1. Santa Catalina, 2. Casco Antiguo, 3. Contadora Island, 4. Bocas del Toro, 5. Portobelo, 6. Guna Yala, 7. Pedasi, 8. Coronado, 9. Puerto Armuelles. Panama is full of gorgeous towns and villages. Here is a list of the most beautiful coastal towns in Panama, sure to captivate with fantastical backdrops of mountains, rainforest and, of course, the majestic sea.
- Santa Catalina
- Casco Antiguo
- Contadora Island
- Bocas del Toro
- Guna Yala
- Puerto Armuelles
Santa Catalina ranks first in the list of the most beautiful coastal towns in Panama. For most of its history, Santa Catalina was little more than a sleepy fishing village. However, things have changed in recent years. Santa Catalina is gaining national and even international attention, and the reason for this is the surf. Some of the best waves in Latin America can be found here. Today, there is a diverse expat community here, consisting of Europeans, North and South Americans.
Santa Catalina has grown, but it remains a small town. People come here to enjoy the peace and quiet. You can’t help but reconnect with nature when surrounded by rainforest and long beaches. You don’t always have a choice. The internet can be spotty at times, and power outages are common. The expat communities have helped to create a thriving restaurant scene. There are a few small grocery stores nearby. However, life here lacks many of the conveniences found in more developed areas of Panama. That’s a good thing for a lot of people here.
Google rating: 4.6/5.0
Location: Southern California in the Gulf of Santa Catalina
Casco Antiguo is a historical, charming, and vibrant neighborhood. Casco Antiguo, also known as Casco Viejo or the “old quarter,” is the historic district of Panama City. The district, which dates back to 1673 and is a UNESCO Cultural World Heritage Site, features vibrant plazas and picturesque brick-paved streets surrounded by colorful buildings. The area is ideal for walking, learning about history, and sampling a variety of fine cuisine. Come for the best gastronomy, culture, and photo opportunities in the city, and stay to mingle with the locals in the heart of the nightlife scene.
Begin your visit with a brisk stroll through the neighborhood. You’ll learn about religious history at the Metropolitan Cathedral of Panama City, which is located in the city’s main square, Plaza Mayor, as well as the Church of San Jose, which is known for its incredible golden altar. As you walk, make a stop at Plaza de Francia, a beautiful plaza that honors the French role in the Panama Canal’s construction. Las Bóvedas, a monument that was once used as a defense against pirate attacks, is also located in the plaza. Next, head to Paseo Esteban Huertas for stunning views of the city skyline and bay.
Casco Antiguo is also home to several of the city’s top museums, including the Museo del Canal (The Canal Museum) and the Museo de la Mola, which showcases the Guna indigenous group’s traditional textile art. At Arco Chato, you’ll also find the iconic stone archway, which is the remains of a church built by Dominican friars and a lovely photo opportunity. Next, pay a visit to the Panama National Theater to see Robert Lewis’ stunning ceiling frescoes. You’ll also have the opportunity to do some shopping during your walk, with opportunities to buy local crafts and visit high-end boutiques.
Google rating: 4.5/5.0
Contadora Island is one of the Pearl Islands, a group of approximately 200 islands located just off the coast of Panama City. They rose to prominence as an offshore base for pirates who hid gold on the islands. They are now popular with expats and retirees from all over the world. Because of the diversity of nationalities, English is more easily spoken here than in most other parts of Panama.
Contadora is a very secure neighborhood. You can only get here by boat or plane. The sea provides the same level of security as a gated community. Crime is almost non-existent, and you can take moonlit walks along the beach without ever feeling threatened. Contadora is one of Panama’s more expensive expat destinations. Because all food and supplies must be shipped here, all stores charge a premium. The cost of returning to the mainland must also be considered. Contadora is one of Panama’s best fishing spots. Catching your own dinner can help you save a lot of money.
Location: Pearl Islands, Gulf of Panama
Bocas del Toro
Bocas Del Toro is Panama’s most popular Caribbean beach resort. The beaches have white sand, and the clear, green Caribbean waters are warm all year. There is a sizable expat community here, as well as a steady stream of tourists. The majority of visitors to Bocas come to unwind. It is simple to locate a secluded property in the jungle close to the sea. The town of Bocas Del Toro is lively and a bit of a party town. Most expats visit for nights out and shopping but do not live there.
Bocas’ infrastructure is adequate but not exceptional. The necessities for daily life are available, but there are few options for restaurants and imported bars. It is to enjoy the outdoors that you will want to live in Bocas. The countryside is wonderful for exploring by boat or foot. The variety of wildlife is astounding. Turtles, dolphins, and tropical fish mingle with owls, eagles, and pelicans. Sloths, monkeys, and iguanas abound in the jungles. If you have green thumbs, you’ll love how simple it is to grow tropical fruit in Bocas.
Location: Panamanian province, Bocas del Toro
Portobelo is a small town in Panama’s northwestern region, on the Caribbean’s beautiful blue shores. Today, quaint fishing boats sway to the rhythm of the sea, with lush vegetation blending with the blue of the Caribbean in the background. A closer look reveals the remains of colonial Spanish forts and the last relics of this town’s legacy as the largest colonial Spanish port in Central America, which is why it has been designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
You can sample the delectable Afro-Caribbean cuisine, which is distinguished by flavorful ingredients and spices such as curry, coconut, fresh seafood, and local vegetables, when you visit. You’ll also learn about the Congolese culture’s unique song and dance, as well as the most revered religious figure in Portobelo, Nazareno, or the Black Christ. This life-size wooden sculpture washed ashore in Portobelo and was picked up by a fisherman, and its exact origins are still unknown. Actually, it has been associated with several miracles. The life-size wooden sculpture of Nazareno can be seen for yourself at Iglesia San Felipe, a Spanish-built church built in 1814.
Location: Gaigirgordub, Panama
Guna Yala ranks 6th in the list of the most beautiful coastal towns in Panama. It is an indigenous territory ruled by the Guna tribe. The territory consists of a narrow strip of land on the country’s Caribbean side, as well as an archipelago of 365 islands, only 50 of which are inhabited by Guna people. The islands of Guna Yala are also known as the San Blas Islands, and they are a popular tourist destination in Panama due to their well-protected natural beauty, which is maintained by the indigenous Guna people.
The Gunas are famous for their Molas, a traditional textile made of layers of colored fabric crafted into patterns and pictures inspired by their cosmogenic beliefs. Molas, which depict the Guna vision of a colorful and mythological world, make fantastic, one-of-a-kind souvenirs.
A trip to Guna Yala will not resemble any commercial vacation you’ve ever taken. Instead, you’ll be able to immerse yourself in the local culture and cuisine. Keep in mind that there is no internet access or credit card payments, and only US dollars are accepted. Expect to stay in thatched huts with no running water or go camping by renting tents or hammocks. However, one of the most popular places to stay is on a sailboat. Rather than choosing just one island, this option allows you to sail from one to another.
You’ll be able to swim in the beautiful crystal clear, turquoise water and learn about Guna culture and traditions while you’re there. While in San Blas, consider stopping at El Porvenir, the capital of GunaYala, Isla Perro for incredible snorkeling, Playa Chichimei, which is popular with backpackers, or taking a day trip to other stunning islands like Banedub Island or Robeson Island. When it’s time to eat, sample the local cuisine, which includes freshly caught seafood prepared with local spices and ingredients.
Pedasi is one of Panama’s most picturesque fishing towns. Pedasi, located near the southern tip of Los Santos province, is known as the “tuna coast,” and it has earned a reputation as a top off-the-beaten-path destination for sport fishermen. The small village has a main street lined with a few restaurants and inns. Behind that is a colonial plaza with a gazebo and a neatly whitewashed church. A mile or so south of town, you’ll find the first of a string of Pacific beaches, with sands ranging from light tan to deep bronze to a gleaming black.
Google rating: 4.3/5.0
Location: Azuero, Panama
Coronado, located near Panama City, is the most popular beach town in the country. There is a significant expat presence here; visit the bars and restaurants and you will hear English as well as Spanish. Coronado has a formidable infrastructure. A modern hospital, large supermarkets, and a variety of other stores ranging from DIY to arts and crafts are available. There are numerous bars open at night, including a few popular expat hangouts. Quiz nights and live music are great ways to meet new people. Coronado has a large golf club, so arrive early for your game. Playing in the Panamanian midday sun is difficult due to the heat and humidity.
Coronado’s beaches are distinctive. A mixture of yellow and black sand. The black sand comes from a nearby (and dormant) volcano. This black sand retains the heat of the sun exceptionally well and appears to heat up the shallow water slightly more than elsewhere on this coast.
Google rating: N/a
Puerto Armuelles is another small beach town that has become popular with expats. Property prices in this area are a fraction of what you would pay for beachfront property closer to Panama City. Some argue that the beaches are even better. They are unquestionably quieter. Puerto Armuelles is a relaxed and welcoming town. People truly leave their doors open and know everyone in their neighborhood. On a Sunday, all stores close, but the bars remain open.
Puerto Armuelles was a bustling port town a century ago. The good times may be returning. Puerto is an important location due to its unique deep-water port. The government is investing heavily in the area in the hopes of improving shipping facilities in Panama’s west. A railway connecting the west to Panama City is already under construction. If you are looking for a quiet town in which to run a small business, consider Puerto Armuelles. As a result, the coming years are bound to bring some exciting opportunities.
Google rating: n/a
Location: Chiriqui, Panama