At Our Whole Village, we plan meaningful vacations for families who want to create lifelong memories and show their kids the world in a more conscious and intentional manner.
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Your (free) guide to the top travel destinations for families with babies, teens and everyone in between.
Did you know that Panama is one of the top five fastest-growing international family travel destinations among U.S. travelers? If you’ve never considered this kid-friendly destination, it’s time to think again. A tropical paradise, it’s bordered on one side by Costa Rica and on the other by Colombia.
Because of Panama’s relatively small size, its varied geography proves highly accessible even on shorter family vacations. This diverse geography includes lush rainforests, rugged mountains, and inviting beaches. What’s more, Panama contains a dynamic capital city, rich indigenous cultures, and more than 1,000 islands. Best of all, it’s an affordable location to visit.
Here’s what you need to know about planning the perfect family getaway to Panama with kids.
Founded by Pedrarías Dávila, a Spanish conquistador, in 1519, the archaeological site of Panamá Viejo (a.k.a. Panamá la Vieja) represents the oldest European settlement on the Pacific Coast and was destroyed by Henry Morgan, the Welsh pirate, in 1671. Located in the suburbs of the contemporary capital, it has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site along with the historical district since 1997. After touring this incredible location steeped in the nation’s heritage, check out the Cinta Costera, a 64-acre land reclamation project that cost $189 million and was completed in 2009. Extending from Paitilla to El Chorrillo, the most recent expansion within the project is Cinta Costera Phase III, which includes the Maracana Stadium and the Cinta Costera Viaduct encircling the historic district.
The Biomuseo explores the natural history of Panama and is located on the Amador Causeway in Panama City. Created in 1999 by iconic architect Frank Gehry, it marked his first design for Latin America. The museum’s exhibits emphasize the role of humans in the 21st century in terms of Panama’s cultural and natural history. It weaves the story of the rise of the isthmus of Panama and how this geographical feature changed the world. A visit to the Biomuseo also provides an excellent opportunity to explore the Calzada de Amador by foot or on bike. Four islands comprise the causeway situated near the entrance to the Panama Canal.
The only wildlife refuge located in the nation’s capital, the Metropolitan Natural Park includes 573 acres of tropical forest featuring well-maintained trails and chances to scope out a wide array of species. The park boasts 227 bird species, 45 mammals including Geoffroy’s tamarin and sloths, 36 types of snakes, 14 amphibians, and 284 plant species. Some of the trees in the park grow upwards of 100 to 115 feet tall!
No trip to Panama would be complete without visiting the nation’s famous namesake canal. The Panama Canal contains three locks, including the Miraflores land its titular lake separating Miraflores from the Pedro Miguel Locks located upstream. At the Miraflores Visitor’s Center, check out these engineering marvels in action. And you won’t want to miss out on a tour of the Panama Canal Museum, devoted to the history of the construction of the Panama Canal. The museum is housed in a building constructed circa 1874, where the American and French construction companies responsible for the canal once headquartered.
Situated along the northern coast of Panama, Bocas del Toro (which translates as “mouth of the bull”) is an archipelago comprising nine inhabited islands and over 300 minor islets. It includes Isla Colon, which houses Bocas Town, and represents an ideal stopover point for those interested in visiting the smaller, deserted islands of the archipelago. Bocas del Toro is also an attractive beach destination where your family can enjoy some downtime.
One of the best ways to view the archipelago is by water taxi. Not only is this mode of transportation convenient, but it represents a ready adventure for kids. It also provides an affordable way to get your bearings while exploring Bocas del Toro. On Bastimentos Island, check out the massive yachts at the main dock before heading to Red Frog Beach for some relaxation. At the Palmar Tent Lodge, enjoy the hammocks spread in front of the restaurant or the beach while savoring refreshing drinks and fish tacos. What’s more, Bastimentos Island affords the chance to zipline through the jungle canopy starting at the Red Frog Beach Resort.
Don’t forget to check out Isla Zapatillas, where you can spend the day snorkeling in the crystal-clear waters of the Caribbean. This island is a hidden gem that generally attracts small crowds, which means the chance to lounge on the island’s white sandy beaches without fighting for a spot. Dining options prove many here and can be found by heading towards the vibrantly painted buildings perched on stilts over the water.
Located in an expansive green cloud forest, Boquete is a hotspot for outdoor adventures. The air is pristine, the people hospitable, the food delicious, and the scenery incredible. Best of all, activities in Boquete can be tailored to all ages. Younger kids will enjoy checking out Boquete Bees, a biodynamic bee farm where they can go on a nature hike, taste honey, visit a butterfly house, and try their hand at horseback riding at Caldera Ranch in the mountains. Middle schoolers and high schoolers can get behind exciting activities like zip lining and water rafting.
Other fun activities that will unite the entire family include miniature golfing at Valle Escondido Country Club. Although the course isn’t the most imaginative, the scenery surrounding it is breathtaking, making it well worth the price of admission. And it provides an excellent chance for kids to blow off a little steam. You’ll also want to reserve a day to visit Caldera’s Hot Springs. Not only will you enjoy the chance to get your relaxation on, but you can also check out a fantastic pre-Hispanic petroglyph site.
For the ultimate tropical island getaway, head to the 400-acre Isla Palenque, where you can have your toes in the sand before breakfast. The island invites families to head out in search of the Lost Beach, involving a wild trek through verdant jungle. Other activities include island hopping, snorkeling, paddle boarding, and playing in the bathtub-warm waters of the ocean’s waves. Beaches stretch forever and provide the ideal setting for bonfires and stargazing.
Panama is a tropical paradise your family will love. Whether you’re after a jungle adventure, countless chances to soak up the sun and surf on pristine beaches, interactions with warm and hospitable locals, or learning about the rich culture of Latin America, Panama has you covered.
Are you ready to start crafting your vacation itinerary to Panama with kids? We can help.
We’ve got the travel expertise, local connections, and inside knowledge to weave the best family experiences at the sights above and beyond.