You can do fun activities such as playing golf, mountain biking, roller blading, playing volleyball, gardening, and swimming all year long. But you may be able to do some of these at home... at least part of the year. What makes Panama so unique is the list of adventure activities you can do all year long, no matter what part of the country you live in. If you live in the city, the nearest jungle canopy is just 30 minutes away and the nearest public beaches are just an hour. To give you an idea of how close everything is, from the center mountain ranges in Panama, you can typically see both the Pacific and the Atlantic Oceans. This proximity of beach and mountains makes active sports attainable every day of the year.
Here is a list of the top 7 adventure activities you can do when visiting or living in Panama that you probably can't do at home.
- Zip Lining. I’ve been zip lining twice and will probably never go again. That being said, if you’re in reasonably good shape, it’s something you’ll want to do at least once. You’ll need to be able to hike up a hill, as the zip lines use gravity to carry you from the top of a hill to a lower point.
- Hiking to a Waterfall. There is something very relaxing about hiking in the jungle canopy and ending the journey at a waterfall. Not only do you get to see the immense beauty of the waterfall, but you can also take an invigorating swim in the freshwater pool below it. I love to hike in the drizzling rain. Although a bit slippery at times, it’s a true nature moment.
- Farmers Markets. You may have a Farmer's Market where you live, but you've probably never experienced such year-round freshness and abundance. Each area has its own local market. Panama City has the immense Wholesale Food Market that is worth visiting, but there are also markets in other areas. Most notably El Valle (the mountain area 30 minutes from Coronado) and Boquete have very interesting Farmers Markets where you can get handmade crafts, local produce, homemade food items, handmade soaps, and locally grown coffee.
- Coffee Tasting & Tours. I love good coffee and grind fresh beans every morning. I think Italy has amazing coffee because even the smallest restaurants have a $7,000 espresso maker. In Panama, the best coffee comes from Boquete, and once you get used to the rich flavor, you’ll never put anything else in your coffee pot. Just like there are thousands of varieties of grapes that make different kinds of wine, there are many different types of coffee beans. If you’re looking for an exotic treat, try the exotic coffee beans grown in Boquete called Geisha. (Of course the most exotic beans are the Geisha beans!) The Geisha beans have won awards all over the world and will set you back up to $170 a pound. If you want to try-before-you-buy, you can get a $20 cup of Geisha coffee while you’re in Boquete. Yes, it’s more expensive than Starbucks but you’re getting something really rare. You can also tour a coffee plantation, see how the beans are grown, and roast your own beans. The best coffee tour is the Boquete Coffee Tour at Finca Dos Jefes.
- Snorkeling. Panama has 1547 miles of coastline. Get out your sunscreen and your swimsuit because you could be in the water every single day. The Pacific Ocean side of Panama is cloudier than the Caribbean side, but there are still many things to see underwater. But take a day-trip to Caribbean side of Panama, and a whole new world of color and texture are waiting for you below the water's surface.
- Surfing. There are several notable surfing beaches in Panama. Want to get ripped abs? Try hanging out on a surfboard for an hour a day. Even if you only doggy paddle, surfing is good for the soul. There's something about the combination of salt water and sun that invigorates your soul and makes you feel healthier.
- River Rafting. Not only can you go river rafting in Panama, but you can combine zip lining with river rafting and do them both in the same day. On my first trip to Panama, we went zip lining in the morning, ate lunch at a local fish restaurant on the river, and then spent the afternoon river rafting. We were done in time to have dinner in the city. Try doing that at home!
- Whale Watching. July through October is Humpback Whale season in Panama, when the Humpback whales migrate through our waters. You can take a whale watching excursion and are almost guaranteed to see humpback whales. Plus, you can swim with the dolphins and enjoy a fun day on the water.
- Island Hopping. Panama has over 80 islands on its dual coasts. You can reach the various islands by ferry, private boat, or small plane. Each island has its own unique flavor. Some of the islands are only inhabited by natives. Been to Contadora on the Pacific side? It's time to check out the Pearl Islands on the Caribbean. Visiting all of the islands will keep you busy for months, if not years.