Top Ten Things to Do with Kids in Panama!
By: Jane EllisNote 1: These things are also awesome fun without kids!
Note 2: These activities are all either in Panama City or less than 30 minutes drive away.
- Summit Zoo and Botanical Gardens
Take a trip to Summit Zoo and Botanical Gardens to see a fabulous range of animals, all native to Panama, most of which have been rescued from illegal private collections, and sometimes even hunters. This is a great place to take kids for a picnic. There is a profusion of enormous play parks for the little tikes, with some incredible walks through an open air botanical gardens. This zoo has jaguars, one of which is very fond of my husband and comes to see him each time we visit. Recent additions are two Puma cubs, named Tango and Cash. These are large, lithe graceful beauties with an incongruous high-pitched squeak which makes them sound quite ridiculous. Tragically, they are in the zoo because they were found alone after their mother was shot dead by a hunter.
- Rainforest Walk at Plantation Road
As the name implies, this path is on the site of a former plantation. You can see the descendants of the original coffee plants and banana trees here and there if you look closely. This is a very exciting place to walk, with or without kids. We have even seen scratch marks and dropping from a big cat on this one! (These were confirmed by a Smithsonian Researcher, of which there are many here in Panama).
You can spend time paddling through the river catching fish (then releasing them, obviously!).
On this trail I have seen Capuchin Monkeys, Howler Monkeys, Geoffroy’s Tamarin, and Spider Monkeys. And that’s just the apes! I have also been lucky enough to see an Anteater just in front of me, working its way along the branches of a tree with its tongue. Coati Mundis, Agoutis, as well as too many exotic birds to mention. Okay, I’ll mention some – Toucans, Trogons, Mot Mots.
- Amador Causeway
This is one of my favourite spots in Panama City. There are so many different things to do here on this thin strip of land situated between the big city and the opening to the Canal.
Hire bikes or roller skates or even mopeds (I’m not brave enough for that!), play on bouncy castles, go to the gourmet Ice Cream parlour then watch the Barracuda dart back and forth at the end of the causeway.
Instead of feeding the ducks at the local pond like we do in Britain, people here feed the fish at the causeway harbour! Beautiful tropical fish, with blue stripes and yellow fins. The last time we did this, we even saw a very large, very old-looking Puffer Fish.
They are building a Biodiversity Museum at one end of the causeway, a landmark project, designed by Frank Gehry. Don’t hold your breath for this to open though, as they have been building it for the last ten years, and it is still nowhere near finished.
Panama doesn’t need a Biodiversity Museum – Panama IS a Biodiversity Museum!
- Punta Culebra
A nature reserve and aquarium situated in a dry forest (as opposed to a rainforest), this is a fabulous place to take kids, or any newcomer to Panama. You are virtually guaranteed a close-up sighting of at least one Iguana and Sloth as you walk through the trees here.
Go to the tip of Punta Culebra – Snake Point –and watch the pelicans dive for fish in the Pacific and the giant crabs fight on the rocks. There are lots of touch pools for children. Our kids love to play (gently) with the Starfish and Sea Cucumbers here. A giant outdoor tank has Nursemaid Sharks and Sea Turtles. There is also a nice, cool, indoor play area done up to look like the interior of a submarine, which is a good place to go when the kids get overheated.
- Gamboa Rainforest Resort
Down by Lake Gamboa there is a lovely restaurant overhanging the water, from which you can see crocodiles, caimans, turtles and lizards close-up. The food is not outstanding, but the sights and wildlife more than make up for it! Daredevil children can go on the rickety and scarily high play park if they have been well-behaved during lunch. On one of our little post-prandial walks here we saw a family of Capybaras – the world’s largest rodent – a very impressive sight.
- Swim in an Outdoor Pool
Go for a swim in one of the many outdoor pools in the Clayton area, most of which have toddler's paddling pools. Tip – if you have long hair, you must take a swimming cap – borra – or buy one at reception.
At $3 per adult, this is a super cheap, super fun thing to do. One time I was at an open air pool at night and a large bat swooped down just over my head. This may or may not be a selling point for you.
During the day, the creatures swooping over the open air pools are shimmering swallows and dragonflies. After years of swimming in over-chlorinated indoor pools in Britain, the feeling of freedom that comes from swimming in the open air, in the warm open air, is astounding.
- Watch a Film in Spanish
Go to Multiplaza cinema and watch a cartoon dubbed into Spanish! We did this with Brave – Valiente – and Cars 2 and it was muy divertido – a lot of fun! It is amazing how much you can understand, even if you don’t catch everything that is being said. Approximately $16 for a family of five – so, about a million times cheaper than the UK!
- Neighbourhood Safari
Go on a nature-trek around your neighbourhood or hotel and count how many lizards, butterflies, grasshoppers and birds, such as parrots, ibises, toucans you see. Give your kids specimen jars so they can get a good look at any insects or lizards they catch. Make them let the creatures go after they have finished examining them though.
- Go to Gamebox in MetroMall
If you are getting sick of all this nature and beautiful warm weather, this indoor air-conditioned play area for kids from 0 to 18 has real dodgems and a tiny rollercoaster. Fun for all the family!
- Monkey Island
This is a great trip to take your kids on when they are old enough to sit still in a small motor boat.
The boat leaves from Gamboa jetty and scoots under the rickety railway bridge, still in use, built over 100 years ago for the Panama Canal. This takes you onto the canal proper – we got good and close to some impressively large ships – and past several islands, including one with a Kuna (an indigenous people of Panama) reservation, complete with palm leaf thatched roofs.
We stopped near to several little islands including one where we saw a baby crocodile and another where we saw turtles sunbathing. I was a little disappointed in the tour we took, however, as we only had a glimpse of one Capuchin Monkey. The fault was on our side though, as we had gone on the midday tour.
By noon the monkeys have had enough of tourists, and no longer go to see them. We later found out from a friend that during that morning’s tour the monkeys had all climbed onto her boat! So if you decide to do this, make sure and go early in the morning.
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A "Chucky Cheese" is now in Multiplaza and includes child-friendly rides and games for all ages.