From urban jungles to steaming rainforests, rumbling waterfalls and fog-covered cloud forests, in Panama you will never be far from the adventure of wild hiking and the opportunity to discover fascinating flora and fauna.
Whether you want to take a day trip or an epic jungle expedition, you will find a trail suitable for your fitness level. Wear sturdy shoes and a light bag, but don’t forget to bring plenty of water – you will often be walking at high temperatures and even high humidity. Use a local guide for more difficult hikes, especially during the rainy season.
Here is our guide to the best hikes in Panama.
For hiking in the city, head to the Metropolitano Natural Park in Panama City
5 km (3 miles), about 4 hours, light to moderate, entrance fee
There are well-maintained urban parks, as well as the Metropolitano Natural Park in Panama City. To relax in the jungle without leaving the urban jungle, this vast protected area of 265 hectares is home to an impressive number of 45 species of mammals, 250 species of birds, reptiles and amphibians and 280 species of trees.
There are five well-marked trails (there are maps in the visitor center), ranging from simple to moderate. Along the way, you can see sloths, woolly raccoons and talkative monkey-monkeys, as well as many smaller creatures in the midst of tropical foliage.
For stellar views of the city’s skyscrapers, head to the observation deck of Cerro Cedro, the park’s highest point at 150 meters (500 feet), accessible via the Camino del Mono Titi or the Cienaguita Trail.
Embark on a multi-day adventure on the Royal Road
45 km (28 mi), 4 days / 3 nights, difficult
Long before the canal, the colonial-era Royal Road offered the shortest route across the Pacific isthmus to the Caribbean. Piles of gold, silver and precious stones looted by the Incas were transported by mule train along a narrow paved road and shipped to Spain.
It was a favorite place for pirates dressed in capes and capes, but in the after 1700s it was leaved and soon absorbed into the jungle.
This three-day hike takes you from coast to coast, from Panama Viejo to Portobelo, through the dense tropical forests that pulse with life. Expect to get wet while crossing fast-flowing rivers, climbing moss-covered rocks, driving through mud and climbing steep slopes. Then sleep in a hammock in the middle of the murmur and hum of the jungle.
Rick morales, a highly experienced naturalist guide and founder of Jungle Treks, designed the Camino Real Trail and leads top-notch expeditions involving at least four travelers; book in advance.
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See the sunrise in Sleepy India, Anton Valley
3.6 km (2.2 miles), about 2 hours, moderate cost, admission
The trail to Sleeping India, whose summit recalls the contours of a sleeping woman, begins at the Piedra Pintada, a cliff adorned with ancient petroglyphs, a 15-minute walk from the center of El Valle.
The path to the top is steep, but it is quite easy to walk even at night. It takes about 45 minutes to reach the top, but take the extra time to enjoy the light show. And take a thin jacket with you-there may be a breeze.
After admiring the breathtaking sunrise, take a walk along a path at the edge of a stunning crater to admire the views of the valley and, on a clear day, the sparkling Pacific Ocean.
If you follow the trail in a loop, go down the ridge to join the main road that takes you back to the city. Or go ahead and cool off at the edge of the magnificent waterfalls that you missed along the way.
The valley, located a two-hour drive from Panama City, is a popular holiday destination for city dwellers on weekends, so go there during the week to avoid the crowds.
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Walk in the clouds on the El Pianista trail, Boquete
8 km (5 miles), about 4 hours, moderate cost, admission
This round-trip trail to the clouds starts just 4 km from the mountain town of Boquete, popular with outdoor enthusiasts and coffee lovers. Often a muddy path starts at the il Pianista Restaurant; it is not marked, so download the map before you go.
After passing through open pastures, the trail climbs steadily for 3 km through an otherworldly cloud forest, where fog mingles between tall trees, branches crowned with lianas and lush ferns threaten to overtake the trail. If there are no clouds at the top, you will have a breathtaking view of Boquete.
The trail attracted the attention of the whole world in 2014, when two Dutch students disappeared during a walk: at the top there is a monument to Chris Kremers and Lisanna Frun.
Resist the temptation to get lost or take the road alone, the terrain here can be insidious, especially after the rain – use the guide.
For birdwatching at any fitness level, head to Pipeline Road, a National park
Sovereignty, 7 km (4.3 miles), about 2 hours, easy, admission
More than 400 species of birds have been spotted along Pipeline Road in the National Park. Loved by birds, especially at sunrise, the trail offers the opportunity to see everything from shy trogons to noisy toucans.
And it’s not just birds, among the mammals wandering in the forest there are howler monkeys, agouti and sloths. About a 45-minute drive west of Panama City, this round-trip trail is fairly flat and undemanding, especially the first 7 kilometers, making it ideal for children.
For a panoramic view of the canopy, head to the Panama rainforest exploration center, 2 km from the trail entrance, and climb to the 32 m high observation tower.
The pipeline (which was never used) and the dirt road were built by American soldiers during World War II to transport oil across the isthmus in matter the canal stopped working.
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For a fascinating day hike, try the Los Quetzales Trail, the Baru Volcano National Park
8 km (4.3 miles), about 4-6 hours, moderate to difficult, entry 5 entry
Named after Guatemala’s elusive National bird, one of the country’s most beautiful day hikes takes place between Boquete and Cerro Punta, crosses the Caldera River and winds through a charming cloud forest, reaching high altitudes of 2,500 m (8,200 ft). above sea level.
There are several ways to approach this. If you start at Cerro Punta, the trail mainly goes down the slope, while the exit from Boquete involves a Stairmaster-style workout. Another Boquete option is to walk in the middle just behind the stairs, sit on the observation deck of Las Rocas for a picnic with a wonderful view, and then return to where you came from.
The bright Quetzal with its spectacular green-red plumage prefers higher heights and hangs on the tops of the treetops, so do not forget to look up. And go early to get the best chance to see them.
You can walk the trails and return by taxi or collective bus (minibus); the hike will add a few more hours, which will bring the total length of the trail to about 23 km.
Continuation of waterfalls on the Lost Waterfalls Trail, Boquete
2.1 miles (3.4 km), about 1.5 hours, moderate to difficult, admission
Finding not-so-lost waterfalls is one of the most popular hikes in Boquete. This well-marked trail that goes back and forth may be steep and slippery, but it will be immersed in the evergreen jungle with its tall trees, large leaves and climbing vines dotted with vibrant tropical flowers.
Also known as the Three Waterfalls, the first of the three waterfalls is the highest and infinitely photogenic; some tourists leave it for the Last time. Swimming is prohibited, but you can enjoy all this from an unreliable observation deck.
There are a few more climbs to reach the second waterfall, a simple but powerful waterfall that flows at the edge of a cliff into a small pool covered with stones. The third waterfall is the most difficult to reach, but perhaps the most impressive, and the ropes will help you here.