When you volunteer in Panama, you could have the chance to serve a community while also exploring a tropical paradise. Volunteering in Panama blends fun with charitable work. Students could follow their humanitarian passion and provide vital services to Panamanians like teaching English, providing social services, or protecting the natural environment.

And, of course, you could explore Panama! From the historical Panama Canal to the white sand beaches, there’s plenty of places for the student traveler to visit. Volunteering in Panama could be the altruistic study abroad experience you’ve been looking for!

The Ins and Outs of Volunteering in Panama

When you volunteer in Panama, you could have the chance to interact with many communities in need. And, you may be able to focus your volunteer work on something you’re passionate about! Perhaps more importantly, you could leave a lasting mark on somebody’s life.

During your program, you could possibly work in some of the following fields.

  • Women’s Services
  • Childhood Education
  • Social Work
  • English as a Second Language
  • Conservation

These are just a few samples of what you could do during your study abroad experience. Speak with representatives of your chosen program for more information.

Studying While You Volunteer in Panama

Outside of volunteering, though, Panama could help you also grow as a student. Depending on your concentration, you could expand your knowledge with your volunteer work. Students studying education, the humanities, and STEM subjects may find programs that are equal parts charitable work and learning experience. Let's take a closer look at a few examples.


For example, students interested in conservation efforts might be especially interested in volunteering in Panama. From the mountains to the tropical rainforests, Panama is home to diverse animal and plant life. This makes it a great place for students to see different conservation efforts put into action.

Tourism and eco-tourism are a vital part of Panama's economic makeup. Therefore, protecting these areas is a major concern of Panamanians and conservation groups. So, programs often have work to hand out to volunteers. This could involve trekking into the jungle or up a cliff side to retrieve samples of local soil. Or, maybe even testing rivers and lakes for pollutants. Not only could this program could help you protect the wildlife of Panama, but it could also expand your environmental knowledge as well!

The Spanish Language

Language students might also find a way to practice their Spanish-speaking skills in Panama. Spanish is the primary language of the country. And, since you may be living there for a short time, you could have the chance to immerse yourself in it! Many programs offer intensive Spanish courses as an introduction to the language before sending you out to volunteer. This way, you could feel more comfortable interreacting with the community you are trying to serve.

But, practicing your language skills happens in more than just the classroom. You could have the chance to test your knowledge as you explore Panama, or just as you go about your day. Ordering a bite to eat or asking for directions to a store could be a great way to speak the language.

But Why Volunteer in Panama?

Volunteering in Panama might be a great way to add a study abroad experience into your tightly packed academic agenda. Many students choose not to study abroad because they fear they may miss out on valuable classes.

But volunteering in Panama doesn't make you miss any of those classes! These programs are often 2 to 3 weeks long. This means, you could possibly volunteer in Panama during breaks in your semester. Or, even during your summer break! Of course, you could always visit tropical Panama during your winter break to escape the snow, if you're in a chilly part of the world.

When You’re Not Volunteering, Explore!

Panama’s diverse environments might make it a prime adventuring location for student travelers. Whether your volunteer work takes you to the white sand beaches of the coast or the Cordillera Central mountains, you could have the chance to see some unique areas!

The Panama Canal

It’s hard to visit Panama and not see the Panama Canal. Since 1914, the canal has been a boon to international trade. Located just outside of Panama City, the canal provides an aquatic channel for ships to pass through the North American continent (from the Atlantic to the Pacific), without going down around Cape Horn on the tip of South America.

For a great view, hop on a bus and head to the Miraflores Visitor Center. There, you could watch ships go through the “locks” as they move from one ocean to the other. You could also take in the sight while having dinner! Many restaurants line the canal making for some unique dinnertime entertainment.

Souvenir Shopping

Looking for a little something to bring home? Stop by the Mercado Artesanias de 5 Mayo. The artesian market is full of handmade crafts that are perfect souvenirs. And, since this market is out of the touristy areas, prices may not be the “tourist prices” you see elsewhere. Time to test your haggling ability (and maybe your Spanish knowledge) with the local vendors!

The Great Outdoors

If you’re looking to escape the city look no further than…the city! The Metropolitan Park in Panama City is an oasis in the concrete jungle. You could even take an eco-tour through the exotic city locale. Hikers might be able to catch a glimpse of everything from sloths to toucans! While there, you might also want to hike to the top of Ancon Hill. The vantage point provides a panoramic view of the mini rainforest.

Or, to escape the confines of the city completely, head to the Bocas del Toro. These white sand beaches are perfect for a little R & R. After you’re done relaxing in the sand, you could throw on your snorkel and explore the coral reef surrounding the coast. Or, take a small boat out for a day in the surf.

These are only a few examples of what you could do when you volunteer in Panama. Speak with your program to see if they have any planned excursions during your stay.

Eating in Panama

What you eat in Panama really depends on where you’re volunteering. For instance, on the coasts, you could have access to a lot of sea food and tropical fruits. The farther from the coast you go, the more meat and root vegetables you could find. 

So, what does a day in Panama taste like? 


Breakfast is usually kept simple. Panamanians usually have simple cakes like torillas con maíz or bollos. Both are made with a corn dough, then fried and boiled respectively. Plaintains are another breakfast staple. These banana cousins are often mashed and fried to make patacones.


Lunch food gets a bit heartier. Arroz con pollo is a chicken and rice dish that is usually seasoned with chilies and other local spices. But, if you’re looking for authentic fare, try the plato tipico. This larger plate could include rice, lentils or beans, plantains, and the local meat specialties. 


Try a plate of carne guisada. The hearty, stew-like dish contains meat and potatoes. More adventurous eaters might be interested in trying a helping of ceviche. This light dish is seafood that is “cooked” using the acid from lemons or other citrus. Or, you could try sao. It’s the same concept as ceviche, except made with pork!

Next Steps

Are you ready to help a community in need and have an international adventure? Then you’re ready to volunteer in Panama!

But before you hop on a plane, you have to find a perfect program first. Browse the list of links on this page to view a few options. To refine the list, you could also select your preferred city, program length, and work type from the menus on this page. Good luck volunteering in Panama!