Bayano Lake Cave: Panama’s best kept secret

Video at the bottom of this page.

Located about two hours east of Panama City, Lake Bayano is not on the typical Panama backpackers trail. In fact, tourism is very undeveloped in this region and it seems quite hard to go here on your own. By word to mouth I was recommended to go on a cave river tracing tour in Lago (Lake) Bayano. I had never heard of this region or cave, and it seemed this tour was not part of the regular “hostel tour assortment”. My curiosity was triggered.

Panama Caves tour

The friend I was traveling with found a website called “Panama Caves” online, but somehow our e-mails were left with no answer. Or at least we did not receive an answer. Tip: use Whatsapp to communicate with tour agencies in Panama. When we arrived Panama City we decided to give it another shot and called the company. Pleasantly surprised we scheduled a private tour, there are seldom scheduled large group tours to this area of Panama. Two days later our guide picked us up at our hostel and we were on our way. Our guide, Edward, was very knowledgeable and talkative. During the two hour drive I did not feel bored for a second and learned a lot about Panama.

Before we even got to the caves we already spotted parrots and lots of other birds from the car. We were driven to a farm on the side of the lake, where the tenant of the farm arrived on his horse to welcome us. While we were waiting for the boat to arrive I got the chance to sit on a horse for the first time in my life (ha ha, didn’t really get the hang of it).

Lago Bayano horse
Me on a horse for the first time.

Our boat arrived and we continued our journey to the cave over Bayano Lake. During the boat ride itself we saw lots of birds and monkeys. After about 45 minutes we got to the entrance of the cave, where we were greeted by another family of moneys high up in the trees above us! From here we could not go further by boat and continued our way into the cave by foot. Good water shoes are a must.

Lago Bayano Cave
As far as the boat took us.

Inside of the Lago Bayano cave

The river got more and more narrow as we continued our way into the Lago Bayano Cave. Our guide explained us about ancient rock formations and how the rocks in the cave change over the years.

Lago Bayano Cave
Entrance of the cave.

Once we were inside of the Lake Bayano Cave we had to rely completely on our head torch. Without the torch we would be completely in the dark. Loads of bats were flying above us and my hand got shit on by a bat! Luckily there was enough water in the river to wash it off. 😉 By now the water was up till my waist and it was better to swim than walk. Our guide pointed us at some (non-poisonous) huge spiders. We passed waterfalls. At some points there were rays of sunlight shining trough small openings on top of the cave.

Lago Bayano Cave
Inside the all dark cave.

The other side of Lago Bayano cave

Once we exited the cave on the other side we were surrounded by beautiful jungle.

Lago Bayano Cave
Light on the other side of the cave.

We continued our way up along the river. The surroundings were beautiful. And best of all: there was not a single other tourist.  After we climbed up several rocks we were rewarded by natural pools to swim in.

Lago Bayano Cave
Making our way up to the natural pools.

When we got back to the entrance of the cave, our boatman Clemente took us to another river connected to Lago Bayano. This time we saw a cayman crossing the river! The tour ended back to the farm, where a delicious home made meal cooked by the farmer’s wife was waiting for us before we made our way back to Panama City.


While not the cheapest tour (we paid $115 per person, but the more persons the lower the price), this day tour was one of the highlights of my Panama trip and definitely worth the money. The whole day was very exciting, and even though this was an organized tour everything felt very “off the beaten path”. If you are visiting Panama I can highly recommend taking a tour into the Lago Bayano Caves!

Check out the video below of my visit to Lago Bayano:


Visited in December 2016.

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