Attractions and Activities Close By
Panama Canal - Miraflores Visitors Center
Located on the East side of Miraflores Locks is the Miraflores Visitors Center, the perfect place to observe Canal operations. This newly inaugurated facility has large balconies, where tourists can see the opening and closing of the locks miter gates as ships begin or finish their voyage through one of the Canal's three sets of locks. Four exhibition halls, organized by themes, constitute the heart of the Miraflores Visitors Center. The exhibitions are dedicated to the history of the Canal, the importance of water as a source of life, the Canal's operation, and its crucial role in world trade. Historical objects of Canal operations, interactive modules, video presentations, and models of the Panama Canal are exhibited in the Center. Some of the exhibits replicate the feeling of being inside a navigation simulator or in one of the lock culverts. Nature lovers will enjoy watching displays of the different species of flora and fauna that inhabit the Canal's watershed, and learning about the role of water in Canal operations and its preservation.
The Amador Causeway
At the southern entrance of the Panama Canal is the Amador Causeway. This beautiful and picturesque causeway, lined with tropical palm trees, and with magnificent views of the Canal and the Panama City skyline, was built from excavated material during Canal construction. It took 18 million yards of solid rock extracted from the famous Culebra or Gaillard Cut of the Panama Canal to build this Causeway. The Causeway was formerly part of a military base, which has been transformed into a flourishing tourist attraction. Great restaurants, hotels, shopping arcades, marinas and a convention center provide an infrastructure that is attracting ever-increasing tourism. The causeway is also the home of the Marine Exhibition Center of the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute (STRI), where visitors can see and touch exotic species of Panama's Caribbean and Pacific marine life, and learn about marine-coastal environments. An excellent paved pathway, the full length of the Causeway, is an irresistible temptation to anyone desiring a leisure walk, jogging, biking, skating or roller-blading. The causeway is also popular with locals and tourists who want to enjoy a swim in the Pacific Ocean; or simply relax with fabulous scenic views.
Panama Canal Railway
The Panama Canal Railway is a fully renovated transportation system that runs parallel to the Canal, essentially following the original path of the world's first trans-continental railroad. Today, the railroad is primarily dedicated to moving containerized cargo between Pacific and Atlantic ports. Tourist trains provide daily service, offering fantastic views of the Canal, rainforests and the natural beauty of flora, fauna and rugged terrain. The journey takes less than one hour, in modern air-conditioned coaches, with open-air viewing platforms, which are great for taking pictures.
Portobelo is a former Spanish fortress, located on the Caribbean coast in the province of Colon. During the days of the Spanish conquerors, Portobelo was an important transshipment point for the movement of gold, silver and gems originating from Peru and Mexico. It is the burial place of Sir Frances Drake, whose lead coffin is supposed to be buried somewhere in the bay.
Gamboa Aerial Tram
Discover the secrets of the upper rainforest canopy by riding on the Gamboa Rainforest aerial tram. This thrilling experience provides you with close-up views of unique species of Panama's flora, as well as all kinds of native mammals including coatimundi, peccary, howler monkey, squirrels, capybara, sloths, and beautiful birds such as toucans, trogons, and parrots, which are also plentiful. All while sitting comfortably in the seat of their Swiss-engineered aerial tram system. Gliding smoothly through the tree tops, you will experience firsthand the sounds and peace of the deep tropical rainforest. One of the Gamboa tour operators will accompany you to describe the flora and fauna that you will see. The 1.2 kilometer ride culminates at a hill top where you have the opportunity to visit the Observation Tower. After walking the spiral ramp upwards, you will find a panoramic view of the Chagres River, Panama Canal, the Emberra indigenous village, Gamboa town all surrounded by lush mountainous rainforest.
Panama City is surrounded by lush rain forests. The Chagres River flows through this rain forest on it's way to Gatun Lake which eventually feeds the chambers for the Panama Canal locks system. Along the banks of the Chagres River live families of the Emberá Indians. The Embera Indians live today much as they did when the discoverer of the Pacific Ocean, Vasco Nunez de Balboa, first set foot in Panama. The Emberá are best known for their beautiful hand woven baskets and fine wood carvings
Take a boat tour through the Panama Canal into secret waterways to find hidden islands that are the favorites of monkeys. Cappuccino monkeys and howler monkeys can be seen leaping in the trees above. Occasionally, they become curious of visitors and venture down to take a closer look. This tour provides a unique opportunity for viewing wild monkeys in their natural habitat, but as closely as you would in a zoo. Other animals you can spot in this tour include lazy sloths sleeping in trees, stoic aligators and turtles that are native to the lake. The boat ride to and from the island passes through the Panama Canal, giving you the chance to spot huge container ships during their passage across the world.
Fishermen are always impressed by the plentitud and variety of fish in Gatun lake. This lake is home to species such as peacock bass, tarpon and snook, and many others. Since these fish are so plentiful, there are no limits nor restrictions. You can hire a fishing guide who will take you and your party on a private guided tour of the lake and show you the best spots. Surrounded by the peace and tranquility of lush tropical forests, this is a great tour for friends, families, or individuals to enjoy the bounties of nature that Lake Gatun offers.
Golf and Casino
At the Decameron Resort you can enjoy their world class 18 hole golf course under a beautiful blue sky. The Manta Raya Golf Club is located right next to Royal Decameron by the blue waters of the Pacific Ocean 5km from Playa Blanca Resort. Planned by internationally renowned designer Randall Thomson in association with the American Golf Course Design firm, Manta Raya Golf Club meets the demands of both the serious golfer and the weekend warrior. The luscious greens and natural surroundings create a fantastic setting for your golfing experience. Also at the Decameron Hotel is the country's hottest Fiesta Casino. An ideal spot to spend some leisure time after a refreshing day at the beach. There are 93 slot machines and 7 tables (Black Jack, Roulette, Baccarat). The casino also has a cozy bar where visitors can relax and have very much deserved fun.
EL Valle - Anton Valley
Explore nearby "El Valle", one of the most famous sites in Panama, 1 hour away, including nature hikes for the amateur or serious hiker and a Zip Line through the rainforest and waterfalls. It is located inside an inactive volcano crater where you can enjoy a cool weather and light rain all year round. A lot of trekking is done in this beautiful green-colored destination. Trekking consists on covering long distances by foot to connect with nature in all of its forms. Besides trekking there are many other activities and attractions you can enjoy while you visit The Valley, of which, we include: El Nispero zoo (famous for the Golden Frog), hot springs with mud masks, Crafts and Souvenirs Market, The Valley Museum, La Pintada Petroglyphs, Las Mozas and El Macho trickles, archeology sites, and amongst its festivals or cultural celebrations we can enjoy the Cristo de Esquipulas celebration, the Corpus Christi, national parties and the Torito Guapo Festival. There is also El Gaital Peak, which hosts a wide range of animals and plants in its 335 hectares of protected land, 3,000 meters over sea level. Also, the National Wild-Life Authority (ANAM) facilities are located here. One of the most mysterious places this destination has is La India Dormida, where the hills of The Anton Valley form the silhouette of a young indian woman that, according to local legend, fell madly in love with a Spaniard and cried her misfortune until nature took her as its own, while other legends say that the sun turned her into part of the hill to save her from a love that was not returned to her from an arrogant indian warrior of her tribe. You be the judge.
San Blas Islands & Kuna Indians
San Blas is an experience of its own class. From the beginning to the end, your are in the rustic lifestyle of the Kuna Indians. Their culture is a peculiar one and their Kuna guides and representatives will describe and show you the minutest details as you experience life in their Island village. Enjoy eating freshly caught seafood from the Atlantic coast. Daily tours to snorkeling grounds and nearby islands are included in their tours. The Kuna Indians are best known for their brightly colored molas.
A 333-year-old neighborhood where you'll absorb history and culture just wandering around. As all the guide books will tell you, most of Panama City’s historical buildings are located in the 38 block area referred to interchangeably as “Casco Viejo”, “Casco Antiguo”or “San Felipe”.
The blocks, by the way, are called “manzanas” or “apples”. From the Golden Altar of Iglesia San Jose to the Canal Museum, you literally cannot turn a corner in the old city without seeing something of historical significance.
But the unmistakeably Panamanian sounds and smells that fill the Casco Viejo air may be its greatest treasure. Street peddlers at dinner crying out “bollo!” as they hawk the Panamanian soft corn favorite; the presidential honor guard’s cheerful cadance while performing early morning calisthenics; Kuna Indians selling colorful molas on the Paseo de Bovedas as lovers stroll hand in hand eyeing the distant Canal; old-timers who have seen it all on park benches as their grandchildren play Plaza soccer around groups of passing tourists.
Like most of the once-grand Latin American old quarters, the decades of decay are beginning to give way to restoration by a bold few, attracted by charming buildings, cheap space and a lifestyle that just somehow feels authentic. The resulting eclectic blend of trendy restaurants, ramshackle houses, bohemian bars and vibrant street life will seem familiar to anyone who has had the fortune to spend time in a “revitalized” area before it became known to the masses.
Well heeled Panamanians, Americans and other foreigners have made their home here and they proudly will tell you they would not live anywhere else. Several resident associations in partnerships with local businesses are doing all the right things so that Casco Viejo is a place where the wealthy and the poor work closely together to create a first class neighborhood with new opportunities for all and to preserve and enhance Casco's rich history and culture.
Casco Viejo is currently considered one of the best places for real estate investment, whether you want to restore a building or buy an already restored apartment or building. Just strolling around you can't help but get the feeling this place has a great future.
Also known as Parque Catedral or Plaza de la Independencia, is the main square in Casco Viejo. The mix of Spanish, French and American architecture found in and around this square characterizes the neighborhood.
Panamanian independence was declared in this plaza on November 3, 1903 and many important historical buildings, such as the Canal Museum, Municipal Palace, Cathedral Church, and the religious ruins of the Jesuit Church, fringe the plaza. The Canal Museum provides an excellent overview of the history behind the canal’s construction in Panama.
Compania de Jesus Convent
The Jesuit convent and its church were built in 1673, before the Spanish banished the Jesuits from the Colonies. In 1781 the complex burned down and was never rebuilt. The site also housed the first university and synagogue of the city.
La Plaza Francia
The southern tip of the Casco Viejo Peninsula is Plaza Francia and is home to a large obelisk in honor of the ill-fated Frenchmen who, under Ferdinand De Lesseps, started the arduous task of building a sea level Canal in 1880.
Surrounding the obelisk is an arcade of marble plaques ornately carved with the story of the valiant French effort. In addition to the French memorials, La Plaza Francia is also the current location of the French Embassy, the Instituto Nacional de Cultura (INAC), and the restaurant Las Bóvedas.
Paseo Las Bovedas
Wrapping around the French Plaza and the Institute of Culture is Paseo Las Bovedas (Promenade of Vaults) that offers couples and tourists a charming stroll on top of the Old Spanish seawall.
An excellent view of the Panama City skyline, the ships cued for their turn through the Canal, and the Bridge of the Americas can be seen on this walkway.
Built in 1678, Arco Chato (The Flat Arch) played a deciding factor in Panama’s history and the construction of the Panama Canal. Spanning some 50 ft, Arco Chato was an architectural marvel for the fact that it resisted earthquakes and storms with no support other than its terminal arches.
Logic reasoned that if this brick arch could withstand nearly 200 years with no visible means of support, then there was no real threat to constructing a lock-style canal. Ironically enough, in 2003, fireworks celebrating Panama’s Centennial brought down most of what was left of the then 300 plus - year old arch.
Constructed in the old Customs Building, the structure was restored in 1922. Herons live inside the lobby of the entrance and contribute to its name, Palace of the Herons.
Plaza Santa Ana
Santa Ana at mid morning is the heart of popular commerce; there is life in every corner where almost everything imaginable is for sale: cell phones, fruits, grains, incense, bottles of medicinal medicine that promise “to make you rich” or “beautiful,” inflatable toys and religious paraphernalia.
Café Coca Cola, which dates from the early Canal days, is a great local restaurant on the south side of the park that is still a favorite among locals and tourists alike, especially for breakfast.
Nightlife in Panama’s Casco Viejo is fun as it is non-stop ambiance amongst the ruins of the Old City.
Platea Jazz bar is popular Thursdays for its salsa nights (with a live salsa band) and Fridays for its special live Jazz. You can order delicious appetizers from the adjacent S’cena restaurant making it a fun place to relax and enjoy some good wine and music.
New nightspots in Casco Viejo include La Comedia- gaining popularity for entertaining characters walking around while you eat, as well as for its food- yummy Mexican finger food at very reasonable prices. The most recent nightspot to open is Café Havana- winning praise from some of Panama’s most discerning for its impeccable ambiance, resembling old cuba, and its Cuban rum drinks. Indigo is also a relatively newcomer on the restaurant-bar scene in Casco Viejo, and hosts themed electronic/house music nights most Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays in a bohemian-moroccan atmosphere.