The best time to go to Panama for turtle watching and dance festivals - Lonely Planet (2023)

With deserted islands, Indigenous outposts, dense rainforests, cosmopolitan cities and two magnificent coasts to explore, Panama is somewhere to linger. But it pays to go at the right time – Panama lies just 9º north of the equator, buffeted by the trade winds, meaning a tropical drenching often comes with the territory.

Activities play a key part in the decision about when to go to Panama. If you want to bask on golden sands or trek into the rainforest, visit during the dry season from December to April.

Surfers prefer the rainy months from April to December when the best waves are unleashed along the coast. Divers and wildlife-spotters gather from August to September, when humpback whales, sharks, and orcas congregate off the Pacific shoreline.

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Many locals would say Panama actually has two climates, one for the Caribbean and one for the Pacific. A visit to the Caribbean Coast can be a damp experience at any time of year, though the sun usually puts in an appearance in the morning and afternoon. The Pacific Coast sees sunny skies (and peak prices) during the dry season from December to April when hordes of sun-seekers flock south from the US.

Don’t underestimate the impact of Panamanian holidays; normal life shuts down completely for red-letter days such as Día de la Independencia in November, Easter and Christmas. Here's a monthly guide to what you can expect through the year in Panama.

High season is the best time for festivals (Easter, November, Christmas and New Year)

Panamanians go all out for fun during festivals and Christian feast days, so the holidays are always a lively time to visit. Locals flock to the coast in big family groups and beaches can be mobbed.

Arrive early to stake out a patch of sand. Plan your travel well ahead of time for any public holiday; hotel prices can rise to double the normal rate, and transport is often booked out weeks in advance.

Panama is warm year round but temperatures creep even higher from December, peaking around Easter when daytime highs of 90ºF (32ºC) are common. Plan to be somewhere near the ocean or a waterfall if you visit in March or April.

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Note that Easter coincides with Spring Break, when North American students join the tourist throng, adding to the demand for accommodation and transport.

Best beaches in Panama

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Shoulder season is the best time for dry weather (mid-December, mid-April)

The prime time to visit Panama is during the dry season, but you’ll have to share the experience. Beach areas are swamped by local and international visitors from Christmas through to Easter. Savvy travellers mix up time on the coast with trips to explore the rainforests in the interior.

Be aware that “dry season” is a relative term in Panama. While the Pacific Coast – Panama City and anywhere south of the continental divide – basks under sunny skies, the highlands and Caribbean Coast still get some showers.

This is the busiest time for hiking in Boquete and exploring the San Blas Archipelago, but the wind can reduce visibility for snorkellers.

With the flood of winter sun-seekers, expect lots of competition for rooms, transport and space on the beach all over Panama. Prices are high everywhere; hotel rates are not far off the festival peak throughout the dry season.

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Low season is the best time for budget travelers (mid-April - early December)

The rainy season is the quietest and cheapest time to visit Panama, but you’ll get wet. There are regular rain showers, some of them torrential, but it doesn’t rain all day, every day, so you’ll still get a daily dose of Vitamin D.

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This is a time to travel strategically; in late October and November, the rain can be unrelenting, so it pays to be based somewhere with things to do indoors. On the flip side, crowds dissipate and prices drop to affordable levels across the country. Bucking the national trend, September and October are driest months to visit the Bocas del Toro islands.

The rainy season coincides with the best swells on both the Pacific and Caribbean coasts, attracting plenty of surfers. August and September are also the prime months to visit Parque Nacional Coiba and the Archipiélago de Las Perlas for sharks, whales or orcas sightings.

Scuba-diving is a year-round activity, including during the rainy season, but land-based activities can be trickier. During the rainiest months, travel can be almost impossible in parts of the highlands.

Cruising to adventure in Panama

Hit the beach in January

With dry season and tourist season at their peaks, this is a big month for travel in Panama, particularly in beach areas. The weather creates prime conditions for kitesurfing, with Pacific temperatures at their warmest and consistent breezes along the coast. And the mountain town of Boquete is filled with people and blooms for its flowers and coffee festival.

Key events: La Feria de las Flores y del Café, Boquete; Panama Jazz Festival, Panama City; Fiesta del Mar, Isla Taboga

February is the busiest time of the year

Warm, dry weather keeps tourists coming to the Pacific Coast, and the Caribbean Coast also sees plenty of visitors. Depending on the timing of Ash Wednesday, February can be one of the busiest times of year as the Carnaval rolls into Panama City.

Key events: Carnaval, Panama City (starts the Friday before Ash Wednesday; this can fall in March); Festival de Diablos y Congos, Portobelo (a biennial festival; can also fall in March)

Go surfing in March

The high season is winding down for sun-seekers, but this is still a good month for surfing on both Pacific and Caribbean swells. If Easter falls in March, things get busy for the Semana Santa celebrations.

Key events: Feria Internacional de David, Chiriquí

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April is ideal for budget travelers

April sees the last of the dry weather, and temperatures start to fall to more comfortable levels. If Easter falls in April, crowds surge again, with Semana Santa processions and re-enactments of the crucifixion held all over the country. As April rolls on, tourist numbers dwindle, meaning lower prices and less competition for space.

Key events: Semana Santa (can fall in March); Feria Internacional de Azuero, La Villa de los Santos

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May is turtle-watching season

With sporadic, refreshing rain showers, the weather is generally pleasant throughout the country. May is the start of the five- to six-month nesting season for loggerhead and green sea turtles on the Caribbean coast.

Key event: Labor Day

Bring an umbrella in June

Humidity soars and rain showers grow more frequent, with regular thunderstorms. Tourist numbers are low, and so are prices, and the worst rains are still several months away. Devils hit the streets for Corpus Christi, mixing up Catholic tradition with Panamanian customs.

Key events: Corpus Christi, La Villa de Los Santos

Avoid the crowds in July

Though it's the middle of the rainy season, the weather is comparatively dry on the Caribbean Coast, though you’ll still see showers most days. July is off-peak for visitors, so hotels offer better rates, and there’s good surf on the Pacific Coast.

Key events: Fiesta de Virgen del Carmen, Santa Catalina; Fiesta de Santa Librada and Festival de la Pollera, Las Tablas

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Go wildlife watching in August

The rainy season continues but breeding humpback whales can be observed in Parque Nacional Coiba and the Archipiélago de Las Perlas, along with sharks and orcas. Mid-month, Panama City celebrates its founding in 1519 with a stream of high-spirited events.

Key events: Panama La Vieja Day, Panama City; Festival Nacional del Manito Ocueño, Ocú

Travel around the country in September

The rain usually lets up a little, particularly around Panama City. This is still low season, so it’s a good time to travel around the country, with no need for reservations. Bocas takes advantage of the dry weather to host a festival of the sea, with folk music and a feast of seafood.

Key events: Feria Internacional del Mar, Bocas del Toro; Feria de la Mejorana, Guararé

Enjoy Festival del Cristo Negro in October

This month, Panamanians celebrate regional fairs, such as Isla Tigre in San Blas. In Portobelo, the Festival del Cristo Negro attracts thousands of devout pilgrims from all over the country to pay penance and party.

Key events: Festival of Nogagope, Isla Tigre; Festival del Cristo Negro, Portobelo; Festival del Toro Guapo, Antón

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November is Independence Day

Don't expect to get much done in Panama in November – the whole country takes off to celebrate multiple independence-related festivals, from both Spain and Colombia. Panama City empties out and beaches fill up, but there’s still plenty of rain, and it can be torrential at times.

Key events: Colón Day; Día de la Independencia (Nov. 28)

December is peak season

The warm-up for the Christmas holidays impacts travel right through December. Locals move around the country in huge numbers, and tourists start to flock in from elsewhere, particularly North Americans seeking winter sunshine. Christmas itself sees maximum demand and peak prices.

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Key events: Christmas; New Year

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FAQs

What is the best time to visit Panama City Panama? ›

The best time to visit Panama is between January and mid-April. This is the driest part of the year and shows off this tropical country at its most stunning. However, it's also worth considering traveling to Panama during the rest of the year, when you can experience local events and festivals.

What is the best month to go to Panama City Beach? ›

The best time to visit Panama City Beach is from August through mid-October, when temperatures are milder and summer is fading out. During this time of year, the temperature will reach the high 80s, and the lows rarely dip below 70. In addition to the warm weather, there's less rainfall than the rest of the year.

Does it rain all day in Panama City Panama? ›

Being a tropical country not very far north of the equator, Panama has two distinct seasons: the dry season and the wet, or rainy, season. The latter starts in late April, so by May, visitors to Panama should expect some rain every day. However, it doesn't generally rain all day every day.

Is October a good time to visit Panama? ›

One of the wettest months of the year in Panama, October isn't every traveler's ideal time to visit the tropical country. However, you can still enjoy certain activities and sights in October, despite the rain.

What month is the rainy season in Panama? ›

Panama has a hot and humid, tropical climate, with a long rainy season from May to January and a short dry season from January to May. The rainy season is between May and December and brings an estimated 250-700 millimeters (mm) of rainfall across the country.

What is the rainiest month in Panama City Panama? ›

The month with the most rain in Panamá is October, with an average rainfall of 7.5 inches. The rainless period of the year lasts for 2.0 months, from January 18 to March 19. The month with the least rain in Panamá is February, with an average rainfall of 0.2 inches.

What month can you not drink on the beach in Panama City Beach? ›

Persons 21 or older are allowed to consume alcoholic beverages on the beach 11 months out of the year. Alcoholic beverages are not permitted on the sandy beach during the month of March. Glass bottles are strictly prohibited year round on the beach.

What is the prettiest beach in Panama City? ›

Camp Helen State Park Beach is one of the most popular and picturesque beaches in Panama City Beach. It features sugary white sand and sparkling cerulean water.

What month is hurricane season in Panama City Beach? ›

The Atlantic hurricane seasons lasts from June to November. It is important for everyone in the Panama City Beach area to keep an eye on tropical weather, so you will have time to prepare if you need. The most dangerous element is the storm surge (how far inland the waters will come).

Does it get cold at night in Panama? ›

In the lowlands, temperatures range from about 32˚C (90˚F) during the day to around 21˚C (70˚F) at night. It's much cooler in the highlands, where the average daily temperature is around 20˚C (68˚F), although it can reach as low as 10˚C (50˚F) at higher elevations. Panama has a rainy and a dry season.

What is the coolest month in Panama? ›

The south side is warmer than the north side, moreover, the coolest months, or rather the least hot, are usually October and November, at the end of the rainy season, although the humidity during this period makes the heat unpleasant.

What is hurricane season in Panama? ›

Hurricane/Rainy Season

The Atlantic hurricane season runs from June to November; although Panama is not directly impacted by hurricanes, this season frequently coincides with heavy rains, which may cause flash floods and landslides. October and November normally have the heaviest months of rainfall.

How Hot Is Panama in October? ›

October Weather in Panamá Panama. Daily high temperatures are around 85°F, rarely falling below 82°F or exceeding 88°F. The lowest daily average high temperature is 85°F on October 22. Daily low temperatures are around 76°F, rarely falling below 74°F or exceeding 78°F.

How many days do you need to visit Panama? ›

Plan on spending around 10 days for a holiday in Panama that covers multiple areas and highlights, adding the Azuero Peninsula, Boquete, or Bocas del Toro. Panama has good domestic air service, so it's easy to fly between Panama City and David, or Bocas del Toro, in the far north.

Which side of Panama has better weather? ›

The Caribbean side of Panama gets significantly more rainfall than the Pacific. Typically, Bocas del Toro and the rest of Panama's Caribbean Coast receives twice as much rain as the Pacific Coast. This area often gets rain year long – but only in the afternoon, especially in the highlands.

Is Panama cold in April? ›

The annual average temperature is 86°F (30°C), but this can rise to 90°F (32°C) during the dry season, especially in March and April. The main exception is the highlands, particularly the Western Highlands bordering Costa Rica.

How to dress for Panama? ›

The key is neat and sleek, and neutral colors are best. Whatever time of year you visit it will be hot and humid. During the day it's hot, so our advice is to pack lightweight, loose-fitting clothes in natural fabrics such as linen, silk, cotton and bamboo that will keep you cool and are easy to wash and dry.

What is off season in Panama City Beach? ›

You'll save on lodging prices during the area's low season (November to February), but it'll likely be too chilly to enjoy the ocean.

What is the fine for drinking on the beach in Panama City Beach? ›

Those caught will return home with a second-degree misdemeanor. Like in Panama City Beach, they also can be fined up to $500.

Can you walk with alcohol in Panama City Beach? ›

It shall be unlawful for any person to possess or consume any alcoholic beverage on the sandy gulf beach of the Gulf of Mexico, within the City limits, without having in his or her immediate possession a government issued photo ID disclosing their name, address and age to immediately present upon the demand of law ...

What is Panama's number one attraction for tourists? ›

Panama's most famous attraction is by far the Panama Canal, connecting the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. Watching a massive ship, piled high with colorful containers, gliding quietly into the locks reveals the true enormity of this great feat of engineering.

Where is the clearest water in Panama City Beach? ›

Panama City Beach and Pier is the best place to go in Panama City Beach for crystal clear blue water. This beach is approximately eight miles long and is one of the most popular beaches, perfect for relaxing and playing in the sand and then grabbing a bite to eat at one of the nearby waterfront restaurants.

What is the safest beach in Panama? ›

If you're searching for nice beaches for families, look no further than this seaside wonderland in Bocas del Toro. With gentle waves and shallow, crystalline waters, it's even the safest beach for kids in Panama.

What months are the worst for hurricanes? ›

The strongest time for hurricane activity seems to be between mid-August through mid-October. Wind factors and temperature and moisture are perfect during this time to encourage cyclonic activity.

What month do the worst hurricanes occur? ›

The peak of the Atlantic hurricane season is September 10, with most activity occurring between mid-August and mid-October. For the eastern Pacific basin, the analyses are based on data from the 50-year period from 1971 to 2020 (starting when there was reliable satellite imagery) but also normalized to 100 years.

What is the hottest month in Panama City Panama? ›

With an average high-temperature of 35.4°C (95.7°F) and an average low-temperature of 19.5°C (67.1°F), April is the warmest month in Panama City, Panama.

What is Panama's hottest month? ›

Panama, annual weather averages

April is the hottest month in Panama Canal with an average temperature of 28.5°C (83°F) and the coldest is October at 26°C (79°F) with the most daily sunshine hours at 9 in February.

What language is spoken in Panama? ›

Spanish is the official native language of Panama. But what kind of Spanish do they speak? There are many types of Spanish, but Castilian Spanish is spoken in Panama due to Spain's influence in Panama.

Is the water warm in Panama? ›

Average annual water temperature on the coast in Panama City is 82°F, by the seasons: in winter 81°F, in spring 82°F, in summer 84°F, in autumn 84°F. Minimum water temperature (77°F) in Panama City it happens in February, maximum (86°F) in June.

What kind of food is in Panama? ›

Typical Panamanian food is based around beans, rice, plantains, and meat; including beef, chicken and pork. Seafood is widely available and excellent, and tropical fruit is plentiful. Unfortunately, green veggies don't grow well down here, and as such there is not an abundance of leafy vegetables.

What is special about Panama? ›

Panama is the only place in the world where you can see the sun rise on the Pacific and set on the Atlantic. Panama is the only country in the world in which you can see the sun rise in in the Pacific Ocean and set on the Atlantic Ocean from the top of the highest point in the country, Volcan Baru.

How many days is enough for Panama City? ›

One week allows you to explore Panama City and the Canal plus one or perhaps even two other regions, such as Bocas del Toro or the Pearl Islands, for a more rounded experience of the country.

What months Can you swim in Panama City Beach? ›

Itching to dip your toes into something other than a hot tub? Well, the temperature of the Gulf waters is plenty warm enough for swimming by March (average Gulf water temperature of 63 degrees) and remains comfortable and warm through November or December (average water temperature of 67 degrees).

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