Central and South America still seem to be eluding our family when it comes to travel. It’s not that we don’t want to go, we really do, but other trips pop up keeping us from heading south. I asked Tara from PintSizedPilot.com to share her favorite spots and things to do in Panama with kids, a country I really hope to make it to very soon, especially after seeing her photos.
Our family has recently returned from several weeks in Panama. For me, this was a bucket list trip. Flora and fauna was the theme, and I had been holding off until my children were old enough to fully understand how awesome an adventure they were about to embark on. There was no end of things to do in Panama with kids, and we took full advantage.
Never a family to shy away from an action packed itinerary, we had five stops on our trip to Panama with kids. Bocas del Toro, Boquete, Gatun Lake, the Guna Yala (aka the San Blas Islands) and Panama City. While I fully realize that this may have been a bit much (we arrived home rather exhausted), here is a little overview of each place we visited in Panama with kids.
1. Isla Bastimentos, Bocas del Toro
Reason to Go: Great beaches for building sand castles and surfing, excellent snorkeling in the protected marine park, island hopping day trips, and jungle wildlife (monkeys, sloths, toucans and more).
Where to Stay: La Loma Jungle Lodge and Chocolate Farm (children 6 and up) or for younger children try Tranquilo Bay or Al Natural Resort (also on on Isla Bastimentos).
Reason to Go: If you love coffee, Boquete is the shade-grown coffee capital of Panama. It is also a hub for birders seeking a sighting of the elusive Quetzal (considered by some to be the most beautiful bird in the world) and adventure tourists looking to do some white water rafting and zip lining.
Where to Stay: For children 8 and up, Tinamou Cottages has several very nice suites (with kitchens). If you are traveling with babies, toddlers or children younger than 8 to Panama, the elegant Hotel Panamonte in town has a lovely garden to run around in and the Hotel Finca Lerida is built up on the hillside and has acres of coffee plantation to explore.
3. Gatun Lake
Reason to Go: Although only 45 minutes (and a short boat ride) outside of Panama City, you can have a real jungle experience here, as well as get up and close to the huge ships on their way to and from the Panama Canal Locks.
Where to Stay: JungleLand floating lodge provide a very unique hotel stay. While many people just come for a jungle adventure day trip, it is worth the extra money to stay overnight for sunset fishing and the nighttime jungle boat trip.
4. The Guna Yala (also known as the San Blas Islands)
Reason to Go: Experience postcard perfect islands while also learning about the fascinating Guna indigenous tribe, famous for their colorful molas (fabric appliques) and beaded bracelets.
Where to Stay: After much research we decided that the best way to see the islands was by chartering a boat. You can book through a tour company, or save some money by booking with a boat directly. Two family-friendly boats that we found were the Blue Sky and the Southern Belle .
5. Casco Viejo, Panama City
Reason to Go: The district of Casco Viejo within Panama City was recently declared a Unesco World Heritage due to its incredible Spanish architecture. The area is full of beautiful boutique hotels and world class restaurants. Important to note is that significant gentrification is underway here and although the tourist police presence is very high, you still need to remain alert (although we did not have any issues during our stay).
Where to Stay: We loved Las Clementinas for its beautiful apartment style suites (including kitchen). Other popular hotels for families include The Canal House , Los Cuatro Tulipanes. and the brand new American Trade Hotel (the only hotel in Casco Viejo with a pool).
To learn more about Panama with kids, check out Tara Cannon’s family travel website Pint Size Pilot.
Vertical image of beach via ShutterStock.com. All other images by Tara Cannon.