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Why This Underrated Latin American Country Is Perfect For Every Type Of Traveler 

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The region of Latin America is enjoying a tourist boom in recent years, and popular countries such as Costa Rica and Mexico are seeing a record number of visitors. However, there are other countries in this area that are a bit slower to rebuild their tourism industry in the post-pandemic climate. 

One amazing destination that is still flying a bit under the radar with travelers is Panama, an important country connecting North and South America and, of course, showcasing the world-famous Panama Canal along the way. 

View of beach in panama

While Panama isn’t exactly a secret, it’s still overlooked by many and remains quite underrated as a vacation destination. This is likely to change though in the near future as it’s becoming increasingly connected to more major cities in the U.S. with direct flights, not to mention gaining more recognition, especially with eco-tourism and surf tourism. 

The reality is that Panama is really amping up their hospitality sector, and the country is getting ready for its moment in the spotlight. So it’s best to get there soon to experience it when the country is still authentic, and bargains can still be found.

Panama ticks all the boxes for all types of visitors. It’s safe and beautiful, navigation around the country is easy, it's full of culture and nature, and it offers something unique for everyone, no matter what they seek. 

@katelyn_roth Replying to @blahblah1231231 ♬ original sound – KristyLee

Here's Why Panama Is Perfect For Every Type Of Traveler:

The Culture Seeker:

With a location that bridges two continents and is placed at one of the most important trading crossroads in the world, it’s easy to understand that Panama is a melting pot of cultures. 

Although it’s a Central American country, Panama shows heavy influence from South American, Caribbean, North American, American Indian, Spanish, and African cultures as well. 

A visit to Panama City will land you in the middle of a cultural crossroads, including one of the oldest and largest Chinese communities in Latin America. 

Of course, a visit to Panama is not complete without witnessing the wonder that is the Panama Canal, and Miraflores Visitor Center is the popular choice and easily reachable from the city by public transportation or a tour. 

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A cargo ship entering the Miraflores Locks in the Panama Canal, in Panama

The Bougie on a Budget Traveler:

While Panama is not the cheapest destination in Latin America, it’s still easy to visit here on a budget. Even in Panama City’s trendy Casco Viejo, you can find hostels and apartments at a low price, and transportation is extremely cheap. 

Uber is very low cost, and if you stick to the local and street foods, you can easily not break the bank on dining. Tip: Casco Viejo has no end of rooftop bars to catch the views; head to one of the lower-priced ones (such as a hostel) for cheap drinks. 

Reaching the other areas of Boquete and Bocas del Toro can be done by long bus trips for those on a budget, although if you price watch, you can get flights at a good deal. 

One area that might be a splurge is the stunning San Blas Islands (Guna Yala), so make sure to do plenty of research to find out how to save costs here if needed.  

@lilmsawkward I was expecting to spend way more so I’m happy with my breakdown lol. This is a full trip breakdown of how much a trip to Panama City Panama cost me. I wouldn’t say this was a budget trip at all for me, plus solo travel can be a bit more expensive. Monkey island tour, salsa lessons, and cooking class were booked on Airbnb. San Blas tour with Panama Heavens. Comment a question and I’ll answer. Should I do more of these? #costbreakdown #travelcostbreakdown #budgettravel #solotravel ♬ Sun Is Shining – Bob Marley

The Nature Lover:

With a northern neighbor as famous as Costa Rica, it only makes sense that Panama would also be full of nature to marvel at. Over sixty percent of Panama is actually covered in forest, more so than any other country in Latin America, and even the city has a rainforest and Natural Park just a stone's throw away. 

Many visitors (myself included) have said that they saw more wildlife in Panama than in Costa Rica, and at a fraction of the cost. The country has sixteen national parks, each offering some stunning views and an abundance of wildlife, with rainforest and tropical reefs to explore. 

Hikers love to head to Boquete, the small coffee town nestled in the mountains popular with expats and retirees. But do take care on the trails, as there have been some notorious incidents here in the past. 

Aerial View Of The Panama Canal, Panama, Central America

The Solo Female Traveler:

As one of the safest countries in Latin America, Panama is a great choice for the solo female traveler. Almost everyone is fluent in English, and ride-share apps are available and very cheap. 

Public transportation is easy to navigate, and the metro in Panama City is surprisingly modern and safe. Getting around the country is made easy by overnight busses or flights, and you will see many other solo travelers in the hubs of Bocas Del Toro, Boquete, and Panama City. 

Keep in mind that Panama City has many areas you shouldn’t venture to, although it’s unlikely any tourist really would. Stick to the beaten path here in places such as Casco Viejo and you will be fine, just don't be alarmed at all the armed guards that patrol the area. 

Of course, there are areas of the country that are a no-go, including the Darien Gap, which is an important and very treacherous area south of the country. This is where hundreds of thousands of immigrants make a treacherous journey en route to America, and no average tourist would go here anyway, so just be aware. 

@sojournies For my food loving outdoorsy solo travelers going to Panamá 🥰🇵🇦 #panama #solotravel #blacktravelblogger #blacktravel #solofemaletraveler ♬ Sunday Vibes – Masego & MEDASIN

The Beach Bum:

The long S-shaped isthmus of Panama is a world-famous example of what happens when two major marine environments are separated by a rather narrow piece of land. 

With the Caribbean Sea to its north and the Pacific to its south, Panama has its fair share of beaches. With a total coastline of nearly 3,000 kilometers, those who are looking for some beaches are spoiled for choice. 

Just outside Panama City, you can take a day trip to the charming Taboga Island or stay closer to town on one of the many beaches and watch the tankers roll in, waiting for their turn to enter the canal. 

True beach lovers know that the paradise is a bit further from the city and can be found in the otherworldly San Blas Islands (otherwise known as Guna Yala). This archipelago lies in the Caribbean Sea and is made up of tiny islands scattered amongst 400km of crystal clear water. Getting to San Blas is a bit of a trek, but is very much worth it. Many opt for a multi-day sailing trip en route to Colombia. 

friends swimming in panama

Another famous beach destination is Bocas del Toro, up in the north of the country just across the border from Costa Rica. A popular backpacker destination, Bocas del Toro is a small piece of the mainland with an archipelago of many islands, most of which you can visit via small water taxis. 

While the main town of Bocas might get a bit congested, spread out and get to other small islands and you are much more likely to fall in love with Bocas. Starfish Beach and Playa Bluff are popular spots to spend the day, but venturing further off-path will result in more nature and fewer crowds. 

The Pacific side of Panama also has some great beaches, some better suited for surfing and others for swimming. Santa Clara & Farallón are both good options and are within a 3-hour drive of Panama City. 

Coiba Beach In Panama, Central America

The First Timer:

Panama is an ideal choice for travelers who are looking to dip their toes in the waters of Latin America and might feel a bit intimidated by all the diverse and amazing options. 

The official currency in Panama is the USD, and nearly everyone speaks English, making it easier than in other countries in the region for the first-time traveler. 

Ride-share apps are easy to use and help to navigate the big city, and the rest of the country is well laid out for a tourist route, so you will likely be surrounded by others in case you feel a bit overwhelmed. 

While the country of Panama is safe, of course, no place is perfect, so remember that normal precautions apply, and keep that in mind when traveling throughout the country. 

old town casco viejo panama

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Wednesday 19th of July 2023

I live in Panama City. I don't know where you are going to find all those English speakers. Practically no one here speaks English. Not even in the touristy areas like Casco Viejo. Not even the food and souvenir vendors along the Cinta Costera. Not even in the trendy restaurants and upscale stores. Certainly not in markets, mobile phone companies, and government offices. I wonder if you spent most of your time talking to hotel hospitality staff. I've never stayed in a hotel here, but I suspect they are far more fluent English speakers than the Panamanians outside of those lobbies.