Panama is a country with a lot to offer. The country features the stunning Caribbean islands of Bocas del Toro and San Blas islands, the mountain highlands of Boquete and a metropolitan city with a perfect mix of old and new, Panama City.
Two Weeks in Panama Itinerary
4 Days in Bocas del Toro Archipelago
Colourful wooden houses along the coast welcomed us when we arrived on Isla Colón. The main part of the island is Bocas Town, a lively beach town with beautiful Victorian style houses. With its architecture, it is definitely one of the nicer beach towns we’ve visited in Central America. There are plenty of accommodation options, restaurants and supermarkets around Bocas Town, which made it a great place to stay. It is also possible to stay in the other islands like Isla Bastimentos but the rates are higher.
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One of the popular attractions in Bocas del Toro is Starfish Beach, located on Isla Colón’s northwest side. The bus from the main square of Bocas Town will take you to Bocas del Drago, from there it is just a few minutes’ walk to the beach. Orange coloured starfish can easily be spotted on Starfish beach, along with schools of some small fish. If you’re tired of looking out for marine life, there are also some shops to buy food and drinks, which you can enjoy in this relaxing environment.
There are plenty of other activities to do in Bocas del Toro which includes island hopping, dolphin watching, snorkelling and free diving. We planned to do an island hopping tour to Dolphin Bay, Coral Cay and Red Frog Beach but the weather wasn’t great when we were in Bocas del Toro so we skipped our visit to the other islands. Did you do an island hopping tour in Bocas del Toro? How was it?
Where to Stay in Bocas del Toro
Luxury – Urraca Private Island
Mid-Range – Oasis Bluff Beach
Budget – Sun Havens Apartments & Suites
3 Days in Boquete
It was cold and drizzling when we arrived in the Boquete, one of the towns in the mountain highlands of Panama. After we checked in the hostel, we met a couple who invited us to join them to hike Volcán Barú, the highest volcano in Panama which is said to offer views of the Pacific Ocean and Caribbean Sea. We intended to join the hike but we had to cancel because I hardly got any sleep that afternoon (the hike starts around 11pm). The next day, we learnt it was too hazy to see anything at the peak and that the hike was pretty tough because of the low visibility. Make sure the weather is clear before you hike Volcán Barú.
If climbing a volcano is too tough, there are plenty of other outdoor hikes in Boquete. The Lost Waterfalls Trail is an interesting trek that will take you to three waterfalls in the cloud forest. The hike is not difficult but there are some muddy and slippery paths you have to cross. I almost backed out on the last waterfall because the mud was too deep. Depending on your walking speed (and if you go swimming in the waterfalls), the trail takes about 2 hours. The entrance fee is $5.
Another popular trail in Boquete is the Senderos de los Quetzales or the Quetzal Trail, named after the quetzal, the bird considered to be among the world’s most beautiful. The trail is a total of 9.6 km and takes from 4 to 7 hours. We did the trek from Boquete to Cerro Punta, unfortunately, we didn’t spot any quetzals during our hike, but the beautiful cloud forest is enough to make this trail worth doing. We didn’t pay for entrance fee, but according to some people, they paid $3.
Make sure to wear proper shoes, bring some warm clothes and bring enough water and snacks since there are no shops within the trails. You can arrange tours to these hikes but it can easily be done on your own. Public transport to the Lost Waterfalls Trail or Quetzal Trail costs $5 per person per way. The bus stop is located one block from the main square. Make sure to check the return time for the bus and know the bus stops. We learnt this the hard way after doing the Quetzal Trail. The bus didn’t go all the way to the park so we had to walk for nearly half an hour to catch the bus going back to town.
How to Get From Bocas del Toro to Boquete
From Bocas del Toro, we took the boat back to Almirante. We took a taxi to the bus station in Almirante then the bus to David (about 4.5 hours, $8). In the bus terminal in David, we took another bus to get to Boquete (1 hour, $1.50).
Where to Stay in Boquete
Luxury – Casa de Montaña Bed & Breakfast
Mid-Range – Downtown Suites
Budget – Om Sweets
3 Days in Panama City
Panama City is undoubtedly Central America’s most beautiful capital city. You shouldn’t miss it during your two weeks in Panama. Apart from the impressive modern infrastructures, Panama City is also rich in history. It has the perfect mix of old and new. We spent most of our time in the historic district called Casco Viejo. Where we were captivated by stunning churches, charming plazas and colourful houses. If you loved Cartagena, you will love Panama City’s Casco Viejo.
One of the world’s greatest feats in engineering, Panama Canal is a sight you shouldn’t miss during your visit to Panama City. From Casco Viejo we took a taxi to the Miraflores Visitor Center to witness how the Panama Canal works. The entrance fee is $15 for foreigners which includes access to the observation decks, entry to the exhibition halls and a 3D movie on the story of the Panama Canal. It took us about 2 hours to do the whole tour. We were there around 11am and we got the chance to see a huge cargo ship crossing over the Panama Canal. It was amazing!
How to Get From Boquete to Panama City
From Boquete, we took a bus to the terminal in David (1 hour, $1.50). Then we took another bus to Panama City (about 8 hours, $15). From the Albrook Bus Terminal in Panama City, we took a taxi to Casco Viejo ($5).
Where to Stay in Panama City
Luxury – American Trade Hotel
Mid-Range – Casco Viejo Roof and Pool
Boutique – Casco Viejo Roof and Pool
4 Days in San Blas Islands
The San Blas Islands have some of the best beaches we have seen in Central America. The Caribbean waters were clear, turquoise blue and the sand was powder white. Unlike other Caribbean islands, the San Blas Islands have long been under the Kuna, an indigenous group of people in Panama. There is a lack of development on the islands and you still get to see its untouched beauty.
A trip to the San Blas Islands is the best place we visited during our two weeks in Panama. We visited these islands on a 4 days/ 3 nights’ tour and is a good way to travel from Panama to Colombia.
How to Get From Panama to Colombia via the San Blas Islands
The 4 days/ 3 nights boat trip from Panama to Colombia via the San Blas Islands with San Blas Adventures costs $375, plus an extra $30 for the jeep transfer and $22 for the island tax/entry fee.
Border Crossing from Costa Rica to Panama
From Puerto Viejo in Costa Rica, Jon and I took a bus to the Costa Rican border in Sixaola. After we paid the $7 exit fee and got our passports stamped, we crossed the bridge to Guabito, Panama. We each paid a $3 sticker then proceeded to Panamanian immigration. Like most border crossings, we waited for about 10 minutes before it was our turn. The immigration officer asked a copy of our flight booking out of Panama before he stamped our passports. We had heard this requirement from other travellers so we prepared a copy of a flight booking (we didn’t use this though since we had already planned the boat trip to Colombia via the San Blas Islands). Make sure you have one even if you will not use it. From the Guabito, we took a shared taxi ($10 for 4 people) to the town of Almirante. From there, we took a speed boat ($6 per person) to the main island of Bocas del Toro, Isla Colon.
Disclaimer: We worked with San Blas Adventures for our 4 days/ 3 nights tour of San Blas Islands (Border Crossing from Panama to Colombia). Thoughts and opinions in this post are our own.
Have you been to Panama? Did you have anything to add to our Two Weeks in Panama itinerary? Let us know.
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