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How to make the most of a day in Panama City

For being such a small country, fitting all of Panama’s enticing destinations into your itinerary can feel like a juggling game. So, if you only have one day to dedicate to Panama City, fear not – we’ve got you covered with these can’t-miss activities.

1. Explore the Panama Viejo ruins

Start your exploration of Panama City with a visit to the World Heritage Site of Panama Viejo, the first place in the country where Europeans permanently settled. If your visit to Panama Viejo feels off-the-beaten-path, your instincts are spot-on. After a Welsh invasion in 1671, locals rebuilt Panama City to the west, where it’s the thriving metropolis we know and love today.

Panama Viejo ruins

Set foot on Panama City’s founding territory at the Panama Viejo ruins. (Photo: Clifford Olds)

2. Watch a ship pass through the Miraflores lock

You can’t say you’ve been to Panama unless you’ve seen the Panama Canal, and the three-story observation deck at the Miraflores Visitor Center is a great place to do it. Alternatively, we can arrange a scenic train ride that’ll take you to the Agua Clara locks in Colon. There, you’ll get to marvel at the modern design of the expanded portion of the Panama Canal.

Miraflores locks

Observe ships raising and lowering before your eyes at the Miraflores locks. (Photo: Clifford Olds)

3. Wander along the Cinta Costera

With 64 acres of non-stop coastal views, the Cinta Costera boardwalk sits picturesquely between fishing boats and modern high-rises. When the inevitable moment comes that you want a cool treat, make a stop at a local raspada (snow cone) stand. People with adventurous tastebuds will also enjoy visiting the seafood market toward the western end of the boardwalk.

Cinta Costera

The Cinta Costera winds through many of Panama City’s most famous tourist zones. (Photo: Laura Olds)

4. Cycle down the Amador Causeway 

If you’ve ever wondered what they did with the rocks from excavating the Panama Canal, the Amador Causeway is your answer. This scenic road connects four islands jutting into the Pacific Ocean. You can rent a bike or drive the causeway, choosing from an array of oceanfront restaurants to enjoy some of the best views of Panama City.   

Amador Causeway

Take in Panama City’s skyline from the Amador Causeway. (Photo: Clifford Olds)

5. Dine at a rooftop restaurant in Casco Viejo

The 17th-century European buildings in Panama City’s historic quarter run the gamut of colors against a backdrop of balcony-framed windows. You’ll have your pick of rooftop restaurants to watch a spectacular sunset over the city. If you’re still full after your meal on the Amador Causeway, Casco Viejo is an excellent place to grab a drink and get a “taste” of Panama City’s nightlife.

Casco Viejo

Go back in time as you wander the streets of Casco Viejo. (Photo: Clifford Olds)

Are you ready to plan your Panama trip? Our Destination Experts live and breathe shaping custom itineraries for our clients. Take a look at our Panama Canal, Coffee & Caribbean tour for ideas or consider extending your time in Central America with a trip to Costa Rica. Contact us today to  get started . Header photo: Laura Olds

About the Author: Laura Olds is a freelance travel writer and street dog lover. Originally hailing from the countryside of Upstate New York, she has spent most of the last decade abroad and lives her life with the motto, “Home is wherever you are.”

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