El Valle de Anton is a town in the Cocle region of central Panama, nestled in the crater of an inactive volcano and surrounded by lush green mountains. It’s the only city in the world built within a volcanic crater whose walls are still standing.

Only 2.5 hours west of Panama City by car, this lovely village has become popular for locals and travelers alike to escape the rush of Panama City and enjoy the fresh air of the countryside. The town is also known by locals as El Valle and in English as Anton Valley.

Thanks to its unique natural environment, El Valle de Anton is an excellent destination for hiking, birdwatching, biking, and horseback riding.  In addition to observing wildlife on hiking trails, you can also see exotic animals in the town’s zoo, butterfly haven, and serpentarium. Nature lovers will be in heaven!

Things to Do in Valle de Anton: Hiking, Birdwatching, and More

To enjoy outdoor activities to the fullest, we recommend visiting during the dry season, between December and May. You should spend at least one day in El Valle de Anton, although there are plenty of activities to fill up a multi-day stay.

Scroll down for more of our recommendations, including how to get to El Valle, the region’s weather, the best hiking trails, where to see amazing animals, and more El Valle attractions.

Things to Do in Valle de Anton: Hiking, Birdwatching, and More

How to Get to El Valle de Anton

By Car
From Panama City, you can either drive, if you have a rental car, or take a direct bus to El Valle. By car, drive west on the Pan-American Highway (Route 1) for about an hour and a half. When you reach the town of Las Uvas, turn north and take Route 71 to El Valle for 17 miles (28 km), driving for another 45 minutes to one hour.

Coming from the west, it takes about 2.5 hours driving from Santiago and 5 hours from David. Take Route 1. Once you get to Penonome, turn to the north, leaving Route 1, and take a combination of Via Hacia Sonadora and San Juan de Dios to El Valle. If that sounds too complicated, you can just continue on Route 1 a little further to Anton, then take Route 71 to El Valle.

By Bus
Another option is taking a direct bus from Panama City. Buses leave every half hour from the Albrook Bus Terminal, Platform 48, between 6:30 am and 18:30 pm for $4.25 one-way. The last direct bus from El Valle to back to Panama City leaves at 15:30 pm.

If you’re coming from the west, in David or Santiago, it’s still possible to take the bus. Take an east-bound bus headed toward Panama City and tell the driver you want to get off at Las Uvas. Then, take a local bus from Las Uvas to El Valle.

For more information about how to get to El Valle and transport in the region, click here.

El Valle de Anton Weather

El Valle sits at an elevation of 1,970 feet (600 m), which makes it cooler than other regions of Panama, even though it still has a tropical climate. Visitors describe a warm, spring-like environment throughout the year. Average temperatures are about 75°F (24°C) year-round, with a minimum of 66°F (19°C) and a maximum of 86°F (30°C).

The best time to visit is between December and May, the dry season. In those months, you can hike and explore the region with a lesser chance of rain. What’s more, the town’s famous orchids at Aprovaca Orquideas bloom during this time, starting in January.

Hiking in El Valle de Anton

El Valle’s unique position in a crater gives it easy access to many hiking trails and lookout points. We recommend hiking up to the edge of the crater on one of the following trails to catch the sunrise and admire incredible views of the city and surrounding mountains.

You can even do more than one hike in a day, as it doesn’t take that long to climb up to the edge of the crater and each trail provides a unique perspective.

Things to Do in Valle de Anton: Hiking, Birdwatching, and More

India Dormida Trail
This popular, relatively easy trail is just a 20-minute walk from El Valle’s center, or a quick taxi ride. “Sleeping Indian” Trail gets its name from the shape of the mountains west of town, which naturally look like a person lying down.

The trail is a loop which leads to the sleeping person’s head, with one of the two entrances at Piedra Pintada. There, you’ll find a large rock with mysterious petroglyphs and some waterfalls. At this entrance, there is a $3 entrance fee that is enforced more during the dry season, when more visitors come.

It only takes about 45 minutes to reach the top, hiking through the humid forest, passing small waterfalls, and crossing streams on wooden bridges. As you climb higher, the path follows a cliff and leads to clearings of green grass, where you’ll enjoy views of the caldera. Check out our El Valle day tour, which includes a hike up India Dormida.

Cerro Cara Iguana
This lookout point to the south of El Valle provides great views of the town itself. You can walk for about 20 minutes from town to the trailhead. From there, it’s only another 40 minutes to reach the summit, walking in the forest and along the edge of the crater. The trail is easy to moderate, with some steep inclines.

Things to Do in Valle de Anton: Hiking, Birdwatching, and More

Cerro Gaital Trail
To the north of El Valle lies the challenging trail of Cerro Gaital. This is the tallest peak in El Valle de Anton at 3,888 feet (1,185 m). To get to the trailhead, you can walk for about 30 minutes (1.8 miles/3 km). Or, you can take a local bus for $1. Catch the La Mesa – Valle de Anton bus by going to the town’s main grocery store, beside a gas station, and tell the driver you are going to Cerro Gaital.

The looped trail will first take you through lush jungle for about 20 minutes before arriving to a lookout point. After that, the trail gets more difficult, requiring you to trek through muddy sections, climb rock walls (with some ropes to help), and hike up steep inclines. Round-trip, the hike takes about 3 hours.

Chorro El Macho Ecological Refuge and Waterfall
This area offers the tallest waterfall at the region, towering at 115 feet (35 m), along with nearby nature trails. To get there, you can walk for half an hour from El Valle, towards La Mesa.

Entering from the road, you’ll pay a $5 entrance fee and it’s only another 1.2 miles to the waterfall (2 km). You can even fly high above the waterfall on a zipline and swim in the natural pool at the bottom!

Things to Do in Valle de Anton: Hiking, Birdwatching, and More

Birdwatching
On all of the trails mentioned above, you can see a variety of birds. El Valle is home to more than 350 bird species, including five species of toucan, six types of parrots, and twenty-five hummingbirds species.

October to May is the best birdwatching season, as that’s when some birds migrate to the area. While you can see some of these migrating species in town, head to Cerro Gaital to see native, tropical species. To up your chances of seeing a high number of birds, we recommend hiring a local guide. Your guide will be well-versed in bird calls and the best birding spots.

Things to Do in Valle de Anton: Hiking, Birdwatching, and More

Nature Centers in El Valle de Anton

El Valle is a great destination to see wildlife, both on its hiking trails and within the town itself, thanks to several nature centers.

Butterfly Haven
The butterfly house, El Mariposario, is only a 10-minute walk from El Valle’s central market. Inside, observe its 250 butterflies of various species, along with hummingbirds in the gardens. There are free informational tours in English and Spanish, a life cycle exhibit, and a rearing lab.

The haven is open from 9:30 am to 16:00 pm (last entrance 15:30 pm) every day of the week except Tuesdays. Entrance fees are $5 for adults and $1.50 for children 12 and under.

Things to Do in Valle de Anton: Hiking, Birdwatching, and More

Serpentario Maravillas Tropicales
This serpentarium houses 14 different types of snakes, frogs, iguanas, tarantulas, scorpions, and more. Learn all about the native animals of Panama that creep and crawl in the tropical jungle. You can even hold a huge boa constrictor.

Entrance is $5 for adults and $3 for kids. Operating hours are Monday to Friday 8:30 am-16:00 pm and Saturday and Sunday 8:30 am-15:30 pm.

Aprovaca Orquideas
This non-profit botanical garden grows over one hundred species of orchids. For a $1-2 entrance fee, you can stroll around the gardens and see the orchids, including Panama’s exotic national flower, the peristeria. It is open daily from 9:00 am to 16:00 pm.

Things to Do in Valle de Anton: Hiking, Birdwatching, and More

El Nispero Zoo
Among other animals, this small zoo has a variety of birds, capuchin monkeys, jaguars, tapirs, and, most notably, Panamanian golden frogs. This frog went extinct in the wild after a fungal infection killed off most of the species.

Now, the zoo has an amphibian conservation center dedicated to preserving this critically endangered species, along with other amphibians.

Some visitors have been disappointed by the basic enclosures the animals live in, but if you’re interested in seeing some of Panama’s more elusive species, this is where you’ll find them.

The zoo is open daily from 7:00 am to 17:00 pm. For foreigners, the admission fee is $5 for adults and $2 for children.

Things to Do in Valle de Anton: Hiking, Birdwatching, and More

El Valle Market and Hot Springs

Market
El Valle has a lovely local market on its main street, Avenida Principal. It’s sometimes called the “Sunday Market,” even though it is open all 7 days of the week during daylight hours. There, you can find artisan goods, handicrafts, and fresh produce.

Hot Springs
After a long hike, there’s nothing better than soaking your muscles in a hot spring such as Los Pozos Termales. This location has three man-made pools of different temperatures, and offers massages and mud baths. The hots springs are open from 8:00 am to 16:30 pm and charge $4 for adults and $2 for children. This day tour includes a visit to the hot springs.

Things to Do in Valle de Anton: Hiking, Birdwatching, and More

With such a breathtaking natural environment and so many things to do in Valle de Anton, we’re sure you’ll fall in love with this town right away and want to stay for even longer.