Leave the tourist trail behind as you seek out Panama's remote corners on this seven-day self-drive adventure. Set out from Panama City to swim in the highland waterfalls of Valle de Antón and take a night hike through the rainforests of Santa Fe National Park. Continue to the Azuero Peninsula for Pacific surf, white-sand beaches, and boat tours around the unspoiled national parks of Coiba and Isla Iguana—ending back in the capital with an evening of traditional food and folklore.


  • Taste the flavors of Panama in Casco Antiguo, the capital's oldest district
  • Learn about the rich artisan traditions of Valle de Antón 
  • Take a night trek through the jungles of Santa Fe National Park
  • Spot monkeys and sloths on a boat tour around the islands of Coiba National Park

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Panama City, Tour & Cooking Class in Casco Antiguo Panama City
Day 2 Drive to Valle de Antón, Cultural Tour & Slot Canyon Waterfall Valle de Antón
Day 3 Drive to Santa Fe, Santa Fe National Park Highlights & Night Hike  Santa Fe
Day 4 Drive to Playa Venao, Coiba National Park Boat Tour Playa Venao
Day 5 Drive to Pedasí, Discover Isla Iguana National Park Pedasí
Day 6 Drive to Panama City, Cultural Experience Dinner Panama City
Day 7 Panama Canal Cruise, Depart Panama City  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in Panama City, Tour & Cooking Class in Casco Antiguo

Farmers' Market in El Valle
Explore typical Panamanian flavors during a cooking class in Casco Antiguo

Welcome to Panama! You'll arrive at Tocumen International Airport, where you'll meet your driver before being transported to your hotel in Panama City. Panama's iconic capital and commercial center is like nowhere else in Central America. Big business and giant skyscrapers meet cobbled colonial streets and a mix of cultures formed by centuries of immigration and trade. 

Make the most of your brief time in the capital with a guided visit to Casco Antiguo, the historic district. Enjoy a walking tour steeped in fascinating history and local gastronomy, where you'll experience key highlights like geisha coffee, handmade Panamanian chocolate, and the popular raspao (Panamanian shaved ice). In the Santa Ana neighborhood, you'll visit a local market to buy local foods with your guide, then head to a nearby home. Prepare a lunch inspired by typical Afro-Caribbean food for cultural immersion into the flavors of Panama.

Day 2: Drive to Valle de Antón, Cultural Tour & Slot Canyon Waterfall

Valle de Anton - Cultural Tour
Drive into the rugged highlands around Valle de Antón

This morning, your rental car will be dropped off at your hotel for your drive to the Panamanian highlands. Your road trip begins with a journey from Panama City to the mountainous town of Valle de Antón, or "El Valle." The 2.5-hour drive takes you to a new world, from the modern capital to the friendly, remote village. With a cool, spring-like climate throughout the year, lush forests, and a relaxing small-town atmosphere, El Valle has plenty of appeal. Most striking is the panoramic mountain views surrounding the town, which sits inside one of the world's largest inhabited volcanic craters. 

Once you arrive in El Valle, choose how to fill the rest of your day. Take a Jeep tour through the countryside to the cloud forest for a short hike to the beautiful Slot Canyon Waterfall, and swim in the crystal-clear natural pools (don't forget your swimsuit). Or, take advantage of the vibrant arts scene with a cultural tour of a nearby village. Local artisans demonstrate traditional weaving techniques, soapstone carving, the art of totumas (cups and bowls made from the calabash tree), or the making of the sombrero pintado, a traditional handwoven hat. 

Day 3: Drive to Santa Fe, Santa Fe National Park Highlights & Night Hike 

Santa Fe National Park - Santa Fe Highlights
Hike through the remote jungle of Santa Fe National Park

Today's 3.5-hour drive takes you through the Panamanian countryside, passing small towns, lush forests, and panoramic views as you near the highlands of Santa Fe. Along the way, you'll catch glimpses of local everyday life, spot rare wildlife, and pass roadside stands selling everything from produce to handicrafts. 

Plan your trip to Panama
Chat with a local specialist who can help organize your trip.

After you check into your hotel, take a marvelous three-hour tour through the best of Santa Fe National Park, which protects the land on three sides of the town and encompasses nearly 180,000 acres (72,843 ha) of rainforest. Highlights include short hikes to Bermejo, Loma Grande, and Alto De Piedra, three separate waterfalls on the Río Santa María. The northern section of the river is also known for its petroglyphs, likely carved by the Carib people, and a wide variety of wildlife. Look for orchids, hundreds of bird species, jaguars, pumas, monkeys, and rare frogs as you hike.

After you've worked up an appetite, sit down to a four-course meal in the village of Alto de Piedra, where you'll have panoramic views of the entire national park. After dinner, you'll explore the area on a night trek through the jungle. This short walk will allow you to spot the park's nocturnal wildlife, including rare snakes, birds, frogs, and more.

Day 4: Drive to Playa Venao, Coiba National Park Boat Tour

Hop in a boat to explore the pristine underwater worlds of Coiba National Park

The drive from Santa Fe to Playa Venao is a scenic one, taking you through the lush green mountains of the Azuero Peninsula and past picturesque villages. The journey takes about four hours, but it's worth taking your time to enjoy the views. Stop and stretch your legs in Santiago, one of the oldest colonial settlements in Panama, or visit the Playa Venao Wildlife Refuge, home to many birds, reptiles, and mammals. 

After you settle in, hop on a boat and set sail for Isla Coiba, the main island in Coiba National Park. Once a penal colony, this archipelago is now world-famous for its snorkeling, diving, and wildlife. Cruise through the mangrove forests on the island, hike through the jungle and snorkel in various coral reefs. While on the island, watch for howler monkeys, agoutis, and colorful birds. As you sail back to the mainland, keep an eye out for dolphins and, from July to September, humpback whales.

Day 5: Drive to Pedasí, Explore Isla Iguana National Park

Visit Isla Iguana National Park
Walk along the gorgeous, deserted beaches of the Panamanian Pacific coast

Explore more of the Azuero Peninsula today, first by driving half an hour to the charming colonial town of Pedasí, known for its laid-back charm, idyllic weather, and friendly people. To fill your time, try paddleboarding, surfing, or relaxing on several nearby beaches, such as Playa El Arenal and Playa Toro. Pedasí also lies on the "Tuna Coast," making it an ideal spot for deep-sea fishing.

In the afternoon, join a boat tour to Isla Iguana National Park, a marine refuge located a few miles offshore. Famous for its white-sand beaches, crystal-clear waters, mangrove swamps, and coral reefs, this protected area is also a nesting spot for five different species of turtles, especially between June and October. Take this opportunity to explore the island and the coral reefs with your guide, followed by a relaxing picnic on the beach.

Day 6: Drive to Panama City, Cultural Experience Dinner

Cultural Experience Dinner
Wander the cobblestone streets of Casco Antiguo, Panama City's historic district

Today you'll drive 4.5 hours from Pedasí back to Panama City. After you return your rental car and settle into your hotel, take the afternoon to discover more of the capital. You could opt for a guided tour to learn about the fascinating history of Panama, from early settlers to the engineering marvel of the famous canal, or head to Panama Viejo, the UNESCO-protected remains of the original pre-Colombian settlement, for some self-guided explorations.

End the day with a dinner and cultural experience featuring typical recipes and a traditional folklore show. Try dishes such as sancocho de gallina (chicken stew), ropa vieja (shredded beef), ceviche, or cocadas (Panamanian macaroons), made with locally sourced seafood, meats, and produce. While you eat, enjoy a folklore performance, where traditional dances are performed in the colorful national dress known as la pollera.

Day 7: Panama Canal Cruise, Depart Panama City

Catch one last sunrise over Panama City before boarding your departing flight
Say goodbye to Panama in style as you take a short cruise down the "Eighth Wonder of the World," the Panama Canal. When the time comes, you'll be transferred to Tocumen International Airport with plenty of time to catch your flight home. Safe travels! 

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