This gay travel guide is your passport to exploring Panama City through a queer lens, discovering its LGBTQ+ friendly spaces, events, and experiences that will make your visit truly unforgettable.
Panama City has become more tolerant of LGBTQ+ life over the last 10 years, and is now a place that same-sex couples will enjoy visiting. It’s not necessarily a place where you will see couples holding hands in public nor is same-sex marriage legal, but this hasn’t stopped a strong queer community of locals and foreigners to be out and proud! There is now a huge yearly pride parade that takes place in Casco Viejo, lots of gay-friendly establishments, and overall so many unique experiences to have in Panama.
Does Panama City have a gay neighborhood?
Via Argentina is the unofficial “gayborhood” in Panama City. It’s not super gay, but is the most funky neighborhood in Panama City so you find a little bit of everything here. The main avenue of Via Argentina has several cafés, bakeries, small bars, and a park to keep a visitor entertained, so it can be a great option for people that want to experience local life. However, I would actually recommend staying in Casco Viejo over Via Argentina as there is more to do and most of the gay-friendly bars are over there.
Casco Viejo is the hip & trendy area of Panama City and is a mix of restored Spanish colonial buildings that are now boutique hotels, apartments, rooftop bars, and restaurants. There’s also museums, art galleries, and lots of nightlife where you’ll find Panama’s LGBTQ+ community.
Where to stay
If you want to be in the heart of the action, Casco Viejo is where to be, so most of the places I recommend are around there. There’s also a few spots I recommend around the city that are great places to stay as well.
Amarla | BOOK HERE
Amarla has created a beautiful boutique hotel in the heart of historic Casco Viejo with great decor and top-notch service. The entire inner patio is filled with tropical plants to create a special oasis and there are only 8 rooms available to keep the setting intimate. The best part is having a rooftop jacuzzi where you can enjoy gorgeous views and a craft cocktail. Be sure to also dine at their restaurant Kaandela whether you’re staying here or not for flavorful Latin-inspired dishes.
Sofitel | BOOK HERE
Sofitel Casco Viejo is a luxurious hotel nestled in the heart of Panama City’s historic Casco Viejo district. This elegant property blends French sophistication with local charm, creating a unique and enchanting atmosphere that’s perfect for gay travelers as they host several events during Pride. The highlight of the hotel is definitely the pool area which overlooks the ocean and Panama City skyline.
Tropicool Loft | BOOK HERE
This loft is located at the entrance of Casco Viejo where you’re steps from the fish market and all the cool cafés, rooftop bars, and trendy restaurants that make up the neighborhood. Fully equipped kitchen, washer/dryer, 1.5 bath, bedroom on 2nd floor, 2 balconies + communal rooftop, projector w/Netflix, fibre optic internet, and the host can always let you know about current gay-friendly events happening in the city. There is a minimum stay of 5 nights so this for the traveler spending extended time in Panama City. Mention this article for a 15% discount!
Casa Boutique Marichu | BOOK HERE
This studio apartment is a great budget option without giving up amenities in Casco Viejo. The decor is super stylish and the building features a rooftop plunge pool that’s perfect for cooling off after a hot day in Panama.
W Panama | BOOK HERE
The W Panama is located in the heart of Panama City’s shiny skyscrapers and always a gay-friendly hotel option anywhere in the world. They have a fabulous pool area, gym, and periodically host LGBTQ+ events. It’s also walking distance to Envy or El Apartamento for gay nightlife.
Yoo Panama | BOOK HERE
Yoo is actually a residential building with hotel amenities but a lot of fancy gays live here full time. The ambience of the building is extravagant to say the least. It also has a fabulous pool area, gym, and trendy restaurants within the building.
Riande Urban Hotel | BOOK HERE
If you want to stay near the Via Argentina neighborhood then Riande Urban Hotel is the best option. The decor is very fun and funky. Most Saturdays they host their Sonset party which is very gay-friendly with Tulum vibes and electronic music DJs.
Casa Naga | BOOK HERE
Casa Naga is a fully staffed luxury private residence inspired by Balinese classical architecture and Panamanian culture. If you’re looking for a luxury home ideal for a group trip, Casa Naga is unlike anything else. The owners can help arrange private yacht trips, island getaways, and exploring the nearby rain forests.
Going out in Panama City
Panama City only has three official gay clubs, but there are a lot of gay-friendly establishments and events to know about. I’ve linked to the instagram accounts of each place so you can see what’s going on for the days you’re visiting.
Queer & Gay-Friendly Events
Things to do in Panama City
There are so many unique experiences to have had in Panama City so I have rounded up a few of my favorite must-do’s for while you’re here…
Experience Panama Pride
If you happen to be in Panama City at the end of June/early July you have to experience the pride festivals. There are lots of events and a fun pride parade in Casco Viejo! I recommend following @worldpridepanama on Instagram for a full event agenda. You can also follow @rumbapridepanama to find out where all the parties are taking place.
Book a queer-friendly food tour
Get ready for an immersive tasting menu as you get to experience the real Panama – from the gritty to the most Insta-gramable, and everything in between. You’ll have a queer-friendly guide to take you to the best spots in Panama City and end with a rooftop mojito making class. Send a message to email@example.com and mention this article for 15% off or BOOK HERE.
Enjoy a couples photoshoot in Casco Viejo
The hardest part about traveling with a partner is getting good photos together! Join Rafaela for a 1.5-hour photoshoot filled with beautiful & memorable images in Casco Viejo! This photo route is filled with popular architecture, and beautiful hidden gems. This session can accommodate 1-2 people and you’ll receive 40-50 edited high-resolution images. BOOK HERE.
Spend the day on an island
The Sonny Island Resort on Isla Bolaños is one of the best islands in the Pearl Island Archipelago to open its beautiful beachfront to visitors. You can book a day trip here for $125 that includes a roundtrip ferry, beach club access, lunch, water, snacks, snorkeling, and bathrooms.
Take a photo in front of the rainbow Panama sign
Panama City has an insanely beautiful long stretch of waterfront park called Cinta Costera where you can go running, biking, do yoga, use free workout equipment, play basketball, soccer, volleyball, tennis, ping pong, or just sit on a bench and people-watch while enjoying a raspao (snow cone). I recommend going after 4 pm because the heat can be intense. While here, be sure to get a photo in front of the rainbow Panama sign.
Get boozy on a champagne cruise
Sip on champagne as you glide past landmarks like the Bridge of the Americas, the Biomuseo, Casco Viejo, and Panama City skyline. I would recommend the 5 pm time slot so you get to see sunset! BOOK HERE.
Learn about human rights history at Museo de la Libertad
Museo de la Libertad takes you on a journey through the history of human rights and their evolution in Panama and the rest of the world. The exhibits are in Spanish but they usually have dedicated English-speaking guides that can give you a guided tour. It’s open everyday but Monday with $5 admission.
Experience Panama City by helicopter
I always say that the views in Panama City are stunning and now you have the chance to enjoy them in a private helicopter. I recommend booking at 5:30 pm for sunset or the morning for sunrise. You’ll get to see the Panama Canal, Panama City skyscrapers, the Biomuseo, the Bridge of the Americas, and Casco Viejo in a way that most tourists don’t get to see. BOOK HERE.
Learn how to make chocolate
Love chocolate? During the Panamanian Chocolate Experience, you’ll make your very own chocolate bar to take home! You’ll learn about the entire chocolate-making process, from bean to bar, at a chocolate factory in Casco Viejo. You’ll also get to sample some of the store’s signature “bonbon” chocolates and enjoy a special chocolate drink. It’s guaranteed to be a “sweet” time! Book your spot here.
Enjoy a weekend brunch
Who doesn’t love a good brunch (especially ones with open mimosas)? My two-favorite brunch spots are Mahalo and Café Lavanda. Both have photo-ready ambiences, delicious food, and have an open-mimosa special on the weekends.
MAC (Museo de Arte Contemporáneo)
Enjoy this small museum promoting the local art scene in Panama. They exhibits will be in Spanish but they have English-speaking guides that can help with explanations.
Go zip lining on a city skyscraper
If you’re looking to experience some thrills in Panama City, you can now zip line and swing off the top of a building with Poin Panama. The have a full package for $80 that includes zip lining, swinging off the building, walking on a glass floor, and virtual reality experience. You can also book each experience individually for $25.
Hike at Metropolitan Park
Metropolitan Park (Parque Natural Metropolitano) is a 230-hectare park that is one of the largest tropical forests within a city limits. The park is home to SLOTHS, howler monkeys, armadillos, gato solos, 283 bird species, and more. There are 7 hiking trails to enjoy (they all connect) so this is a hike where you can really take your time and enjoy a rewarding view at the top. Like I mentioned before, the earlier you go the better to have a better chance at spotting wildlife and avoiding the heat.
Where to eat
Below are a mix of restaurants and cafés to visit that have gay owners or show their support for the gay community in Panama.