen, which you can use to cook. Lots of guests cooked their meals to save money but I hate cooking. I ate out at the same restaurant for every single meal. It’s called Sobrosons. All of the locals eat there and it is kind of a cafeteria style restaurant where you choose rice, pasta, chicken, salads, lasagna, empanadas, platanas and more. It was pretty cheap and we each meal was about $5-6 USD. Even if you only go once it is a good local experience and one of the cheap things to do in Boquete when you aren’t hiking!

Mamallena Hostel provides all-you-can-eat pancakes every morning and free unlimited coffee on tap. You make the pancakes yourself whenever you wake up but they have the batter ready to go. It seems to be quite common in Panama and Colombia to offer free pancakes.

The staff at Mamallena Hostel were super helpful and I asked them so many questions about things to do in Boquete and hikes that they never send any guests on. In fact, many of the hikes on this list were trails that they told me not to go on. They knew a lot about the area and all of the best things to do in Boquete. They helped everyone in the hostel plan their activities and helped different types of people decide what would be the best things to do in Boquete depending on their style of travel and fitness.

The wifi at the hostel was solid and I pumped out a blog every night without any issues. I really did enjoy the vibe at this hostel and as it isn’t a party town it wasn’t too loud. Most people were just adventuring during the day and hanging out at night.

This wasn’t a sponsored stay. I paid for every night of my accommodation here.

If you would like to check for an available private room or dorm room on Booking.com you can Click Here.

 

EL VALLE DE ANTON (COCLE PROVINCE)

El Valle de Anton or ‘El Valle’ for short is a town I based myself in for a month. El Valle means ‘The Valley’, and this beautiful region just a few hours out of Panama City is much more than a valley, it is a volcanic crater from many years ago. There are plentiful hikes around the rim of the crater and in the surrounding region. As well as hikes you will find an abundance of natural beauty amidst canyons, waterfalls and spectacular ridge trails. Throughout my month in El Valle, I explored in the region and in all of Cocle Province.

 

LA INDIA DORMIDA HIKE

One of the most popular sunrise viewpoints in all of Anton Valley. The hike only takes about 45 minutes to summit from the town, making it a perfect way to start your morning. The loop trail takes you along the edge of the beautiful mountains of the crater, which resemble the body of a sleeping person. This is where the hike gets its name and we will delve into the Legend of the Sleeping Indian in this blog post as well as everything you need to know about hiking La India Dormida to enjoy an epic sunrise.

Legend has it that Luba, known as ‘Airflower’, was the youngest daughter of heralded Chief Urraca. Urraca was the leader of one of the many Guaymi Tribes in Anton Crater. Luba was a rebellious girl and despite her tribes fighting with the Spanish for years, she fell in love with a Spanish official who lived in the town. Yaravi was a brave warrior from the tribe who loved Luba but she didn’t love him back. Yaravi couldn’t handle this and took his own life, throwing himself off of a mountain while Luba stared in a perplexed fashion. Luba didn’t want to betray her town and in a desperate panic of crying and mourning she loses herself in the bushes and dies

Need more information? Full blog post: HIKING LA INDIA DORMIDA FOR SUNRISE

 

CERRO CARA IGUANA

My first hike in Cocle was a short, sweet and eventually very wet trek to the summit of Cerra Cara Iguana.  Anton Valley is actually a giant volcanic crater. It is said to be the only volcanic crater, which is inhabited. It’s pretty crazy to think that at some stage a key-decision maker decided that the best place to set up camp was inside a volcanic crater.

What you have now is a beautiful town surrounded by epic mountains. In short, the Anton Valley unintentionally placed itself as a future adventure tourism destination. Cerro Cara Iguana gives you a great view of this crater. The ridge of Cerro Cara Iguana extends out towards the middle of the crater, more than any other point and it was great to do this hike early in my stay in Anton Valley. It gives you a great idea of the layout of the town.

Need more information? Full blog post: CERRO CARA IGUANA HIKE

 

CERRO GAITAL

Often labeled as ‘The toughest hike in Panama’, Cerro Gaital hike will definitely challenge you while making your way up to the epic viewpoint.

Cerro Gaital leads you through a tunnel of the dense forest before hitting you with intense vertical rock-climbs into the foggy summit. The hike takes less than three hours depending on how long you spend at the top. It is possible to walk to the trailhead from Anton Valley Town or you can catch a bus to the trailhead for $1.

From the top of Cerro Gaital, you have views over the whole valley and beyond. I sat atop the small cement hut eating my lunch enjoying yet another empty mountain in El Valle de Anton!

Need more information? Full blog post: CERRO GAITAL HIKE

CERRO GAITAL ANTON VALLEY HIKE

 

CERRO LA GAITA

Although it is not directly in El Valle de Anton, Cerro La Gaita is only a short drive or even a bus trip away from the town center. This makes it one of the best things to do in El Valle de Anton or at least nearby.

Every mountain in Anton Valley seems to surround you as you emerged from the jungle to rise above the canopy on a wooden platform. For an hour you trek up the slippery path and then the stairs that pierced through the dense jungle. You will reach the summit of Cerro La Gaita and the view over Cerro Picacho and San Carlos Lake was is beautiful.

Need more information? Full blog post: CERRO LA GAITA HIKE

 

POZO AZUL WATERFALL CANYON

In what seems to be the middle of a quiet farmland region is one of the wonders of Panama. A lot of places around the world get hyped up but surprisingly Pozo Azul was spoken of as a nice spot but I didn’t expect to encounter such an epic location. In the depths of the jungle, a series of waterfalls flow down from one level to the next into crystal clear azure pools. Rock climbing, cliff jumping and the ultimate waterhole await you at Pozo Azul in Cocle, Panama.

Need more information? Full blog post: POZO AZUL WATERFALLS

pozo azul cocle panama

 

HOT SPRINGS (POZOS TERMALES)

The hot springs are an interesting one. I saw many people come into the hostel and the first thing they wanted to see was Pozos Termales. This is good for a rainy day but don’t pick it over anything else on the list. It is more a man-made spring that is a fun afternoon rather than a beautiful natural hot spring. Nevertheless, it is a great place to enjoy with some apparently great health benefits!

 

CHORRO EL MACHO

Chorro El Macho is the most popular waterfall in El Valle de Anton. It is a 35m high waterfall and one of the few easily accessible in the region. Many visitors to El Valle will visit the waterfall and do a hike all in one day. It wasn’t even in the top 20 of the waterfalls I visited in Panama for natural beauty but I was there for 100 days, so my standards were high. It is a good little adventure but don’t expect Niagara.

 

CERRO LA SILLA

Cerro La Silla is a short journey to an epic viewpoint atop the mountains to watch the sun rise over the horizon with views of Valle de Anton and beyond! It’s interesting that Cerro Cara Iguana and India Dormida hike are the most suggested but you don’t hear a lot about Cerro La Silla. Having experienced all three I would say it is hard to separate them all but La Silla possibly has the best views.

Just before the sun was about to break over the horizon we made it to the summit where we sat down beneath the giant cross, which seems to be common at viewpoints in Valle de Anton. We could see all the way back into the crater of Valle de Anton but also out to Cerro Picacho.

Need more information? Full blog post: CERRO LA SILLA ‘THE ARMCHAIR’ SUNRISE HIKE

cerro la silla

 

SEE THE NATIONAL FLOWER OF PANAMA AT LA ORQUIDERIA

Normally, I wouldn’t suggest orchards in an adventure blog. But the national flower of Panama is very unique. It almost looks fake. At La Orquideria, they have lots of interesting plants but if you are lucky they will have the national flower on display. It looks like a dove is blooming from within the flower. Definitely check it out if you have a spare moment between the hikes! It is a non-profit run by organization Aprovaca who helped us run our Adventure Bag clean-up. They are great people and I believe the entrance fee is only $1-2.

 

CERRO PICACHO IN SAN CARLOS

Overlooking San Carlos Laguna, the Cerro Picacho hike in San Carlos (West Panama) is one of the best viewpoints in the region. It is a steady incline through the dense forest, which leads you over roots, through muddy paths, and underneath a beautiful canopy. The tropical conditions mean that as per usual you will be sweating, hot and searching for air when you reach the summit.

There are two viewpoints to Cerro Picacho in San Carlos. The first is a really cool boulder that sticks out of the trail and gives a great vantage point of the lake and the other peak. The other peak is incredibly steep although I have seen a video of someone sitting on top of it. From the boulder lookout, we could see other hikes like Cerro La Gaita platform. It is a great spot to check out the other mountains in the area.

Need more information? Full blog post: CERRO PICACHO HIKE IN SAN CARLOS

 

CERRO TUREGA HIKE

Cerro Turega is an epic trail that leads you past waterfalls before up an intense incline to reach the three peaks at the summit with panoramic views! The hike is only a 6km trail. However, the hike is regularly touted as a 4-hour journey and this is because the terrain is incredibly steep and slippery making it very slow going.

There are three epic peaks but as far as I know, you can only reach the first where you can see us standing in the photos. They are very steep and I would be surprised if peak two and three are accessible. The views are beautiful and we got a few glimpses amidst the fog and stormy clouds.

Need more information? Full blog post: CERRO TUREGA ‘THREE PEAKS’ HIKE

cerro turega cocle panama

 

ISLA FARALLON DAY TRIP

Isla Farallon is a unique island off the coast off Farallon on the southern coast of Panama, only a couple of hours drive from Panama City. We ventured down on three buses from Valle de Anton in about an hour and enjoyed a day of soaking up the sun, exploring Isla Farallon and beach volleyball on Farallon Beach. This is a family-friendly beach with nothing but chill vibes, sun, and salt!

It only took us just over an hour to reach Farallon Beach from El Valle on two buses. Farallon Island only takes another fifteen-minute boat trip from there. I thought it would be handy in this guide as sometimes in El Valle de Anton, you forget what the beach looks like when you go on daily hikes!

Need more information? Full blog post: ISLA FARALLON AND FARALLON BEACH

ISLA FARALLON BEACH PANAMA

 

 

OTHER PLACES TO VISIT IN COCLE PROVINCE

AGUILA FALLS AND CANYON

Aguila Waterfalls is one of those locations that takes you into another world. I found myself wading through knee-deep in crystal clear blue water while staring up at huge walls of ferns and vines as sunlight crept in through the canopy, lighting up the canyon. This is an Indiana Jones type of adventure.

Need more information? Full blog post: AGUILA WATERFALLS AND CANYON

aguilar falls panama

 

CERRO TRINIDAD HIKE

Cerro Trinidad is a steep hike through the jungle to an epic viewpoint out over Capiro. It isn’t very popular and subsequently, the trail is quite rough and very steep in some parts. A guide is highly suggested and hikers not in good physical condition may decide to give this hike a miss due to the incline.

Need more information? Full blog post: CERRO TRINIDAD HIKE IN EL CACAO

cerro trinidad panama

 

CERRO CHAME SUNRISE HIKE

Cerro Chame is a collection of ridges and rolling hills overlooking the region of Chame. The hike takes just over an hour until you reach the cross at the summit, although you can continue on much further along the ridges, which makes it a much longer hike.

Need more information? Full blog post: CERRO CHAME SUNRISE HIKE

cerro chame

 

30KM TIFE WATERFALL TREK

A journey of 30km with over 2000-meters of incline through the forest of Omar Torrijos National Park to reach the epic Tife Waterfall in Panama. It isn’t for the faint-hearted but it is an incredible experience and off the beaten path to say the least! If you are game the adventure to Tife Waterfall challenges you!

Need more information? Full blog post: 30KM TREK TO TIFE WATERFALL

tife waterfall hike

 

FILIPINAS WATERFALLS

Filipinas waterfalls is a series of five different waterfalls easily accessible along a short, but interesting trail that leads you through the jungle to each spot!

The fifth and final waterfall is a double-tiered beauty. At the end of a short but narrow canyon, a slim waterfall shoots down into a little pool of blue water. It is possible to climb up the left side but it is very slippery and can be quite dangerous. However, if you do make it to the top the view is beautiful!

Need more information? Full blog post: FILIPINAS WATERFALLS IN SORA

 

NATIVA WATERFALL IN SORA

Nativa Waterfall is an amazing wall of water like nothing else in Panama! It’s a really unique waterfall as it is a rounded wall that pours into a tiny little pool and then shoots off sideways down the river

This huge water wall was one of my favorite waterfalls in Panama because it is just so different from the regular style of a waterfall. It’s deep enough to swim in the pool below, even though it is only a 3-meter wide pool!

Need more information? Full blog post: NATIVA WATERFALL IN SORA

nativa waterfall sora panama

 

LOS VALLES WATERFALL CLIFF JUMP

Los Valles Waterfall cliff jump is by far one of my favorite places to hang out in all of Panama. Taking in the sun while laying on the rocks in between massive cliff jumps is heaven on earth for me! This was one of the most fun things to do in Panama.

The biggest cliff jump is 15m and other spots are possible to jump from throughout the watering hole. The biggest factor to point out that this is not an easy place to cliff jump. In fact, the day I was there a guy almost died. He cracked open his head and broke his arm as he slipped and fell down the rock wall. The biggest issue is that on almost all of the jumps you need to clear some rocks on the wall below. It’s not hard but as we saw, mistakes happen and the rock wall is unforgiving. Especially on the big 15-meter jump, you need to run and really push off to reach the middle of the pool below. It is dangerous if you are scared and only do a small jump or back out halfway. Don’t take this place lightly.

Need more information? Full blog post: LOS VALLES WATERFALL: THE BEST CLIFF JUMP IN PANAMA

los valles waterfall cliff jump panama

 

OLA WATERFALLS

The waterfalls of Ola are a spectacle that could be argued to be among the best series of waterfalls in Panama. Two huge waterfalls are accompanied by many smaller cascades and watering holes, which on clear days boast beautiful blue waters.

The main waterfall was a sight to behold. It was aggressive and the pool it flowed down into was a scene of carnage. Huge rocks were littered everywhere from previous falls most likely and the water smashed down onto one of the rocks spraying up with pure force.

Need more information? Full blog post: THE AMAZING WATERFALLS OF OLA

OLA WATERFALLS COCLE

 

CERRO PICACHO SUNRISE HIKE IN OLA

Sitting in the long grass on top of Cerro Picacho in Ola, we slowly watched the illumination of the epic ridges all around us until we had become ants amidst a golden glow in what is one of the most beautiful viewpoints in Panama.

The sun rises directly in front of you lighting up the valley, which is littered with other epic mountains. Fog circled many of the bigger mountains and in combination with the layers of mountains, the view was incredible. However, the real view is right beneath you as the ridges of Cerro Picacho slowly take light and you can see the sharp ridges in all of their glory. It reminded me a lot of Kauai and the Na Pali coastline with the severity of the drop-off and the sharpness of the ridges.

Because of these sharp ridges, Cerro Picacho hike in Ola became one of my favorite hikes in Panama. It was only short but the view was just breath-taking. It is like nothing you ever expected from this country and one of the top things to do in Panama. I think this morning is one of my favorites photography wise as well.

CERRO PICACHO SUNRISE HIKE IN OLA, PANAMA

 

MANGLARITO WATERFALL

Manglarito Waterfall in Chame begins with an insane canyon drop, which flows down into an amphitheater with the main waterfall. Both of the waterfalls are beautiful and this jungle atmosphere is one of my favorites in Panama.

Need more information? Full blog post: MANGLARITO WATERFALL IN CHAME

manglarito waterfall chame

 

LOS CAJONES DE CHAME

Hidden in the depths of Chame is a masterpiece from mother nature. Los Cajones de Chame (The draws of Chame) is one of the most unique land formations in Panama. Only 90 minutes from Panama City, it is one of the most remarkable and popular spots to visit in Panama.

Need more information? Full blog post: LOS CAJONES DE CHAME IN PANAMA

LOS CAJONES DE CHAME PANAMA

 

CERRO DE LA CRUZ SUNRISE HIKE

We waited in the cold, curled up behind boulders atop Cerro De La Cruz with the almighty cross the towering above us. It had been an early wake-up call at 2 am and we were now patiently shivering our way towards a beautiful sunrise in the Campana National Park on the Cerro De La Cruz viewpoint hike. After patiently waiting for an hour, the sun finally started to break its way through and we started to see how beautiful the view was with the sun streaming into the valley and up onto the mountain.

This viewpoint, which is at 905 meters of altitude, was one of my favorite lookouts in Panama. Standing beneath the cross with such an epic drop below us was an insane way to start the day!

Need more information? Full blog post: CERRO DE LA CRUZ HIKE IN ALTOS DE CAMPANA NATIONAL PARK

cerro de la cruz panama

 

 

 

SANTA FE (VERAGUAS PROVINCE)

Santa Fe is a beautiful little town, nestled in the towering mountains Veraguas. Almost exactly in the center of Panama, Santa Fe is one of the adventure hotspots for hikers and waterfall enthusiasts. I stayed in Santa Fe for ten days and went on a hike or visited a waterfall every single day. From exploring waterfalls to adventuring on the Santa Fe hiking trails, this charming mountain town was one of the highlights of my 3-month Panama journey. Not many people think about Santa Fe when considering what to do in Panama but it was one of my favorite backpacking spots in Panama.

 

CERRO TUTE HIKE

Cerro Tute is a viewpoint that looks out over Santa Fe from a pile of precarious rocks! I really loved Cerro Tute and it was a great first experience in Santa Fe, Veraguas. I recommend doing it as your first Santa Fe hiking trail even though it is quite long. You will get great views of the area and can even pick out a few other peaks you might want to summit also!

Read the full blog post: EPIC CERRO TUTE HIKE

CERRO TUTE hike santa fe

 

ALTO DE PIEDRA WATERFALL HIKE

The first waterfall was a beautiful 20-footer that quietly flowed into a small blue pool. Vines and ferns crowd the small amphitheater in what as a very peaceful spot. I hung out here for almost half an hour by myself taking photos and then I just sat on the rocks taking the tranquility in.  That’s the beauty about Santa Fe, you don’t have to share it with many other tourists.

I continued on to another trail that I stumbled across and this waterfall was quite unique. It was several tiers in a slot canyon. The landscape here was quite bizarre with water flowing in all directions. I had never seen something quite like it and climbed down as far as I could to explore.

I now backtracked all the way to the front gate and decide that I would try the trail on the far left. It was the only trail I had not yet visited because I entered the far right trail and emerged in the middle trail. I had seemingly done a loop. But I hadn’t yet visited the far left trail so off I went. It turns out that this is actually the trail to the biggest waterfall and maybe the most popular as the trail had tires placed to help with the mud and was the most well defined and easy to follow.

At the bottom of this trail was a huge waterfall, the biggest of the day. I felt like the waterfalls in this region just never ended but that’s Panama for you. A shallow pool once again collected the water at the bottom of this pool. It wasn’t the best place for swimming in waterfall pools. However, there were lots of swimming spots along the route. Just none at the foot of a waterfall per se. Having a shower under the waterfall would definitely be possible.

This was one of the best Santa Fe hiking trails with multiple waterfalls to explore and so much action!

Read the full blog post: ALTO DE PIEDRA WATERFALLS HIKE

alto de piedra waterfall santa fe

alto de piedra waterfall santa fe

 

BERMEJO WATERFALL HIKE

Bermejo Waterfall was a scene of beautiful destruction. As I sat atop a wet rock, alone in the amphitheater of Bermejo, I could only envision the events that had unfolded over the years to leave this magical place in the state it remains today. Boulders the sizes of houses are covered in moss with trees growing readily from their surface. Freezing cold water swirls viciously, inviting you to test the danger. And then there is the waterfall itself. A multi-tiered, dual-directional flow of pure aggression, which slices through the earth in the middle of the Santa Fe Jungle with an exclamation point.

There was a defining moment. A fork in the trail. The waterfall could be heard to the left but I thought I would stick to the straight trail. This turned out to be a mistake but an adventurous one. If you want to visit the waterfall you need to take this left.

It’s an aggressive waterfall without a place to swim directly below it. However, the first pool is deep enough to at least cool off. I definitely suggest packing lunch and hanging out in this area for a few hours to appreciate the region and recover from your trek in!

Read full blog post: BERMEJO WATERFALL HIKE

bermejo waterfall santa fe hike

 

EL SALTO WATERFALL HIKE

On my last day in Santa Fe, I decided to head out to find El Salto Waterfalls. It was an incredibly hot day and a pretty strenuous hike up some serious hills. However, after arriving in the small village, what I found was nothing short of amazing. El Salto is a collection fo 22 waterfalls (if not more) in the middle of the mountains near Santa Fe. I explored two by foot and one other with the drone. It is possible to explore all of them but takes expert knowledge of the area, ropes, and some serious skills and planning.

The first falls were a great little spot with two waterfalls coming down into a small pool. This is the spot where I swam in the refreshing water. The striking part about El Salto was the huge boulders that were scattered throughout the canyon. I always love to consider the crazy situations in which these sorts of landscapes were formed. Just imagine the force needed to drop a boulder the size of a house into the river.

The second waterfall was where things started to get very impressive. Three waterfalls streamed down the flat cliff. It was almost like a water feature. It wasn’t a booming fall like Golondrinas, it was an elegant, triple waterfall tucked away in a corner. From the observation spot of the second waterfall, I spotted the third.

Up in another canyon, a third waterfall looked even more impressive. It was the waterfall you could see on the other side of the valley while on the hike. It looked very tempting, but the rocks were very slippery, I was by myself and I just thought it was an adventure for another time. I did, however, explore it quite thoroughly with the drone and it was my favorite of all three waterfalls. If you can it would be explored to explore the third waterfall with ropes or a guide and maybe even more of the 22 waterfalls in El Salto.

It’s definitely one of the longer Santa Fe hiking trails but you usually get out what effort you put in and it’s is true in this case. Remote paradise!

Read full blog post: EL SALTO WATERFALLS

el salto waterfalls santa fe alto

el salto waterfalls santa fe alto

 

NUCA DEL TORO HIKE

Amidst a myriad of amazing waterfalls and trails, Nuca Del Toro, is a basic trail without much of an epic viewpoint. However, if you give the trail a chance it can be a fun afternoon activity with a change of scenery from the Panamanian Jungle. Huge pine trees surround you on top of the hill with snippets of the mountain range visible depending on what giant boulder you can clamber onto.

Read full blog post: NUCA DEL TORO HIKE

nuca del toro hike

 

NATURE NIGHT TRAIL

Take a walk into the dark, armed with your flashlight! In the jungle at night the creatures come out to play and we had an epic time exploring. We saw frogs, snakes, a shy sloth, cicadas, butterflies, tarantulas and all kinds of crazy bugs.

The interesting part is that in Santa Fe there are lots of motion-sensor cameras and Edgar showed us the photos they had captured within the last 2 years. It is pretty shocking. Jaguars, Ocelots, Pumas and lots of other large mammals are out here in the jungle, but they are seldom seen!

We walked for about 1.5 hours total admiring all of the amazing creatures along the way. Let’s just see the bugs are bigger in Panama. If you are interested in this experience I do recommend it. Just drop into Hostal La Qhiaand let them know. Edgar is so stoked on the creatures and you can tell he really loves that part of being involved at the hostel. It was $25 per person and the only paid tour I did in Santa Fe. The rest of the Santa Fe hiking trails were free!

Read full blog post: NATURE NIGHT TRAIL IN THE JUNGLE

night trail nature santa fe veraguas

night trail nature santa fe veraguas

 

LOMA GRANDE WATERFALL HIKE

Loma Grande Waterfall near Santa Fe, Veraguas is one of the most spectacular little spots to visit in the region. Not only is this waterfall an epic natural sight but the amphitheater within which it is found is out of this world. Slopes on either side are covered in tropical plants, dripping from the spray of the waterfall. Moss covered rocks are scattered throughout the stream that leads up to the fall. The best bit, however, is the unexplainable pool of blue water that sits to the side of the waterfall.

The trail down to Loma Grande Waterfall is pretty raw. Along the way, you will find banana plants and huge century old trees. I was waiting for a jaguar, a huge snake or something to jump put the whole way. I really felt deep in the jungle and I guess I was. Santa Fe was miles away and so was Guabal. There was nothing out here except the promise of an epic waterfall.

A few cuts and bruises later, I laid my eyes on Loma Grande and what a sight she was. This amphitheater really blew me away. It was almost like the pool of youth next to the fountain of youth. An unbelievably blue pool sat still, next to the beast of a waterfall, which came crashing down just meters away. I think this might have just been my favorite Santa Fe hiking trail.

Read full blog post: LOMA GRANDE WATERFALL

LOMA GRANDE WATERFALL GUABAL SANTA FE

LOMA GRANDE WATERFALL GUABAL SANTA FE

 

LAS GOLONDRINAS WATERFALL

I had heard about this goliath waterfall but never envisioned it to be quite so epic. Las Golondrinas Waterfall is a mammoth falls near Santa Fe, Veraguas. The trek to the falls takes only 20 minutes but leads you through a wonderland of vines and river crossings before revealing the gigantic waterfall.

The trail is very clear to follow and has handrails in some points. However, because of the conditions, it is very muddy and you will get wet and dirty on this trail. If the trail doesn’t get you wet, the river crossing will.

You need to cross the river at least two times to reach the waterfall if you access the waterfall from the left trail. It was pouring anyway so it didn’t matter to us. After about ten minutes we got our first glimpse of the waterfall. From this far back, it looked incredible. I let my friend, Angel, wander ahead and shot a few photos of him on the rocks for scale. It felt like a magical place. Two small adventurers in wonderland, no-one else about. Just the roaring thunder and rain hammering down on us.

Finally, after lots of photos, rain, and adrenaline running high, we reached Las Golondrinas Waterfall. What a beauty! There was a slalom at the very top of the waterfall that weaved in and out before it all came crashing down with extreme force into the pool of blue water below.

There are several nice viewing spots to the sides or you can get up close and personal… and wet if you so desire. It is one of the shortest but most rewarding Santa Fe hiking trails for those who want an epic waterfall without all the effort.

Read full blog post: LAS GOLONDRINAS WATERFALL TRAIL

LAS GOLONDRINAS WATERFALL GUABAL SANTA FE

LAS GOLONDRINAS WATERFALL GUABAL SANTA FE

wh

SANTA CATALINA (VERAGUAS PROVINCE)

Santa Catalina is a fishing village come surf town on the Pacific Coast of Panama. The chill, laid-back vibes of Santa Catalina along with world class waves, attract surfers and beachgoers from around the world. Classed as one of the best waves in Central America, La Punta in Santa Catalina is the most popular surf break for the gurus. Playa El Estero is the perfect spot for beginner surfers with its small to medium sized rolling waves. However, there are plenty more awesome things to do in Santa Catalina aside from the epic surf. These were my favorite things to do in Santa Catalina, Panama.

SURF AT LA PUNTA

La Punta has built a reputation as being one of the best waves in Central America because of its year-round offshores and consistency seen almost nowhere else in the region.  It breaks right every day between April and October. With a tide sweeping in and out by quite some distance, surfers wait for high tide to paddle directly out from Hotel Santa Catalina or nearby entrance points.

The most popular section at La Punta surf break is the outside section. It gets dispersed down the long point, especially during high tide. The offshore winds get strong in the afternoon.

Hotel Santa Catalina has direct surf access to La Punta or ‘The Point’ break but there are also a lot of surf camps and smaller properties with ladders and stairs down to access La Punta. Surfing and chilling after surfing are probably the most popular things to do in Santa Catalina!

La Punta is also a great spot to launch your kayak or stand-up paddleboard for a kayak trip to Isla Catalina.

Just next to La Punta is a beautiful little rocky outcrop called Casa Maya that is worth checking out.

beaches in santa catalina

beaches in santa catalina

 

LEARN TO SURF AT PLAYA ESTERO

If La Punta break looks a bit too crazy or advanced for you, that is no problem in Santa Catalina. Just down the hill at the other end of the village is Playa Estero. This huge stretch of beach is home to some kinder, rolling waves. These are perfect for beginners of all ages. Kids and first-timers can be seen catching their first ever waves here all-day long.

You can rent a board for $5 right on the beach from local surf vendors who also offer lessons. If you have never surfed before I suggest taking at least a half hour lesson so you have your feet right and your technique under your belt. Learning to surf is one of the best things to do in Santa Catalina.

At high tide, there are only a few meters of sand at Playa Estero. However, at low tide, there is well over a hundred meters of black sand, which offers some beautiful reflections. At low tide, you will see local soccer games getting into full swing on the smooth sand. It is one of two beaches in Santa Catalina to have black sand.

You can also book a horse riding tour, which will take you along Playa Estero and down to La Coquita. Because of the reflections and long stretches of sand, it is a really beautiful place to go for a horse-back ride or even to rent a bicycle and cruise down the coast on the sand.

Read the full blog post: 7 BEST BEACHES IN SANTA CATALINA

beaches in santa catalina

 

HANG OUT AT PLAYA SANTA CATALINA

Playa Santa Catalina is the second black sand beach of Santa Catalina. It is the hub of activity as it is situated right in the heart of the town. Cafe’s are situated nearby as well as scuba, kayak and snorkel rental stores.

During the day the beach is a great place to hang out and it never gets too busy. Groups of locals take to the volleyball court in the evening with fun social games that even tourists are welcome to join. Down near the water, the soccer games get into full swing on the slick black sand. I had an epic sunset soccer game and it was one of my favorite things to do in Santa Catalina.

It is also the jump-off point and return-point for most tours to Coiba. The river that cuts through the middle of Playa Santa Catalina is where all of the tour boats head in and out for their day-trips to Coiba National Park.

The other purpose the beach is used for is to launch kayaks for paddles out to Isla Catalina. You can rent a kayak in the town and they will help you take it down to Playa Santa Catalina for your paddle out to Isla Catalina. You can read about my kayak out to Isla Catalina and see the drone photos HERE.

The final activity for Playa Santa Catalina is that this is where the trail for Punta Roca begins. Down the far-left end of the beach are some palm trees and a short path. The path leads to Punta Roca Viewpoint, which I detail below.

beaches in santa catalina

 

TREK TO PUNTA ROCA

Punta Roca is a little trail that starts at the far-left part of Playa Santa Catalina. It takes you through some farm fields and along the coast for about thirty minutes until you end up at Punta Roca. It is an area along the coastline with lots of tight coves, inlets, and secret beaches. I walked out to Punta Roca once and it was kind of a strange. You had to pass through what seemed like private farms but the fences had a little gap made for you to pass through. The trail wasn’t clear the whole way but I ended up getting there in the end. When I arrived it was a huge storm. I decided to fly back with the drone the next day from Playa Santa Catalina to explore the region from the air. It’s one of the less popular things to do in Santa Catalina but it is an adventure for sure!

beaches in santa catalina

 

SEE THE REFLECTIONS AT LA COQUITA

La Coquita is one of my favorite beaches in Santa Catalina because of the reflections. It reminds me of Bali beaches, which give epic black sand reflections every night. When the sunset gives you some color you want to be at La Coquita.

It is one beach further on from Playa Estero and you just walk down Estero and then go across the rocks at the end of the beach. This is easiest at low tide and when the reflections are the best.

Because of the huge stretch of sand, it is a popular spot for horse-back riding and we even took the cruiser bikes all the way down here. On our visit to La Coquita, we watched an insane storm come straight past us as the horses were riding through. It was a pretty surreal ten minutes and the storm never even touched us. Visiting La Coquita for sunset would have to be one of my favorite things to do in Santa Catalina because of the reflections.

beaches in santa catalina

KAYAK TO ISLA CATALINA

Santa Catalina Island or Isla Catalina is it is known locally, is a beautiful island sitting just off the coast from Santa Catalina in Veraguas. Snorkeling and a virgin white sand beach are the highlights of the island. You can expect a peaceful afternoon with tourists rarely venturing out to the island. You can either rent a boat to drop you there in a few minutes or head out on a kayak adventure to Santa Catalina Islands as we did. For me, this is one of the best beaches in Santa Catalina if not the best beach. However, it takes some effort to get out there.

The back side of the island is all rocks and the front side is a long sandy beach. It was a great place to grab a tan and hang out in the sun for a while. We explored along the shore keeping our eyes out for a trail we had heard about. Apparently, the local fisherman had cleared a nature path to the top, which offers a viewpoint of Santa Catalina and even to Coiba. We didn’t search too hard but didn’t find anything that resembled a trail. Keep your eyes open you might just stumble upon a great viewpoint! Let me know if you find it!

This day was epic and kayaking to Isla Catalina was easily one of the best things to do in Santa Catalina!

Read the full blog post: KAYAKING TO SANTA CATALINA ISLAND IN PANAMA

SANTA CATALINA ISLAND PANAMA KAYAK

SANTA CATALINA ISLAND PANAMA KAYAK

 

TAKE A DAY TRIP TO COIBA NATIONAL PARK

In the Gulf of Chiriqui province is Coiba National Park. There really isn’t any other way to describe this island region than paradise, which is why it is the #1 day trip and one of the most popular things to do in Santa Catalina. We are talking about white sand beaches, crystal clear waters, and palm tree laden islands. The most impressive part of the region is not what is above the water it is what you might encounter below. Coiba National Park is a hotspot for whale sharks, humpback whales, sea turtles, stingrays and hundreds of other marine species.
 
Coiba National Park is 430,825 of tropical bliss, comprised of 38 different islands. The most well known is namely Isla Coiba. Coiba National Park has been identified as a UNESCO world heritage site since 2005.
 
There are multiple ways to enjoy Coiba National Park but the most common are day trips from Santa Catalina or scuba-diving trips from Santa Catalina. It is possible to stay overnight in Coiba National Park but don’t be expecting glitz and glamour. If you want to stay overnight in Coiba National Park, you will stay at the ANAM ranger station on Isla Coiba, which has basic 2-room cabins with air conditioning.
 
Read the full blog post: COIBA NATIONAL PARK TOUR IN PANAMA
 
coiba national park

 

 

CEBACO ISLAND (VERAGUAS PROVINCE)

Santa Catalina is a popular surf and island-hopping destination in Veraguas, Panama. Most tourists take a boat tour to Coiba Island, which has beautiful islands, snorkeling, and marine life. However, it is quite popular and can be a little crowded. Less than an hour away from Santa Catalina by boat is another amazing destination for whale spotting, snorkeling and island hopping. Cebaco Island is a beautiful palm tree-laden paradise and the best part about it, you will be the only one there!

There is only one hotel on Cebaco Island called Cebaco Sunrise and there are less than 300 locals living on the island. I spent 48 hours on Cebaco Island and didn’t see another tourist or even another local. From Cebaco Sunrise we were completely isolated in our own little paradise. I walked up and down the coast in solitude, exploring lagoons, waterfalls, and caves. It’s not often you feel like you have an entire island to yourself!

To check the price and availability you can click here: Cebaco Sunrise

 

WATCH SUNRISE AT ENSENADA EL PAJAL BEACH

The first thing you will want to do while on Cebaco Island is to set your alarm clock nice and early. Right out in front of Cebaco Sunrise is a beautiful beach called Ensenada El Pajal. Each morning I would grab a chair and a coffee and watch as the morning light slowly crept over the mountains of Cerro Hoya. The layers were beautiful and the clouds moved so quickly. I didn’t have an amazing sunrise during my time on the island with some cloudy weather but the hotel didn’t get its name for nothing!

cebaco island panama-

cebaco island panama-

 

ISLAND HOPPING TRIP

Load up into the boat and head along the coast of Cebaco Island. It was amazing checking out this coastline because of the extreme rock formations along the way. There are some really unique rock formations that have a single growing on top of them. The day I cruised the coast it was overcast and a bit stormy but still very beautiful. On a sunny day, this coastline would be absolutely epic by boat. Beaches are crowded by palm trees and there is never a person in sight. There are several waterfalls that run out of the jungle straight onto the beach. Cebaco Island is just wild in all forms.

We cruised down the coast and eventually stopped at the beautiful Tintorera Island. As if we need to escape from our own island, Cebaco, we were now on a smaller private island. There was, of course, no-one here either! Palm trees, white sand, and beautiful water. All we needed was a bit of sun but that didn’t stop us swimming around, having lunch and a few beers and exploring the island.

cebaco island panama-

cebaco island panama-

 

THE CEBACO LAGOON AT PUNTA GUAGARA

As I wondering along the coast I found a river inlet that led to a perfectly still lagoon. It was quite amazing and I managed to capture just how beautiful it is to have a lagoon right next to the ocean like this. I really loved this spot and it was my favorite part about Cebaco Island. Hanging out here by myself was just surreal and such an adventure. There is apparently a small alligator who lives in the lagoon but I didn’t see him when I visited.

 

OTHER PLACES TO VISIT IN VERAGUAS PROVINCE

SALTO EL SUBI WATERFALL

El Salto Subi Waterfall is quite amazing with the flow crashing down in multiple directions. I always love when a waterfall is chaotic and smashes down the drop in different directions and different levels! It isn’t too far from Santa Catalina, which makes it a great little adventure if you get sick of sun and sand.

Read full blog post: SALTO EL SUBI WATERFALL

 

EL SALTO DEL LIMON WATERFALL

Multiple streams poured over the edge of the cliff, like lines of tears seeping out of the earth. El Salto del Limon is a beautiful waterfall that has a quiet, peaceful atmosphere rather than an aggressive show of raw power like many of the other waterfalls in Panama.

Read full blog post: EL SALTO DEL LIMON WATERFALL

EL SALTO DEL LIMON WATERFALL

 

LA SILAMPA WATERFALL HIKE

A rocky path carves it’s way through the rolling hills of Calobre. For an hour of steep trekking, curious hikers can only imagine what paradise may be found at the end of their journey. The trail finally ends, and what is found is truly an oasis, a crystal clear oasis. Flowing down for a river through the mountains, a waterfall cascades into the azure blue water, which then flows into several small lagoons before finally free-falling into another waterfall to disappear into the river below. This my friends is a mountain paradise.

Silampa is one of my favorite places in Panama and its the perfect location for an all-day hangout with a packed lunch and good company. The trek is only an hour one-way, which makes it the perfect weekender.

Read full blog post: LA SILAMPA WATERFALL HIKE

LA SILAMPA WATERFALL

 

ISLA ESCUDO DE VERAGUAS CAMPING TRIP

Locals will tell you it is the last frontier or the final hidden paradise in Panama. Escudo de Veraguas means ‘The Shield of Veraguas’ and it is one of the most amazing locations in Central America. It is home to the elusive three-toed pygmy sloth, which at times swims in the crystal clear waters of the mangroves in this tropical island oasis. Escudo de Veraguas is a must-see place in Panama!

escudo de veraguas panama

 

escudo de veraguas panama

 

 

escudo de veraguas panama

 

 

PLACES TO VIST NEAR PANAMA CITY

ANCON HILL VIEWPOINT

Ancon Hill is the most popular viewpoint in Panama City, with views over the Panama Canal, city center and Casco Viejo old town region. The climb up Ancon Hill (Cerro Ancon) in Panama City takes only 30 minutes. The incline is quite steep but it is gradual and on a paved road. This is a leisurely climb suitable for kids, dogs, and hikers of all abilities.

Once you reach the top there are two viewing platforms. Well, there are actually three but only two are legal. The first platform has a bench and a little viewing hut with good views over Casco Viejo old town. The second viewpoint is the most popular with a big seating area and great views back across the city center and the ocean.

The final viewpoint is illegal and you would have to jump the fence to visit it. It would give you views of the Panama Canal and an up close and personal look at the Panama Flag. The flag is actually the same size as a basketball court and towers above Panama City. You can see this flag from almost anywhere in the city. The flag has been flying 365 days per year since 1977.  It is a symbol of national sovereignty in the formerly occupied territories. It is dedicated to the signing of the Torrijos-Carter Treaties.

READ THE FULL BLOG POST: ANCON HILL VIEWPOINT

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CERRO CEDRO VIEWPOINT

Cerro Cedro is arguably the best viewpoint of Panama City. At just over 500ft above sea-level, you will have great views of Panama City, the business hub of Central America. The part I love about this viewpoint is that you are seemingly in the Jungle staring out at the metropolis through the branches. Howler monkeys scream nearby to confirm that you are indeed in the wild despite your proximity to the urban jungle.

READ FULL BLOG POSTCERRO CEDRO IN THE METROPOLITAN NATURAL PARK

CERRO CEDRO PARQUE NATURAL METROPOLITANO

 

CERRO CEDRO PARQUE NATURAL METROPOLITANO

 

PLANTATION TRAIL IN SOBERANIA NATIONAL PARK

Panama City can get quite crazy at times amidst the traffic and the urban jungle. However, the beauty of Panama is that you are never far from the jungle or an adventure. Just a 28km drive from Panama City is Soberania National Park. Inside the park, you will find several trails with one of the most popular being the 14km Plantation Trail.

READ THE FULL BLOG POSTTHE PLANTATION TRAIL IN SOBERANIA NATIONAL PARK

plantation walk in soberania national park

 

JAGUAR FALLS HIKE IN KALU YALA

Jaguar Falls is a beautiful waterhole and waterfall at the end of a 5.3km hike through the jungle. It’s called Jaguar Falls because it is indeed a site where the Jaguar is present at night. It is not known how many but sightings are not uncommon. During the day, however, it is safe to visit Jaguar Falls. There is a great cliff jump of about 8m or even higher at the falls too! This is my favorite hike near Panama City.

READ THE FULL BLOG POSTJAGUAR FALLS HIKE AT KALU YALA

jaguar falls kalu yala panama

 

SAN BLAS ISLANDS

The journey from Colombia to Panama is not a straightforward transit. The dangerous Darien Gap Jungle makes it impossible to pass through overland on a bus or via car. The most common way to reach Panama from Colombia is to fly to Panama City. However, we found that the tickets were $250 USD one way, which is quite expensive given the distance of the flight. The next option is to sail or take a boat from Cartagena to Panama City, which sounded like the most adventurous option. We organized a 3-night/4-day San Blas Islands tour boat trip from Colombia to Panama, which costs $399 USD.

The San Blas Islands were epic. We did some amazing snorkeling, island-hopped and had some tense beach volleyball games. The nights were spent sleeping in hammocks and the days were spent exploring different islands, meeting the local indigenous tribes and hanging out at the beautiful beaches.

View the full blog post: SAN BLAS ISLANDS TOUR

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BOCAS DEL TORO

Bocas Del Toro is the one destination in Panama other than the city that most travelers do visit. With the promise of tropical conditions, blue waters, sloths, and beaches can you blame them? It’s definitely a beautiful place full of great snorkel spots, empty islands, and beach shack getaways. I spent a few nice days hanging out in Bocas before bad weather forced me to head to the mountains to go hiking. Bocas Del Toro is one of the most popular places to visit in Panama.

OVER-WATER BUNGALOWS

I don’t travel for luxury villas, but when your villa is over the water that is a really cool feeling. I was lucky enough to shoot for Azul Paradise and enjoy their resort for a few days. It is super expensive at more than $300 per night but some places in the Maldives are $5000 a night so if you do want that over-water experience and luxury getaway you could do it in Bocas Del Toro for much less than other locations around the world.

 

SPOT A SLOTH

There are many places to spot a sloth in Panama. I saw them on hikes near Panama City and in Campana. However, they are quite common in Bocas Del Toro. We did a little river cruise while on Bastimentos and our guide managed to spot several sloths. They are pretty difficult to spot and don’t move much but you may just get lucky.

cerro de la cruz panama

 

ISLAND HOPPING IN BOCAS DEL TORO

You really can’t go wrong with the island hopping in Bocas. There are so many trips offered and they all lead to beautiful islands with snorkeling spots. Try Zapatos Island or just ask a local for their favorite spot if you don’t want to join one of the group tours, which is a more economical option.

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Wow! You made it this far. I made it this far. That’s it guys, this is my adventure guide to Panama. I hoped you enjoyed planning your trip based on some of the spots I visited and of course, I hope you love Panama as much as I do!

 

MORE PANAMA BLOG POSTS

COCLE GUIDE: 24 AWESOME THINGS TO DO IN COCLE PROVINCE

EL VALLE DE ANTON GUIDE: 12 AWESOME THINGS TO DO IN EL VALLE DE ANTON (ANTON VALLEY)

SANTA CATALINA GUIDE: 10 AWESOME THINGS TO DO IN SANTA CATALINA

VERAGUAS GUIDE: 18 AWESOME THINGS TO DO IN VERAGUAS

BOQUETE GUIDE: 18 THINGS TO DO IN BOQUETE

PANAMA PACKING LIST: THE PANAMA PACKING LIST: WHAT YOU NEED TO PACK AND WHY

BEST WATERFALLS IN PANAMA: 26 AMAZING WATERFALLS IN PANAMA

BEST HIKES IN PANAMA: 37 AMAZING HIKES IN PANAMA

BEST CLIFF JUMPS IN PANAMA: 6 AWESOME CLIFF JUMPING SPOTS IN PANAMA

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5 Discussion to this post

  1. Ayse says:

    Hi Jackson,

    First of all, I really like reading your blogs they always inspire me with choosing my next trip. 🙂 Especially, your Hawaii blog was on point, really enjoyed the hikes there.

    I had a quick question on Panama. I would like to visit Panama for 3 weeks and would like to do a lot of hiking like you did. Which month would you recommend to visit Panama? Is it okay to visit during rain season, because this might be slippery during hiking right? Also, I would like to avoid tourists.

    Thanks in advance,

    Ayse

  2. Alessandra says:

    Hi Jackson
    Great posts…great pictures and great places……just one question…..during all the very long and difficult trekkings where do you carry your professional camera with the different lenses…….and eventually all the necessary for a long trek including tent ecc…..???.
    It is my only difficulty in choosing long trek because all the materials come to be very heavy and uncomfortable……….thanks

  3. Antoine says:

    Hi Jackson,
    Your website is so pure and inspiring !
    I’m planning a backpacking trip in Panama with a friend and your posts are exactly what we were looking for !
    Could I ask you if we need to pack a tent in our bags or if it’s useless there ?
    And if it’s easy to move from place to place by local transports ?
    I’ve done Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia backpacking and it was very easy to find places to sleep, eat, and drink as well as local transports… I wonder if it’s somehow the same in Panama ?
    Thanks a lot for your adventure guide !
    Cheers,
    Antoine

    • Yes it is quite easy to get around. Things aren’t quite as cheap as Laos but hostels are $10-15 a night usually. The local bus system is pretty good and safe 🙂 You might only need a tent if you want to do hiking and camping but otherwise hostels are everywhere.

  4. I haven’t yet been to Panama and I have absolutely no idea why! Thanks for giving me ideas about Panama!

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