9 Ways To See Panama The Right Way

When winter hits, many travelers have the urge to escape to pristine beaches for a gorgeous tan while diving right into the local scene. During the winter of 2013, I did exactly that. Panama sounded like a fantastic option. If you’re coming from the U.S., flights are completely affordable. If booked early enough, Copa Airlines offers less than $500 from San Francisco to Panama City, while you can find cheaper flights from the East Coast.

PHOTO Barefoot Panama

Panama’s high season spans from December to mid-March, it’s also referred to as “dry season” with less monsoons spontaneously covering the country with rain. Once you’ve arrived, how can you best experience the city?

Barefoot Panama logoI’m extremely excited that Jetset Times has partnered with local tour company: Barefoot Panama, to bring you nine completely different experiences to see the real Panama. Our huge variety of tours vary from the popular Panama City & Canal Tour (USD $85, $80), the Monkey Island, Indian Village & Lake Gatun Tour (USD $120, $115) where you’re surrounded by rare wildlife, the Zip-Line Adventure Tour (USD $99, $94) which lasts for an exciting 1/2 day to the thrilling Snorkeling Adventure Tour (USD $99, $94).

Again, true to the spirit of JST, every tour listed on Jetset Times SHOP is part of our #JetsetForGood campaign. For every tour that you book, portion of the proceeds help fund our Fuel the Future initiative, supporting a Panamanian school at Give and Surf Foundation located on the islands of Bocas del Toro. Every penny goes to fuel the boats that bring indigenous children to school every single day. So far, we’ve raised USD $11,524. Let’s help keep the fuel going so local kids continue their education.

As a lovely bonus, most of the tours are discounted exclusively for Jetset Times shoppers! So what are you waiting for? Check out the rest of our collaboration with Barefoot Panama tours, and we’ll see you in Panama!

1. Panama City & Canal TourUSD $85.00 $80.00

This is a trip built to keep you out of the bus and exploring the very best of Panama City.  Your tour starts around 8AM (depending on the location of your hotel). The first stop is usually for the view of the city from atop Cerro Ancon. Next stop, Miraflores Locks to watch ships transit through the canal and learn more about the canal at the museum and watch a short film about the canal’s history. Afterwards, you’ll head to the Amador, past the Frank Gehry Bio Museum and out to the Amador Causeway to stop for lunch (not included) and a little nature. The rest of the afternoon will be spent on a walking tour of old town, Casco Viejo, a UNESCO world heritage site.

Panama City & Canal Tour
PHOTO Barefoot Panama

2. Monkey Island, Indian Village & Lake Gatun, USD $120.00 $115.00

Leave the city behind and head to Gamboa and the Chagres River in Panama’s Soberania National Park. Soberania is full of wildlife and is a wonderful place to watch monkeys, sloths, the Harpy Eagle and more. A boat tour will guide you through Panama Canal and give you plenty of time to explore Lake Gatun’s hidden bays in search of wildlife. Known for its birding (the Audubon Society’s annual bird count has spotted over 500 species in 24 hours!),

Next you’ll head upstream to visit an authentic Indian village and learn about the community’s history, art, music and dance. Then your tour guide will take you on a short hike along the trails through the rainforest to learn more about the native plants and how they are used.

Monkey Island, Indian Village & Lake Gatun
PHOTO Barefoot Panama

3. Caribbean Adventure, USD $150.00 $145.00

Leave early and drive 1.5 hours to Portobelo to start the day with snorkeling in crystal clear caribbean water. A short boat trip across the bay to a nice beach for your first snorkel site and later at a reef wall for the second site. Enjoy the warm ocean water and catch some sun!  Return for lunch (not included), a historic tour of Portobelo and head back along the coast for the spectacular zip line/canopy tour over Lake Gatun!

Caribbean Adventure
PHOTO Barefoot Panama

4. Zip-Line AdventureUSD $99.00 $94.00

Your tour guide will pick you up at  9AM to cross the continent for some Zip-line action on the Caribbean. Once we arrive, you will be set up with certified equipment along with a thorough safety briefing. Don’t close your eyes, the views are spectacular as you fly high over the Panama rainforest with Lake Gatun under your feet! After you’ve had your fill of adrenaline, we head back to the city.

Zip-Line Adventure
PHOTO Barefoot Panama

5. Snorkeling Adventure, USD $99.00 $94.00

The tour leaves early in the morning for a 1-hour drive to the Caribbean and on to Portobelo to start the day with snorkeling in crystal-clear water. You’ll take a short boat trip to a bay with a nice beach for the first snorkel site and later to a reef wall for the second site. Enjoy the warm and clear ocean water and catch some sun! Return for lunch (not included) and an intriguing historic tour of Portobelo, before heading back to Panama City.

Snorkeling Adventure
PHOTO Barefoot Panama

6. El Valle Explorer TourUSD $120.00 $115.00

Head to the hills! Leave early for a 2-hour drive to El Valle. Home to the nearly extinct Golden Frog, El Valle is a must-see on your trip to Panama. 1 option for the more adventurous travelers is to hike the famous India Dormida trail and enjoy breathtaking views of the valley from over 3,000ft. The other more relaxed option includes short walks to petroglyphs and waterfalls. There is the famous zoo with a Golden Frog exhibit and other exotic animals indigenous to Panama, a zip-line option for an additional cost of $60pp, and Panama’s most famous artisan market! Leave from El Valle around 2PM to avoid traffic in the city.

El Valle Explorer Tour
PHOTO Barefoot Panama

7. Historic Train, Fort & Canal TourUSD $160.00 $155.00

Leave the city EARLY on the train to the province of Colon on the historic Panama Canal Railway (the train is not available on weekends or holidays). The first stop is at the NEW locks on the Atlantic site to witness history in the making from the new visitor center. See the new locks being built and due to open in 2016. Then off to Chagres National Park to visit the UNESCO world heritage site of Fort San Lorenzo, which stands guard at the mouth of the Chagres river. On the way back, the tour will stop for lunch at a marina, the once historic US Fort Sherman (lunch not included) before heading back to Panama City.

Historic Train, Fort & Canal Tour
PHOTO Barefoot Panama

8. Boquete Multi-Day Adventure Tour (contact us for price)

Boquete is a small town in Panama, located in the western-most Province of Chiriquí, about 60 km (37 mi) from the border with Costa Rica, and lies on the Caldera River, in Panama’s green mountain highlands. Because of its elevation, some 1,200m (3,900ft) above sea level, its climate is cooler than that of the lowlands. Its scenic location, temperature and natural environment makes it a popular destination for Panamanians and attracts tourists from all over the world. Flights (less than 1-hour in duration) depart Panama City for David and from David it’s about a 30min shuttle to Boquete.

There are many options available for accommodation, ranging from inexpensive hostels and mid-range hotels to exclusive luxury hotels. The number of nights is entirely up to you. There are also lots of tour options! Taste some of Panama’s famous coffee on a coffee tour ($30 per person), explore popular trails in the area ($30 per person for the 3hr waterfall trail and $120 to climb Volcan Baru), and for the more adventurous, zip-lining whitewater rafting and a 4×4 drive to the top of Volcan Baru are all available ($75 per person for each activity).

Boquete Multi-Day Adventure Tour
PHOTO Barefoot Panama

9. Bocas del Toro Multi-Day Adventure Tour (contact us for price)

Comprising an archipelago off the Caribbean coast, plus adjacent mainland with bio-diverse rainforest, Bocas del Toro is a unique, well-preserved province in Panama.

Isla Colón, the main island of the archipelago, is home to its capital, Bocas Town, which is an exciting hub for dining, shopping and nightlife, not to mention reggae music emanating from open-air bars such as Barco Hundido.  Beaches with calm waters for swimming include Boca del Drago.  Islands, such as Bastimentos, not to mention several other private islands, offer great escapes. Flights (1-hour in duration) depart Panama City for Bocas Town and from here your adventure begins!  Take a $1 taxi to your centrally located hotel or pay a bit more to get to those more secluded areas.  You might need a boat taxi to take you to another island!

There are many options available for accommodation, ranging from inexpensive hostels and mid-range hotels to luxury hotels even private islands or cabins overlooking the water!  The number of nights is entirely up to you. There are also lots of tour options! One of the most popular tours include a full day of sailing and/or snorkeling aboard a catamaran ($50 per person), rent a bicycle or ATV or explore a cave or hard to reach island.

Bocas del Toro Multi-Day Adventure Tour
PHOTO Barefoot Panama

Visit Jetset Times SHOP for more travel goodies.

Wendy Hung


As the founder of Jetset Times, Wendy is an avid traveler and fluent in five languages. When she's not traveling, Wendy calls Paris and Taipei home. Her favorite countries so far from her travels have been: Bhutan, Iran, and St. Bart's because they were all so different!

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