Panama Hiking Overview: Trail Talk, Favorites & More

Panama Hiking Overview: Trail Talk, Favorites & More

Panama tends to be an overlooked travel destination in Central America but I found it to be a great destination for hiking enthusiasts. Here’s my Panama hiking overview with my thoughts, favorites and dislikes about hiking in this beautiful country.

Trail Talk

Although I enjoyed hiking in Panama, the one thing that bothered me the most is that many of the trails I hiked were unmarked. There were a few instances I got on the wrong trail and spent a lot of time backtracking. This happened on La India Dormida Trail in El Valle de Anton and Bermejo Waterfalls in Santa Fe. A simple arrow pointing in the right direction could have avoided some frustration.

I understand Panama is still behind other countries when it comes to maintenance and infrastructure of their national park and reserves. I know there are exceptions to this (e.g. Metropolitan Natural Park + Lost & Found Hostel) so I hope Panama establishes a benchmark making it easier for travelers who want to do some hiking in this beautiful country.

As a result of this, I didn’t have to pay a lot of entrance fees for hiking trails in Panama. There were quite a few places where there was no one at the entrance to collect it. If I did have to pay, it was usually no more than $3 or $5 (I did pay $7 to hike Lost Waterfalls in Boquete). Hiking in Panama is very budget friendly for those on a backpacker budget.


Favorite Hike

Cerro Tute in Santa Fe is my favorite hike in Panama. You couldn’t ask for better weather when I did this hike. Luckily, I didn’t get lost thanks to detailed instructions from the hostel on getting to this trail. The trail was not as difficult as I expected and the views from the summit were amazing. A beautiful valley is visible to the west. The mountains and town of Santa Fe visible to the east. I highly recommend this hike to anyone visiting Santa Fe. You won’t regret it!

Toughest Hike

I think Cerro Gaital in El Valle de Anton is the toughest hike in Panama. There were some technical aspects and challenging parts which involved scrambling and climbing up rocks that make it a difficult hike. Despite the challenges, I still really enjoyed this hike.

I didn’t consider Volcan Baru to be a tough hike despite its length. Until the end, there weren’t any parts of the hike that really challenged me. If you plan to do this hike, I recommend hiking Piedra de Lino (which I think is the 2nd toughest hike in Panama) because it is a really steep and short hike that prepares your body for a longer hike up the volcano.

Best View

There are so many great hikes in Panama with amazing views so it’s hard to pick one. Along with being my favorite hike, Cerro Tute in Santa Fe has one of the best views in Panama. Ancon Hill in Panama City and Lost & Found Hostel have a variety of great viewpoints. Piedra de Lino and Cerro Gaital have great views as well but unfortunately, the weather was too cloudy for me once I reached the top of these mountains.

natural park view

ancon hill view

Hikes You Can Skip

The Square Trees hike in El Valle de Anton didn’t have as many square trees as I expected. It was a bit frustrating trying to figure out which ones were the square trees. There is supposedly an entrance fee here but there was no one there to collect the fee when I did this hike. I wouldn’t suggest doing this hike in El Valle de Anton.

El Alto Waterfall in Santa Fe has the nice swimming hole but other than that there wasn’t much to do in the area. Some of the surrounding views are nice but unless you have a car, I wouldn’t go through the trouble of making your way out here. There are better waterfalls to see around Santa Fe.

Final Thoughts

There are lots of different places in Panama where you can go hiking. If you have limited time in the country, I recommend hiking in Boquete and Lost & Found Hostel. It rained a lot in Boquete so I did not get to do as many hikes as planned. I do plan on returning there in the dry season to conquer some more local hikes. I also want to note that I did spend some time in Bocas del Toro and it is pretty limited in terms of hiking. However, I recommend hiking to Starfish Beach if you want to get away from the crowds. You can get there by taking the Bocas del Drago minibus for $2.50. It leaves the park in Bocas del Toro every other hour.

Have you been to Panama? What were your favorite hikes there? Did you get lost as much as I did? Share your hiking adventures with me in the comment section!

If you like my Panama hiking guide, I would also recommend checking out my guide to Great Hiking Destinations in Ireland.

If you want to know a little bit more about the Darien Gap, Tom from Tom Plan My Trip shares his experience about traveling there.

11 Replies to “Panama Hiking Overview: Trail Talk, Favorites & More”

  1. I didn’t do too many hikes when I was in Panama but I did stay at the Lost & Found Hostel. I did there treasure hunt which was great fun, despite the amount of rain we had that day. It’s a beautiful country and I would love to go back and see more.

    1. I’m glad to hear you enjoyed Lost and Found Hostel as well! There is so much to see in the country and there is something to do for everyone.

  2. I only had a flying stop over in Panama as I went from Central to South America but I wish I spent more time in Panama now. There is so much to discover. Love the hiking trail you have in this post; looks like I’m going to have to go back and spent a lot more time there 😀

    1. Thanks for the comment. Panama is not only a good spot for hiking but for snorkeling, surfing, relaxing at a beach and so much more.

    1. Thanks for the comment. Panama is full of beautiful spots and unique things to do. I think a lot of travelers don’t spend enough time here.

  3. Looks like you got some beautiful views! We debated between Boquete and Bocas del Toro during our time in Panama, and honestly, I wish we would have chosen Boquete. It looks beautiful!

    1. Boquete is a wonderful place and I can’t wait to get back there! I’d definitely recommend going to Lost and Found Hostel before or after visiting Boquete. I went to Bocas as well and it’s a decent place if you want to party or go to the beach.

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