Bucket list destinations: El Valle de Anton, Panama

Last updated on February 1st, 2024


Some three million years ago, a volcano blew its top. The town of El Valle de Anton sits in the crater of that huge extinct volcano. With its virgin territory and lush greenery, it’s a popular weekend jaunt for Panama City residents looking to be at one with nature. It enjoys a year-round springtime climate, the air feels fresh and the atmosphere is tranquil. There are plenty of hikes and thus, knockout views to be had from any of the summits.


El Valle de Anton, with its fresh breeze and slow pace, stands as a great option for getting away from the bustle of Panama’s capital. There’s not much distraction there and it could even be described as a tad sleepy. El Valle is the perfect place to slow down the tempo and take it easy. It’s a very doable weekend trip that you can take on your own if you’re staying in Panama City for a while.


Getting to El Valle de Anton from Panama City

El Valle is 118km from Panama City. You can get to El Valle easily by bus from Albrook bus station (Gran Terminal de Transporte). The entire journey should take no more than two and a half hours. If you’re heading out on a Friday, do leave early if you’d prefer not to get stuck in gridlock traffic. 


If coming by car, take the Interamerican Highway heading west out of Panama City. Approximately 90km from Panama City is the turn-off point for El Valle shortly after getting to the town of San Carlos. El Valle is then 28 kilometers further.


While in El Valle, there are local buses to transport you to the various sights and nearby villages as well as taxis that are rather inexpensive. Buses always have the name of the final destination in the front window.


Hikes, waterfalls and hot springs in El Valle de Anton


La India Dormida (The Sleeping Indian)

La India Dormida is the most popular hike in El Valle de Anton. It’s a mountain ridge that bears a striking resemblance to a sleeping Indian girl. The trails on the way to the summit are massively picturesque with little river crossings, valley views, and mini waterfalls to be enjoyed. This is a popular sunrise hike in El Valle and it’s said to take between 45 minutes to three hours depending on individual speed and fitness. Always remember to take a torch or flashlight if heading out early to catch the sunrise. The “head” of the sleeping person is the prime viewpoint. There’s a southern and northern entrance where you pay a small entry fee.


Cerro Cara Iguana

Because El Valle sits inside a dormant volcano crater, it’s essentially surrounded by lush mountains. Cerro Cara Iguana gives you a splendid view of the breadth of the crater. The majority of this hike is on a gravel road and it’s a well-marked, moderate hike with some incline. You can reach the start of the trail after a 20-minute walk from the center of town. The total hike time from the center of town to the summit is around an hour. This one’s great to catch the sunset on a clear evening.


Cerro Gaital

Often billed as “Panama’s toughest hike”, this one isn’t for the faint-hearted. Experienced hikers would put this in the same category as Boquete’s Barú volcano hike. Cerro Gaital is the highest point in Anton at 1185 meters and while it starts off flat, there are some sections that require you to pull yourself up with rubber ropes. The total hike time is about 5 hours and the trailhead can be accessed by taking a bus from the center of town (in front of Peking supermarket) towards La Mesa. Tell the bus driver that you wish to go to Cerro Gaital. The epic views at the top include all of the Anton Valley and beyond and given its difficulty, you’ll probably have the whole mountaintop for yourself.



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Pozos Azul Waterfall

This waterfall canyon needs a new marketing manager. Most guidebooks tend to omit Pozo Azul from the list of must-see activities in Anton for reasons unbeknown to me. Hidden in the middle of the jungle, the journey to this oasis is best undertaken with a 4X4 or quad bike. We took the latter and with countless twists, turns, and bumps, the ride was exhilarating and terrifying in equal measure. Quads parked where the road ends, we would continue the rest of the journey on foot. This is truly a lovely place to spend an afternoon swimming, cliff jumping, rock climbing, or doing absolutely nothing.



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Pozos Termales (Hot springs)

Treat yourself to a spa day in nature with a trip to Pozos Termales, hot springs that are open every day. Apparently, there are some serious health benefits to be had from exfoliating the skin with the mud here. Pozos Termales is a good option for a rainy day when a hike is simply out of the question.



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Chorro El Macho Waterfall

A mere 35-minute walk from the town center, El Chorro is an easy hike. This is the most popular waterfall in El Valle de Anton and it’s open daily between 8 AM and 5 PM. There’s a small entry fee and the area is popular for zip-lining too.



Budget hostels in El Valle de Anton


Bodhi Hostel & Lounge

A popular hostel right in the center of town, Bodhi has dorms and private rooms with hot showers, patios, and seating areas. Guests can also enjoy a free breakfast of fresh fruits and pancakes, bike rentals, and yoga mats. Bodhi also has a branch in Panama City, which is the only hostel in Cerro Ancon (Ancon Hill), the tropical rainforest within the city’s limits.



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Hostal Casa de Juan

The owners of Hostal Casa de Juan are incredible hosts who also offer guided walks around town and day trips to secret waterfalls. There’s a pool table that guests can enjoy during their downtime as well as hot showers, free bikes, and lots of hammocks. There’s a relaxed lounge area and this spot definitely has a backpacker vibe.



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Boutique hotels in El Valle de Anton


Los Mandarinos Boutique Hotel & Spa

Los Mandarinos is one of the most upscale lodgings in El Valle de Antón. The premises feel like the setting for a telenovela with perfectly pruned flower gardens, an on-site spa and hot tub, a choice of restaurants, and two fabulous outdoor pools. Don’t miss the multi-jet showers at the spa – you’ll never want to leave.



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Golden Frog Inn

Amenities at the Golden Frog Inn include a barbecue, an outdoor swimming pool, complimentary bikes to roam around, and free Wi-Fi. It’s a bit off the beaten track but the lush setting more than makes up for this. Most rooms have their own private terrace and bilingual staff members speak English, German, French, Chinese, and, of course, Spanish.


Caracoral Boutique Hotel

This hotel is set on amazing grounds. Caracoral is serene and secluded but close enough to walk or bike into town. Amenities include karaoke, table tennis, darts, room service, 24-hour reception, satellite TV channels, sun terrace, and all rooms are air-conditioned and have a patio with garden views.



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Crater Valley Boutique Hotel

Crater Valley is a family estate turned into a boutique hotel. The owners are seriously committed to sustainability; they recycle conscientiously and have eco-friendly light fittings. A percentage of all their proceeds also go toward community endeavors. Guests can enjoy a farm-to-table breakfast and an on-site botanical trail with orchids, frogs, turtles, and koi ponds.



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Spending time in El Valle de Anton has a calming effect. What’s in store for visitors of this Coclé province town is a serene weekend away with fresh air and several helpings of Panama’s incredible beauty.



Hi, I'm Rosie Bell, a location-independent writer, editor and lifestyle entrepreneur. If you want inspiration and support to live, travel and work anywhere, look no further. Let's talk right here.