Although often missed out by the backpacking community, there are, in fact, many great places to visit on a budget in Panama including jungles, beaches, plantations, and parties. Enjoy backpacking in Panama!
It is most likely that you will be arriving in Panama at Tocuman International Airport, so we will assume that you are starting out from Panama City. The other two likely possibilities are from Costa Rica at Bocas del Toro or using the Pan American Highway.
One Week in Panama
Start off in hectic Panama City then head to the beautiful Playa Venao or Santa Catalina for some time on the beach. On the way, you may choose to visit El Valle de Anton.
10 days in Panama
This tour will take you from Panama City, the Bay of Chiquiri, the highlands of Boquete and end up in Bocas del Toro (ideal if you are heading to Costa Rica next)
Two Weeks in Panama
This tour will extend the 10 days trip by heading to Playa Venao or Santa Catalina on the way to the Bay of Chiquiri.
Backpacking in Panama City
Panama City is quite unlike any other city in central America (or south America). Its skyscrapers match those in Dubai and Hong Kong.
Of course, you will visit the Panama Canal but the walking, running or cycling the Cinta Costera and the Amador Causeway are well worth undertaking.
Hostels are spread-out through the city, but the best place to stay for nightlife and viewing the historic quarter is to stay inCasco Viejo.
Backpacking in El Valle de Anton
Traveling to El Valle de Anton from Panama City will take about 2 hours by public transport. Here, you will be able to go hiking in a valley surrounded by a volcano, visit waterfalls and the zoo. All on your own two feet.
Backpacking in Playa Venao or Santa Catalina
Both places are located on the Azuero Peninsula and both are quiet places world famous for surfing.
It will take about 6 hours to reach Playa Venao or Santa Catalina from Panama City or El Valle de Anton by public transport
Backpacking in Chiriqui
Chriqui is an agricultural and fishing area. The people are often requesting independence from Panama as they are so different in outlook on life!
The capital of Chiriqui is David and is located right off the Pan American Highway on the way to Costa Rica. From David it is easy to reach the Gulf of Chiquiri where you can enjoy some world-class diving.
You can reach Las Olas and Boca Chica by road but other, more isolated places like Boca Brava, the Islas Secas, and Isla Parida can only be reached by boat.
Backpacking in Boquete
Boquete is located in the high cloud forest of the Chiriqui mountains. It is a beautiful town, very popular for tourists trying to escape the costal heat and home to many expats who love the markets, cafes, flowers and coffee plantations.
The hiking from Boquete is excellent. Volcan Baru, the highest mountain in Panama at 3500m, is close to Boquete and famous for its summit where you can see both the Pacific and the Atlantic Oceans on a clear day. Also, you can enjoy whitewater rafting, rock climbing, and ziplining.
Backpacking in Bocas del Toro
You can travel to Bocas del Toro by bus and boat from Boquete.
If you like a rough party town – then Bocas is the place for you!
You should definitely go island hoping as the beaches are amazing. Isla Bastimentos, home of Red Frog Beach, is a must visit destination. . Here you will find incredible diving, abandoned beaches, and barely a soul in sight.
Backpacker Accommodation in Panama
There are many quality options of where to stay in Panama. It is depending if you want somewhere small, large busy or quiet.