Panama City, Panama has many things to offer that don’t have to break the bank. Some people come to Panama thinking it´s a cheap country like Colombia, Mexico, or another Latin American country. However, the truth is Panama is the 5th most expensive country in Latin America. So, unless you are a big balla don´t expect $20 to get you luxury living here. However, you can do many things on a $30 budget or less in Panama City. If you’re traveling through Panama City and want to discover the city but don’t have a lot of money, don’t be discouraged.
1. Taboga Island
First stop! The beach of course.
Taboga costs anywhere from $17 to $25. Now some people think that the beach is a 15-minute walk or drive away. Ha! No, it´s a bit further. Most are about an hour or more away. Taboga Island is a pleasant day trip to the beach either solo or with family and friends. Taboga Island is about 50 minutes to 1 hour away from the city. Take the Taboga Ferry Express or the Barco Calypso ferry to get to the island. Both of these docking areas are located in the incredibly picturesque Amador area. Once you are at the docking area, it is a 30-minute ride to Taboga.
A great thing about Taboga Island is that it’s pet friendly. So bring your furry friends with you to explore the beach if you would like. While adding a pet will take you a few dollars above the $30 budget using the Taboga Ferry.
A pet fee of $5 is charged on the Barco Calypso and $10 on the Taboga ferry.
Be aware about returning to Amador after your beach day is it takes longer to find a ride back into the main city and costs a tad more. The art of supply and demand! There will be taxis there wanting to give you a ride. Taxis in Panama are mostly safe but for security reasons, I suggest using Uber, Didi, or Indriver. So if you need assistance, there is an extra layer of support.
Disclaimer: These prices are as of 2023. These are always subject to change.
2. Go to the park.
I´m a sucker for parks. Parks are a very relaxing and calming place for me. I love hearing kids and adults play, talk and laugh. The most appealing thing about parks is that they are free! The parks in Panama usually have snack stands or people who sell fruit, water, or shaved ice. There is athletic equipment, basketball courts, and more at all these parks.
Here is a list of some parks in Panama City
3. Go to Ancon Hill (Cerro Ancon) or Metropolitan Park (Parque Natural Metropolitano)
Ancon Hill and Metropolitan are considered parks. I think of them as small hikes. Ancon hill is mostly an uphill climb to the top of a hill that overlooks the city that takes about 45 to 1 hr to climb 1 way. This is a beautiful spot to get a picture with the Panama Flag and maybe even enjoy a pleasant picnic. The cost of Ancon Hill is free for everyone.
Metropolitan Natural Park is where you can hike with the animals. This hike will take about 1 1/2 hours to complete, with beautiful views that overlook the city. This park costs $2 for residents and $5 for visitors. It is a wildlife refuge, where you can see turtles, coatis, pizotes, many different birds, sloths, and more.
In the few times I’ve been there, I haven’t seen any sloths, which is sad, but it’s okay.
If you are looking for more of a long hiking trail and waterfalls that is about 3 hours away from the city check out Anton Valley (El Valle de Anton).
4. Do a Free Walking Tour in Casco (donation based)
You know that free walking tours are not free-free, but they are offered in exchange for donations to the guides. So remember to be generous.
Casco Walking tours are no different. You can explore and learn about the historic area of Casco Viejo. The history of the people, churches, and course the canal.
While there are plenty of tour companies that do walking tours, Trip de Jenny is one of the few Afro-Panamanian tour guides. Be sure to schedule a tour with her on your visit to Panama City.
5. Go on a bike tour in Casco ($25)
If you are a bit more adventurous and want to learn and explore Casco Viejo differently. Ride bikes through the different parts of Casco with a tour guide for only $25. This allows the tour to cover more ground and tap into your inner child.
6. Museums (0-$25)
Panama has plenty of museums that showcase the abundant cultural history of Panama. From pirates burning down the Old Historic Panama, and the migration of people, to the formation of the historical foundation of the 7 indigenous groups throughout Panama. Following the construction of the canal. Most museums are free or low-cost.
Although museums are not fun for some people, for others, they are a place to discover more about the new city they are living in, visiting, or revisiting.
7. Visit the movies ($4-$20)
One of the benefits of Panama City is the large English-speaking influence on the city and the country. Therefore, you can have a relaxing time at the movie theater and watch movies that are labeled SUB in English with Spanish subtitles.
Some minor disclaimers about watching a movie in English. If the movie has been in theaters for a while the SUB option won´t be available. There is always a risk that if the movie speaks in another language and your Spanish reading skills aren’t very strong, you won’t be able to follow that section. For example, in movies like Wakanda or Harry Potter, or even James Bond if they are speaking French or Italian in one particular scene the subtitles won´t appear in English too.
Aside from those 2 things, you can enjoy popcorn and candy for less than US movie prices at the theater.
8. Rent bikes, scooters, or skates on Cinta Costera, Casco Viejo, or Amador
Sundays are the best day to rent bikes or skates. However, you can do this any day of the week. Sundays are the most enjoyable because from 6 am-12 they close half the road from Ave. Balboa to the Amador for families to ride bikes and skate. Sunday is a day for families and I always feel that on Sunday the city rests. There are fewer cars out and more people outside.
The price range for renting a bike, scooter, or skateboard is $5-25. If you have skates, scooters, or bikes this is free for you.
9. Walk the Cinta Costera
Cinta Costera is one of the main tourist attractions in Panama City. The area spans 7 km or 4.3 miles. Along the Cinta Costera are basketball courts, skate ramps, and fitness equipment. It is always a fascinating place to see the sunrise or the raccoons.
Panamanians like to feed the raccoons, which I think is weird but hey! Who am I to judge?
10. Casco bar hopping $20
Last but certainly not least bar hopping in Casco! Explore 4 different bars and clubs in 1 night. Get 1 free drink at each new location and party the night away with friends, strangers (who are just new potential friends), or family. Bar hopping is a fun way to explore Casco´s nightlife.
Whether you are taking the leap of faith to live abroad in Panama or just visiting Panama City, it offers a variety of activities that range from nature to party life. These activities don´t have to break the bank either. Don´t miss out on exploring all the fun in Panama City.
Comment below on your experience doing any of these activities!
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Until next time Peace and Hair Grease!
2 responses to “10 activities $30 and below in Panama City”
Absolutely love your reports, Biola! I’ve spent time in far western Panama, in the mountains, and only changed planes in Panama City to fly on to David. I’ve never explored Panama City but you’ve made it sound so interesting that I really need to check it out the next time I’m in Panama. And of course, if I’m in Panama City, I’d love to meet you!
I’ll eventually be writing about Boquete too. I enjoyed my experience up there. And yes Panama City has so much to offer.