Panama vs. Nicaragua

Panama and Nicaragua are two of Central America’s hidden gems that exude the most beauty and warmth. Many people tend to overlook Central America as a travel destination. But once you get to know more about Panama and Nicaragua, you will never turn away from them.
Panama vs. Nicaragua

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Panama is a gateway to a rich culture and history. If you’re looking for vibrance paired with unbelievable and memorable attractions and views, Panama should be on top of your list.

Despite being a small country, it can fill up your senses and give you an experience that you will never forget in your lifetime. Panama is a small, unexplored gem that’s waiting to be discovered by the unknowing world around it.

Nicaragua, on the other hand, is the perfect definition of a place that’s completely blessed by nature. Left and right, you can find natural sights and gems that will leave you in awe. It’s the postcard-worthy destination of Central America that exudes complete uniqueness.

Nicaragua is a country that’s overflowing with a rich personality that you can’t help but explore once you set foot. You won’t find any other place quite like Nicaragua.

Panama

A place radiating with color, vibrance, life, and fun. That is what Panama is all about. Panama shocks with its beauty and vibrance. For a great, tropical vacation, people think of the Caribbean. However, hidden inside the underrated continent of Central America is a complete beauty that is Panama.

More than the Panama Canal which is the glory of Panama, you can find beautiful beaches, rainforests, and rich culture and history. In Panama, there is a perfect mixture of the old and new. Your eyes will be more than happy to see unique sights that you may not see anywhere else in the world. If you want an awe-inspiring experience through and through, Panama is the place to go.

What Makes Panama Unique?

The Famous and Legendary Panama Canal

Panama is best known for the Panama Canal, and it makes sense because it’s one of the wonders of the modern world. Any travel to Panama is not complete without a visit to see the Panama Canal.

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Built in the early 1900s, it’s a world-renowned landmark because of the waterway that connects the Pacific Ocean to the Atlantic Ocean. It was considered something that was impossible to build, but it now holds as a bridge that decreases the travel time for ships. It has seen more than 900,000 ships ever since its genesis.

The Panama Canal doesn’t only make it easier for ships to travel, but it also goes through some of Panama’s most breathtaking sceneries. To see the beauty for yourself and learn more about the historical and famous canal, it’s possible to do so.

Take a tour at the Miraflores Visitors Center to learn about the canal’s history. There, you can also see the ships in transit. The Colon Panama Canal Expansion Observation Center is another place to visit if you want to fully immerse yourself in the Panama Canal.

Two in One

The one thing that Panama has that other countries don’t have is access to both the Caribbean Sea and the Pacific Ocean. It’s something that truly makes Panama stand out, especially because it’s the reason for the country’s beautiful and exotic sunsets.

The fact that the Caribbean Sea and the Pacific Ocean are both easily accessible in Panama means a lot. For one, it means that there are endless possibilities for beautiful beaches. If you’re feeling more up to the Caribbean feel, then you can go to one side. However, if you’re more of the Pacific kind of person, you can easily hop on to the other side.

Here are some of the most memorable beaches in Panama:

Red Frog Beach

Red Frog Beach is named that way because of the small frog that inhabits the island. Despite this beach being one of the most popular beaches in Panama, it never feels busy and full. It’s big enough that you can have a part of it to yourself. However, it’s best to book in advance if you plan to stay here. That’s how busy the beach gets.

The Red Frog Beach is perfect for those looking to just laze around and enjoy the wonderful view in front of them. The beach has smaller waves compared to other parts of Panama, so surfing and other water activities may not be ideal.

Punta Duarte

If a more dramatic beach is your kind of setting, Punta Duarte is the place for you. Punta Duarte is one of the best places in Panama to witness the Pacific Ocean sunset. Contrary to many of the Pacific-side beaches of Panama, Punta Duarte is calm and relaxing. There are barely any big waves, which makes it a breath of fresh air on this side of Panama.

Punta Duarte is also one of the best places to look at and admire the different-colored species of fish and marine life in Panama. The best part of relaxing in Punta Duarte is that everything feels easy. Although it’s a 1.5-hour ride to this place, it’s accessible. Once you get here, swimming, relaxing, and having a good time are easy and come naturally.

Playa Venao

Surf’s up in Playa Venao. It’s hailed as one of the best surfing destinations in Panama. Regardless if someone’s an expert surfer or is just starting out, Playa Venao is the ideal place to get that surfboard and be one with the waves.

Beyond the surfing accommodations that Playa Venao has, it also boasts soft golden sands and clear aquamarine waters. It’s a fun adventure on its own to just sit down and watch surfers of varying expertise.

Along the same coastline, there are other beaches that visitors can go to. The other beaches near Playa Venao are the perfect complement to the surfing vibe of the place. If you find yourself wanting to add to the experience, just a few steps can take you to a whole different place.

Punta Chame

Kitesurfers know that Punta Chame is like heaven on Earth. The wind and the water of this beach are ideal for those looking to kitesurf or simply fly their kites. Because of this, there are various kiting lessons offered on the beach.

Punta Chame isn’t as popular as other beaches in Panama because it’s mostly just a long stretch of beach. However, it doesn’t mean that it doesn’t have anything awe-inspiring to offer. It has perfectly soft sand that’s paired with clear waters. Beyond the shallow and calm waters is a breathtaking backdrop of mountains. For most, Punta Chame is the most beautiful beach in Panama.

Best for families with kids, it’s definitely a favorite destination for many. This is especially for those that are willing enough to find out where this little secret of Panama lies.

A Hub of Biodiversity

Panama is located in Central America, one of the world’s most biodiverse continents. Panama is gifted with the rich biodiversity that Central America boasts. A trip to Panama is incomplete without getting deeper into what it has to offer in terms of its wide plant and animal species.

Because Panama acts like a bridge between Central and South America, it’s also surrounded by so many rich ecosystems. There are rainforests and wetlands, among others that you can find in this beautiful country.

Panama is one of the richest countries when it comes to plant and animal species. With a thousand species of animals, and more than 10,000 species of plants, there’s so much you can explore and discover.

With all the forests, animals, and plants in Panama, it is counted as one of the countries with the most protected areas and parks. More than 20% of Panama’s land is protected.

Truly, Panama is one of the most beautiful countries in the world. Anyone will be in awe after witnessing just how much natural beauty it offers. Thanks to the continuous effort of its government and people, Panama has protected the beauty that draws people into it.

Adventure Left and Right

With how naturally gifted Panama is, it’s no surprise that there are a lot of things to do and places to explore.

Here are some of the places to visit for a solid adventure in Panama:

Boquete

Boquete is a wonderful, breathtaking mountain town in Panama. It’s a great place to go to because it’s a small escape from the usually hot and humid weather of the general places of Panama.

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The town of Boquete is generally calm and relaxed. However, inside the mountain town lies a lot of adventures. It’s best known as a hotspot for hiking and bird-watching. In Boquete, you can find a 15-mile (24-kilometer) stretch of hiking trails, waterfalls, rivers, and a castle.

Hikers of varying expertise can schedule a hike with the many hiking trails that Boquete has. You don’t have to leave Boquete to experience the overall beauty of nature in Panama. It’s all basically in here.

The Lost Waterfalls

Las Tres Cascadas or The Three Waterfalls is known by most people as the Lost Waterfalls trail. It’s a famous hiking trail in Panama that works for anyone who wants to explore it, regardless of hiking expertise.

The hiking trail is awe-inspiring because the trail will lead you into a full forest that leads to three beautiful waterfalls. The whole trail can take up to four hours if you plan to pass by and admire each of all three waterfalls.

However, it’s not only the waterfalls that can take your breath away on this hike. As you go deeper into the forest, you will be met by Panama’s wonderful and rich biodiversity. You can get a chance to see some of Panama’s monkeys and other wildlife while hiking.

Casco Viejo

If you want a more historical adventure, then don’t let the lively streets of Casco Viejo pass. With its colorful and historical buildings, it’s no wonder that it’s called the Old Town.

Casco Viejo is an easy stroll. The streets are narrow and the place is small. Everywhere you walk is filled with historic ruins, colorful buildings, and a great view of modern Panama’s buildings. It’s the perfect example of a place where the old meets the new.

Excellent Climate

Nothing makes a travel destination better than getting there and not worrying about anything. This also means that you can visit the place at any time of the year and not have to worry about the weather going against you.

Panama is the best place to go to any time of the year. With stable temperatures that range from 29 to 32 degrees (84–90 F), Panama is one of the countries that is warm and tropical all year round. There are only two seasons, one is drier than the other, so the place really is predictable in that sense.

The general temperature in Panama is hot and humid, but it has some cooler places. Because of this stable weather that Panama has, it continues to be one of the countries that have the best climate in the whole world.

Nicaragua

With the hyper-modernization of the world, only a few countries can boast of being untouched. Not many have untouched authentic culture, personality, and natural wonders. Nicaragua is one of the most unique places in the world because it has both the Pacific and Caribbean in its place. It also has unique volcanoes and ecosystems that you will not see anywhere else.

Nicaragua is one underrated travel destination. Visiting Nicaragua is like going back to simpler times. Sadly the country may not be for everyone because of its history that has made the country gain a negative image. However, if one chooses to overlook that image of Nicaragua, one will be in awe of what the country has to offer.

From its sceneries to the warm and welcoming people, it is one place that needs and deserves appreciation.

What Makes Nicaragua Unique?

A Volcano Paradise

Nicaragua is unique mainly because it’s a volcanic paradise. Everywhere you go and everywhere you look, you will be able to see a volcano. It’s true that you’re never far from a volcano when in Nicaragua.

Each volcano in Nicaragua has a different terrain, which makes all of these volcanoes great places to explore. Hiking in these volcanoes also varies because of the terrain. Some are easy and some are hard, but all of them are well worth anyone’s time.

Here are some of the best day-hike volcanoes to explore:

Mombacho

Mombacho is a volcano that stands over 4,000 feet (1,220 meters) tall. It’s not quite extinct, but it has been dormant since the late 1500s. The last eruption of Mombacho in the 1500s is actually the reason why there’s the archipelago of the Islets of Granada in Lake Nicaragua.

The Mombacho can be hiked up in two hours, but for those who don’t prefer to walk, it’s also possible to drive to the summit. There are trucks at the bottom of the volcano that take people up to the summit.

Once you reach the summit, there are three trails that you can hike around: El Tigrillo, El Crater, and El Puma. Of the three, El Crater is the easiest while El Puma is the hardest. However, all of these hiking trails have lookouts where you can observe and admire the crater of Mombacho.

Another great thing about Mombacho is that hiking isn’t the only thing you can do there. Zip-lining and canopy activities are also offered on the volcano.

Cerro Negro

Compared to other volcanoes in Nicaragua, Cerro Negro is unique because of the lack of vegetation around it. It’s only a volcano that’s overall black and dark gray, hence the name that translates to “black hill”. This relatively young 2,000-foot (610-meter) volcano is a generally easy and fast hike, taking only an hour to get to the top.

Cerro Negro is an active volcano, so the ground is warm. There is also some gas emitting from the small holes.

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A great way to go down Cerro Negro is through volcano boarding. Through this, people can hop on board, sit, and slide all the way down. It’s very much like sledding but on a volcano. This is possible because of the soft volcanic sand of the volcano. It feels much like the sand you’ll find on a beach, so it’s completely safe to roll off it.

El Hoyo

El Hoyo or “The Hole” is an almost 4,000-foot (1220 m) volcano in Nicaragua that has a crater that looks a lot like a sinkhole. The crater is positioned on the side of the volcano. Because of the look of El Hoyo, it’s considered one of the most unique volcanoes in Nicaragua.

The hike up the volcano is not an easy one, but it’s not too difficult either. It requires some kind of physical fitness to be able to hike the trail. The more that you get to the higher part of the volcano, the more greenery and plants that you will be able to see. Although it’s filled with vegetation to the top, El Hoyo is actually an active volcano.

Wallet Friendly

Many people enjoy traveling to Nicaragua because it’s budget-friendly. As a vacation destination, it’s incredibly cheap. It’s even cheaper than the countries that most people know are cheap, such as Costa Rica.

In Nicaragua, even if you have a limited budget, you can still experience much of the country. Street food, transportation, and lodging are cheap. This means that you can still immerse yourself in the best that the country has to offer without burning through your budget.

Best People Around

If Nicaragua isn’t warm enough, then you can look to its locals for the ultimate warmth and welcome. Nicaraguans are truly some of the kindest people you can find on the planet. Nicaraguans are known to be very hospitable to their visitors. More than this, compared to other Central American countries, there’s barely any crime in Nicaragua.

Nicaragua is a great place for travelers because locals are more than helpful when you need something. They don’t take advantage of people who are not familiar with their country and culture. Instead, they lend a helping hand to give you an even better time in their country.

It’s also not very common for you to bump into locals’ parties and be invited. Not a lot of countries can boast of having locals that are so welcoming that you feel like you’re part of their country or family.

Blessed By Nature

It’s not only volcanoes that can take your breath away in Nicaragua. Nicaragua is one of the most biodiverse and naturally beautiful places in the world. This is even without being the volcanic paradise that it already is.

Nicaragua is filled with forests, lakes, jungles, and two coastlines. Add to these the very diverse animal and plant species that you can find in the country. Anyone who seeks adventure can find it in Nicaragua. Of course, even if you want to just lay down and admire the beauty of nature, Nicaragua will not disappoint.

Here are some of the best places to explore in Nicaragua:

Corn Islands

44 miles (70 kilometers) off the east coast of Nicaragua lies a laid-back island called the Corn Islands. Nature has blessed the corn islands because of the beautiful and breathtaking beaches here. The sands are so smooth and white, and the waters are crystal clear turquoise. The place stays warm all year round, so it’s a great destination to visit whenever.

The Corn Islands also boast some of the most beautiful marine wildlife in Nicaragua. It’s a great destination for reef diving, which is why many people always visit this place when they’re in Nicaragua.

Lake Nicaragua

Lake Nicaragua is the largest lake in Central America. It’s so large that the people who discovered it thought that it was a sea. It’s 110 miles (177 kilometers) long and 42 miles (67 kilometers) wide.

What makes Lake Nicaragua so unique is that it’s the only body of freshwater lake that’s home to ocean animals. In Lake Nicaragua, you can find sharks and swordfish. These marine animals have adapted to the freshwater nature of the lake.

Somoto Canyon National Monument

Somoto Canyon National Monument is a protected valley in between hills in northern Nicaragua. It was accidentally discovered by two geologists in 2004. This place is only one of the 78 protected areas of Nicaragua.

The scenery at this national monument is stunning, and the activities are exhilarating. Because of this great combination, it is now a major tourist attraction in Nicaragua. There are a handful of activities that you can do such as boating or scaling the canyon walls. The narrowest part of the monument can only be reached by an inflatable inner tube.

The water and atmosphere in the Somoto Canyon National Monument are very clean. It’s a great destination to explore even on a hot summer day. It’s one of the best gems of Nicaragua.

Reserva Natural Miraflor

The Reserva Natural Miraflor is a reserve in Nicaragua’s northern part. It covers three climate zones, which makes it a very unique natural reserve. The three climate zones consist of dry, humid, and a predominantly cold forest.

Reserva Natural Miraflor is proof that nature has blessed Nicaragua. Here, you can find a cloud forest, waterfalls, and over 300 species of birds. That’s more than enough to keep someone entertained on their trip to this place. It’s not only that, Miraflor is also home to farmers that raise cattle and grow crops and plants.

The biodiversity in this natural reserve is astounding. The richest you can find here are the orchids, with more than 200 species of the flower here.

Which Is Better – Panama or Nicaragua?

Both Panama and Nicaragua are such underrated travel destinations in Central America. They can both be called hidden gems. However, that doesn’t mean that they don’t offer very different experiences to a traveler. One of these two is better depending on what kind of experience you’re looking for. Both offer a unique one that you will never forget in your lifetime.

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Panama is a historical and cultural place. Colorful and vibrant are words that perfectly describe this country. It’s a small country with so much to show off. If you’re looking for an experience that’s more lively and exhilarating, Panama is the place to be. In the aspect of entertainment and liveliness, Panama is unmatched.

On the other hand, Nicaragua is the epitome of relaxation and peace. Everywhere you go is a sight to admire and take in deeply. You know that if you want to get away from the hustle and bustle of your everyday life, Nicaragua is the place to be in. In the aspect of the ultimate getaway filled with relaxation and some adventure, Nicaragua is better.

It all boils down to knowing what you want to get out of a vacation destination. Are you someone who prefers to spend your night with vibrance, and spend your days going on cultural and historical adventures? Or are you someone who wants to lay down and relax, away from the buzz of the world around you?

FAQ

Is Panama Safer Than Nicaragua?

Panama is generally a safer country compared to other countries in Central America. This means that compared to Nicaragua, it’s safer. There are almost zero cases of crime against visitors, so it’s perfectly safe to travel to Panama.

Nicaragua, on the other hand, is also a safe country, but compared to Panama, there are more crimes against locals. It’s nothing that should concern those planning to visit Nicaragua. It continues to be a safe and friendly place for visitors from all places.

However, even though both Panama and Nicaragua are generally safe, it’s best for visitors to be cautious when traveling. This is to ensure that their vacation will be enjoyed the most. If you want to experience your vacation to the fullest, you have to ensure that you’re being safe in all your actions first. This is regardless if a country is safe or not.

Is Nicaragua Cheaper Than Panama?

Nicaragua is one of the cheapest countries to travel to and stay at in Central America. Panama is actually twice more expensive than Nicaragua.

The fact that Nicaragua is lesser known as a travel destination than Panama contributes to the lower prices there. However, generally, even food, lodging, and transport are cheap in Nicaragua.

If you compare the two countries, Panama is also a country that is cheap and affordable, but it doesn’t quite come close to how affordable Nicaragua is.

Is Panama in Nicaragua?

Panama is not in Nicaragua. The two countries are both positioned in Central America, but one is not inside another and vice versa. In fact, the two countries are not too far away from each other. They are only one country apart.

Is Nicaragua Close to Panama?

Nicaragua is not too far from Panama. The two countries are only divided by Costa Rica. Nicaragua is only 398 miles (640 kilometers) away from Panama when in the straight-line distance. However, the road distance from Nicaragua to Panama is 715 miles (1,151 kilometers).

Does Nicaragua Border Panama?

No, Nicaragua does not border Panama. They are bordered by the same country since they are one country apart. The countries that border Nicaragua are Costa Rica and Honduras. On the other hand, the countries that border Panama are Costa Rica and Colombia.

Is Panama Bigger Than Nicaragua?

Panama is smaller than Nicaragua. Of the two countries, Nicaragua is 73% bigger.

Panama is approximately 29,120 square miles (75,420 square kilometers). On the other hand, Nicaragua is approximately 50,336 square miles (130,370 square kilometers). Nicaragua is almost twice as big as Panama.

How Do You Get From Nicaragua to Panama?

There are four ways to get from Nicaragua to Panama, each one varying in price and length of travel time. From Nicaragua, you can either fly a plane, ride a bus, ride a shuttle, or drive your own car.

The fastest way to get from Nicaragua to Panama is through a plane ride, which will take around 5 hours. This way is also the most expensive. The cheapest way to get from Nicaragua to Panama is through a bus ride than transfers to a shuttle ride. However, this trip will take almost a whole day.

How Long Does It Take to Get to Nicaragua From Panama?

Depending on your mode of transportation, a trip from Panama to Nicaragua can take anywhere from 5 hours to 24 hours.

If you plan to take a flight to Nicaragua, the flight will take anywhere from 5 to 7 hours. This depends on where you’re coming from in Panama.

If you plan to take a bus or a shuttle, it will take anywhere from 22 hours to 24 hours. This also depends on your start and end point.

Lastly, if you plan to drive your car, it can take you approximately 16 to 18 hours.

Can You Drive From Panama to Nicaragua?

Yes, you can drive from Panama to Nicaragua. The total road distance from Panama City, Panama to Managua, Nicaragua is 684 miles (1,100 kilometers). The drive can take you at least 16 hours, depending on how fast or slow you drive, and on how many stopovers you have. The average time to drive from Panama to Nicaragua is around 17 hours.

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