Backpacking Panama

Fancy heading to a country famous for its endless beaches and cheerful people? Then quickly chuck your things into a backpack and get yourself to Panama! It is a country with unique nature and is home to many exciting animal species. Almost 30 percent of the country's total area is dedicated to nature parks. So, let’s get into it and we hope you have fun exploring our ideal backpacking route through Panama!


Important Basics

Official language ( Spanish )
EnglishSpanish
HelloHola
Goodbyechau
ThankyouGracias
Yes
NoNo
Capital City

Panama City

Form of Government

Presidential Republic

Climate

Hot, humid, and tropical with rainy seasons between May and January

Highest temperature by day

39 degrees Celsius

Highest temperature by night

21 degrees Celsius

Currency

Balboa, US-Dollar

Phone Country Code

+507

Fun Facts

About one tenth of all bird species are found in Panama.

Cities

Panama City

Panama City is located on the Pacific coast and lies just east of the Panama Canal. It is the capital city, the largest city, and the economic, political, and cultural center of the country. The city is also quite modern and of great international economic importance because of its banking and offshore jurisdiction and has been a key international location for banks since the 1970s.

There are several universities in Panama City, including branches of American universities – it’s generally considered to be relatively loud and hectic, but you can find quieter places to relax in the surrounding areas.

The city itself is a highlight in itself and offers many great attractions. Casco Viejo, the city’s old town, was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2003 and is loaded with historic charm, churches, and museums. We recommend visiting during the day, as it’s not the best place to be at night.

Another highlight is the Metropolitan Natural Park located in the middle of the city, which serves as an oasis of peace away from the surrounding hustle and bustle. The park is quite large, and you can even find different animals like monkeys, sloths, anteaters, armadillos, and iguanas.

The Miraflores Visitors Center, a few kilometers outside the city, is a great place to learn about the construction and operation of the Panama Canal in its four-floor interactive museum (more interesting than it sounds, we promise!). Be sure to check out the viewing platform on the roof for a wonderful view over the canal and its channels.

We also highly recommend to go shopping and grab a bite to eat in Panama City. There are tons of options, and you won’t be disappointed – just make sure you give yourself enough time!

Stay overnight at one of the city’s hostels and get a bed in a 10-bed dorm for 11 euros a night.

Playa Venao

Ready for some peace and quiet after the big city? Hop on a bus for 14 euros to get to your next destination: Playa Venao.

Playa Venao is a beach town on the country’s southern coast. The crescent-shaped, sandy beach is 2.8 km long and a popular destination for surfers. The biggest waves are in the middle of the beach, but they become calmer the further away you get from the center.

Playa Venao is relatively small – most things are a twenty-minute walk at most – so it’s easy to get around on foot or by bike.

If you’re in the mood for more adventure, take a thirty-minute trek through the jungle to find a beautiful little waterfall – if you’re lucky, you might even see some howler monkeys!

Stay at a hostel for 11 euros a night in an eight-bed dorm.

Santa Catalina

Next, let’s hope on over to Santa Catalina – your backpacking trip through Panama isn’t over yet! About 300 people live here and most of them only speak Spanish.

Santa Catalina offers three beautiful beaches – Estero, La Punta and Punta Brava – where you can go surfing, snorkeling, and diving. Underwater, you’ll find yourself face-to-face with dolphins, turtles, great white sharks, and other unique sea creatures, so grab your swimsuit and dive in!

Local products are often sold here directly from the trucks’ loading spaces, so you not only get lower prices, but also get unique, fresh products. Fishermen also sell their daily catch in town and on the beach. If you don’t feel like cooking, there are several restaurants in the area where you can enjoy seafood or a steak.

Sleep in Santa Catalina in a 10-bed dorm for just 13 euros a night.

Boquete

After enjoying Santa Catalina’s underwater world, why not head to Boquete by bus for only about 15 euros.

Boquete, or Bajo Boquete as it is originally called, is in the Boquete district of the Chiriquí province. It is situated at 1,200 meters above sea level and has a mild climate, with average temperatures of around 20 degrees Celsius.

Boquete is a small and inviting mountain village where you can comfortably explore everything on foot. It’s known for coffee, strawberries, and flowers like orchids, roses, and chrysanthemums.

You should definitely try the coffee here, as the beans are said to be the best in the whole country! It’s also worth doing a spot of hiking if you’re up for it – there are many trails which pass through various coffee fields and farms, so it’s a great way to learn more about coffee and see how the locals live. Other local products include onions, carrots, potatoes, beets, and salad – but none are as famous as the coffee!

For 13 euros a night you can stay in a ten-bed dorm at a local hostel.

Bocas del Toro

From Boquete, head to the last stop on your Panamanian adventure and take a bus and ferry to Bocas del Toro for about 27 euros.

Bocas del Toro, the capital of the province of the same name, is small enough to explore by foot or bike, but you can also take a taxi – or even a water taxi. This Caribbean Island chain is breathtakingly beautiful, so enjoy your last stop to the fullest.

Boca del Drago and Playa Estrella, with its many starfish, are absolutely worth a visit. There are plenty of water sports and surf spots to keep you busy, so you won’t ever get bored. Fishing is also an option, or just rent a boat and do some island hopping.

Whatever you do, you’re sure to have a wonderful time because Bocas del Toro is gorgeous, the people are friendly, and there is a boatload of fun things to do.

Spend your last few nights in a local hostel where one night in a dorm is just 23 euros.

After saying goodbye to beautiful Panama, hop on a plane home from Bocas del Toro via Panama City.


Panama City

Panama City

Panama City is located on the Pacific coast and lies just east of the Panama Canal. It is the capital city, the largest city, and the economic, political, and cultural center of the country. The city is also quite modern and of great international economic importance because of its banking and offshore jurisdiction and has been a key international location for banks since the 1970s.

There are several universities in Panama City, including branches of American universities – it’s generally considered to be relatively loud and hectic, but you can find quieter places to relax in the surrounding areas.

The city itself is a highlight in itself and offers many great attractions. Casco Viejo, the city’s old town, was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2003 and is loaded with historic charm, churches, and museums. We recommend visiting during the day, as it’s not the best place to be at night.

Another highlight is the Metropolitan Natural Park located in the middle of the city, which serves as an oasis of peace away from the surrounding hustle and bustle. The park is quite large, and you can even find different animals like monkeys, sloths, anteaters, armadillos, and iguanas.

The Miraflores Visitors Center, a few kilometers outside the city, is a great place to learn about the construction and operation of the Panama Canal in its four-floor interactive museum (more interesting than it sounds, we promise!). Be sure to check out the viewing platform on the roof for a wonderful view over the canal and its channels.

We also highly recommend to go shopping and grab a bite to eat in Panama City. There are tons of options, and you won’t be disappointed – just make sure you give yourself enough time!

Stay overnight at one of the city’s hostels and get a bed in a 10-bed dorm for 11 euros a night.

Playa Venao

Playa Venao

Ready for some peace and quiet after the big city? Hop on a bus for 14 euros to get to your next destination: Playa Venao.

Playa Venao is a beach town on the country’s southern coast. The crescent-shaped, sandy beach is 2.8 km long and a popular destination for surfers. The biggest waves are in the middle of the beach, but they become calmer the further away you get from the center.

Playa Venao is relatively small – most things are a twenty-minute walk at most – so it’s easy to get around on foot or by bike.

If you’re in the mood for more adventure, take a thirty-minute trek through the jungle to find a beautiful little waterfall – if you’re lucky, you might even see some howler monkeys!

Stay at a hostel for 11 euros a night in an eight-bed dorm.

Santa Catalina

Santa Catalina

Next, let’s hope on over to Santa Catalina – your backpacking trip through Panama isn’t over yet! About 300 people live here and most of them only speak Spanish.

Santa Catalina offers three beautiful beaches – Estero, La Punta and Punta Brava – where you can go surfing, snorkeling, and diving. Underwater, you’ll find yourself face-to-face with dolphins, turtles, great white sharks, and other unique sea creatures, so grab your swimsuit and dive in!

Local products are often sold here directly from the trucks’ loading spaces, so you not only get lower prices, but also get unique, fresh products. Fishermen also sell their daily catch in town and on the beach. If you don’t feel like cooking, there are several restaurants in the area where you can enjoy seafood or a steak.

Sleep in Santa Catalina in a 10-bed dorm for just 13 euros a night.

Boquete

Boquete

After enjoying Santa Catalina’s underwater world, why not head to Boquete by bus for only about 15 euros.

Boquete, or Bajo Boquete as it is originally called, is in the Boquete district of the Chiriquí province. It is situated at 1,200 meters above sea level and has a mild climate, with average temperatures of around 20 degrees Celsius.

Boquete is a small and inviting mountain village where you can comfortably explore everything on foot. It’s known for coffee, strawberries, and flowers like orchids, roses, and chrysanthemums.

You should definitely try the coffee here, as the beans are said to be the best in the whole country! It’s also worth doing a spot of hiking if you’re up for it – there are many trails which pass through various coffee fields and farms, so it’s a great way to learn more about coffee and see how the locals live. Other local products include onions, carrots, potatoes, beets, and salad – but none are as famous as the coffee!

For 13 euros a night you can stay in a ten-bed dorm at a local hostel.

Bocas del Toro

Bocas del Toro

From Boquete, head to the last stop on your Panamanian adventure and take a bus and ferry to Bocas del Toro for about 27 euros.

Bocas del Toro, the capital of the province of the same name, is small enough to explore by foot or bike, but you can also take a taxi – or even a water taxi. This Caribbean Island chain is breathtakingly beautiful, so enjoy your last stop to the fullest.

Boca del Drago and Playa Estrella, with its many starfish, are absolutely worth a visit. There are plenty of water sports and surf spots to keep you busy, so you won’t ever get bored. Fishing is also an option, or just rent a boat and do some island hopping.

Whatever you do, you’re sure to have a wonderful time because Bocas del Toro is gorgeous, the people are friendly, and there is a boatload of fun things to do.

Spend your last few nights in a local hostel where one night in a dorm is just 23 euros.

After saying goodbye to beautiful Panama, hop on a plane home from Bocas del Toro via Panama City.

Panama Route Map

Itinerary and Stops.

Tag
Route/Station
Transport
Unterkunft
1. Home - Panama City
Home - Panama City
Flight
250
ten-bed dorm
11
2. Panama City
Panama City
-
ten-bed dorm
11
3. Panama City
Panama City
-
ten-bed dorm
11
4. Panama City - Playa Venao
Panama City - Playa Venao
Bus
14
eight-bed dorm
11
5. Playa Venao
Playa Venao
-
eight-bed dorm
11
6. Playa Venao
Playa Venao
-
eight-bed dorm
11
7. Playa Venao
Playa Venao
-
eight-bed dorm
11
8. Playa Venao - Santa Catalina
Playa Venao - Santa Catalina
Bus
18
ten-bed dorm
15
9. Santa Catalina
Santa Catalina
-
ten-bed dorm
15
10. Santa Catalina
Santa Catalina
-
ten-bed dorm
15
11. Santa Catalina
Santa Catalina
-
ten-bed dorm
15
12. Santa Catalina - Boquete
Santa Catalina - Boquete
Bus
15
ten-bed dorm
13
13. Boquete
Boquete
-
ten-bed dorm
13
14. Boquete
Boquete
-
ten-bed dorm
13
15. Boquete
Boquete
-
ten-bed dorm
13
16. Boquete - Bocas del Toro
Boquete - Bocas del Toro
Bus+ferry
27
private room
23
17. Bocas del Toro
Bocas del Toro
-
private room
23
18. Bocas del Toro
Bocas del Toro
-
private room
23
19. Bocas del Toro
Bocas del Toro
-
private room
23
20. Bocas del Toro
Bocas del Toro
-
private room
23
21. Bocas del Toro - Panama City - Home
Bocas del Toro - Panama City - Home
Flight
350

Total price.

Flights 600,00
Transportation 74,00
Tours 0,00
Accommodation 304,00
Total978,00

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Dos and Donts, Food & Drinks, Costs.

Breakfast

Hígado encebollado: This liver and onion dish is a typical item on breakfast menus, and is often served with eggs and salsa.

Tortillas: Tortillas in Panama are corn-based, thicker, and packed with flavor – you just have to try them!

Soups

Sancocho: A traditional stew made with chicken, vegetables, and spices.

Main courses

Patacones: A substitute for French fries, patacones are deep-fried plantain sticks, seasoned with traditional spices.

Ceviche: A popular dish on the coast, ceviche is raw fish or seafood marinated in citrus juice, sometimes mixed with various vegetables.

Arroz con Guandú y Pollo Guisado: This classic dish consists of rice and peas with braised chicken. Sometimes coconut is added to the rice and peas for extra flavor.

Salchicha: Sausage in Panama is usually pork based and can be served with various side dishes and sometimes even a spicy sauce – delicious!

Drinks & Snacks

Carimanolas: These fried dough balls packed with meat and cheese are a popular snack.

Chichita Panameña: Don’t miss out on this fruity cocktail while you’re at the beach!

Panama

As Panama’s currency is the USD, the information below is given in USD. The exchange rate for 1 USD is around €0.93 (as of February 2020). See prices for certain products and the cost of living below:

Cost of Living 

Food

Free Time

Personal Hygiene

Dos

Leave your important documents at the hostel: It's best to only carry copies around with you.

Bring mosquito spray: Your dream vacation can turn into a nightmare if you get bitten.

Always negotiate a fixed price with taxi drivers: Agree on a price before you go to make sure you don't get ripped off.

Don'ts

Don't be frightened by random fireworks: You don't need a special occasion for fireworks in Panama. Locals love the colorful spectacle and even set them off during the day.

Don’t go it alone after dark: Always stay together in well-lit tourist areas.

Don’t rely on the weather forecast: the weather in Panama can change at the drop of a hat, so be prepared for anything.

Visa, Visa, Passport & Vaccinations

Passport

Yes

Temporary passport

Yes

National ID

No

Temporary national ID

No

Child’s pass

Yes

Visa

(Not necessary)

Vaccine

Yes

Additional Remarks.

Your travel documents must be valid for at least three months at the time of entry, or if you are planning an extended stay, for your entire time in the country.

The team at Backpacker Trail wishes you lots of fun and an unforgettable trip!

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