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Eco Tours PANAMA

Amazing Tours

Immerse yourself in the rich culture and vibrant traditions of panama as you taste local cuisine, learn about indigenous communities, and experience the warmth of the panamanian hospitality.

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Panama Canal Tour

PRIVATE LAYOVER CANAL & CITY TOUR  

If you’re on a short stopover in Panama City there’s no need just to sit in the airport. Get out and make the most of your time in t his vibrant city. On a five-hour private city tour, you have time to visit the engineering marvel of the Panama Canal, 

- Round-trip transfers are included

- See and do a lot in a short time

- Ideal for first-time visitors or those on a short stay ​

CHECK OUT THIS VIDEO TO SEE HOW THE EXPERIENCE WOULD BE  __LINK__

From:  $75

Monkey Island Panama Tour

MONKEY ISLAND & ECO CRUISE TOUR

Discover the wildlife and biodiversity of Panama - learn from the amazing canal watershed and islands inside Gatun Lake, Gamboa Town.

You will have an ecological experience in the region, where you can sail by the lake, and see animals and the surrounding forest. If you are lucky, come close to some large ships that transit the canal daily.

- Great for families and kids.

- Enjoy a Wildlife & Eco Cruise

- Short 4 hours tour

From :  $42  

EMBERA TOUR

EMBERA TRIBE & RIVER TOUR WITH LUNCH INCLUDED

Ride a canoe up the Chagres River, walk to a jungle river, and visit a traditional Embera village on a full-day trip from Panama City. Learn about traditional food, culture, and dances on this 7-hour tour, which includes pickup and drop-off at your Panama City hotel. Sit down and watch a dance that depicts The Embera’s relationship with the natural world. 

- Unique adventure & cultural experience

- Lunch included

CHECK OUT THIS VIDEO TO SEE HOW THE EXPERIENCE WOULD BE __LINK__

From :  $65

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HALF DAY PANAMA CANAL & CITY TOUR

If you’re a first-time visitor to Panama City, you’ll want to see the must-visit highlights.

This share group tour, takes you to the atmospheric old town, the engineering marvel of the Panama Canal, and the sweeping Amador Causeway, with its great city views. If you’re short on time, this convenient tour makes the most of your time.

-  Travel in comfort in an air-conditioned vehicle

- Hotel pick-ups are included

From :  $59  

panama city airport layover tour

Airport & Hotel Transfers

Riu Playa Blanca Tour

TripAdvisor Reviews

panama city airport layover tour

Panama Layover Tour

We took a 5 hour layover tour of Panama, we really enjoyed it. It turned out to be a private tour and our guide Rafael was very knowledgeable giving us the insights of Panama. We got a chance a to see the Big ships moving across Panama Canal. Rafael went about and beyond to give us the best tour of Panama. I would definitely recommend it.

panama city airport layover tour

Excellent Service and Very Reliable

Our round trip transfers with R & E were seamless. I had not used this company before but I plan to deal with them exclusively on future trips to Panama.

panama city airport layover tour

PERFECT layover in Panama - we loved it!

Rafeal's tour of Panama was exactly what we were looking for! Our friendly, knowledgeable guide met us on arrival and took us to the main sites of the city. He called ahead to the Canal to see when the boats were coming through and rushed over there first so we could see a freighter going through the locks. We learned so much and it was a very easy day.

Meet The Team

Causeway Amador

Manuel 

He started working with us in 2013, and is very knowledgeable about all sightseeing in Panama.  

French Guide

Edwing 

Edwing speaks English, Spanish and French, With over 10 years of experience dealing with international guests.

Biligual Guides

Rafael 

Rafael speaks Spanish & English and will assist you with your bookings.

Enrique Levy 

Fully bilingual and experienced guide who really enjoy outdoor experiences

Knowledgeable guides

CONTACT US Office: Business Point, Peru Ave. Office 25 Panama: +507 6253-8109 (WhatsApp) USA & Canada Toll Free:  (315) 210-8559 [email protected] [email protected] Partnership with Reluxus Tours Panama S.A. licensed tour operator.

PANAMA YOUR WAY℠ by Tour Istmo Panamá

The traveler’s choice for private, safest and best way to discover Panama

#1 in panama   |   expert guides   |   award-winning   |   tailored.

Tripadvisor's traveler's choice since 2016

Panama City Private Layover Tour

A long layover at the airport can be quite boring. Embark on this thrilling Panama City layover tour and uncover the captivating highlights of this bustling metropolis. Witness the engineering wonder of the Panama Canal, marvel at the modern skyline, and immerse yourself in the vibrant local culture. From historic landmarks to contemporary attractions, experience the essence of Panama City in a short but unforgettable adventure.

Starting from $80/pers $99/pers

Street in Casco Viejo

Panama City Sightseeing & Canal Tour

The Panama City & Canal Tour is the perfect introduction to Panama City and its Canal. Along this captivating journey through the heart of Panama City, you will see highlights such as the renowned Ancon Hill, must-see places such as Casco Viejo - the old town with its beautiful and colorful colonial architecture, the Amador Causeway with spectacular views of the skyline and ocean and much more!

Starting from $71/pers $139/pers

Panama City-Balboa Avenue

Most popular Eco-Tour

Monkey Island Eco Tour

This Monkey Island Panama Tour is an unforgettable adventure through the fauna and flora of Panama's luscious rainforest on a private boat will allow you to explore the fascinating biodiversity that resides within the Panama Canal. You may experience close encounters with its residents such as the capuchin and the Geoffroy's tamarin monkeys along with a variety of bird species, reptiles and much more.

Starting from $99/pers $139/pers

Monkey Island

Embera Village & Waterfall Eco Tour

Delve into the vibrant culture and breathtaking natural beauty of the Embera Village on this immersive tour. From traditional dances and handicraft demonstrations to pirogue rides through lush rainforests, discover the rich traditions and stunning landscapes of the Emberá community in an unforgettable adventure on the Chagres River and National Park.

Panama City-Balboa Avenue

Create your dream tour or Panama vacation package

Tell us about your dream tour or vacation itinerary and we will make it happen.

Looking to spend the best week discovering the wonders of Panama? Take a look at our pre-assembled multi-day packages

Our multi-day packages offer immersive journeys through Panama, featuring rich cultural experiences, stunning natural landscapes, and exciting adventures, tailored to provide an unforgettable travel experience. As an example, our 8-day package, "Discover Panama's Paradise," takes you on a journey through the country's rich culture, stunning natural beauty, and thrilling adventures, including visits to historical sites, lush rainforests, vibrant cities, and serene beaches. Transportation, guides, tours, hotels, and even a personalized concierge services are all included.

View of Casco Viejo

Panama Your Way, your trusted companion to visit and tour Panama.

We specialize in organizing your stay in Panama by offering private & semi-private guided tours, custom day trips, multi-day excursions and personalized custom vacation packages throughout Panama.

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Welcome to Panama

For centuries, Panama is a place of passage, we go there to somewhere else, a bridge between continents and the link between oceans. Lately, Panama is attracting more and more travelers of a different kind, tourist transfixed by its beauty and seduced by its quaint but not jaded charm.

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Layover in Panama City – the ultimate guide 2024

Panama City skyline

Tocumen International Airport is the main international airport for Panama and is situated 14 miles from the center of the city. There are several options for getting into town, including a metro system. If you are on a short layover, you might want to consider using a taxi.

Panama City itself is a charming city with delightful architecture that lends itself to short-stay tourism. As the airport acts as a hub for many international flights, it is quite conceivable that you could find yourself stuck there while you wait for a connection. Rather than pacing the airport for hours, you could drop your luggage at a Panama luggage storage service and use the time to discover a new city.

If your stopover extends to an overnight stay, there will be plenty to keep you occupied. Here are some ideas to get you started.

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Panama City by night

6 hour layover in Panama City

Having gone through the usual rigmarole of collecting your suitcases and clearing customs, you are best off storing your bags at a Panama luggage storage and travelling light. You won’t have much time on your hands, so grab a taxi or jump on the metro and get to town as quickly as possible to make the most of your Panama airport layover.

A great place to start and one that will give you a feel for the city is the Casa Viejo district. Here, you can wander the cobbled streets and marvel at the quaint colonial architecture. The area is dotted with tiny churches as well as the San Jose Church with its famous golden altar. 

Built in 1670, this historic district was once the preserve of wealthy Panamanians. Today it houses a wide range of population groups and its classic buildings are thrown into contrast against the backdrop of modern high-rises that make up much of the rest of the city.

Even with very little time on your hands, you will be able to sample some of the unique atmosphere, sip a quiet coffee, and perhaps pick up a curio or two.

  • The area is small enough to be enjoyed on foot.
  • Allow yourself enough time to catch your connecting flight without stress.
  • Storing your suitcases will make for a more pleasant experience.

8 hour layover in Panama City

That extra couple of hours means that you can afford to relax a little and perhaps enjoy a traditional meal at some stage during your venture. Yours will still be a short stopover so you will need to use your Panama City layover wisely. 

The diverse history of this country means that the cuisine has been heavily influenced by its colorful past. Here you will find dishes with a little Spanish, a little African, and a little Native American Indian influence all mixed together.

Of course, it is not just the diversity of cultures that influences a nation’s food choices. The local ingredients also weigh heavily on the way people cook. Along with an abundance of seafood, you will find yucca, maize, and plantains being incorporated into what are now traditional dishes.

Here are a few you should look out for: Carimanolas are stuffed yucca fritters, Sancocho is a chicken soup with herbs, and although Ropa Vieja translates to ‘old clothes’ it is actually a delicious beef stew. 

All of these dishes you will find easily while wandering through the historical streets of Casa Viejo or the neighboring San Felipe. From either of these suburbs, you are well-positioned for your return trip to the airport.

  • Even if you lose some time traveling to and from the airport, eight hours still gives you a chance to get a feel for this city.
  • Traveling light will enhance your experience so drop of those suitcases at a Panama luggage storage service.
  • Don't try to cram in too many sites. Instead, focus on just one or two.

Panama City, Panama

12 hour layover in Panama City

Twelve hours starts to feel like a lifetime if you are trapped in an airport, so use this long layover to dive into some of the Panamanian way of life. You won't be able to delve too deeply, but that doesn't prevent you from having some memorable experiences. 

If you have been to Panama, sooner or later somebody is going to ask you about that famous canal. The canal might only be 50 miles long but it sees more than 13 000 ships passing through each year, which makes it one of the busiest sea routes in the world.

One of the best places to see the canal and marvel at the heavy-duty traffic passing through is at the Miraflores locks. Here, a viewing point has been established so that people can get an overview of just what an impressive undertaking this engineering feat was.

If you plan carefully, you might still have time to include a visit to the Biomuseo . Designed by architect Frank Gehry, this museum celebrates the unique biological diversity that inhabits this Central American zone and provides a heavy emphasis on habitat preservation. Allow 1 – 2 hours for a complete tour.

  • You will need to move around if you are going to explore more than one site so try to travel as light as possible.
  • If you can, prepare your itinerary in advance so you can book ahead for site that might be busy.

Buildings in Panama City, Panama

24 hour layover in Panama City

On an overnight layover, you have the option of exploring further afield than you would on a short stopover. Panama city has some exciting attractions that are near enough to include in an overnight stay but might be just a little too far to include in a short layover.

The Metropolitan National Park is one of the few national parks that lie at the gateway to such a major city. Covering 265 hectares and containing 322 animal species and 227 species of birds, this is an ideal way to experience some of the unique flora and fauna of the area without having to venture too far from Panama City itself.

That visit would still leave you time to take in some of the city’s nightlife and one or two of the major tourist drawcards such as the canal or Calzada Amador. As far as nightlife is concerned, Panama City offers as wide a range of bars and nightspots as you might expect in any other international city, but with that added Latin touch to make things that little bit more exotic. 

  • Twenty-four hours gives you the opportunity to try local cuisine, visit one or two sites such as Miraflores Locks and still experience the local nightlife.
  • Even with a longer layover, you will still need to be selective and not try to do everything.
  • Allow time to get back to the airport and make your connection without getting stressed.

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panama city airport layover tour

Taxi Transfers and Tours

Panama Taxi Transfers and Sightseeing Tours

  • Quote your ride
  • Layover PTY
  • Shore Excursions

Panama (pty) Layover Tours by Beautiful Tours

panama city airport layover tour

We offer two Beautiful Layover Tour options depending your time frame:  3 Hour and 5 Hour.  Both include sightseeing in Panama City and tour of Panama Canal Visitor Center at Miraflores Locks.   

CITY SIGHTSEEING + PANAMA CANAL

    INCLUDES:

  • Pickup at International Airport
  • Drive Tour through the most modern city in Latin America
  • Drive Tour through the Panama Canal Zone
  • Panama Canal Visitor Center at Miraflores Locks:  includes a chance to watch cargo ships and ocean liners use the lock system of the Panama Canal and a 30 minute 3D IMAX movie about the Panama Canal narrated by none other than Morgan Freeman
  • Dropoff at International Airport
  • Includes all fees, tolls, and/or taxes
  • Certified English Speaking Driver/Tour Guide

*Other tour options: Embera Village, Monkey Island, Nature walk and more !

BOOK 3 hour TOUR !

CITY SIGHTSEEING + PANAMA CANAL + CASCO ANTIGUO

  • Drive Tour through the Panama Canal Zone and Amador Caseway for the best view of the city
  • Photo Op with the big colorful PANAMA sign at Amador Causeway
  • Walking Tour of UNESCO World Heritage Site – Casco Antiguo 
  • Stop for Lunch (Everyone pays for their own meal)

BOOK 5 hour TOUR   NOW!

Tour I and Tour II  Short Description:

We usually start the tour with an incredible 360° view of Panama City from atop Cerro Ancón (walking up hill) or a visit to Mi Pueblito will be included if the road to Cerro Ancon is blocked. After that we go to the Panama Canal Miraflors Visitor Center for 4 floors of exhibits and a chance to see ships inside the Panama Canal Locks. Later on w…

Tour Includes: Duration: 5 hour Driver/ Guide Spanish/ English Price total : $234 usd (two adults)

Note: The ticket to the Miraflores Visitor Center and any additional time to the duration of the tour is not included in the price. Additional time to the duration of the tour is 35 usd per hour or fraction. Let us know if this works for you and we can send you an e-bill through our secure business account with PAYPAL for you to book the tour with a Payment Deposit of 34 usd .

To book the tour we require Payment Deposit to our Paypal account link to be provided at booking and  the balance will be paid in cash to the guide.

We require flight information: airline name, flight number and date/time of arrival.

TERMS AND CONDITIONS

Panama Canal Miraflores layover tour and transfer solution

“Timely All The Time”

panama city airport layover tour

Tocumen Airport 2

Tocumen

Tocumen Airport

Tocumen

This Life in Trips - Living life, one trip at a time.

Panama City Layover Tour – What to See & Do When Passing Through

panama city airport layover tour

The Panama Canal is an engineering marvel and an important passage that affects 6% of the world’s commerce. Seeing this historic lock system in person has long been a bucket list item for this transportation nerd. After a two-year delay thanks to the pandemic, I finally got to check it out on a Panama City layover tour. In the process, I discovered so much more than the waterway the country is famous for. From a storied past to shiny glass towers shooting 75 stories up, this is my Panama City layover tour experience along with why I think it’s worth seeing, nerd or not.

Table of Contents

See Panama City With a Local

Tour Panama City with a local

I booked my Panama City layover tour with Toursbylocals , a company that connects travellers with experienced local guides passionate about their home country and backyards. I used Toursbylocals in Bavaria a few years back and had a great and memorable day out. This Panama City layover tour was no different and even started off with excellent customer service. Somewhere between Cancun and Panama City, I received an email indicating that my tour guide had fallen ill. By the time I landed, Toursbylocal already had another guide lined up and on his way to the airport. Well done!

How Long Do You Need for a Panama City Layover Tour?

For a Panama City layover tour, I recommend six hours minimum between flights. This will allow for customs, traffic, and checking back in at the end of the tour.

What Can You See on a Panama City Layover Tour?

On my Panama City layover tour, I had a full 12 hours. This was more than enough time to have breakfast then visit Panama Viejo, Casco Viejo, the Amador Causeway, and watch some a couple of ships pass through the Miraflores locks. I also stopped for a meal in the city before being dropped up with three hours to spare.

Panama Viejo (Old Panama)

After about 40 minutes to deplane and clear customs, I made my way to the airport exit. There I was met by Miguel, my Toursbylocal guide for the day. After welcoming me to his country, we were off.

Miguel laid out the plan for the day using a map of the city to illustrate both the geography and the tour through history we were about to make.

Panama City from above: A bird's-eye view

This started with a visit to Panama Viejo. Also known as “Old Panama,“ this area contains the remains of the original Panama City. It’s now a world heritage site that visitors can wander through…except when it’s closed on Mondays, the day of my visit. No worries though as Miguel gave me a great rundown of the history while viewing the ruins from the car.

Panama Viejo dates back to 1519 and was the first permanent settlement by Europeans in the Pacific. Established by the Spanish, it quickly became a jumping-off point for many expeditions in South America for gold and silver and prospered as such. This wealth, however, also caught the eye of pirates and privateers. The city was subject to several attacks with the last by Morgan Henry who left the town in ruins in 1671.

Casco Viejo (Old Quarter)

Casco Viejo, Panama City's historic district

After the destruction of Old Panama, the settlement moved several kilometres southwest to its present-day location. Casco Viejo, or the Old Quarter, is the heart of this resettlement and the most scenic area of the city. Miguel took me on a guided walk of the Quarter highlighting historical buildings in squares along the way. This included the French Plaza, Bolivar Plaza, the National Theater Presidential Plaza, Independence Plaza, Saint Joseph Church (Home of the Golden Altar), and the Basilica of Santa Maria la Antigua. The latter was beautifully renovated for the Pope’s visit in 2019.

Lovers lock in Panama City

Casco Viejo is currently undergoing a transformation with plenty of restoration projects underway. There are a ton of trendy hotels, cafés, and restaurants to enjoy with plenty more on the way. Thanks to the area’s cobblestone roads and colourful buildings, it’s easy to see why this is such a popular place to visit and stay in Panama City.

Casco Viejo

Amador Causeway

Walk along the picturesque Amador Causeway for beautiful vistas

After enjoying a nice view of the city from Casco Viejo, this Panama City layover tour continued along the Amador Causeway. During the construction of the Panama Canal, 300 million yards of rock and dirt were excavated with some of it creating the six-kilometre long causeway. This road connects four small Islands to the mainland. Originally built as a breakwater for the canal entrance, the islands were fortified during the Second World War. Today it is a popular local hang out with bike rentals and restaurants along the way. It’s also an excellent place to view the city and ships waiting to enter the canal.

A perfect spot for a sunset stroll

Well enjoying the view, Miguel pointed out a bird that was diving into the water for fish. I let them know that it looked a lot like an Arctic Tern, a bird I would watch do the same thing growing up in northern Canada. I looked it up on my phone and sure enough, it was an Arctic Tern. It was a really cool thing to see some 5,500 km into its migration to or from the north.

Panama Canal

Now typically on a Panama City layover tour, visitors would head to the canals Miraflores Visitors Center. Since I was visiting on a Monday, this too wasn’t open.

Our local guide's app checking on Panama City traffic

Not to be defeated, Miguel has an app to track the current traffic through the locks. With that, we were able to align a drive along the canal while watching a massive tanker make its way through. After checking out the Panama Canal administration building, we crossed over the Centennial Bridge for an incredible birdseye view of the canal. From there you can really see the carved out mountains and terrace-like rock shelves cut along the way. This feat would be a hell of an accomplishment today. The fact that the canal was built in the early 1900s is mind-blowing. This, as Miguel explained, came at a cost.

Driving along Panama Centennial Bridge

An estimate of 25,000 people lost their lives during the construction, many to malaria and yellow fever. The bulk of these deaths came under the watch of the French, who in the 1880s, attempted to build the cancel. They were led by Ferdinand de Lesseps and were unprepared for the jungle climate. Ferdinand de Lesseps was the architect of the much larger Suez Canal and approached the Panama Canal with naivety. This ultimately lost him the project and the United States bought the rights in 1904.

From the bridge, we made our way to the entrance of the Miraflores locks to watch the ship tie off for its journey through. Interestingly, the old locks only have a little over a metre of space on either side for large ships. As such, electric locomotives guide the ships through. On the larger and newer locks, there is more space and this is not a requirement.

Experience the Panama Canal's transit firsthand

Downtown Panama City Towers and Shops

panama city airport layover tour

As we watched the ships go through the locks, Miguel let me know that millions of dollars in fees are collected per day from the ships passing through. Revenue hit 3.4 billion Panamanian Balboa (1:1 to USD) in 2020. Suddenly, the massive glass towers in Panama City started to make sense. Even more so since the country ended its original agreement with the United States and took full control of the locks on December 31, 1999.

The amount of money funnelling through has brought big banks, chain hotels, and designer brand stores. As such, downtown Panama City is unlike any other city in Central America.

Although interesting, there is nothing authentic to this. To get a little more culture before heading to the airport, I asked Miguel to take me to a local eatery for some Panamanian food. This included Pollo Al Ajillo (Panamanian Garlic Chicken), beans and rice, and Patacones (fried plantain chips). I also tried a salted deep-fried fish ball which was tasty.

Pollo Al Ajillo (Panamanian Garlic Chicken)

After our meal, Miguel took me back to the airport concluding my excellent Panama City layover tour. As mentioned, 12 hours was more than enough time to take in the city and its surrounding sights. Although I highly recommend visiting on any day except Monday so you can get to the Miraflores Visitors Centre and tour Panama Viejo, Miguel was able to fill the gap with his local knowledge and love for his hometown. This really highlights the value of visiting somewhere with a local. It can make all the difference and is a curated and cultured way to visit somewhere new. Companies like ToursbyLocals do a great job of doing just that!

For the full Panama City tour itinerary along with how you can book this tour for yourself, check out the ToursbyLocals website!

panama city airport layover tour

What are your thoughts on this  Panama City Layover Tour ? Let’s hear it!

For more reviews from Central America  and beyond see HERE .

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Although I was provided with a complimentary tour of Panama by  ToursbyLocals , the experience, opinions, and friendly experience are my own.

Panama City Layover Tour - What to See & Do When Passing Through

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Sleeping in Airports

6 Things to do on a layover at Panama City Airport

Many regional and longer-haul flights fly through the modern Panama City Airport, leaving many travellers with layovers. Long layovers can be annoying, frustrating, or just downright boring, but you can avoid all that with these six things to do on your layover at Panama City Airport:

1. Get something to eat

Airport Dining

2. Visit the lounge

Airport Lounges

3. Shop til you drop

Shopping

4. Go sightseeing

Layover Sightseeing

Public bus routes provide frequent, cheap connections to downtown, but will take about 50 minutes to reach the city center. Cut that time in half by opting for a licensed taxi waiting outside the airport. Travellers have reported a luggage storage area where you can pay per day.

Once in Panama City, head directly to Casco Viejo , the historic heart of the city. Stroll winding alleys, view well-preserved churches and architecture, pop into souvenir and art shops, and explore numerous restaurants, bars, and rooftop lounges. Contrast this area with the ultra-modern, newly built skyscrapers and international shops along Avenida Balboa , which follows Panama Bay .

If you’d rather see the Panama Canal , your best bet is to join a tour. There are many operators to choose from, and some even pick up at the airport. These can be as short as 3 hours, so you may be able to squeeze one in on slightly shorter layovers but do plan ahead. Tours often stop at the Gatun Lake outdoors area, too.

Whether you spend your layover in the city or exploring nearby nature, leave plenty of time to make that next flight!

WiFi is free for 30 minutes (as per a reader in 2019) per device. After that, you’ll have to pay for a 24-hour WiFi session.

Airport Sleeper

These are just a few things to do on a layover at Panama City Airport. Visit our Panama City Airport Guide for more information about the services and facilities available, such as food, WiFi, mobile charging, luggage storage, nearby airport hotels, and much more.

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sightDOING

How to Spend One Day in Panama City On Your Panama City Layover

This post may contain affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

If you have a long layover in Panama, you can leave the airport for sightseeing -- easily! Find out what to see and do with limited time.

Panama is delightfully easy to visit.  It’s a great destination on it’s own, but flights onward to other places in Latin or South America often have long layovers in Panama City. If you have a long layover in Panama City, here’s how to leave the airport and explore a little of this fabulous capital in Central America!

Panama City Layover Guide: What to See and Do in 8 Hours

My plan is for an 8 hour layover in Panama City because it seems to be a common length based on schedules I’ve seen. It includes three stops to showcase the variety the city is known for (nature, history, and of course the canal!). Each stop is brief and you could easily spend twice as long at each one, making it easy to modify your plans if you have longer than the average stopover. If your layover is shorter, choose two of the three stops and save something for a future trip.

Ugh, what about those “medium” length layovers? If you have a 5 hour Panama City layover, stay closer to the airport instead of heading all the way into the city. Take a 15-minute taxi to the ruins of  Panama Viejo , which you can tour in two hours.  You’ll need the rest of your time for airport security and passport control.  If you have less than 5 hours, I don’t recommend leaving the airport.

At a Glance: How to Spend Your Long Layover in Panama City

During your one day Panama City Layover, you’ll visit:

  • Parque Metropolitano for a rainforest walk and wildlife watching
  • Casco Viejo for Old Town architecture and a beautiful part of Panama City
  • Mercado del Mariscos for a quick ceviche lunch
  • Panama Canal and a view of the Miraflores locks

Logistics (1 hour)

Spend your first hour and a half on actually getting to the city.  It takes about 30 minutes to get through immigrations and customs at Tocumen International Airport (PTY) plus another 30 minutes on the toll road to the city.  Don’t worry about changing money — the US dollar is king — but plan ahead and come with cash.

Uber is both easier and cheaper than taxis. There’s no language barrier and you won’t need cash for trip fares since it’s charged directly to your credit card.

Need to store your luggage at the airport?  There are lockers available on the lower level for $5-10 depending on how much space you need.

Parque Metropolitano (1 hour)

things to do in panama city layover

Panama City is massive and modern, but before all that it was a tropical forest.  You can still get a glimpse of that in Parque Metropolitano , one of the best things to do in Panama City.  It’s open early, so it’s perfect for layovers at weird hours. Pro Tip: Make sure you have your Uber drop you off at the Centro de Visitantes (Visitor’s Center).

parque metropolitano hiking route map in panama city

The park has two main hiking loops: a lower loop and an upper loop. For a short visit, do only the lower loop and ideally tack on the small detour to the bunkers since sometimes sloths can be seen in that area. This will take you roughly an hour, depending on how many wildlife sightings you have along the way (don’t walk too fast and keep your eyes peeled).

The upper loop is more strenuous but will double–or triple!–your chances of seeing monkeys, agouti, coati, deer, and smaller critters like leaf-cutter ants. However, you’ll need 2+ hours total to combine both trails.

Casco Viejo and Lunch (2 hours)

casco viejo / things to do in panama city layover

The colonial center of town, Casco Viejo (or Casco Antiguo, Panama) is picturesque and worth a visit.  In fact, it’s a UNESCO World Heritage Site!

The charm is less about checking off a list of sights and more about wandering and see what you come across.  Peek your head into churches, stroll down cobblestone streets, and visit the squares and plazas for people-watching. For a more structured experience, you can download the LiveWalk self-guided audio tour of Casco Antiguo for more context.

From Casco Viejo, walk along the waterfront Cinta Costera to the Seafood Market (Mercado de Mariscos) for lunch. For about $4, you’ll get a cup of super fresh ceviche for lunch. I recommend  corvina , a local white fish, but you’ll also find shrimp, octopus, and other varieties. Assuming you did the full walking tour, you’ll need to eat quickly. Luckily, these are fast-casual restaurants.

Miraflores Visitor Center at the Panama Canal (2 hours)

panama canal / things to do in panama city layover

I didn’t want to visit the Panama Canal, but c’mon, it’s definitely one of the more popular things to do in Panama City.  And, much to my surprise, it ended up being interesting…so much so, I went twice. But be aware: it’s a solid 20-minute taxi ride to get there, which eats into your viewing time.

If you’re running short on time, you can visit the Panama Canal Museum right in Casco Antigua instead of making the detour to the canal itself. It’s obviously not the same experience, but it’s a good alternative to learn about how the canal impacted history, culture, and commerce.

The highlight of the Miraflores Visitor Center is an outdoor seating area with bleachers where you can watch the gargantuan cargo ships pass through the Miraflores Locks. Ships do not come through all day every day — check the transit schedule in advance and time your visit accordingly. For example, today the ships are only allowed through 8:45am or after 1:05pm…the hours inbetween will be totally dead.

panama city airport layover tour

If there aren’t any transits during your available time, skip the Miraflores Locks entirely. It’s not worth the long taxi outside town if you won’t see any ships. You may or may not have time to also watch the IMAX movie on-site (about 45 minutes) — this just depends on how long you spend watching ships pass through the locks. It takes at least half an hour per ship and there may be waiting time depending on traffic patterns.

Return to Tocumen Airport (allow 2 hours)

The ride back to the airport could take anywhere from 30-60 minutes, depending on whether or not rush hour has started. I recommend having cash on-hand for a taxi…there can be long waits to get an Uber here and you don’t want to waste time.

That leaves you with 60-90 minutes at the airport to return through security and catch your flight. Yes, I know that may sound short but remember: since you’re on a Panama City layover, you’re already checked in, have a boarding pass, and your bags are checked through. You won’t need to return to the check-in counter and can instead proceed straight to security.

If you’re a nervous traveler and that’s cutting it too close to comfort for you, you can adjust your plans by either skipping a stop on this itinerary or making one shorter.  No big deal…you can always come back for more things to do in Panama City!

Be Prepared: 8 Totally Random (but Totally Useful!) Tips for Panama City (opens in new window) When time is short, knowing what to expect is ultra-important so you don’t get thrown off your game!

Just like that, one day in Panama City is over (but look at all you saw and did!).  

Looking for a Guided Panama Layover Tour?

I get it…sometimes you don’t want to worry about arranging taxis or watching the clock.

This 4-Hour Panama Layover Tour   tour includes visits to the Canal and Casco Viejo, but does not have time for a stop at Parque Metropolitano. Keep in mind that this is four hours of driving and touring total, so it’s definitely a whistle stop visit but better than sitting at the airport!

Is Your Panama Layover Overnight?

If you have an evening layover in Panama City: Neither the canal nor the park will make sense if your time is after dark. Instead, visit Casco Viejo for sightseeing and a cocktail (there are lots of rooptop bars that would be great at sunset) and then grab a taxi or Uber to the Amador Causeway. You’ll see the city skyline all lit up at night. This is a lovely place for a stroll if you’re cramped after a long flight and there are less touristy restaurants than within Casco Viejo.

If your layover is overnight and you need a hotel: I recommend staying downtown. Casco Viejo can get too loud and staying by the airport is particularly boring/isolated. I personally like the Hilton since it’s on the water with great views and a nice pool. For half the price, you can stay at the Novotel , which is also a fine choice without any of the extras.

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More Info to Plan Your Trip

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8 Totally Random (But Totally Useful) Panama City Travel Tips

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65 thoughts on “how to spend one day in panama city on your panama city layover”.

Thanks so much for this great info! My kids and I have a one-day layover this summer, we arrive late on Friday and leaving early on Sunday. We’re planning to do the canal and the old city, and potentially considering a tour (Monkey Island??). Do you have any recommendation for where to stay? I’m concerned about the late arrival and early departure, and wonder if we should be close to the airport, but it seems far from everything interesting. But I’m also seeing a clear theme of traffic, traffic, traffic!! (On that note, such a bummer Uber doesn’t work from Miraflores, sounds like we’re just stuck with taxi prices?)

@Ann – there very well may be Ubers at Miraflores locks but it’s not a guarantee. I’d definitely check for Uber when you’re ready to go but have cash (USD is fine) just in case.

I would stay downtown during your trip. Casco Viejo (old town) is fun but it can be LOUD on the weekends from clubs/bars, whereas downtown isn’t as bad. I like the Hilton because they have a great pool (and are right off the highway to avoid city traffic!)…but if you don’t have time for the pool anyway, the Tryp by Wyndham Centro is about half the cost and in an equally fine neighborhood. Or, for something different, the Summit Rainforest Resort has lovely walking grounds with wildlife but is far from the city (and closer to the canal & Monkey Island, so it sorta splits the difference).

If you’re arriving after 8pm on Friday, and leaving before 11am on Sunday, traffic to/from the airport shouldn’t be an issue. Plan on ~30 minutes from either downtown hotel, less than an hour to Summit hotel. You’ll have more traffic to think about all day Saturday but you won’t be pressured by deadlines at least!

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