The Avian Alley

BIRDS OF A FEATHER

Traveling To Panama With Kids

 

Rainforest habitat. Unique wildlife. Coral reefs. Turquoise waters. White-sand beaches. Tropical islands.

And if this paradise doesn’t suit you well, all the modern conveniences of downtown nightlife is just a 10-minute cab ride away.

 Vacationing In Panama With Kids:
Why It's Fun And Educational 

Lucky for the rest of us, the secrets of Panama had long been kept under lock and key during its long dictatorial regime, so that only in recent years has the traveling world been privy to its closely guarded treasures. Panama is also as kid-friendly as it gets, and like neighboring Costa Rica, has long been the gold standard of conservation and sustainable tourism. That automatically means that it has unspoiled rainforests packed with unique wildlife, many miles of magnificent beaches bordering on both the Pacific and the Atlantic coasts, several indigenous tribal populations who’ve continued to maintain their cultural attributes even in the era of fast-changing globalization, and most of all, and a stable infrastructure to explore all these. With relatively thin crowds and some of the safest streets in all of Central America, traveling to Panama with kids and family will always turn out to be an ideal vacation, no matter when you plan to go.

 

 

"Planning a trip to Panama with family and kids will always be an ideal proposition."

 From The Concrete Jungles To The Wild, Wild Jungles:
A Family Adventure Like No Other 

Something cool you’ll discover during your Panama family adventure is that the nation seamlessly meshes contemporary urban life with its teeming wildlife. Indeed, if you can handle this wild dichotomy, the sizzling rainforests are but a few minutes’ cab-ride away from the towering skyscrapers that graze the skies over downtown Panama City. And if the kids are traveling fresh out of their cozy bubble on their summer or winter vacations, the country is an epitome of fun and educational escapade, which – admit it – is hard to beat!

If you’re looking to have a blast with your kids on a Panama family vacation trip that’s fun, easy, and won’t break the bank, Panama will be one country waiting right up your alley. I bet you didn’t know that within the Americas, Panama actually has the largest rainforest right after the Amazon. It should be hardly surprising then that its unique ecosystem is home to diverse wildlife, which usually qualifies as a kid-pleasing element. Add to that the guarantee of traveling safely, with convenience, and access to ample beach time, and you’ve got a kid-friendly gem of a nation begging to be explored on an electrifying family adventure.


If the cosmopolitan nature of downtown Panama City doesn’t surprise you, traveling to the Panama Canal, an engineering marvel that’s now over a century old, most certainly will. On the other end of the spectrum you have Casco Viejo, or Old Town, that preserves its historic charm and authenticity, and makes for a refreshing afternoon family stroll. To turn this into a vacation to remember, be prepared to step inside big adventures, something that not only the kids but the entire family will enjoy. In many ways, you can compare the country’s abundant adventure activities and kid-friendliness with its more popular neighbor Costa Rica. When traveling to these two Central American nations, Panama is clearly the underdog here, but that also gives it an edge in its authenticity and affordability.


So, what exactly can you do when you’re traveling to Panama with kids and family?

 

 

"Within the Americas, Panama has the largest rainforest right after the Amazon."

 The Museums Of Panama:
The Biomuseo And The Smithsonian 

The Biomuseo is a world class museum in Panama City that’s unique in its construction as well as the kinds of activities it promotes, including the planet’s biodiversity, so this is clearly a place that ought to be high up in the family’s top traveling goals, and here your kids can easily spend their entire day.

Interested in a world class Smithsonian exhibit? Punta Culebra is a center which focuses on sea life and animals in their marine habitats. You have interactive exhibits here for family fun, meaning the kids get to touch the spiny, squishy organisms such as sea stars (starfish), corals, sea urchins, sea cucumbers and the like, and visit exciting exhibits where you’d be able to meet some wonderful tropical animals, like a variety of frog species.

 

 

"Kids get to touch the spiny, squishy organisms such as sea stars, corals, sea urchins, sea cucumbers, and the like."

Biomuseo, Panama City

Then there’s the Amador Causeway, which can offer breathtaking views of downtown Panama City from multiple vantage points, and there are also many kid-friendly activities available along the path. 

Amador Causeway, Panama City

Amador Causeway, Panama City

To get to this narrow strip of land that connects the country’s capital with the Amador Islands, you can choose to drive, bike, or rollerblade.

Rentals are found in the region and traveling here can make for a relaxing day or some exciting family adventure – the choice is yours.

 The Panama Canal:
Where Pacific Met Up With Atlantic 
 

Are you on a Panama family vacation yet you don’t plan to visit the Panama Canal? Well, take it from us, that would be like swimming in the ocean and not tasting salt water. This is also an activity which the kids in the family will particularly enjoy as they view the humongous ships traveling through the Miraflores Locks. The canal itself is over a century old and after the most recent expansion, sees tens of thousands of ships transit between the Pacific and the Atlantic Oceans. Our family has always been keener to explore nature and wildlife. Since this didn’t feel like a huge deal to us especially while counting the limited vacation days, and considering we were traveling to not just Panama, but to two other countries during our trip, we were about to cancel our tour here. But I’m so glad we didn’t end up doing so, since the entry and exit of the ships will surely give a good bit of jolt to the kids and kid-minded folks in the family.

Miraflores Locks

 Spotting The Elusive:
In Search For The Resplendent Quetzal
  

One of the most remarkable places in Panama is hidden in the province of Chiriquí, in a region around the mountain town of Boquete. It’s a long drive from Panama City, about 7 hours or so, but it is so worth it that you don’t want to miss it. Anyone who loves nature will fall in love with the lush green forests, and you and your family can very easily spend a few days tucked away in this mountainside, with tons of outdoor activities for kids. The climate here is cooler than the rest of Panama, and there’s a lot to see here, including a river, a volcano, and some phenomenal trails that can be a goldmine for birdwatchers everywhere. 

The Chiriquí Highlands are surrounded by coffee plantations and also has the Barú Volcano National Park, which as the name suggests, not only includes the Barú Volcano but also the striking Los Quetzales Trail, where you could try your luck spotting the elusive resplendent quetzal. Panamanian coffee is the best in Central America, and even when compared to South America, it is second only to Colombian coffee. So unless you're visiting that continent soon, this might be your best chance to enjoy some splendid taste. From hiking to ziplining to whitewater river rafting, there are plenty of exciting adventures that you can enjoy here. For a more calming experience with your family, you can enjoy the views of the cloud-forest while sipping a cup of coffee at the plantation.

 Meet The Natives:
The Loveable Critters Of Panama

Among the wildlife reserves that make Panama City one of the rare places in the world where you can simultaneously get lost in a concrete forest and in a rainforest, the Metropolitan Natural Park (Parque Natural Metropolitano) is the leading contender. It’s been known as the “lungs” of Panama City and has in store for you in a neat and small package all the wildlife you could only expect in more expansive spaces. Traveling to this wide-open park is an absolute must for the family, where you can get to meet numerous bird species, sloths, as well as some of the other odd inhabitants of Central America.

For bugs and beetle loving kids. this place is a real mine to find a great many types of colorful creepy-crawlies. Make sure you have that macro lens ready for some great closeup shots.

And for everything you think you missed out on when visiting the Metropolitan Natural Park you can make up by traveling to the spectacular Soberania National Park, also situated right outside Panama City. Jaguars, macaws, eagles, and a few species of monkeys should be the ones you especially aim for. Obviously, this place is also a big hit with kids.

If your Panama family vacation falls during the months of July and January, and the kids have a special proclivity to handle sea turtle hatchlings, then there’s exciting news for them. Traveling to the Azuero Peninsula – a stunning piece of land in its own right – would be worth your while, and here the entire family can team up with the nonprofit organization Fundación Tortuguías to release the baby turtles back to the sea. Turtles hatch from their eggs between 45 to 60 days, and so the kids will be able to spot the hatchlings coming out of eggs that were likely laid sometime before. And not to worry, if you get jealous of your kids taking part in this cute drama, ask nicely and they’ll let you take part in this as well. Panama can be an endless journey for kids, but there is one that is going to be the cherry on top. If you want this to be a fun vacation to remember for your family, then you can’t go wrong by sailing through the lush tropical Caribbean islands. Of course, you can do this by booking a whale-watching tour. But what we’re proposing is a grander level of fun for the family, which can be taken to wholly another level if you’re also traveling with kids. But what would this adventure look like?


Well, Panama is known primarily as a country bridging the space between North America and South America, so folks are often surprised to hear that the country also has many hundreds of islands sprinkled around it, just about a tenth of which are inhabited. This obviously means that the kids can often have the transparent waters and the white sand beaches to themselves. So let’s dive in…

Create Your Own Paradise:
Panama's Pristine Islands

Coiba Island, if you can believe it, is the largest island not only in Panama but also in entire Central America. Being big has its advantages, and this one boasts all the usual amenities that traveling families are generally looking for. Kids will love it here for many reasons, one of which is that the island houses some unique subspecies of animals, including howler monkeys and lizards. Coiba is located in the Gulf of Chiriquí and being cut off from the mainland during the Pleistocene Era meant that their ancestral population has been going their merry way since that time.

Coiba Island

But if you’d like to visit some of the most pristine islands in Central America, try keeping Bocas Del Toro, the San Blas Islands, and the Azuero Peninsula on the top of your list. There are abundant family activities along the coastline where kids can run wild. In any of these places, kids can enjoy snorkeling in the crystal-clear waters or you can bring them along on boat tours to see dolphins. You even have a beach that’s called the Starfish Beach, where you can invariably have your kids snorkel with – you guessed it – giant, colorful sea stars. And we can tell you that among these, Isla Bastimentos in Bocas del Toro has expansive sand beaches, and is ideal if the kids want to take their day off to get busy with building sandcastles. Not all resorts on the island welcome kids, but this is one place where there are a number of kid-friendly resorts.

San Blas Island

Bastimentos Island

Admit it, having kids with you on your family vacation always brings some amount of nonzero hassle, and so on your island forays it might be a smart idea to book a tour with a reputable agency. There are a couple of amazing ones but go over their policies to check out the ages of kids they allow on their excursions.

If you’d rather have the kids play in islands that are even less populated by tourists, consider taking them to the San Blas Islands. The geographical location of these group of islands makes them remote, and so even in the high seasons, these beaches are left largely barren. Keep in mind though that even though everywhere in Panama is kid-friendly, services on these more remote places will be limited.

Bocas del Toro Island

What Else?
The Relaxing And The Majestic

Anyway you describe it, Panama makes for a wonderful family vacation spot where you can carefully choose your own balance of adventure and relaxation depending on your kids’ energy level and liking, and given the safe environment, you can eke out some much-needed couple’s time as well. Given the range of activities Panama offers, look below in the inset for a summary of everything you could do here with your kids and family.

Metropolitan Natural Park

Boquete

Soberania National Park

Take the kids snorkeling on one of the remote island beaches. 

Assist your kids in building sandcastles in some of the most expansive beaches in region. 

There’s nothing more family-friendly than dolphins, so take your kids on a boat tour to see these magnificent and intelligent animals.

Have the kids release baby turtles back to the sea, an adventure they’ll prize throughout their lives.

Let the kids marvel at the gargantuan ships passing through the Panama Canal.

Take a trip to the Metropolitan Natural Park to see some of the really cool animals with your kids.

If your kids would like more, you can take them to the Soberania National Park, which should definitely quench their curiosities.

The Amador Causeway is a narrow strip of land that has too many activities for the kids to engage in. Get here in your car, bus, or a rented bicycle or on a pair of rollerblades.

Biomuseo is going to be a fascinating place for kids and adults alike. Spend some time here interacting with the remarkable biodiversity for a family fun day.

Learn with your kids as they go hands-on with marine animals such as sea stars, sea urchins, and sea cucumbers.

Drive to Boquete, the mountain city with lush cloud-forests, and take the kids on a hike to the nearby Barú Volcano.

 

Make a bet with your kids to spot the magnificent yet elusive bird, the resplendent quetzal. As an aside: very few people see these in the wild, so if your family spots one, you can consider that alone to be the highlight of your Panama trip.

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