Skip to content
Family travel in Panama

Family Travel in Panama: Our Favorite Activities for an Unforgettable Adventure

Discover the perfect getaway for all with this guide to family travel in Panama. From cultural immersion to outdoor adventures, find exciting, age-appropriate activities to create lasting memories.

In today’s fast-paced world, family vacations provide an opportunity to disconnect from the daily grind and create lasting memories. Families who spend quality time together benefit from increased bonding, improved communication, and reduced stress levels.

Children who travel with their parents build resilience and develop a broader worldview. They also forge family traditions to cherish for years to come. Families that prioritize shared experiences and quality time together raise happier, more grounded kids.

When selecting a vacation destination ideal for families, it’s worth considering Panama. With its strategic location, modern infrastructure, and wide range of family-friendly activities, Panama serves as the ultimate playground for family travel.

Conveniently situated as a land bridge between North and South America, Panama offers hassle-free access from multiple regions via major hubs like Panama City’s Tocumen International Airport. The country’s well-developed infrastructure includes reliable transportation networks, English-speaking guides, and accommodations ranging from budget-friendly to luxurious.

In short, Panama promises an exciting mix of activities for all the family. Below, we list a few family-friendly activities available in Panama for you:

Explore Panama City’s Historic Quarter

The UNESCO World Heritage site of Casco Viejo provides a window into Panama’s colonial past. Families can wander narrow cobblestone streets lined with beautifully restored colonial buildings in a rainbow of pastel colors. Stop to admire the metropolitan cathedral and plazas lined with cafes and artisan shops.

Guided walking tours offer insights into the quarter’s architecture and history. Visit museums like the Panama Canal Museum to learn about the massive engineering feat. Don’t miss eating out at one of the many restaurants serving up local specialties.

Visit the Panama Canal

No family trip to Panama is complete without experiencing the engineering marvel of the Panama Canal. Start at the Miraflores Locks Visitor Center for insight into the canal’s construction and operations. Then head to the observation terraces. The kids will love the up-close-and-personal views of massive cargo ships transiting the locks.

You can also book a partial or full transit tour by boat to travel through the locks yourself. Narrated by guides, these tours allow families to appreciate the incredible scale and workings of this canal connecting the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans.

Another must-do is exploring Lake Gatun, an artificial freshwater lake that forms an essential part of the canal system. It’s possible to organize a boat rental and let the kids try their hand at fishing for peacock bass. Or simply cruise at a leisurely pace, watching the big ships pass by.

The Panama Canal Railway offers a unique vantage point, with the train running parallel to the canal on a route dating back to the original construction era. This rail journey can be done in a morning and is great fun for the kids.

Island Adventures in Bocas del Toro

This Caribbean archipelago off Panama’s northern coast offers a range of aquatic activities for families with its crystal blue waters and palm-fringed beaches. Take a boat tour to explore uninhabited islets, and enjoy snorkeling over coral reefs teeming with tropical fish.

Organized dolphin watching tours provide the chance to see these playful mammals in their natural habitat. Sign up for a surf lesson, rent kayaks, or simply relax on the postcard-perfect white and pink sand beaches. The kids will especially love Playa Estrella and its starfish on Isla Colon.

View this post on Instagram

A post shared by Valerie Mora (@vale.m30)

Cultural Immersion in the San Blas Islands

The indigenous Guna people of the San Blas Islands maintain their traditional way of life and welcome visitors to experience their culture. Families can arrange homestays or take guided tours to villages, navigating by boats between the scattered islands.

Activities include visiting coconut plantations, watching traditional dances, and purchasing vibrantly-colored molas (textile art) direct from the Guna people. Swim and snorkel off idyllic white-sand islands, and sample locally-caught seafood like lobster prepared in coconut sauce.

Rainforest Exploration

The Metropolitan National Park is the only rainforest park in the world located entirely within a city. If you’re staying in Panama City and want an easy experience with nature, you should explore its trails. Outside the city, but still close, Soberanía National Park also offers a full rainforest experience. Hike along well-marked nature trails in the forest, keeping an eye out for sloths, monkeys, toucans, and other wildlife. Zip lining and aerial trams are also available here.

Elsewhere, you can check out the mountain region of Boquete. Try river tubing, rock climbing, zip lining, hiking to waterfalls, or climbing Volcán Barú, Panama’s highest peak.

Indigenous Culture at an Embera Village

Take a dugout canoe ride along the Chagres River to reach an authentic Embera indigenous village. Here, families gain insights into the tribe’s culture through traditional dance performances accompanied by rhythmic chants and ensembles of wooden instruments.

Watch skilled artisans demonstrate crafts like basket weaving with natural dyes and intricate wooden carvings of animals and totems. Simple but flavorful meals of plantains, fresh fish, and root vegetables prepared by the villagers offer a taste of their traditional cuisine.

Whitewater Rafting

Panama offers exciting whitewater rafting experiences for adventurous families with older kids and teens. Experienced outfitters provide comprehensive safety briefings and all necessary rafting gear before launching rafts on rivers like the Chiriquí Viejo.

Families can paddle together through varying rapid classes from the beginner-friendly Class II/III up to the heart-pounding Class IV runs suitable for more experienced rafters. The remote jungle scenery and opportunities to spot birds and other wildlife along the routes add to this adrenaline-filled adventure.

Beach Days and Surfing

Panama’s Pacific and Caribbean coasts offer ample opportunities for families to enjoy some beach time. Playa Venao on the Azuero Peninsula and provides the perfect setting for surf schools and camps offering beginner lessons to get families riding waves together.

After professional instructors cover ocean safety and proper technique, parents and kids can practice paddling, standing up and riding smaller breaks. More advanced surfers will find world-class reef breaks and point breaks to test their skills.

Families seeking some non-surf beach life will find a range of resorts to the west of Panama City providing fun for all. They can also head out from Panama City by boat to Isla Taboga and other local islands.

Planning Family Travel in Panama

Panama caters well to families with many hotels and resorts offering amenities like kids clubs, family pools, and beach areas. Booking an all-inclusive package can simplify logistics by bundling accommodations, meals and select activities.

Tours and a la carte activities can easily be booked through reputable local tour operators, many of which are accustomed to working with families and can customize experiences for different age groups.

The dry season from mid-December to mid-April brings sunny skies and less rainfall, but the lush “green season” from May through November offers lower prices and fewer crowds if planned around potential rain showers.

While Panama has a modern healthcare system in the major cities, travel insurance is still advised for family trips. Basic precautions like avoiding isolated areas, securing valuables, and heeding local guidance will help ensure a safe and smooth experience.

With its mix of cultural immersion, natural environments to explore, and outdoor adventures, family travel in Panama promises an unforgettable experience with activities to delight all ages. Advance planning focused on age-appropriate activities will create lasting memories for years to come.

CA Staff

CA Staff