Any tips for a tourist going to Panama?

My GF’s mother recently retired to Panama City, and we plan to spend a week there in the spring (probably mid March). Does anyone have any tips on what to do, see, eat, visit, or possibly stuff to avoid? As an engineer, I’d love to transit the canal, but I don’t know if that is possible in a short trip.

I did find and study this thread, but as it’s over five years old, I thought there might be some new information available. Thanks to all who can contribute to this man and his plan.

I’ve lived in Panama City for 20 years, so I may be able to help a little.:slight_smile:

There’s plenty to do in the city and environs. If you’re interested in history, you can have a look at the ruins of Panama Viejo (Old Panama), which was founded in 1519 and burned to the ground during the attack by Morgan the pirate in 1671. The oldest part of the present city, the Casco Viejo (Old Compound), is very picturesque, with old churches and buildings, restaurants, etc. It’s rapidly gentrifying, and one of the interesting things is the mix of all levels of society from poor to rich in the same neighborhood. It also has museums like the Panama Canal Museum. Unfortunately the first floor, which had exhibits on the Canal itself, is currently under renovation.

Further afield, on the Atlantic side, you can visit the old Spanish forts at San Lorenzo and Portobelo. Francis Drake was buried at sea just off Portobelo after he died while planning an attack.

You can see the Canal at the Miraflores Visitor Center. I would recommend lunch or dinner at the restaurant, where you can dine while watching lock operations. It’s easy to book a full or partial Canal Transit; several companies operate them such as here and here.

If you’re interested in seeing tropical forest, there are several parks only a few minutes away, including Metropolitan Park and Soberania National Park.