Looking for fun facts about Panama? From the San Blas islands to the Panama Canal, these Panama facts will really amaze you!
Panama is such an amazing place to visit. It’s the point where Central and South America meet bringing influences from both continents.
It is a country that has deserted islands, bright turquoise waters, ancient ruins, the word’s richest canal and surprisingly cosmopolitan cities.
For example, Panama City has been described at the ‘Miami of Central America‘ with skyscrapers dominating the skyline and a nightlife that’ll rival any in the world. Basically, Panama isn’t what you’d expect at all!
To give you more of an insight, we wanted to give you some of our favorite fun facts about Panama.
Like did you know that the narrowest part of Panama is only 30 miles wide? Or what about the fact Panama has two independence days? And this is the most shocking of them all – the Panama hat doesn’t come from Panama!
From places like the San Blas Islands to the Panama Canal, here are the best Panama that’ll really amaze you.
Hopefully this will give you more of an understanding and inspire you to visit Panama!
Fun Facts About Panama
1. You can watch the sun rise in the Pacific and set in the Atlantic
Panama is the only country in the world where you can watch the sun rise on the Pacific coast and then set on the Atlantic coast. You can see this from the top of the highest point in the country, Volcan Baru at 3,474 m.
However, to see sun rise and sun set in the same day it does mean waiting around for 12 hours!
2. The narrowest part of Panama is only 30 miles wide
The narrowest part of Panama is only 30 miles (48 kilometres) wide, so it’s very easy travelling from one side to the other. You can even do it multiple times a day if you want. It’s really cool getting to see both the Atlantic and Pacific oceans in the same day.
3. Panama City has its own rain forest within the city limits
Panama City is the only capital city in the world that has a rain forest within the city limits. It’s one of the reasons it’s such a humid city to visit. We can’t tell you how much we sweated while we were there!
4. Panama has two independence days
How about this as an interesting fact about Panama – the country has two independence days! The first is from Spain in 1821, and the second from Colombia 82 years later in 1903. Double fiesta time!
5. Panama hats don’t actually come from Panama
This is one of our favorite fun facts about Panama, but the infamous Panama Hat doesn’t originate from here – it actually comes from Ecuador in South America.
6. There are a huge number of birds in Panama
Panama has more than 976 bird species, which is more than the United States and Canada combined.
7. There are a huge number of plants too
Panama is home to 10,000 different plants species, including more than 1,500 species of trees, 1,400 varieties of orchids and 678 types of fern. This makes it one of the most biodiverse countries in the world.
8. Panama is home to the San Blas Islands, some of the most beautiful islands in the world
There are more than 1,500 islands in Panama. The most famous of these are the San Blas Islands.
The Kuna people are the local indigenous people who live on the islands and offer homestays. This is such a great way of immersing yourself in the local community here.
9. The currency in Panama is the US$
Panama was the first Latin American country to adopt the U.S. currency as its own. The other countries in Central/South America that use US$ are Ecuador, El Salvador and Puerto Rico.
10. The Panama Canal was originally built by the US army
The Panama Canal was built by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers between 1904 and 1914. It’s considered one of the seven modern World Wonders. To put it into context of what the Panama Canal is – they cut a trench through the entire country!
11. Building the canal was very deadly though with huge numbers dying
This is one of the more scary facts about Panama. Between 1904 and 1913, some 5,600 Panama Canal workers died, mainly due to disease as they had no immunity. Malaria was thought to be the biggest factor.
12. The cheapest crossing for the Panama Canal was only $0.36
The lowest toll paid for crossing the Panama Canal was US$0.36. This was paid by Richard Halliburton who crossed the Canal swimming in 1928. We saying it now – the guy’s a legend. This is definitely one of our favorite fun facts about Panama!
13. But the crossing can get pretty expensive too
On the flip side, the highest toll ever paid was US$376,000 by the Norwegian Pearl cruise ship in 2010. All tolls are based on the type of vessel, its size, and its cargo.
14. The Canal is Panama’s main source of revenue
By 2021, the Panama Canal Authority is hoping the project will bring in US$2.1 billion per year in added revenue. That’s a huge amount of money!
15. Coca-Cola was first sold here in 1906.
Panama was the first country outside the US in which Coca-Cola was sold. It was first sold in the country in 1906, so it’s been established in the country for well over 100 years now.
16. It’s very rare to have a hurricane in Panama
Panama is located south of the hurricane alley, so it is rarely affected by tropical storms or hurricanes. This is just one of the reasons why it’s such a fantastic place to visit!
17. There are only two seasons in Panama – wet and dry
However, saying that, there are only 2 major seasons in Panama. The dry season runs from November to April, and the wet season runs from April to November.
Take this with a pinch of salt though – we’ve been in the wet season, and even though it will rain heavily, it will be over pretty quickly.
18. The Panamanians are mad for baseball
Mirroring the US, baseball is the most popular sport in the country. They are mad for it here – in fact, watching live baseball is one of the top things to do in Panama.
19. Their national bird is downright scary
The national bird of Panama is the harpy eagle. If you’ve never seen pictures of the harpy eagle before, it’s pretty freaky. And massive. Here’s one for you. We’ll definitely file this as one of the more unusual facts about Panama!
20. The inventor of “murphy’s law” was born in Panama
Edward Murphy Jr, best known for creating Murphy’s Law, which is said to state that “anything that can go wrong will go wrong”, was born in the Panama Canal Zone in 1918.
21. Casco Viejo in Panama City is over 500 years old
The peninsula of Casco Viejo is a busy colonial neighborhood with historical ruins and cobblestone streets. This is the site of the original 1519 Panama City, today a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
22. The cuisine is delicious
Sancocho is Panama’s National dish. It’s basically a rich chicken soup with yuca coriander. It’s usually eaten with rice. This can be a surprisingly great cure for hangovers FYI.
23. You can swim under the Panama Canal
Scuba divers have the opportunity of swimming practically under the Panama Canal at the Gatun Lake. Here you can even see the old submerged railroads used during the Canal’s construction.
24. There was a race who could claim Panama for themselves
The Panama isthmus was first explored by Spanish conquistador Rodrigo de Bastidas in the year 1501. Then Christopher Columbus visited in 1502, and Balboa arrived to explore the area in 1513.
25. Panama was built on a very difficult few decades
Ready for some quick fire Panama facts about the country? The years between 1850 and 1900 were tumultuous for Panama: during this time there were 40 different administrations, 50 riots, five attempted secessions, and 13 interventions by the United States.
26. Panama is the second smallest county in Central America
With a population of 4.4 million people, Panama is actually the second smallest country in Central America. The most populous is Guatemala with 17.25 million people. Belize is the smallest with half a million people.
27. There are strong American political ties to Panama
The late Senator John McCain was born in the Panama Canal Zone, which, at the time, was a U.S. territory. Who knew!
28. Famous architech Frank Gehry has a building in Panama
Designed by world-renowned architect Frank Gehry, the “Biomuseo” is his only work in Latin America and the tropics. The building was designed to tell the story of how the isthmus of Panama rose from the sea, uniting two continents, separating a vast ocean in two, and changing the planet’s biodiversity forever.
29. You can swim in both the Pacific and the Atlantic on the same day
Panama is one of the only countries in the world where it’s possible to swim in both the Atlantic and Pacific oceans in the same day. Bucket list = tick.
30. It’s home to the oldest operating railroad
A total of 12,000 lives were lost in the construction of the Panama Railroad, which is the oldest continually operating railroad ever in the world. It is still fully functional as it transports passengers between Panama City and Colon.
31. Duty-free is high on the agenda
Panama has the second largest duty-free zone in the world. The Colon Free Zone is second in size only to Hong Kong.
32. Darién National Park is beautiful but you can’t cross it
Darién National Park is a world heritage site in Panama. It is about 325 kilometers (200 miles) from Panama City, and is the most extensive of all national parks of Panama and is one of the most important world heritage sites in Central America.
However, due to gangs, it’s virtually impossible to cross the Darién Gap into Colombia. It’s thought this is one of the most dangerous border crossings anywhere in the world. You have been warned!
Who wants more fun facts?
If you’re looking for some recommendations, these are a few of our favorite fact books to buy. We use these when planning fun trivia nights with family and friends!
So there you have it, those are all of our fun facts about Panama!
Have you got any Panama facts about that we’ve missed? If so, let us know in the comments below and we’ll add them to this list!