10 of the best things to do in Panama

By Maelle Denoule

For the past 10 years, tourism in Panama has grown considerably, attracting more and more visitors around the world for its canal, but also for its marvelous environment. Located in Central America between Costa Rica and Colombia, and bordered on the north by the Caribbean Sea and on the south by the Pacific Ocean, the isthmus is a land bridge for an important number of mammals and bird’s species.

Nevertheless, the number of travelers to Panama is still relatively small compared with Costa Rica. But contrary to his neighbor, Panama still have plenty of treasures under-explored to discover. In fact, due to its unique geographical position, Panama provides paradisiac places, a variety of landscapes and an incredible biodiversity which offer travelers, an access to incredible adventures and sustainable experiences.

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Home of an amazing ecosystem, Panama gives you the opportunity to discover a rich culture and unique nature.   Our 10 best things to do in Panama:

Encounters with an indigenous community

With 7 indigenous communities around the country, Panama offers you the unique opportunity to share a cultural experience.  Their traditional lifestyle and their close relationship with nature will impact your life forever.

This authentic experience that everyone should live once in Panama, contributes at the same time to the conservation of these communities and their culture.

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See the pygmy three-toed sloth in Escudo Island 

Another reason why Panama should be your next destination is to see the pygmy three-toed sloth, also known as the monk sloth or dwarf sloth. This sloth can only be found in only one place in the world: National park Escudo Island, a small island off the coast of Panama, situated in the province of Veraguas.

With no official permanent residents on the island, you can have the incredible chance to see lots of them, but it remains very important to not feed them. Indeed, wild animals who depend on people for food can cause injuries or spread disease, but also increase the chances of fighting and injury among animals.

Snorkel or scuba dive in Gulf of Chiriqui

Humpback whales, sea turtles, dolphins, manta rays, orcas, whale sharks, tiger sharks, and many more marine mammals and animals can be seen while swimming there. With around 760 species of fish, the Gulf of Chiriqui is becoming one of the favorite places for scuba divers and snorkelers in Panama.

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White Tips sharks

Panama Canal Transit

Impossible to miss one of the world’s greatest human-made marvels, the Panama Canal. To learn about this fantastic engineering, nothing better than experience a transit. During the transit aboard the Pacific Queen, enjoy the splendorous Bay of Panama and pass by the Miraflores Locks where you can watch the locks operate. Discover at the same time its history while following the most enormous cargos and cruise ships of the world!

Panama Canal Transit
Panama Canal

Volcan Baru’s summit

Located in the highlands of Chiriquí, the impressive Baru Volcano’s worth the detour. Down from its 3 474 meters, this dormant volcano is the highest mountain of Panama and one of the only places in the world from where you can see at the same time, the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea. Apart from the breath-taking panoramic views at the top of the volcano, this one is also surrounded by lush jungle, offering the chance, during your summit, to see different birds of Central America, and if you’re lucky, the resplendent quetzal. Adrenaline guaranteed for this extremely challenging trail.

Visit a coffee plantation in Boquete

Did you know the country is world famous for the Geisha Coffee? Actually, one of the rarest and most expensive coffees in the world comes from Panama. So, if you love coffee, Boquete must be one of the stops of your itinerary. Thanks to the volcanic ash situated in the soil of the region, local farms have found the best place for the coffee to grow up and make it so special. Visit one of the coffee plantations and learn about its process. There, you will maybe have the privilege to taste one of the most exquisite coffee in the world!

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Surf in the Caribbean Sea and the Pacific Ocean

Although, if the Caribbean Sea or Pacific Coast is famed for its relaxing long white sand beaches with palm trees, it’s also the best place to surf and have fun with the waves. Unlike Costa Rica, Panama is still virgin and only a few people know about Panama’s surfing potential. El Palmar, Santa Catalina, Playa Vaneo, and many other beaches can provide you the best surfing spots of Central America. Surfers? You will love it!

Try on traditional Panamanian clothing: the Pollera

Panama is also the land of a rich culture. To not lose a crumb of Panama, we invite you to discover in Pedasi, the traditional Panamanian clothing: the Pollera. National dress of Panama worn by women for festivals or celebrations is also one of the most admired national costumes of the Americas. Handmade and very colorful, this traditional dress with Spanish colonial influences is the pride of all Panamanians. Men are well, have their own traditional costume they wear during festivities. Why not try it on to make you feel, for a moment, like a real Panamanian?!

Panamanian Pollera
a girl with Pollera in Pedasi, Azuero Peninsula, Panama

Whale watching while migration season

Have you always dreamt to see whales? It is possible in Panama! In fact, humpback whales come to Panama every year, between July and October, to migrate and give birth, making the isthmus, one of the few places in the planet where you can see these majestic mammals. Many species of whales and dolphins can be found in Panama’s water during that period of the year, especially in the archipelago of the Pearl Islands, on the Pacific Coast.

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Taste 5 typical dishes of Panama

Even if Panama is not known internationally for its cuisine, the food is however very tasty and diverse. Made with local and fresh ingredients, Panamanian cuisine is a mix of traditional cooking methods from diverse regions of Panama. Consequently, it’s very common to find dishes made from coconut, seafood, root vegetables, and tropical fruits along the Caribbean and Pacific coasts, but also root vegetables, starchy fruits, livestock, chicken, beans and rice, eaten everywhere in the country. Enough ingredients to make a variety of delicious typical Panamanian dishes.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Panama is for Adventurers

There’s another side to Panama, just beyond the Panama Canal — dense biodiverse ecosystems like rainforests and islands. Sip pure coffee and enjoy amazing rivers and vibrant ingenious cultures. Let go of control and give Panama the wheel.

Study Abroad in Panama, The Isthmus that Changed the World

Despite its small size, Panama is one of the most biodiverse places in the world with more plant species than in all of Europe.  In vast contrast to the modern lifestyle of Panama City, large parts of the countryside are to a large extent still undeveloped. Deep in the rainforests, hidden in the highlands and cast-away on tiny little islands, there are unique cultures in Panama, who keep their traditions and customs and some living in autonomous regions. On our academic programs you will dive into our cultures and explore our amazing Isthmus.

EcoCircuitos Tour Operator has been conducting academic travel programs in Panama since 2003 promoting Adventure, Conservation and Education with different international partners as Hannover College, who visited recently to learn about Panamanian music, folk craft, dance as they meet with artisans working to preserve the local culture in Guararé, Panamá.

The variety of outdoor and cultural activities provides endless possibilities to experience academic programs in panama.  Nature lovers will find challenges on the various trails winding through mountains, rain forests, and indigenous communities. The spectacular  coastline support an underwater ecology and a diverse landscape. While our unique cultural heritage will transport to ancient times.  The most cosmopolitan capital in Central America will offer you a wide variety of attractions and the unique colonial neighborhood Casco Viejo.

For more information on our academic programs, please contact Annie Young at annie@ecocircuitos.com

 

 

 

 

 

New Tour: Photography Expedition on the Gatun Lake

An unforgettable wildlife experience.  Panama has not only abundance of fish but birds, reptiles, mammals and over 10,000 species of plants.  On board, an expedition boat adjusts for only Photographic tours you will experience an amazing adventure where you will learn to use advanced camera equipment and return home with stunning photos.  You will explore inlets and islands on this amazing adventure.  For 4 people maximum.

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Picture by Maelle Denoual @EcoCircuitos

EcoCircuitos Panama photo Expedition tour and adventures are specialized for photographers of all ability levels. From day tour Jungle boat expedition to multi-day photo safari, and more, our focus is on helping you take exceptional pictures of nature, local people and unique sceneries. Each journey is led by amazing naturalist guides specialize in the neotropical nature and by nature photographer.  All our photography trips feature small groups to guarantee the best access and flexibility for amazing photo opportunities.

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Take home amazing pictures of Panama’s rainforest and its inhabitants with a photography Jungle boat tour in Gatun Lake.   We will be offering the equipment on board our vessel and our naturalist guide will lead you along the Lake and through diverse wildlife habitats. Capture all the details of incredible animals like crocodiles, birds, snakes, monkeys, sloths, and butterflies, plus delicate orchids and other tropical flora.  This tour is for professionals and amateurs.

For more information on our day tour or multi-adventure photography expeditions please contact info@ecocircuitos.com

Getting ready for Pride in Panama

The LGBT  community is becoming a very important niche market for the travel industry.   The modern companies are investing more in this important consumer because is more eager to spend in high-quality hotels and services.Resultado de imagen para gay travel panama

Panama is considered one of the most open-minded countries in Central America and EcoCircuitos as a company member IGLTA that offer unique travel programs for the LGBTI interested in discovering our Central America destination.

The nomadic Boys were in Panama and they wrote several articles about the Destination.  Click here for details.

 

We at EcoCircuitos embrace the combination of Luxury and Sustainability, offering to all our clients meaningful and authentic experiences in Panama.  “We combine quality service and expert advice with a premium selection in itineraries highlighting the best accommodations, unforgettable adventures and friendly local hosts“, says Annie Young Director and Partner.

This year PRIDE Panama will be featuring different events in Casco Viejo, the Old Quarters of Panama with unique activities to make visible the contributions of the LGBTI Population in Panama, the importance of guaranteeing their human rights and to join the World Commemoration of the disturbances caused by the abuse and homophobia in the Stonewall Discotheque in New York, in 1969.

 

The activities for the festival will start on Monday, June 25 and ends on Saturday, June 30, with the LGBTI Pride March from 4:00 pm in the V Centenario Park.

Join us for Pride in Panama and support diversity while discovering a unique and amazing destination.   Contact us for details at annie@ecocircuitos.com

 

 

My first wildlife experience in Soberania National Park with Ecocircuitos

By Maelle Denoual

True nature lover, I was chosen to work as an intern for 5 months in Ecocircuitos’ tour operator and it’s the first time for me in Panama. I’m French and I’ve never been further than Morocco. You can imagine how excited I was to know that I will discover a new land and such amazing country like Panama. And here I am!

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A week ago, during my first week of internship, I had the opportunity to experience, with two other clients, the hiking tour at Soberania National Park in the company of the very competent and smiley naturalist guides of the company named Fabio.

It was once again my first exploration of a rainforest and it was amazing! This tour offers an incredible opportunity for wildlife observation and birdwatching. In fact, while we were walking just at the park’s entrance, it didn’t take long before we could hear birdsongs and feel the absolutely unique atmosphere of wilderness. I felt in another world for 2 hours. Beautiful and colorful birds but also huge butterflies were flying from time to time above our head. Every time we saw an animal or a bird, Fabio was there to tell us what kind of specimen it was and inform us more about it. We have even seen a baby anteater on the side of the trail. Actually, we were very lucky because it’s not common to see one so close. I have learned so much during this hiking tour and it wasn’t exhausting but mostly enjoyable.

After the exploration of the lush forest, Fabio explained that our adventure is not finished.  We were heading to a jungle-adventure expedition across the Gatun Lake in the Panama Canal. Once aboard, we started the tour searching for more wildlife around the rainforest-covered islands. And we were lucky again because we could see monkeys having a nap on trees, many water birds, 2 big green iguanas, a sloth and a crocodile! Also, it was so impressive to see giant cargos on the canal transiting the waterway few meters away from us…I couldn’t believe that I was on the renowned Panama Canal that everybody talks about. I was thrilled!

That day was a very enriching experience thanks to these 2 different ways to discover nature and I felt very amazed by the considerable diversity of fauna and flora which offers Panama. I strongly recommend EcoCircuitos’ tours to everyone who loves ecotourism and want to visit Panama.

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EcoCircuitos practices responsible tourism and follow the standards of leave no trace and Travelers Against Plastics.  We encourage all our clients to bring their own bottle and change the way you travel.  For more information on this tours and others, please contact us at info@ecocircuitos.com

Panama Reading List

You are planning your trip to Panama and it is exciting!  Below you will find some reading material that could help you plan your trip and do some research.  Some of our reading recommendations include books about birds, wildlife, history, culture and more.   Also if you would like to share some other books and articles with us, please feel free to send us an email at info@ecocircuitos.com

Moon Panama (Moon Handbooks)

William Friar

Moon Travel

Frommer’s Panama (Complete Guide)

Nicholas Gill

Frommer’s 

Panama: Puente Biologico

Stanely Heckadon

Instituto Smithsonian de Investigaciones Tropicales

Naturalists on the Isthmus of Panama (A hundred years of Natural History on the biological bridge of the Americas)

Stanley Heckadon-Moreno

Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute

A Bird-Finding Guide to Panama

George R. Angehr

Cornell University Press

The Birds of Panama

George R. Angehr & Robert Dean

Cornell University Press

A Guide to the Birds of Panama

Robert Ridgely

Princeton University Press

The Path Between the Seas

David McCullough

Simon and Schuster

A Day on Barro Colorado Island

Marina Wong / Jorge Ventocilla

Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute

Reef Fish Identification – Baja to Panama

Paul Humann / Ned DeLoach

New World Publications

Central America: A Natural and Cultural History

Anthony G. Coates

Yale University Press

A Field Guide to the Mammals of Central America and Southeast Mexico

Fiona A. Reid

Oxford University Press

A Neotropical Companion (An introduction to the animals, plants, & ecosystems of the New World tropics)

John Kricher

Princeton University Press