Outdoor Activities in Panama

Found out about some of the more popular outdoor activities available in and around Panama City...

Panama is a popular destination for eco-tourists and adventurers. There is a wide choice of outdoor activities and there are dozens of tour companies that organize these activities. Hiking, trekking, rock climbing, horse riding, mountain biking, Indian village tours, bird and whale watching are all popular activities throughout the country.

Watersports

Because of Panama's very long coastline, there are plenty of opportunities for watersports and they are extremely popular. In fact, Panama is among the top destinations in the world for surfing, fishing and many other sports.

Traveling through the Canal by boat, either part of the way or the whole way, is a popular activity offered by many companies. In addition, kayaking, paddle boarding, boating, jet-skiing, white water rafting, tubing, and all manner of water activities are widely available all over Panama. Santa Catalina is one of the best places for surfing.

Portobelo is a Caribbean coastal town with a historic colonial fort. This area was discovered by conquistadors and looted by pirates over the centuries. Many tour operators offer guided tours to this area. There are also small historical museums. From Portobelo, there are boat trips to Isla Grande, a popular Caribbean island just 13 miles off the coast. Visitors can take a day trip from Panama City or stay overnight in either Portobelo or Isla Grande.

San Blas is an archipelago of 365 islands off the Caribbean coast of Panama. It has all that visitors expect in the Caribbean: crystal clear water, pristine white sand, and palm trees. The archipelago is a popular sailing destination and offers diving, snorkeling and kayaking. It is also possible to take rainforest tours and to visit villages and find out about their cultural heritage.

Another popular Caribbean destination is Bocas del Toro. With an emphasis on eco-tourism, Bocas has beautiful beaches and a variety of outdoor activities and water sports. There is also plenty of accommodation and the nightlife is lively.

Panama's Rainforests

Any land in Panama that has not been cleared for development is covered by rainforest. Some of the rainforest areas are as little as 40 minutes from the center of Panama City. Tour companies offer rainforest tours, with activities including aerial tram tours for visitors to see the rainforest from canopy level.

Panama's biodiversity means that it has a very large number of different species, with 218 species of mammals, 226 species of reptiles, 164 species of amphibians, 940 species of birds, and 125 species which are found nowhere else in the world. The rainforest is an excellent place to see all different types of exotic species such as monkeys, sloths, big cats, caymans, and hundreds of colorful songbirds.

Western Highlands

The western highlands offer another unique experience. Chiriqui Province is a focal point
for many of Panama's adventure tours and there is a wide range of hiking, rafting, kayaking and birding opportunities. Because of its ideal climate, the town of Boquete is a top retirement destination. It has coffee farms, mountain views and lots of outdoor activities.

The Volcán Barú

The Volcán Barú is the highest mountain in Panama and from its peak, there are views to both the Pacific Ocean and Atlantic Ocean. It is the only place in the world where this is possible. Because of its altitude, this dormant volcano has a temperate climate and in the rich soil, most of Panama's produce is grown. Coffee is grown here, both for local consumption and for export. Many tour companies offer visits to farms, including coffee farms, as well as hiking, horse riding and birding.

Camping

Some companies offer camping, but unless in a group accompanied by a tour guide, or with arranged camping at a hostel, eco-lodge or with the owner of a private property, camping in Panama is not recommended. Although the climate may lend itself to wild camping, animals are a very real threat outside the cities. Once outiside the city, especially in or near jungle, there are big cats, as well as many large and sometimes poisonous insects, reptiles and snakes. Even large birds can be a threat to humans.

Mosquitoes are particularly dangerous, as they can carry malaria and dengue fever. There is no vaccine or treatment for dengue fever. Visitors and residents alike should take care to avoid mosquito bites by protecting themselves with insect repellent, particularly at dusk, and by using mosquito nets at night. Care should be taken to protect children and keep them away from areas of standing water. Areas that are worst affected are San Miguelito, Chilibre, Las Cumbres, 24 de Diciembre, Mañanitas, Tocumen, Pueblo Nuevo, Curundú, Bethania, Juan Diaz, Parque Lefevre, Rio Abajo, San Francisco, Bella Vista and Calidonia.