Panama City Travel Guide

Discover the best places to visit, things to do, food and drink scene, local culture, safety and health tips, transportation options, and nearby excursions in Panama City.

Introduction to Panama City

Nestled in the Emerald Coast of the Florida Panhandle, Panama City is a charming beach town that boasts of pristine white sandy beaches, crystal clear waters, and a vibrant atmosphere. The city is home to a rich history, diverse cultural attractions, natural wonders, and exciting outdoor activities, making it a perfect destination for all types of travelers. Whether you’re planning to soak up the sun, explore the city’s history and culture, or indulge in some thrilling adventures, Panama City has something for everyone.

List of Places to Visit in Panama City

Culturally Important Attractions: Museums and Historical Places

Panama City has a deep-rooted history that is reflected in the numerous museums and historical places scattered across the city. Some of the must-visit cultural highlights include the following:

  • Panama City Publishing Museum: An interactive museum that showcases the history of the printing industry in Panama City.
  • Visual Arts Center of Northwest Florida: A museum that features a wide variety of visual arts exhibits, including paintings, sculptures, photography, and more.
  • The Martin Theatre: A historic theater that hosts various events like plays, concerts, and community events.
  • St. Andrews State Park: The Park offers breathtaking views and is an excellent place to immerse yourself in the local nature.
  • Marina Civic Center: A popular venue for concerts, theater shows, and other events.

Natural Attractions of Panama City: Outdoor Adventures and Scenic Views

Panama City is home to some of the most magnificent natural wonders, which you can explore by taking one of the many tours offered by local operators. Some of the outdoor activities that you can try during your visit include:

  • Shell Island: Take a boat ride to the uninhabited and untamed Shell Island, where you can enjoy swimming, snorkeling, dolphin watching, and other water sports.
  • Camp Helen State Park: This State Park is home to rare flora and fauna, as well as historical sites from the Civil War era.
  • Panama City Beach: Walk along the pristine white sandy beaches of Panama City beach and soak up the sun. There are countless water sports options to choose from, including jet skiing, parasailing, paddleboarding, and kayaking.
  • Gulf World Marine Park: Get up-close with aquatic animals around the world, including dolphins, sea lions, and penguins.

Hiking/Biking Routes of Panama City

Panama City offers plenty of opportunities for hiking and biking enthusiasts. Here are the best routes:

  • St. Andrews State Park: Embark on a nature trail at the St. Andrews State Park, which is home to several hiking trails that traverse through forests, dunes, and beaches.
  • Conservation Park: This Park is a must-visit place for nature lovers, featuring over 24 miles of trails for biking and hiking through scenic wetlands and woodlands, making it a perfect place for observing native wildlife.
  • Econfina Creek Canoe Livery: Head to Econfina Creek Canoe Livery for an exciting day of kayaking or canoeing.

Best Things to Do in Panama City: Activities and Tours

Apart from the beautiful natural wonders and cultural attractions, there are plenty of other things to see and do in Panama City. Here are some of the best activities and tours you can enjoy:

  • Jet Ski Rental: Rent a jet ski and head out to the Gulf of Mexico for an adventure-filled day out on the water.
  • Parasailing: Soar up high and get a bird’s eye view of the city’s beautiful beaches.
  • Dolphin Tours: Take a guided tour of Dolphin tours and encounter these friendly creatures in their natural habitat.
  • Chartered Fishing: Charter a boat and head out for a day of deep-sea fishing in the Gulf.
  • Gulf Coast Helicopters: For panoramic views of the Gulf Coast, take a Helicopter tour of Panama City.

Week-Long Itinerary for Panama City

Here’s a week-long itinerary for Panama City:

  • Day 1: Go beach hopping and spend time at the Gulf World Marine Park.
  • Day 2: Explore the cultural attractions like the Visual Arts Center and Panama City Publishing Museum.
  • Day 3: Take an outdoor adventure tour, Kayaking, boating or hiking in the state parks.
  • Day 4: Go shopping at the locally owned shops or visit the Panama City Mall for retail therapy.
  • Day 5: Visit the Historic St. Andrew District for a history lesson on how Panama City came to be.
  • Day 6: Indulge in delicious local seafood at local restaurants and attend a music concert.
  • Day 7: Take a day trip to nearby Destins Beach for beautiful views and a new experience.

Food and Drink Scene of Panama City

Delicious and authentic Panamanian dishes await foodies visiting Panama City. Here are some of the must-try dishes and local drinks:

Must-Try Dishes

  • Grouper: This local fish is a must-try dish in any Panama City restaurant.
  • Oysters on the Half Shell: The raw oysters are a must-try dish, especially when served with some spice.
  • Stone Crab: Stone Crab claws are a delicacy that can be found here locally that should not be missed.

Local Beverages

  • Key Lime Pie Martini: An Adults-only beverage that includes lime juice, vodka, and other flavors.
  • Sea Breeze: A simple cocktail that consists of vodka, grapefruit, and cranberry juice.
  • Sweet Tea: Take a break with the refreshing sweetness of Southern-style sweet tea. Tea can also be spiked with alcohol for an added kick.

Where to Stay in Panama City: Hotels, Hostels, and Guesthouses

Panama City offers a wide range of accommodations, from top-rated hotels and villas to budget-friendly hostels and guesthouses. Here are some of the best options:

  • The Sheraton Bay Point Resort: A top-rated luxury resort that offers unparalleled comfort and luxury with beautiful amenities and scenic views
  • Holiday Inn Resort: A family-friendly resort located on the beautiful Panama City Beach.
  • Pineapple Villas: An affordable option that offers a variety of accommodations and amenities.
  • The Driftwood Lodge: A beachfront Resort located on the historic Eastern Shore.

What to Buy in Panama City: Souvenirs and Local Products to Bring Home

Panama City is known for its thriving arts and crafts scene, so there are plenty of unique souvenirs and local products that you can bring back home as memorabilia. Some of the must-buy items include:

  • Seashell jewelry and home decor: There’s no shortage of seashells in Panama City, so take some home in the form of jewelry or home decor like seashell wind chimes.
  • Sand dollars: A great souvenir for beach lovers is a sand dollar, which you can find on the beach and is easy to bring home.
  • Artwork: The Visual Arts Center of Northwest Florida is a great place to find unique and local art pieces that you can take home.

Local Culture and Customs of Panama City

Panama City has a unique culture that is influenced by the beach lifestyle and local traditions. The locals are known for their warmth and hospitality towards visitors, and visitors should adapt to the local customs while exploring the city. Casual beach attire is acceptable everywhere, and being environmentally conscious is highly encouraged by keeping the city clean and litter-free.

Best Time to Visit Panama City

The best time to visit Panama City is from March to May when the weather is pleasant, and the crowds are small. You can also consider visiting during the winter months, from December to February, to escape the cold and enjoy the rays of sun but with higher crowds. Avoid visiting during the hurricane season, from June to November, when the rainfall and high winds are most common.

Do’s and Don’ts of Panama City


  • Wear sunscreen to protect your skin from the sun and stay hydrated.
  • Try the local food and drinks to get a taste of Panama City.
  • Respect the local customs while visiting historical sites and community events.


  • Littering is heavily frowned upon and can land you a fine.
  • Don’t venture into secluded areas alone; it’s safer to stick to crowded areas.
  • Avoid dressing inappropriately on the beach or in public areas.

Safety and Health

Safety in Panama City

Overall, Panama City is a safe place to visit. However, visitors should take precautions to ensure their safety, such as staying aware of their surroundings, avoiding going out alone at night, and keeping their belongings safe. In addition, it’s best to avoid secluded areas and trust local advice on where not to go.

Health in Panama City

The healthcare system in Panama City is of a high standard. It’s advisable to carry health insurance and sufficient medication, especially if you have any pre-existing conditions. Visitors to Panama City should also be wary of the hot and humid weather and take precautions to avoid heat exhaustion and dehydration.

Getting to Panama City: Transportation Options and Logistics

Panama City is a well-connected city and offers various transportation options for visitors. Here are the essential details:

Airports Near Panama City

Northwest Florida Beaches International Airport (PFN) is the closest airport to Panama City, located about 20 miles away from downtown.

Bus Stations Near Panama City

Greyhound Bus Lines offer frequent services to the city, connecting it to other regions. The bus station is located in downtown Panama City.

Other Options

Rental Car Services, Taxis, Uber, and Lyft are also available, offering a convenient and comfortable way to get around the city.

How to Get Around in Panama City

The city offers several modes of transportation, including rental cars, taxis, and buses. Some of the best ways to get around Panama City are to rent a car, bike, or scooter, or to hop on one of the many buses that operate in the city.

Where to Go Next from Panama City: Nearby Destinations and Excursions

Panama City is a perfect starting point to explore the nearby destinations like St. Augustine, Tallahassee, and Destin. Each of these cities provides a unique experience in terms of culture, history, and outdoor activities. You could also explore popular areas like Fort Walton Beach, Pensacola, or Mobile.


Panama City is a must-visit beach destination that offers visitors a range of experiences, from soaking up the sun on pristine beaches to exploring the rich history and culture of the city. With the comprehensive guide above, visitors are well equipped with knowledge on how to best enjoy their trip to this charming city.