Last Updated on November 26, 2023 by Ray Roman
On the global stage, Panama is an underrated country that even now does not get the attention it deserves – being home to natural wonders, gorgeous beaches, cultural hot spots, and all manner of sites of historical interest.
However, for those in the know, Panama remains an attractive and exciting vacation destination that keeps people returning year after year.
But this begs the question: what are the best cities in Panama, and what makes them so unique?
Where Is Panama?
Panama is a transcontinental country located between the northern part of South America and the southern part of North America.
Panama borders Colombia to the southeast, Costa Rica to the west, the Caribbean Sea to the north, and the Pacific Ocean to the south. It is a beautiful location surrounded by many different sights, sounds, and cultures to explore.
Prior to Spanish colonization, Panama was the home to numerous indigenous tribes and eventually broke free of Spain’s influence in 1821 – after which it joined the Republic of Gran Colombia, which itself was a union of Nueva Granada, Ecuador, and Venezuela.
With a widely used trade route (Panama Canal), and a population of around four and ½ million inhabitants in 2022, Panama is now a thriving country in its own right and one that remains popular with tourists from all over the world.
What Is The Weather Like In Panama?
Being located on the cusp of both the North and South American continents – as well as sharing oceans with the Caribbean and neighboring countries – Panama is subject to the same kinds of weather that you would expect in those regions.
Relatively hot the whole year round, but with rainier seasons that give the island a tropical climate, Panama is generally at its hottest between December and Easter – meaning those looking for the sun should check it out then.
The 10 Best Cities In Panama
Now that we know a little more about Panama and its long and complex history, it is now time for us to explore the cities within the country, seeing what makes them so special and what keeps people returning year after year.
So, without further ado, let’s get started!
1. Panama City
The capital of Panama, and the most popular city in the country, Panama City is a great example of a city on the rise – not to mention the perfect coming together of the traditional history of the island and the bright future that it undoubtedly has come to represent.
This is a great place for world cuisine, relaxation, retail therapy, and culture – not to mention all manner of local history and historical sites to explore.
The great thing about Panama is that you are also never far from the countryside, meaning that those growing tired of the city can retire to the beach or the country for a little peace and quiet.
Panama City is just a great place to unwind and somewhere where people of all ages can come together, enjoy their surroundings, and engage with the local culture.
As the capital of the Herrera Province, Chitre is only 3 ½ hours from Panama City and has its own bustling population of around 80,000 people – which might not sound like a lot, but for Panama, that is a lot of people.
Located across a series of small hills and with the intimate appeal of a large town, this really doesn’t feel much like what we would expect from a city – and this is how the people like it, creating a locale that serves the purposes of a modern city, while still staying true to their historical roots in the region.
Chitre not only has all manner of amenities, restaurants, bars, and stores but also a number of affordable properties – making it a popular community for tourists and expats.
Not to be confused with the city in Chile, Santiago is also the capital of the Veraguas Province in Panama and is home to 100,000 people on the island.
As one of the larger cities in the country, Santiago has the biggest shopping complexes outside of Panama City and is home to countless great bars, restaurants, shops, and activities.
What’s more, Santiago is also a coastal surfing town, so a love of water sports is a must!
While seemingly a strange name for a city, David is actually the capital of the Chiriqui Province and is a popular spot for locals and tourists alike.
With a booming local economy that attracts all manner of people, David has everything you would want from a modern city – laden with the amenities, healthcare, shopping, food, and nightlife that you could want.
David has also seen something of a boom in its local economy, as more and more affordable properties are being constructed and sold in the area – only adding to the popularity and image that the city already has.
As the second largest populated city in Panama, Colon has much to offer locals and tourists who come to the city.
With a charming mixture of ancient, traditional ruins, as well as modern amenities, Colon represents all that is great about the Panamanian spirit – namely, an embrace of the modern, a firm hand on the past, and an all-round welcoming energy that makes it a firm favorite for travelers from all over the world.
6. La Chorrera
One of the things that make La Chorrera so popular with so many people is that it perfectly incorporates the amenities of the city with the loving embrace of Panamanian nature – which is never too far away and which adds an extra layer of charm to the city.
Offering travelers all manner of great local cuisines (as well as world dishes), as well as nightlife, shopping, activities, hotels, sports, and sights to see, La Chorrera is a somewhat underrated – albeit breathtaking – modern city that has so much to offer.
This is the place for you for something a little more relaxed!
As a smaller city on this list, Penonome has the much more sedated, laid-back approach of a large town – largely embracing the natural beauty all around and incorporating as much green space into the city as possible.
But that’s not to say you can’t find all the amenities you need to have a good time, with restaurants, nightlife, activities, and much more right on your doorstep.
Understated and authentic to itself, this very much captures the Panamanian spirit so many travel there to find.
Another smaller city, Capira, is also laden with local, rural charm and has a much more intimate feel than what we have come to expect from modern cities.
Capira also has a large natural surrounding, and it is not uncommon for people to spend much of their free time exploring, hiking, and otherwise enjoying the natural bounty they have been blessed with on all sides.
There are also plenty of beaches, amenities, and enough nightlife to keep people of all ages entertained.
9. La Concepción
Located in the Bugaba district, La Concepción is a wonderful small town with plenty to offer people of all ages.
Blessed with some of the best beaches in the country, as well as acres of natural green space and beauty spots, La Concepcion is a city that draws people from all over the world.
For those looking for city amenities, nightlife, relaxation spots, natural beauty, and activities, this is a great place to start!
10. Las Tablas
Last but not least, we have Las Tablas, a popular small city located in Panama, and one that is popular amongst tourists and locals alike for its perfect mix of small-town charm, nature, city-style amenities, and sights to see.
This also has some of the best local cuisine on the island, making it a perfect stop-off for foodies as they explore the country.
Is Panama Safe?
When people think of South America, they can often come to associate it with criminality and danger, but this is really not the case when it comes to Panama.
Notably safer than other, more well-known countries like Colombia and Costa Rica, Panama is a beautiful, lush paradise island filled with friendly, welcoming people and rich and interesting cultural traditions.
This is why it remains such a popular place for those looking to experience South America and why many people place it up there with their top destinations.
And there we have it, everything you need to know about Panama and the best cities for locals and tourists alike to explore.
It’s true that Panama is an underrated country on the global scale, but one that has much to offer in the way of natural beauty, culture, history, and excitement.
So if you are headed to Panama, then why not check out some of these amazing cities?
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