Finally, the last country in this backpacking one month Central America itinerary was Panama. I stayed 5 Days in Panama and it was amazing! Panama is a Central American country situated between Costa Rica to the north and Colombia to the south. It is best known for the Panama Canal, which connects the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans and is a vital shipping route for global commerce. The country’s official language is Spanish, and Panama City is the capital city.
In addition to the Panama Canal, Panama is home to a diverse range of natural landscapes, from rainforests to beaches to mountains. The country also has a rich cultural heritage, with indigenous populations, Afro-Caribbean communities, and Spanish colonial influences all contributing to its unique identity. Overall, Panama offers visitors a blend of natural beauty, cultural richness, and modern amenities that make it a fascinating destination to explore.
5 Days in Panama Travel Guide
- 5 Days in Panama Travel Guide
- How to go from Puerto Viejo, Costa Rica to Bocas Del Toro, Panama?
- Is Panama safe for solo travellers?
- Solo female travel Safety Tips
- What and Where to eat in Panama?
- Which hostels to stay in Bocas Del Toro, Panama?
- Highlights in Bocas Del Toro, Panama
- Which hostels to stay in in Anton Valley, Panama?
- Highlights in Anton Valley, Panama
- The La India Dormida Trail
- Cerro La Silla – La Pita Trail
- Los Cajones de Chame Trail
- Cerro Cara Iguana Trail
- Chorro El Macho – La Piedra Pintada – Agua Buena Trail
- Visit the Anton Valley Butterfly Haven
- Soak in the hot springs
- El Nispero Zoo and Botanical Garden
- Which hostels to stay in in Panama City?
- Highlights in Panama City
- Let me know in the comments:
How to go from Puerto Viejo, Costa Rica to Bocas Del Toro, Panama?
To travel from Puerto Viejo, Costa Rica to Bocas del Toro, Panama, you will need to take a combination of land and water transportation.
Before I share how to do it, I want to give you a heads-up that Costa Rica immigration will most likely ask for your exit plan. So, while waiting in the queue I bought a shuttle ticket from Costa Rica to Panama online because I knew my exact dates so that helped. Shuttle transport was a door-to-door service but it was around 50 USD! I met another traveler who had bought a cheaper shuttle but not sure if that went ahead as she mentioned they never got the confirmation email, mine came through and the company was very responsive however. ( I did have a second thought afterward that I may want to stay longer in Costa Rica but they were welcoming me changing dates- if you are interested the company is called Caribe Shuttle.
This is something to consider or buy a first-class plane flight and cancel WITHIN 24 hours for a full refund. I never used the other services online that provide fake. plane tickets so can’t advise on that.
With that said here’s an overview of the journey:
- Take a bus from Puerto Viejo to Sixaola: From Puerto Viejo, you can take a local bus (Autotransportes MEPE) to the town of Sixaola, which is located on the border between Costa Rica and Panama. The journey takes about 1.5 to 2 hours, depending on traffic and road conditions.
Recommend starting your day early & catch an earlier enough bus because the border is only open until 5 pm daily. Stamp out of Costa Rica
- Cross the border: Walk across the bridge to the Panamanian side of the border. Be sure to have your passport and any necessary travel documents on hand to stamp In Panama
- Take a shared taxi to Almirante: After crossing the border, you can take a shared taxi to the town of Almirante, which is located on the coast of Panama. The journey takes about 30 to 45 minutes.
- Take a boat to Bocas del Toro: From Almirante, you can take a water taxi to the town of Bocas del Toro, which is located on the Isla Colón. The journey takes about 30 to 45 minutes, depending on the weather and sea conditions.
Overall, the journey from Puerto Viejo to Bocas del Toro can take several hours, and it’s important to plan ahead and make sure you have all the necessary travel documents and arrangements in place.
Is Panama safe for solo travellers?
Panama is generally considered a safe destination for solo travelers. While it has a relatively low crime rate, it’s still important to take appropriate safety precautions as you would when traveling to any destination. It’s recommended to be aware of your surroundings, especially in tourist areas, and to avoid carrying large sums of cash or wearing expensive jewelry. It’s also a good idea to keep your passport and other important documents in a safe place and to stay alert when using public transportation or walking alone at night.
For all the safety tips read this blog below –
What and Where to eat in Panama?
Panama offers a wide range of cuisine options, including traditional Panamanian dishes, as well as international cuisine from around the world. Here are some popular foods to try and places to eat in Panama:
- Sancocho: a hearty soup made with chicken, yucca, and other vegetables. It’s a staple in Panama and can be found in most local restaurants.
- Empanadas: a fried pastry filled with meat, cheese, or vegetables. They’re a popular snack or street food in Panama and can be found at many food stalls and local eateries.
- Ceviche: a seafood dish made with raw fish or shrimp marinated in lime juice, onions, and cilantro. It’s a refreshing dish that’s perfect for a hot day and can be found in many seafood restaurants in Panama City.
- Arroz con pollo: a classic dish of rice with chicken, onions, peppers, and other vegetables. It’s a filling and flavorful meal that’s popular in many Panamanian restaurants.
- Patacones: fried plantain slices that are often served as a side dish or appetizer. They’re crispy and delicious and can be found at many local restaurants and food stalls.
As for where to eat in Panama, here are some popular restaurants and food markets:
- Street Taco Bocas – This is a great spot for authentic Mexican street tacos in Bocas del Toro. They have a variety of delicious fillings and toppings, and the prices are very reasonable.
- Happy Mama’s Bocas – If you’re looking for healthy, organic food options in Bocas del Toro, Happy Mama’s is a great choice. They offer a variety of vegan and vegetarian dishes, as well as fresh juices and smoothies.
- In Anton Valley – On the main street recommend a hamburger place opposite the market (coconuts here) and local restaurants offering menu dias.
- Mercado de Mariscos: This seafood market in Panama City is a must-visit for seafood lovers. You can buy fresh fish and seafood to cook at home, or dine at one of the many stalls that serve ceviche, fried fish, and other seafood dishes.
- Mi Ranchito: a popular Panamanian restaurant with multiple locations in Panama City. They serve traditional dishes such as sancocho and arroz con pollo.
- Tinajas – Located in the heart of Panama City’s historic Casco Viejo district, Tinajas offers traditional Panamanian cuisine in a lively, festive atmosphere. They have live music and dancing on some nights, making it a great spot for a fun night out.
These are just a few of the many great places to eat in Panama. Whether you’re looking for street food or fine dining, there’s something for everyone in this diverse country.
5 Days in Panama itinerary
Which hostels to stay in Bocas Del Toro, Panama?
I stayed 2 days and 2 nights in Bocas, another 2 days and 2 nights in Anton Valley, 1 night on the bus traveling from Bocas to Anton Valley, and 1 till mid night in Panama City to catch the next flight.
There are many great hostels to choose from in Bocas del Toro. Whether you’re looking for a social atmosphere or a quiet retreat, there’s a hostel to suit your needs and budget. Here are some recommended ones:
- Selina Bocas del Toro – This trendy hostel is located right on the beach and offers a variety of private and dormitory-style rooms. The hostel also has a pool, bar, and restaurant on-site, as well as a range of activities and events for guests.
- Spanish by the Sea – Located in the heart of Bocas Town and only 5 mins from the ferry dock. This hostel offers affordable dormitory-style rooms and private rooms. The hostel has a communal kitchen, a rooftop terrace, and Spanish lessons too.
- Twin Fin Hostels– This colorful hostel is located in a historic building in the heart of Bocas Town. The hostel offers private rooms and dormitory-style rooms, as well as a communal kitchen, rooftop terrace, and a lively bar on the ground floor.
- Bastimentos Hill Guest House – This small, family-run hostel is located just outside of Bocas Town, in a quiet, residential area. The hostel offers private rooms and dormitory-style rooms, as well as a communal kitchen and a lovely garden with hammocks and outdoor seating.
- Las Olas Hostel – This hostel is located just a short walk from Bocas Town. The hostel offers private rooms and dormitory-style rooms, as well as a communal kitchen, outdoor seating areas, and a range of water sports activities.
Highlights in Bocas Del Toro, Panama
Decided to spend a couple of days out on the island out of 5 Days in Panama and it was just perfect!
- Carenero Island – This picturesque island is just a short boat ride from Bocas Town, and is a great spot for swimming, sunbathing, and snorkeling. The island is known for its calm, crystal-clear waters, and beautiful coral reefs.
- Star Beach – Located on Isla Colon, Star Beach is another popular spot for swimming and sunbathing. The beach has soft, white sand and clear, shallow waters, making it a great place for families with young children.
- Bastimentos National Marine Park – This protected area encompasses a group of islands and coral reefs and is home to a diverse range of marine life. Visitors can take a boat tour or go snorkeling to see colorful fish, sea turtles, and other marine creatures.
- Red Frog Beach – Located on Isla Bastimentos, Red Frog Beach is one of the most famous beaches in Bocas del Toro. The beach gets its name from the tiny red frogs that inhabit the surrounding jungle. Visitors can relax on the beach, hike through the jungle, or take a guided tour to learn more about the local wildlife.
- Bocas Town – The main town on Isla Colon, Bocas Town is a colorful, lively place with a laid-back Caribbean vibe. Visitors can explore the town’s narrow streets, check out the local shops and restaurants, or take a boat tour to see the surrounding islands.
- Dolphin Bay – This sheltered bay on Isla San Cristobal is home to a large population of bottlenose dolphins. Visitors can take a boat tour to see the dolphins up close and learn more about these intelligent creatures.
These are just a few of the many highlights of Bocas del Toro. Whether you’re interested in beaches, wildlife, or local culture, there’s something for everyone in this beautiful part of Panama.
Which hostels to stay in in Anton Valley, Panama?
Anton Valley is a popular destination for nature lovers and adventurers in Panama. Here are some hostels you might want to consider when visiting Anton Valley:
- Hostal La Casa de Juan
- Bodhi Hostel & Lounge
- El Zumbito
- Valle Paradise
- El Valle de Anton La Chachalaca
These are just a few of the many great places to stay in Anton Valley. Whether you’re looking for a luxury spa experience or a budget-friendly guesthouse, there’s something for every type of traveler in this beautiful part of Panama.
Highlights in Anton Valley, Panama
I enjoy hiking and nature so I stayed a few days here in Anton Vallery out of my 5 Days in Panama.
Anton Valley is a stunning destination in Panama, known for its lush forests, scenic hiking trails, and natural wonders. It’s one of my fav destinations in Central America as well and is situated inside a dormant volcanic crater. One of the must-do hikes in Anton Valley is the La India Dormida Trail, which offers breathtaking views of the valley and the surrounding countryside.
The La India Dormida Trail is named after a rock formation that resembles a sleeping Indian woman. The trail is approximately 4.5 km long and takes around 3-4 hours to complete. It starts at the base of La India Dormida and winds its way up the mountain through lush tropical forests, rocky terrain, and steep inclines.
Hostel advised that recently there have been some robberies happening on this trail and not to go solo. So, I went with a fellow traveler and recommended the same.
As you climb higher, the trail opens up to reveal stunning panoramic views of the valley, including the town of Anton and the surrounding mountains. Along the way, you’ll encounter a variety of flora and fauna, including exotic birds, butterflies, and orchids.
The legend behind La India Dormida is that a beautiful Indian princess fell in love with a Spanish conquistador. Her tribe disapproved of the relationship and forced her to marry another man. Heartbroken, the princess climbed the mountain and fell asleep, turning into a rock formation that still stands today.
The La India Dormida Trail
This is a challenging hike that rewards those who make the effort with unforgettable views and a fascinating backstory. It’s a must-do hike for anyone visiting Anton Valley, and it’s sure to leave a lasting impression.
I must add that, there are many stories and legends surrounding La India Dormida, and the one I shared is just one of them. I’d be happy to share another story about this iconic rock formation.
According to another legend, La India Dormida is named after an indigenous woman who lived in the valley a long time ago. She was known for her beauty and wisdom and was greatly respected by her people. One day, a group of Spanish conquistadors arrived in the valley and began to plunder and destroy the land.
The indigenous woman, feeling a great sense of responsibility to protect her people and the land they lived on, decided to take matters into her own hands. She climbed to the top of the mountain, where she prayed to the gods for strength and guidance.
As she prayed, she fell into a deep sleep and turned into the rock formation that still stands today. The legend goes that she continues to watch over the valley and protect it from harm, even in her eternal slumber.
This legend, like the first one, highlights the rich cultural history and deep spiritual connection that the people of Anton Valley have with their land and natural surroundings. Regardless of which legend you choose to believe, the La India Dormida Trail remains a must-do hike for anyone visiting the area, offering a glimpse into the unique culture and history of this beautiful part of the world.
Cerro La Silla – La Pita Trail
This trail takes you to the summit of Cerro La Silla, a mountain peak that offers stunning views of the valley. The hike is challenging, but the reward of watching the sunrise from the top of the mountain is worth the effort. On the way back down, the La Pita Trail takes you through lush tropical forests and past beautiful waterfalls.
Los Cajones de Chame Trail
This challenging hike takes you through narrow canyons, over boulders, and across streams. The reward is a series of beautiful waterfalls and natural pools that are perfect for a refreshing swim. This hike is best done in the morning or early afternoon.
Cerro Cara Iguana Trail
This difficult hike takes you through dense forest and up steep inclines to a peak that offers panoramic views of the entire valley. It is best done in the late afternoon, as the sunset from the summit is breathtaking.
Chorro El Macho – La Piedra Pintada – Agua Buena Trail
This combination trail takes you to three different destinations, including the stunning Agua Buena natural pool and waterfall. Along the way, you’ll also have the opportunity to explore the La Piedra Pintada site and swim in the Chorro El Macho waterfall. This hike is best done in the mid-morning or early afternoon.
No matter which hikes you choose to do, Anton Valley’s unique geological features and rich cultural history make it a must-visit destination for any hiking enthusiast.
Go on a wildlife tour: Anton is home to a variety of wildlife, including monkeys, sloths, toucans, and parrots. You can go on a wildlife tour to see these animals in their natural habitats.
Visit the Anton Valley Butterfly Haven
This is a beautiful butterfly garden where you can see dozens of species of butterflies in all their colorful glory.
Soak in the hot springs
The El Valle de Anton is known for its natural hot springs, which are said to have healing properties. There are several hot spring resorts in the area where you can relax and rejuvenate.
El Nispero Zoo and Botanical Garden
This zoo and botanical garden is home to a wide variety of exotic animals and plants, including monkeys, sloths, toucans, orchids, and bromeliads. Visitors can take a guided tour or explore the gardens on their own.
Which hostels to stay in in Panama City?
There are many great hostels to choose from in Panama City. Here are a few options to consider:
Highlights in Panama City
Panama City is a vibrant and cosmopolitan city with a rich history and culture. Here are some of the top highlights to explore during your visit:
- Panama Canal: If you are into Canals, you don’t want to miss out on Panama Canal. You can take a tour of the locks, visit the museum, or even take a boat ride through the canal.
- Casco Viejo: This historic district is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is home to charming colonial architecture, colorful buildings, and lively plazas. You can stroll through the streets, visit historic landmarks, and enjoy the vibrant atmosphere.
- Biomuseo: Designed by famous architect Frank Gehry, this museum is dedicated to the biodiversity of Panama and features interactive exhibits, outdoor spaces, and stunning views of the city.
- Ancon Hill: This natural landmark offers panoramic views of the city and the surrounding rainforest. It’s a popular spot for hiking and nature walks.
- Amador Causeway: This scenic causeway connects Panama City to three small islands in the Pacific Ocean. It’s a great place to bike, walk, or enjoy a drink or meal with a view of the water.
- Metropolitan Natural Park: This nature reserve is located in the heart of the city and offers a peaceful escape from the hustle and bustle. You can hike through the forest, spot wildlife, and enjoy stunning views of the city skyline.
- Panama Viejo: This historic site was the original location of Panama City before it was destroyed by pirates. You can explore the ruins, visit the museum, and learn about the history of the city.
There are many other things to see and do in Panama City, but these highlights are a great place to start.
If you have more time, San Blas islands as the next stop are recommended then towards boat or plane to Colombia or perhaps a flight to Quito, Ecuador.
It won’t apply to you if you are traveling for only one month in Central America but in case you do decide to extend. Note that there is a thing called the CA-4 group which includes Honduras, Guatemala, Nicaragua, and El Salvador and they permit free travel between them all. This means they spread your 90 days between these four countries. To avoid any fines make sure your stay in these 4 countries is within 90 days.
Let me know in the comments:
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