Sleeping in Airports

Panama City Layover Sightseeing

This article includes links to our travel partners at Tripadvisor, where you can read traveller reviews, book tours and plan your visit to Panama City.

panama city layover sightseeing
(photo credit: Gualberto Becerra / Shutterstock)

Panama City is a capital of variety, a striking contrast of old and new architecture, ocean and lush rainforest. The metro system makes a layover here easy, with smooth transport from the airport into the city. Panama is famed for the canal and its hats, but there is plenty to see here. You can just read our Panama City Layover Sightseeing guide for information on how to spend your stopover here.

Airport Overview

Panama City isn’t the most comfortable airport for a long layover, with limited WiFi and eateries not open overnight. It might be worth paying for lounge use, which can be done at the lounge door! If you’re looking for a good rest, some nearby hotels offer free airport shuttles. For more details, check out our Panama City Airport Guide.

Panama City Sightseeing Attractions

Below are a few of the top things to do in Panama City during your layover:

Casco Viejo (old town)

Casco Viejo sightseeing
(photo credit: Cris Young / Shutterstock)

Unsurprisingly, the old town here is a UNESCO Cultural World Heritage Site. The quaint and colourful architecture is charming, and it’s easy to spend a few hours walking around, enjoying high-quality coffee and admiring the skyline. Highlights include Catedral Metropolitana, Palacio Bolivar and the Teatro Nacional. Make sure to keep your eyes peeled for the Banksy artwork! If you’ve extra time, take a taxi to the Amador Causeway and hire a bicycle or electric scooter to enjoy the coastal path leisurely.

  • Plan your visit: A complete list of landmarks can be found on the Panama Tourism website.
  • Time required: A couple of hours to a full day.
  • How to get there: Check out this Google Map for details on transport from the airport to the old town.

Metropolitan Natural Park

Metropolitan Natural Park
(photo credit: Parkol / Shutterstock)

There aren’t many places to see a wild sloth on an airport layover, but this is one of them! Known as the ‘lungs of Panama City,’ this park is a piece of lush green rainforest in the middle of the city. There are five walking trails, and you can choose to go guided or self-guided. The small entry fee goes towards preserving this natural habitat, where you can find tropical species and beautiful views of Panama’s capital.

  • Plan your visit: For information and up-to-date traveller reviews about the park, head to Tripadvisor.
  • Time required: 1-2 hours.
  • How to get there: Check out this Google Map for details on transport from the airport to the park.

Panama Canal

Panama Canal sightseeing
(photo credit: Ada I Montalvo / Shutterstock)

The Panama Canal, the country’s most famous attraction, can also be ticked off your bucket list. Head to the visitor centre at the Miraflores Locks to learn about the canal’s history and watch ships transit the impressive locks from the observation deck. Your entry even includes a 3D film about the canal displayed in the IMAX theatre there! Look for the passing Panama Canal Railway trains on your way in and out.

  • Plan your visit: Information and ticket prices can be found on the Miraflores Visitor Centre website.
  • Time required: 1.5 hours.
  • How to get there: Check out this Google Map for details on transport from the airport to the Miraflores Visitor Centre.

Airport Transportation

There are multiple public and private transit options for your layover from Panama Airport.

  • Free shuttle bus: Go to the Panama Tourism desk at the airport for information on where to board the shuttle. This is a free service from the airport to Metromall.
  • Metro Bus: A single ticket is only $0.25, and more information can be found on the Panama Metro website. Pro-Tip: If you’re using public transport, you’ll need a topped-up Metro card. These can be purchased for $5 from the machine at the airport. This provides you with a rechargeable card, including $3 of credit. You don’t need one per person; you can pass the card back to the next person in your party once you’ve passed through the gates at a station!
  • Metro: Panama City has an excellent modern metro system. A new branch of Line 2 connecting the airport and city centre opened in 2023.
  • Uber: The fastest transport option is to take a taxi from the airport. Uber operates in Panama City and tends to be cheaper than local cabs.

Before You Go: Layover Tips

Now that you are motivated and excited about your mini layover vacation, check a few final logistical concerns off your list before you fully commit.

  • Do you need to organize a visa to leave the airport? Requirements change frequently and for each nationality, so be sure to seek out current details on the availability, cost, and procedures of obtaining a transit visa.
  • When is your next flight’s check-in time? Double-check with your airline exactly when you need to be at the airport – and plan your layover accordingly.
  • What are security wait times like at the airport? Some airports are notorious for extended security wait times, so research in advance and factor that into your overall time budget.
  • What’s happening with your luggage? When you check in to your first flight, confirm whether your luggage will be checked through or needs to be picked up between your connecting flights. Check out our Panama City Airport Guide for information on luggage storage.

Other Useful Resources

Finally, here are a few handy resources to help you plan your layover even more thoroughly: