Panama Travel Guide, Gap Year Volunteering and Tours
Panama has long been a popular vacation destination, there are large modern cities, picturesque countryside, beautiful white sandy beaches, tasty food and an interesting history. If you would like to travel in Panama or take a gap year here our experiences will appeal to you.
Panama Holidays, Gap Year Programs & Travel Ideas
Find inspiration for the best things to do if you would like to go travelling, backpacking or take a gap year in Panama.
Panama Travel Guide
- Capital: Panama City
- Currency: Panamanian Balboa (PAB) + US Dollar (USD)
- Population: 3,040,000 (approx)
- International Dialing Code: +507
- Country Area: 78,200 km2
How to Get to Panama
Several international airports are connected to Panama, you can also enter via land and sea.
Weather & Best Time to Visit Panama
Panama enjoys a warm climate and there is no best time to visit.
Travelling in Panama
Keen to go travelling or backpacking in Panama? Good decision. Panama offers beaches, nightlife, churches, shopping, history, culture, islands, beaches and hundreds of exciting activities. With One World 365 you can be more than just a tourist and get the true authentic local experience by searching our travel packages, authentic holidays and activities. From visiting ancient ruins, exploring jungles, seeing paradise islands, relaxing on some of the best beaches in the continent, seeing the impressive Panama Canal or joining a special interest vacation like bird watching or fishing - there are so many options available.
Panama Gap Year
Interested in spending your gap year in Panama? Search ideas and programs.
Best Places to Visit in Panama
There are so many travel highlights of Panama, consider adding some of the following places to your itinerary:
- Panama City
- Panama Canal
- Pan-American Highway
- Boquete, Chiriquí
- Bocas del Toro
- David, Chiriquí
- El Valle de Antón
- Taboga Island
- Volcán, Panama
- Soberanía National Park
- Penonomé, Coclé
- Isla Bastimentos National Marine Park
- Chagres National Park
- San Carlos District
- Bastimentos Island
- Darién National Park
- Gatun Lake
- Las Tablas, Los Santos
- Cerro Punta, Chiriquí
- Santiago de Veraguas
- Barro Colorado Island
- Altos De Campana National Park
- Colón Island
- Parque nacional Camino de Cruces
- Volcan Baru National Park
- Santa Fé
- Río Hato
- Natá, Coclé
- Santa Clara, Panamá Oeste
- Cañas, Los Santos
- Soná, Panama
- Puerto Armuelles
- Las Lajas, Chiriquí
Panama is a very mixed society with people from all around the world calling this country home, this is mainly due to the huge construction of the Panama canal with immigrants being brought from a number of countries. In modern day Panama there are over 20 languages spoken with Spanish being the most dominant. Other languages include native Indo-American, Chinese, French, English (in the tourisy areas) and even in some places Arabic. Although Spanish in the official language of Panama, Panamanian Spanish is slightly different in a variety of ways.
View our Central America travel guide.
Book a Tour to Panama
Panama is a really up and coming destination with thousands of tourists visiting every year, we highly recommend visiting the San Blas Islands, the Panama canal or joining a boat cruising tour if you are looking for a relaxing way to see the country. On our directory you can find local and international travel operators who offer tours throughout the year.
You will see a lot on our featured tours and it's not all hard work, you will have plenty of stop offs. A visit to the popular island of Bocas del Toro in Panama is one of the highlights where you can relax on the beach or go swimming, snorkelling, scuba diving and surfing. This tour finishes in Panama City and the journey here will be memorable, you will get to ride along the world famous Panama Canal and then explore the city on foot.
Panama Small Group Tours
Typical group sizes are around 8-18 travellers with an average of 12 but this can vary between the tour and operator.
Panama Adventure Tours
Our tours are perfect if you are travelling solo and would like to meet other people and travel in a group. You will get to meet other international travellers and get taken to the best locations in the country with an experienced guide. Most of our tours specifically cater for the 18-35 age group and are a really popular option due to meeting other people, getting day-to-day activities, hotel check-ins, selected meals, accommodation and also transport/guides included in the price. Don't worry if you are slightly older, most tours accept all ages.
Panama Budget Tours
We have a selection of tours for all budgets, so whether you are looking to explore on the cheap or you have a bit more money to spend you will be able to find a trip to match your interests. Our website features lots of cheap tours allowing you to discover the highlights of the country and not break the bank.
Panama Cycling Tours
Explore Panama on 2 wheels on an active cycling trip which travels through Central America. You will need a good level of fitness to join but full guidance will be provided with your tour guide. On cycle tours you will see a lot and ride through some spectacular areas like National Parks and beachside along the ocean. One of the highlights of this trip is getting off the beaten track and riding through little towns and villages and also visiting wildlife rehabilitation centres. There will be plenty of stops off along the way so you can experience the real Panama.
Panama Canal Tours
The Panama Canal was finished by the US in the early 1900's this engineering master-class is over 70k long and connects the Atlantic Ocean and Caribbean Sea. This is one of the Severn Wonders of the Modern World and thousands of ships pass through every year.
Panama Tour Reviews
- Accommodation: Usually travellers of the same sex will share a twin room, but there is also the option to pay a little extra and get a private room. Accommodation can vary depending on the tour and location.
- Transport: On most tours you will travel overland in a private small tour van. For day trips and excursions sometimes you will use public transport.
- How to Book: Thinking about making an enquiry or booking? Search our featured trips above or contact us for specific advice.
Panama Tour Reviews
If you have ever joined a tour in Panama and would like to review or share your experience please contact us.
A Guide to Volunteering in Panama
With One World 365 you can search local and international organisations offering rewarding volunteer experiences in Panama. There are lots of ways you can help make a difference. A lot of people think of Panama just as a spectacular destination where you can relax on beaches but you can also contribute by teaching at schools, helping wildlife and working on community and conservation efforts. You can work with animals at wildlife clinics, help care projects, working in remote villages and helping at schools. This is the perfect way to spend a meaningful vacation or gap year in Panama.
How You Can Help
You will really be able to give back and make a difference whilst also having a lot of fun. There are short and long term volunteer projects in Panama including free and low cost opportunities where you can work with local NGO's and help wildlife, the environment and communities.
Volunteering and teaching helping with daily school activities and working alongside local teachers leading lessons and coaching sports is very popular. Environmental and conservation programs in Panama can include living in spectacular locations research and monitoring marine life and coral reefs. These are great if you would like to experience the outdoors lifestyle and get to work in paradise, some days you might be monitoring fish populations and checking / studying the colourful coral reefs.
For non-skilled placements no previous experience is needed but for some internships and medical / environmental projects you might need a relevant degree or college course. It's not all work too, usually you will get free time at nights and weekends and there are lots of additional extra activities which can be booked once in the country.
Location of Projects
Programs can be joined in places like Bocas del Toro, Panama City and more remote locations including Boquete, Cocle, Guna Yala and the San Blas Archipelago. Panama City is the focal point of the country where most people work, this city drives the country but although Panama has seen huge growth economically over the years there have also been setbacks and some sections of the country suffer from poverty.
Most local NGO's, non-profits and other organisations will require you to be aged 18+ but there are summer opportunities for 15 - 18 year olds. Group volunteer trips are popular and you will need to apply in advance to secure a place. You will also need to be eligible for a tourist visa and please note not everyone speaks English in Panama and it is recommend you pick up basic Spanish to get the most out of the experience.
You can join for a period of 1 week to over a year, this is the ultimate way of doing more than sightseeing and getting a real cultural immersion - volunteering in Central America is also really fun and a great way to mix sightseeing and also integrating into the local society. There are also combination programs available where you can also learn Spanish. If you are a student then this type of voluntary experience abroad will look fantastic on a CV / resume.
Types of Volunteer Programs in Panama
Community Volunteer Programs in Panama
Most volunteering programs centre around community development with rural communities in need of assistance. You could apply to help disadvantaged people, the elderly, handicapped people or volunteer at an orphanage. Daily activities can include working alongside local staff helping create a fun environment for children and leading fun activities like sports. One of the most meaningful experiences is working to preserve the Kuna Indian tribe. Education and teaching projects are very important, there are opportunities to help at schools improving literacy among young people.
Volunteer with Animals & Conservation Projects in Panama
Panama is a very exotic destination and you can play a role in helping wildlife and the environment. You could join recycling programs and raise awareness within local communities or work rescuing and rehabilitating animals. No previous experience is needed to work with wildlife in Panama and full training will be provided when in country, you could be working as part of an outreach team going to remote areas finding and helping animals like stray cats and dogs. If you have any previous skills these will come in handy, daily tasks can include treating animals, cleaning enclosures and helping local vets.
How to Apply
Some organiations charge a sign up fee to volunteer in Panama, on these placements you usually get a structured experience including:
- Airport pick-up and transfer to project
- All food and accommodation
- Training materials and science equipment
- Pre-departure support and services
- Comprehensive training necessary for research techniques
- 24-hour in-country support and a 24-hour emergency phone line
Volunteer in Panama for Free
There are some free and low cost volunteer programs in Panama with local organisations. Usually you will need to cover flights, accommodation and food for the duration of your stay. It is also recommended to give a donation.
Panama Volunteer Reviews
Have you ever been to help in Panama? Would you like to review an organisation or project? Get in touch and give us your feedback!
"I went to volunteer with Give and Surf in Panama and built a teacher’s house, community center. I really love Give and Surf and will be returning in a few months to build another community center due to the success of the last. My daughter will be doing an internship in Panama with them beginning in March. She will be there 3 months." - Sarah. USA