Walk the historic streets, float the famous canal, and spend some time exploring the beaches, rain forests, or indigenous villages of the surrounding countryside—here are some ideas on how to spend three days in Panama City.
Barro Colorado Island
Once a jungle-covered mountain overlooking the Chagres River Valley, Barro Colorado Island became an island after Lake Gatún flooded during the building of the Panama Canal. Today travelers come to the protected rain forest preserve to explore the secondary-growth forest and enjoy the park’s great biodiversity.
Barro Colorado, managed by the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute, is one of the most heavily studied tropical rain forests on the planet. As such, access to visitors is restricted to organized day tours, which should be reserved well in advance to secure your spot on the boat from Gamboa. A typical day visit includes a boat ride to the park, a guided hike through the forest to learn more about the natural history of the island, and a cafeteria-style lunch in the park’s dining hall. During the hike, be sure to keep your eyes and ears open for signs of the five species of monkeys that reside within the park.
Things to Know Before You Go
Barro Colorado is a must-visit for nature lovers and animal enthusiasts.
Book your tour to the park well in advance to avoid disappointment.
The forest trail is about 1.25 miles (2 kilometers) long and steep in some places.
Wear long pants, a long-sleeved shirt, hat, and comfortable shoes with sturdy tread.
Don’t forget to bring your binoculars for wildlife spotting.
How to Get There
Guided tours to the nature preserve typically leave from Gamboa on the mainland. You can get to Gamboa from Panama City by taxi, bus, or car, and the trip takes anywhere from 45 minutes to two hours.
When to Get There
Visits to the park are available from Tuesday to Sunday. Boats departing from Gamboa follow a strict schedule, so it’s a good idea to arrive at least 30 minutes before your scheduled departure.
Wildlife Watching Near Panama City
If you can’t get a reservation for a visit to Barro Colorado, don’t fret. There are several other wildlife-viewing opportunities in the vicinity of Panama City. Take a boat trip to Monkey Island to spot howler monkeys, capuchins, tamarins, and owl monkeys, or spend a half day hiking in Soberania National Park for the chance to see some 525 species of birds, as well as monkeys and sloths.
Frequently Asked Questions
The answers provided below are based on answers previously given by the tour provider to customers’ questions.
What are the nearest attractions to Barro Colorado Island?
What else should I know about attractions in Panama City?
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- Gatún Lake (Lago Gatún)
- Monkey Island
- Soberanía National Park
- Panama Canal
- Miraflores Locks
- Embera Village
- Metropolitan National Park (Parque Natural Metropolitano)
- San Jose Church (Iglesia San Jose)
- Bridge of the Americas (Puente de las Americas)
- Ancon Hill (Cerro Ancon)
- Mi Pueblito
- Afro-Antillean Museum of Panama (Museo Afro-Antillano de Panama)
- Casco Viejo
- Presidential Palace (Palacio de las Garzas)
- Fuerte Amador Cruise Port