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8 best day trips from Panama City, Panama

Ships at Miraflores Locks in Panama

From sun-blessed tropical islands to an engineering wonder of the world, these are the best day trips from Panama City

Situated on a small peninsula on the Pacific Coast, Panama City is Central America’s most attractive and cosmopolitan capital. The city has an impressive skyline replete with sleek skyscrapers and glitzy shopping malls as well a charming old town in the UNESCO-listed Casco Viejo. Best of all, it’s a superb gateway to Panama’s top attractions.

Panama is compact enough that it’s possible to sample jungles, mountains and oceans on day trips from its eponymous capital. As such, we did exactly that and based ourselves in the city for the final leg of our month-long jaunt through Central America.

Best day trips from Panama City

From lazing on the beaches of the San Blas Islands to the UNESCO-listed San Lorenzo Fort, these are the best day trips from Panama City.

1. San Blas Islands

Distance from Panama City: 115km
Tour duration: 15 hours
Price: $100 USD
Book the tour: San Blas Frontera

Sprinkled across nearly 400km of turquoise water along Panama’s Caribbean coast are the islands of the Guna Yala Archipelago, the autonomous comarca (territory) of the indigenous Guna people. More commonly known as the San Blas Islands, they are blindingly beautiful and contend with the world’s most luxurious beach destinations.

A day trip to the archipelago makes for a long day but it’s totally worth the early start (5am), late finish (8pm) and three to four-hour journey time each way. You will usually visit two or three islands or sites depending on your itinerary. Most of the day is spent splashing around in gin-clear water or lazing on palm tree-lined white-sand beaches with a piña colada.

For more information, read our guide on how to visit the San Blas Islands from Panama City.

2. Panama Canal

Distance from Panama City: 10km
Tour duration: 3-8 hours
Price: from $30 USD
Book the tour:

No visit to Panama would be complete without taking a day trip to the country’s – perhaps the world’s – most famous feat of engineering. Stretching 82km from Panama City on the Pacific coast to Colón on the Atlantic coast, the canal sees over 14,000 ships pass through its three sets of double locks every year.

Solarisys/Shutterstock Miraflores Locks

The quickest and easiest way to see the canal ‘in action’ is to head…

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