Panama is earning a much-deserved spot at the top of travelers’ bucket lists. Aside from the authentic chicken with patacones and fresh seafood, Panama offers a heaping 12 hours of sunlight and a diverse, tropical rainforest climate just north of the equator. A destination where the sun rises over the Pacific and sets on the Caribbean, the country encloses a distinguished landscape, colonial architecture and tropical beaches. Thanks to long-distance buses and U.S. dollar currency, you too can make Panama your next adventurous destination. Whether you’re in search of blazing cityscapes or a vacation nestled in the sand with your favorite book, Panama has much to do and the perfect places to stay.

What to Do

Panama City and Casco Viejo: As the Cosmopolitan Capital of Central America, Panama City is a must-see destination on your Panama excursion. From Puente de la Americas – the arches over the waterway where ships line to enter the Panama Canal – to the modern skyscrapers, this city offers a multitude of stunning architecture. For a more down-to-earth experience, head to the neighborhood of Casco Viejo for an assortment of creative street art, Mercado de Mariscos (a destination serving authentic food from small eateries), Plaza Indipendencia and Iglesia de San José, famous for its Altar de Oro. If you’re in search of a lively evening, stop at La Rana Dorado, a popular brewery in the city, and make sure to tune your ear to Jazz melodies trickled throughout the city. *Fun fact: Panama City is the Jazz Capital of Central America.

Chorro El Macho: The only time it’s acceptable to go chasing waterfalls is in El Valle de Anton. As the most famous waterfall in the El Valle region, Chorro El Macho offers 35m-high water drops of pure bliss. One of four cascades that plummets in the local area of El Valle, this waterfall drips into a natural swimming pool carved in the middle of the rainforest. Gather with friends, family and strangers for a day of swimming, canopy adventures and hiking the nearby trails in this bright green jungle.

Isla Perro: Otherwise known as Dog Island, this secluded Caribbean destination in the San Blas islands makes this list of things to do not only because of its insanely clear and bright blue waters, but also because of the hidden treasure that lies beneath the surface. Pack a cooler filled with your favorite cervezas and grab snorkeling gear for a day spent exploring a sunken ship that offers brightly colored coral and many fish. After you’ve explored the buried treasure, stop at the beachfront restaurant before heading back to the mainland.

Playa Santa Clara: Perfect for those staying in Rio Hato, this destination is great for enjoying the beauty of doing absolutely nothing. The most action this beach sees is when the crystal-blue waters touch the white-sand shores. You can still work up an appetite during relaxation, so head to Tortugas Beach Bar and Grill for oceanfront cuisine and vacation-style cocktails. For this beach, pack a good read and expect nothing short of sun-kissed bliss.

Parque Nacional Volcan Baru: Lace up your hiking boots and venture to Panama’s only volcano, the highest peak located in the western highlands offering scenic hiking trails and roughly 250 species of birds, perfect for the bird watching extraordinaire. Find your way to the top to enjoy stunning and breathtaking views of both the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea.

Biblioteca de Boquete: Following a day exploring Parque Nacional Volcan Baru, nurture your inner book worm when you stop at this gorgeous three-story stone and glass building, the first lending library in Panama that serves as a distinguished piece of architecture standing tall among the lush Boquete landscape.

Where to Stay

The Westin Playa Bonita Panama: Retreat from the cosmopolitan Panama City for a resort nestled on Playa Bonita. Soak in the pool as you overlook the ocean, or pamper yourself to bliss at Sensory Spa by Clarins. From spacious balconies to luxurious bedding, living your best life takes on a new meaning at this resort in Panama.

Sheraton Bijao Beach Resort: Tucked away along the Pacific Ocean this destination resort features a private beach, a golf course, a full-service spa and four delectable restaurants ensuring a pleasurable and satisfying stay in Santa Clara.

The Buenaventura Golf & Beach Resort Panama: Serene tropical gardens and a sparkling lagoon make up this retreat nestled along the Pacific Ocean. Appeasing your appetite for bliss, this feeds your cultural spirit with Spanish Colonial architecture, landscaped pools and an exquisite spa in Rio Hato.

Aloft Panama: Crucial for the curious city traveler, this cosmopolitan hotel features modern suites with room service and stylish décor, a casino and a restaurant serving tantalizing dishes in the heart of Panama City near the Panama Canal Murals and the Colonial Religious Art Museum.

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