Panama is synonymous with high-topped palm trees, dazzling blue waters, and incredible golden shoreline. But is it right for your next family vacation? In this guide, we’ll go over what you need to know before heading to this tropical transcontinental nation. Specifically, we’ll cover safety concerns when traveling in Panama and go over twelve terrifically-fun things you can do with your kids while you’re there.
Keep reading to find out if a trip to Panama is right for you!
Let’s start by going over some essential information you’ll want to know before deciding on Panama as your next vacation destination.
Is Panama in Central America?
Panama is a transcontinental nation, with its northern part located in Central America and its southern section extending down into South America. Despite this, it is generally classified as a Central American nation as you can see from the map of Panama below.
Is Panama Safe?
A number of high-profile cases have painted a rather bleak picture of Panama in recent years. Naturally, this raises concerns for any tourist, particularly those planning on traveling with their families. For this reason, it’s worth asking: is Panama safe to visit?
The short answer is yes. With that being said, however, you’ll want to exercise precautions while you’re vacationing there, as pick-pocketers are common by day and more insidious crimes may happen by night. Still, by sticking to the tourist paths and staying aware of your surroundings, it’s possible for you and your family to have a totally safe time in Panama.
With just over 4,000,000, Panama is a lightly-populated nation with a few major economic centers.
The official currency of Panama is the balboa, a dollarized currency that lacks its own banknotes. Instead, US dollars bills are used as legal tender in Panama, with some national coins used instead of US coinage.
The Panama flag is broken into four quadrants, two white (in the upper left-hand and lower right-hand quadrants, respectively) one red (top right), and one blue (bottom left). A blue star adorns the white space in the top quadrant, while a red star decorates the white quadrant of the bottom right.
Best Time to Visit Panama
If you’re looking to get the most out of your Panama vacation, it’s important that you go at the right time. This time is generally between December and March, when the nation experiences a short dry season that makes traveling much easier and more convenient.
12 Kid-Friendly Activities in Panama
Now that the logistics are out of the way, here are twelve of the best kid-friendly activities you can do with kids in Panama. You’ll be surprised at just how fun and kid-oriented this tropical Central American nation is!
1) Snorkeling in Isla Colon
Why not kick off your trip with snorkeling? Isla Colon in the beautiful Bocos del Toro area offers some of the best underwater fun in the region! What’s more, it’s situated close to the airport and hospital for convenience. Isla Colon is also home to Playa Estrella, a beautiful, starfish-rich beach that will have both you and your children enjoying the best the region has to offer.
2) Visiting the BioMuseo
Designed by the legendary Frank Gehry, the BioMuseo is a top attraction in Panama City. This uniquely-shaped museum allows
free entrance for children and educates both you and your little ones on the history of the Panamanian isthmus and other plants found in the nation. With tons of interactive exhibits, it’s a great place to learn and have some fun.
3) Releasing Baby Turtles in Combutal
Between January and July, the non-profit organization Tortguias releases turtle hatchlings back into the waters of the Azuero Peninsula. By teaming up with them, you and your children can do so, too. Take part in the conservation efforts that begin in the wee hours of Sunday morning and watch as these turtles miraculously find their way to the sea!
4) Seeing Punta Culebra
Punta Culebra gives your child to interact with a variety of marine organisms while learning more about the ecological status of Panama.
Operated by the Smithsonian Research Institution, Punta Culebra also gives you and your family a chance to explore a tropical dry forest, making it one of the best educational tours around.
5) Visiting the Guna Yala
Your family will love Guna Yala for two reasons. For starters, the beaches in this area are as picturesque as they come, with swaying palm trees, golden sand, and water so blue you’ll likely fill up your camera reel before the day is through. The region is also home to the Guna people, an indigenous tribe known for their colorful artwork and crafts.
6) Renting Bikes on Amador Causeway
Connecting the Amador Islands to the mainland, the Amador Causeway also serves as a hotspot for outdoor activity. Get in on the action by renting bikes for you and your children.
The strip offers incredible views of both the water and the city beyond and should be toward the top of any itinerary.
7) Spending a Day in Panama City
The capital of Panama, Panama City, not to be confused with Panama Beach, Florida, is a vibrant city that combines the best of modern-day amenities with a coastal experience you don’t want to miss out on. In addition to the incredible eateries and beaches present in Panama, consider checking out Casco Viejo, a UNESCO World Heritage site that displays classical architecture and other culturally-significant landmarks in the region.
8) Marvel at the Ships at Miraflores Locks
One of the three locks that make up the Panama Canal, Miraflores Locks offers a unique opportunity to watch the massive ships as
they cross through the canal. Simply take your kids to the Visitor Center to give them a closeup view that will stay with them forever.
9) Traveling to Gutan Lake
Welcome to the jungle! Gutan Lake provides a fully-immersive jungle experience that will have both you and your children marveling. See monkeys, birds, and other tropical animals flit across their habitat while also getting a peek at the ships plowing through the Panama Canal in the distance.
10) Going Whale Watching
Make your trip extra special by going from June to November, whale season in Panama. During this time, whales come in droves to the region just off Pearl Island and Panama City to mate.
By going on a boat tour during this time, you and your children will be able to spot a few of these incredible creatures as they rise up from the ocean.
11) Visiting Boquete
Perhaps the better question is “Why not go to Boquete?”. Deemed the coffee capital of Panama, it’s a great place to go for a cup of joe. More than, that, however, it’s also home to incredible bird-watching locations, rafting, and zip-lining opportunities, as well. Make sure to stop by if you’re looking for a bit of adventure on your trip.
12) Relaxing at Isla Bastimentos
Ever seen a sloth? You may just catch sight of one at Isla Bastimentos! This incredible isle offers one-of-a-kind snorkeling
opportunities, pristine beaches for all-day fun, and the chance to see a variety of jungle animals in their natural habitat. Take advantage of the Panama weather here by enjoying a perfect day with your children!
The Bottom Line
So there you have it: Panama has everything you need (and more!) for the ultimate family vacation. If you’re looking to have fun in Panama during your next vacation, make sure to follow the information in this guide to build the perfect itinerary.
In this piece, we covered crucial questions such as “How safe is Panama for tourists?” and also went over twelve of the best locations to travel in Panama with your kids. With that being said, it’s time to plan your trip so you can get the most this beautiful country has to offer!