How to Spend a Day in Panama City

Within one day you can see the best of Panama City...including the Panama Canal

If you’re short on time in Panama City, but want to have a whirlwind tour of what’s on offer, here’s the guide for you. In just 24 hours, this is what you can fit in.

Casco Viejo

In the morning make your way over to Casco Viejo; Panama City’s Old Town. Jutting out from the mainland in a world of its own, Casco Viejo was ‘Panama City’ for a period of time. The previous ‘Panamá Viejo’ town was burned down by pirates! Set against the background of a small metropolis, it’s hard to imagine these quaint windy streets used to be all that existed.

Old Town Square
One of the squares in Casco Viejo

As soon as you enter the boundaries of this UNESCO World Heritage Site, small signs give directions for a walking route around the key sights. Each one with a billboard giving history and background to what lies in front of you.

Old brick archway
Arco Chato in the ‘Old Town’

There’s the old maritime port, government offices, cathedrals, plazas, ancient city walls and even the ‘Instituto Nacional de Cultura’, which was used in the James Bond movie ‘Quantum of Solice.

There’s plenty of coffee shops in Casco Viejo for you to relax in too. Panama is famous for Geisha coffee which is one of the most expensive roasts in the world. Sit enjoying one whilst looking out to the sea and imagining the sight of Henry Morgan’s pirate ship coming over the horizon, as it did in the 1600’s.

The Panama Canal

Next up it’s time to head to the Panama Canal. The docks at Miraflores offer a great experience. Standing at ground level or four stories high, it’s possible to see colossal vessels pass through the docks. A lady gives commentary over the speaker system, informing onlookers of the goods on board, their value and where the ship has sailed from. It’s quite good fun.

Ship entering the docks of Panama Canal
A ship enters the Panama Canal

For the $20 USD admission, there’s a 20 minute movie (more like an art house project, but good all the same) and a multi level museum. It’s easy to spend two to three hours here, but time your visit wisely.

Boat locks
The Miraflores Locks at the Panama Canal

Every day, the boats spend 12 hours travelling east and 12 hours travelling west. Due to this, there is a transition period waiting for arrivals. So between the times of 10 – 2:30PM, there might not be any in sight! Aim to arrive around 2:30 and you’ll have plenty of time to experience the Panama Canal before it closes at 6:00PM.

Largest shipping canal in the world
Waiting for the ships to come in

Cinta Costera

This just leaves one final thing to do on your whirlwind visit of Panama City. Walk the Cinta Costera. This walkway hugs the coastline and gives jaw dropping views of Panama City. It looks even more spectacular when lit up at night, so that’s why I recommend doing it at the end of the day.

Cinta Costera Skyline View Panama City
Panama City’s Skyline at night from Cinta Costera

Alongside your Instagram shots, Cinta Costera offers a great people watching experience. Locals come here to work on the outdoor gym, jog the track, walk the dog and chat about their day. There will also be food sellers hawking for your custom around the ‘PANAMA’ sign.

Panama City offers much more, but by cramming these activities in to your day will give you a great experience in a limited amount of time. Enjoy!

How to travel around Panama City

Yellow taxis are everywhere in Panama City and you’ll need to agree a price before setting off. Do note that traffic can be hell and a much quicker and cheaper option is the Metro. These air conditioned buses are comfortable and regularly travel all over the city for 0.25 cents (USD) per journey. One downfall is that the Metro doesn’t take cash and you will need to purchase a travel card from Albrook Bus Terminal for $2 USD, load on some credit and swipe it when you get on the bus. You can save an extra couple of bucks by using one card for multiple people.

There are a lot of Metro stops near Casco Viejo, but the closest one is ‘Salsipuedes’ and is reached on the C872 bus. Many bus routes pass through ‘Mercado de Mariscosos’ as well. This is just a ten minute walk away from Casco Viejo. Don’t worry about the dirty run down streets en route; Casco Viejo is beautiful once you arrive.

There is a direct bus to the Panama Canal at Miraflores from the Albrook Bus Terminal. This is number C810. Traffic might be heavy when you leave between 5 and 6.

Cinta Costera is a 3km long walk way and you start at any point. I recommend starting at ‘Multicentro’. There’s no end of buses that pass Multicentro in Panama City, so just ask a local at the bus stop which one to take, or check with the driver if they’re passing. Departing the bus at Multicentro you will walk south along Cinta Costera. Turn around and look back to experience the insane views. Even better, walk cross one of the many bridges and see the views from up high!

Enjoy your visit to Panama City!

Selfie of night time sky line


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