2 Weeks in Panama: 2 Itineraries

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Panama is a transcontinental country located in the northern part of South America. It is bordered by the Caribbean Sea to the North, Costa Rica to the West, Colombia to the Southeast, and the Pacific Ocean to the South.

The dominant feature of Panama’s geography is the spine of mountains and hills, which form the continental divide. At the same time, it’s famous Panama Canal plays a massive role in the global economy.

Panama is well-known for its rich biodiversity, stunning landscapes, Geisha coffee, and vibrant music and art scene. It’s also an incredible destination if you’re looking to enjoy some water activities.

In this itinerary for 2 weeks in Panama, you’ll get ideas on where to go and hopefully design an itinerary that is suitable for you.

ALSO READ: 2 weeks in Mexico itineraries and 2 weeks in Colombia itineraries

BASIC TRAVEL INFORMATION FOR PANAMA

4 images - top left is the aerial view of a shore in Bocas del Toro featuring lush green trees and emerald green waters. Top right is a ship at Panama Canal. Bottom right is traditional houses at Old Town Panama City with Panama flags hanging on the balconies. Bottom left is the downtown Panama City with tall buildings - 2 Weeks in Panama Itinerary

Creating an itinerary can be a bit stressful, especially for a place you’ve never been before. But it doesn’t have to be. Take it step-by-step. Find out when is the best time to visit, how many cities you can explore, and what is the possible cost for starters.

All this information is discussed below:

When is the best time to travel to Panama

The best time to travel to Panama is during the dry season, from mid-December to mid-April, which also marks the peak season. Shoulder season falls in the transitional months of late April to early June and November to early December, offering a balance of good weather and fewer tourists.

The rainy season spans from May to November, with September and October seeing the heaviest rainfall. While wet, this season brings lush landscapes and fewer crowds, ideal for eco-travellers.

Due to the great weather, December might be a good time to visit Panama. But remember the busy holidays like Christmas, New Year’s, Easter, and their carnival season.

Are 2 weeks enough for Panama

Yes, 14 days are ample for a comprehensive experience of Panama. This duration allows visitors to explore Panama City’s urban delights, the historic charm of Casco Viejo, the engineering marvel of the Panama Canal, and venture to the pristine beaches of San Blas or Bocas del Toro.

Additionally, travellers can delve into the lush rainforests of Boquete and the unique culture of the Guna Yala indigenous province, ensuring a well-rounded Panamanian adventure.

Your mode of transportation and the cities that you decide to see will play a big role in maximising your time in Panama.

How to get around

The Metro in Panama City is efficient and affordable. The cheapest way to explore Panama is by bus. Most are charter buses, which are efficient and comfortable.

Taxis and Uber are convenient and faster in urban areas. While renting a car offers flexibility, especially for exploring outside the city, it may not be recommended due to traffic congestion in Panama City and varying road conditions in rural areas.

Numerous domestic flights are also available, but because Panama is a small country, the longest flight takes only about an hour.

Language and currency

Spanish is Panama’s official language, with less than one-tenth of people speaking American Indian languages. About 14% of the whole population can speak English.

The main currency in Panama is the Balboa (PAB), but it’s pegged 1:1 to the US Dollar (USD), which is widely used and often seen as the de facto currency. Tourists can easily get around using USD, and it’s accepted everywhere.

Credit cards are usually accepted in hotels and restaurants in cities, but establishments still don’t accept credit cards, so it’s better to bring cash. It’s advisable to carry a mix of both cash and card, ensuring convenience and flexibility during the trip.

Visa

If you hold a passport from pretty much any country in the Americas, Europe, New Zealand, Japan, South Africa, Australia, South Korea, Singapore, Malaysia, Vietnam, Thailand, Russia, Mongolia, and some countries in Africa and the Gulf region, you can stay in Panama from 90 days up to 180 days (depending on your passport), visa-free.

The rest of the world must apply for a visa in advance from the nearest Panama Embassy or Consulate.

Cost of 2 weeks in Panama

  • Affordable: Budget travellers might spend $50-70 per day on accommodations, local eateries, and basic activities. Total: $700-$980.
  • Mid-range: A mid-range experience, with 3-star hotels, dining at decent restaurants, and some paid attractions, might cost $100-$200 daily. Total: $1,400-$2,800.
  • Luxury: For a luxurious experience with 5-star accommodations, fine dining, private tours, and premium services, expect to pay upwards of $400 per day. Total: $5,600 and above.

Note: These are approximate estimates and can vary based on personal preferences and availability. It also doesn’t include your main flight to Panama and travel insurance.

Travel arrangement tips

It can be confusing booking hotels, tours, and transportation, especially when you’re unsure of the dates yet. You can still secure good accommodation by using platforms with a free cancellation policy, especially if you plan to travel during peak season.

The following travel sites below can help you arrange your travel needs:

MAP OF TOP SITES AND ACTIVITIES IN PANAMA

Click the icon on the top right to enlarge the map. Credit: map data: Google

2 WEEKS IN PANAMA ITINERARY

People often overlook Panama as a holiday destination, opting to go to Colombia or Costa Rica instead, but that should be different as Panama has so much to offer.

Now, depending on your preference, I created 2 itineraries for 2 weeks in Panama vacation, but you don’t need to follow these itineraries to a tee. You can use them as a guide in creating your own.

In fact, you can even interchange some or modify some of the places included. This will only serve as a guide, but when it comes to drafting your perfect vacation itinerary, the sky is the limit.

Itinerary #1: First-timer (Panama City, San Blas Islands, David, Bocas del Toro)

The first 2 weeks in Panama itinerary is perfect for first-timers. Your first stop will be in Panama City, as it is the only city in the country with a major airport.

Aside from housing two other cities, Panama Viejo and Casco Antiguo, it is also a creative gastronomic city, which UNESCO recognizes. The next stop is San Blas Islands, where you can swim in their crystal clear waters, soak up in the sun, and learn more about Guna culture.

After that is David City, where you can stroll along Old Town with its stone Cathedral, take a walk in Central Park, or try out one of the numerous sidewalk cafes.

Last but definitely not least is Bocas del Toro, which isn’t only famous for surfing but also for diving, island hopping, boating, and other water-related activities.

Panama City for 4 days

Panama City is its capital and largest city, with almost half the country’s population living here. It is the perfect place to start your trip, especially if you’re crossing borders from Colombia.

A lot of people actually say that this city is the nicest capital city in Central and South America as there are almost a billion things to do here.

Feel free to stroll around Casco Viejo, a UNESCO Historic Centre. You can also visit the Panama Canal, which is one of the country’s most famous tourist spots. Then there’s also Soberania National Park, Biomuseo, Avenida Balboa, and more.

2 images - on the left is Panama downtown city with tall buildings. On the right is an tower at Old Town Panama featuring its ruins

San Blas Islands for 3 days

If you have 2 weeks in Panama, you can’t miss the islands. San Blas islands consist of 378 islands, only 49 of which are inhabited by the native Kuna Indians.

The islands are well-known for their pristine beaches and coasts, which are well-maintained by its inhabitants. Sailing from San Blas, you can even reach Colombia within 4-5 days.

There isn’t a direct transportation to get to San Blas islands from Panama City. However, the best option is to organize a day tour with one of the businesses there, as you will need a 4×4 to pick you up and then ride a boat to the islands. There are numerous islands in San Blas, so it’s up to you to choose where you will stay.

David for 3 days

David is a city and corregimiento located in the west of Panama and is the country’s third largest city. The good thing about David is that there are already tons of developed infrastructure, but the cost of travelling here is much less expensive compared to Panama City.

It is well-known for its stunning beaches and diverse plant and animal life, including hundreds of tree and bird species.

Just like from Panama City to San Blas, there’s also no direct transportation from San Blas to David, so you’ll need to contact an agency in order to go here. David is actually near both Boca Chica and Chiriqui, so you can have a day trip in these locations as well.

Bocas del Toro for 4 days

Bocas del Toro, which means mouths of the bull, is a province in Panama consisting of the mainland and nine islands. It is the perfect place to go if you are looking for a tropical paradise.

It is famous for its fine white sand and turquoise blue waters. Starfish Islands is one must-visit because of its calm waters, perfect for swimming and snorkelling.

There are 3 travel options to Bocas del Toro if you’re from David, the most recommended of which is riding the bus to Santiago and then the ferry, which has a travel time of almost 5 hours. Other options include flying and riding the bus to Changuinola and then flying.

Bocas del Toro is the perfect place to end your trip because it just has so much to offer. Aside from its beaches, it also has lush rainforests and a laidback, small-town vibe. They also offer many activities here, including ATVs, zip lining, scuba diving, spearfishing, and more.

Itinerary #2: Off-the-beaten-path/Hiking (Panama City, El Valle De Anton, Boquete, Bocas del Toro)

This second itinerary is for adventurers at heart. Here, we’ll cover some off-the-beaten-paths.

The first stop is once again at Panama City, well-known for being home to numerous indigenous communities, so through staying here for about 3 days, you’ll get to know a ton about various cultures of indigenous people.

El Valle De Anton, on the other hand, is the largest inhabited volcano crater, so you can definitely hike to your heart’s content here. Some of the famous hiking spots are La India Dormida, Cerro Iguana, and Cerro Gaital. You can hike Baru Volcano in Boquete or choose from numerous hiking trails in Cloud Forest.

The last stop is Bocas del Toro, which is a bit different from the other previous destinations as the activities here are centred on tropical island activities.

The great thing about this place is that it has cheap jungle hideaways and overwater bungalows, which are perfect accommodation spots for travellers.

2 images - on the left is a ship at Panama Canal. On the right is a sandcastle on the beach of Bocas del Toro

Panama City for 3 days

Panama City has the only rainforest in the capital city. The Parque Natural Metropolitano is more than 500 acres and consists of abundant nature trails and wildlife.

You can start your trip here by visiting Amador Causeway, a man-made Peninsula. Other must-visit locations here include Panama Viejo, Museo de la Mola, and more.

It is the perfect place to start your two weeks in Panama because, aside from it being the capital city, it offers a perfect balance of natural scenery. It even has a wide diversity of various cuisines, including dim sum palaces, neighbourhood canteens, French bistros, and the like.

El Valle De Anton for 4 days

El Valle De Anton is located at the flat wide Cladera of the inactive El Valle volcano that is 6 km wide. It is naturally colder here because of its elevation. It is perfect for those who have a thirst for adventure because it is filled with waterfalls, hiking trails, canyons, and hot springs.

Some of the must-visit places here are La India Dormida, Pozo Azul Waterfall Canyon, Chorro El Macho, and so much more.

The distance between Panama City and El Valle De Anton is 118 km. You can reach your destination easily by bus via Albrook bus station with a travel time of not more than 2.5 hours. Another option is by car. You can take the Interamerican Highway heading west out of Panama City.

Boquete for 4 days

Boquete is a small mountain town in Panama, located in the westernmost province of Chiriqui. It is a backpacker’s and coffee lovers’ haven, and a lot of American elderly retire here, so there are tons of American restaurants and hotels.

This place is famous for the highest mountain in Panama, the Baru Volcano. Other places to visit here are Cloud Forest, Schumann’s Botanical Park, The Lost Waterfalls, Boquete Brewing Company, and more.

There are a lot of ways to reach Boquete if you’re from El Valle Anton, the most recommended of which is riding the bus. The buses have various routes, and travel time depends on your route, the shortest being more than 6 hours. Other options include riding a taxi, driving, or taking a shuttle.

2 images - on left is the Lost Waterfall at Boquete. On the right is the clear waters on the shore of San Blas Islands

Bocas del Toro for 3 days

Bocas del Toro is actually one of the favourite tourist destinations for both locals and foreigners. It is divided into the continental side and the archipelago in the Caribbean Sea.

Visitors can do some things here, including swimming among the reefs, surfing, sailing through the mangroves, and crossing through forest-covered mountains.

There’s Red Frog Beach, Drago Beach, Playa Bluff, and Black Rock to check out. Or, if you’re one of those who are fond of crowds, you can join the Filthy Friday Island boat crawl party or Aqua Lounge Bar for a more subdued location. Whatever your preferences are, this Bocas del Toro has got you covered.

There is a daily shuttle from Boquete to Bocas del Toro, with a travel time of 4 hours. Tickets cost $30. Another option is by taxi, with fares amounting to an estimate of $41.

This is the perfect place to end your trip, as it is only a 45-minute flight away from Panama City. Aside from that, there are tons of beaches to choose from if you prefer a more chill and laid-back last couple of days.

WHAT TO DO AND SEE IN PANAMA (per city)

You probably have some ideas on where to go during your 2 weeks in Costa Rica now. To help you start some basics on your itinerary, check out this list of things you can do and tours to book:

Panama City

San Blas Islands

  • Go snorkelling
  • Book island hopping
  • Visit the indigenous community of Guna Yala
  • Try a Guna meal
  • Go kayaking
  • Book a sunset boat tour

David City

  • Visit Parque Cervantes
  • Explore the Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra Park
  • Tour the Catedral de San José de David
  • Shop at the Mercado Público de David
  • Relax at Playa Barqueta
  • Hike in Parque Nacional Volcan Baru
  • Discover the local culture at the Museo de Historia y Arte Jose de Obaldia Orejuela
  • Enjoy the natural hot springs at Aguas Termales in Boquete

Bocas del Toro

  • Snorkel around Coral Cay
  • Visit Starfish Beach on Isla Colon
  • Explore the Bastimentos National Marine Park
  • Surf at Red Frog Beach
  • Take a dolphin-watching tour in Dolphin Bay
  • Discover the underwater world at Zapatilla Cays
  • Hike through the jungles of Isla Bastimentos
  • Surf at Playa Paunch
  • Visit the indigenous Ngabe-Bugle communities
  • Kayak through the mangroves
  • Enjoy the vibrant nightlife in Bocas Town

El Valle De Anton

  • Rent an e-bike and explore the town and hiking trails
  • Visit El Nispero Zoo and Botanical Garden
  • Pozo Azul Waterfall – see the tour price
  • Explore the El Valle Market
  • Hike to the Sleeping Indian Girl (La India Dormida) – join a tour
  • Relax in the hot springs (Pozos Termales)
  • Walk through the El Chorro Macho waterfall
  • Birdwatching at Cerro Gaital Natural Monument
  • Visit the Serpentarium (Mariposario)
  • Explore the ancient petroglyphs at La Piedra Pintada

Boquete

LOCAL PANAMIAN DISHES AND DRINKS TO TRY

3 images - on the left is a bowl of sancocho. in the middle is a slice of tres leches. on the right is a plate of hojaldres - 2 Weeks in Panama Itinerary

Panamanian traditional food is a delightful fusion of indigenous, Spanish, and Afro-Caribbean flavours, offering a culinary journey through its rich heritage. Make sure to try a dish or two during your trip and see which one you like the most:

  • Sancocho: A hearty chicken soup with yucca, corn, and cilantro.
  • Arroz con pollo: Chicken with rice, seasoned with spices and vegetables.
  • Tamales: Corn dough filled with chicken or pork, wrapped in banana leaves.
  • Ropa Vieja: Shredded beef stew with a tomato-based sauce.
  • Patacones: Fried green plantains, often served as a side dish.
  • Corvina: Seabass, often grilled or fried.
  • Ceviche: Fresh seafood, especially shrimp or fish, marinated in citrus.
  • Hojaldres: Fried bread, similar to doughnuts, is usually eaten for breakfast.
  • Tres Leches: A soft cake soaked in a mixture of three kinds of milk.
  • Flan: A creamy caramel custard dessert.
  • Orejitas: Crispy pastries shaped like “little ears” and sprinkled with sugar.
  • Chicha de Arroz: A sweet rice drink, often with cinnamon.
  • Sekú: Made from fermented sugarcane juice.
  • Raspao: Shaved ice with flavoured syrup and condensed milk.

BEST PLACES TO STAY IN PANAMA

Now, the only missing in your itinerary is some ideas on where to stay. Below is a list of various accommodations categorised by budget:

Panama City

San Blas Islands

  • Affordable:
  • Mid-range:
  • Luxury:

David City

Bocas del Toro

El Valle De Anton

Boquete

SUMMARY OF 2 WEEKS IN PANAMA

It is worth it to spend at least 2 weeks in Panama because aside from the biodiversity, a wide range of activities, and food, it also has a vibrant culture, is easily accessible, and has great weather and climate almost all year round.

Before this article ends, I would just like to provide you with a list of some underrated locations here for those who like places with less crowds but are as good as the more famous places here. First is Pedasi, a surfer’s paradise only 5 hours away from Panama City; Portobelo, a Caribbean seaside sleepy town, Ancon Hill, and Isla Perro.

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