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Walk this way – we recently visited Panama City for a second time and spent over a month getting to know the city. Due to Panama’s intense daytime heat (it often hit 33 / 34c by 10am in the morning), we found it is best to do short walks early on in the day, starting around 8am to beat the heat.
So don a Panama Hat, slip-slap on the suntan lotion and try one (or all) of our top five picks for easy day hikes / walks in Panama City, all of which are free or cost only a few dollars:
5 Easy Walks Around Panama City:
Casco Viejo / San Felipe
A UNESCO protected district, the old quarter is a fantastic place to start exploring Panama City. Although it is an obvious choice, we’d recommend you spend a whole day here – start with some breakfast (Tantalo Restaurant is always good), then soak in the colonial charm and get lost in the shaded side streets.
The heart of the old city, Casco Viejo is a vibrant wonderland that is great to walk around in the daytime (and then party at night in all the neighbourhood and rooftop bars). Highlights include the twin-towered Metropolitan Cathedral (recently reopened after a major refurbishment), waterfront views looking across to the glimmering skyscrapers that dominate Panama City’s skyline and the gift shops lined around the coastal walkway, near to the newly reopened National Theatre.
At the end of your walk, it’d be rude not to visit one of the many bars dotted around, to cool off and take advantage of a rooftop happy hour.
In our eyes, the jewel of Panama City, Amador Causeway is a man-made road that interlinks and joins two former islands to the mainland. With beautifully manicured lawns, palm-tree lined avenues and views of both the glimmering city building and outlying islands like Toboga, this is a perfect place for a short stroll with city views.
If you don’t fancy walking, there are several bicycle hire stalls (we saw lots of families hiring pedalos designed for four) and you can always break up your visit or escape the heat by visiting either the brightly coloured Biomuseo (Museum of Biodiversity – $18 admission) – designed by Frank Gehry no less, or the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute – also look out for the huge Panama sign towards the far end of the harbour (very popular with tourists)
We generally walked along Amador Causeway from the far end for about 45 mins, reaching Biomuseo, then grabbing a raspados (shaved ice) from one of the street vendors located behind it, cooling down in the lush BioMuseo gardens then returning via a hearty (and cheap) breakfast in Mi Ranchito restaurant.
Metropolitan Natural Park
Opened in 1988, the Metropolitan Natural Park is a little way out of the city (but still part of the urban mix), so unlike the other walks mentioned here, you may need to resort to using a car or an Uber taxi to get here. Upon arrival, you will need to register with the park staff in the main office building in the car-park, and pay a small fee ($4 for foreign visitors, $1 for residents).
There are five main trails here, around 5 km in total (so relatively easy to cover although some are uphill and a little strenuous). Our favourite is the Mono Tití trail, ascending to the top of Cedar’s Hill and offering some incredible views of Panama’s downtown highrises and tall buildings.
There is also a lot of wildlife to see here – on our last two visits, we saw sloths and monkeys high up in the trees, plus lots of terrapins and the odd small snake. We’ve also read that it is home to over 280 types of trees, 250 species of birds and 45 species of mammals, plus countless reptiles and amphibians.
At the end of your walk, you can buy ice cold drinks for around $1 back in the administration offices in the carpark (they have a little gift shop in the rear).
Closed to traffic, we joined the joggers and cyclists early one morning to climb to the top of Ancon Hill and soak up the views of the Panama Canal and the Bridge of the Americas on one side, plus vistas of Casco Viejo and the new town from the other.
Ancon Hill is easy to spot no matter where you are in the city, and can be easily spotted by looking for the huge Panama flag blowing in the wind – a former military installation, this is now one of the best and most accessible walks in Panama City.
Read more in our exploring Ancon Hill and Mi Pueblito in Panama City blog post.
The pride of Panama City, Cinta Costera is a wonderful walkway that stretches along the coast in the heart of the city, running from Paitailla to El Chorrillo (although if solely walking, we would recommend you finish at the Mercado de Mariscos (fish market) and reward yourself with some refreshing ceviche (raw fish cured in lemon juice) and a cold beer.
If you are staying in the city and do not have access to a car, this bohemian boulevard (combined with the Casco Viejo stroll) is probably your best bet. We’ve seen all walks of life along Cinta Costera, from the body beautiful (think Roller Girl from Boogie Nights) through to the numerous chica and raspados sellers. We’ve also seen a few music videos and dance competitions held along here whilst on our walks.
There is always something to see on Cinta Costera – the most famous large multicoloured Panama sign can also be found here, plus look out for the brightly coloured red devil buses (diablos rojos) along the main road.
More Panama blog posts
- A guide to Taboga Island in Panama City
- Panama City budget travel guide
- Casco Viejo in Panama City – top things to do
- Ancon Hill and Mi Pueblito in Panama City
- Panama City’s Rainforest Walks and Activities
Blog post written by Neil Hassall, photography by Neil Hassall and Caroline Keyzor. Please do not use without permission.
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