Panama is one of the most beautiful countries I've ever seen. If you're after crystal clear water, white sand, vibrant corals, lush jungles, and bright green mountains, you've come to the right country. I was lucky enough to live in Panama for nearly a year and during that time I was able to see the changes each season brought to help you decide when is the best time to visit Panama.
While Panama City is a cool city to visit, most people that are planning a trip to Panama are doing so to take full advantage of the nature that this tropical country boasts. And you'd be right to do so! From north to south the landscape is stunning. The beaches on the Caribbean Coast and the Pacific Coast are varied and the highlands will give you some respite from the heat.
But know that since you'll most likely want to spend so much of your time outside, the time you plan your trip is key! Better yet, move to Panama like I did and experience the country all year round! Teaching English is a good way to get a job and your foot in the door but otherwise the tourism industry here is booming.
For the travelers though that need to narrow down when to visit Panama, I've got you covered. Let's dive into the seasons and everything you should know to plan a fantastic vacation to Panama.
Things to Know Before You Go
Now that you’re gearing up for your trip and planning the specifics of where and when you’ll go, there are a few things you don’t need to overlook.
I know just how easy it is to look towards the big hike, bucket list city, or beach of my dreams and forget about all of the little things in between that’ll make your trip run as smoothly as possible. Be sure to take into consideration these few things before you go to make sure you get all the good bits of your trip without the stress.
- Make sure you have travel insurance. A good travel insurance, like SafetyWing, will ensure you’re covered in case of emergencies. While you will have to pay upfront for your doctor or hospital costs, unless it’s for a pre-existing condition, you can file a claim and should be reimbursed. For any Americans reading this, fear not, healthcare in pretty much every other country is far more affordable than ours, even if you’re paying out of pocket.
- Do your best to learn a few local phrases in their language. No, I’m not expecting you to be able to have a fluid conversation with locals at the bus stop if you’re just visiting their country for a week but knowing your numbers (for prices), how to order something (“I would like…”), and basic greetings really will take you a long way. Mondly is a great app for phrases and vocabulary.
- Book any popular tours you want to do in advance. I’m really not a great planner and I’ve made this mistake more times than I can count. I plan a trip to a destination knowing that I want to do a sailboat trip or food tour and wait until the day before to book only to realize it’s not available the day I’m in town. Don’t make that mistake - if there is something you know you want to do - book your tour in advance.
- Same thing goes for rental cars. If you want to rent a car to cover more ground in a country, do it in advance. Prices will be more affordable and that way you’re guaranteed to have your wheels waiting for you.
- Last tip certainly isn’t mandatory but it is helpful. Before you start booking your flights, hotels, and tours, consider opening up a travel credit card. Thanks to our Capital One Venture card, my husband and I have gotten countless free flights just by gaining points on everyday expenses.
The Weather in General in Latin America
In general, the countries in Central America and some in South America don't get 4 seasons, they get 2: the wet and dry season. The closer you are to the equator, the more true it is, with more varied seasons coming into play the farther north or south you move.
For the most part, the temperatures will depend on altitude more than anything else, so if you want the heat, hang out sea level but if you want to cool off, head to the mountains. Unlike neighboring Colombia, Panama doesn't have super high mountains to give you wintry or fall weather but instead you'll have spring and summer to choose from all year round, with just slight variations from season to season.
Rainy Season in Panama
- Typically mid-April to mid-December
- The Pacific Coast follows this trend more
- The Caribbean Coast almost always has some chance of rain
Panama's rainy season is also known as "green season" thanks to the nourishing water bringing this already vibrant country to life even more. Not only will the greens be brighter but many flowers are in bloom in this season, making it the perfect time to visit Panama if you're eager to see the jungles at their prime. Just know that rain and landslides might alter your plans.
Although Panama is such a skinny country, the seasons will vary based on which region you plan to visit. Luckily, unlike other tropical countries where rains can mean monsoons or tropical storms, the rain throughout Panama tend to short bursts with plenty of sunshine in between.
Accommodation prices tend to be lower during rainy season since many people are deterred by the idea of even a sprinkle ruining their plans. The crowds are also way less if you want to enjoy popular spots without fighting other tourists for space and it's typically the cheapest time throughout the country. Trust me though, I loved rainy season when I lived in Panama and think it's a really great time to visit.
Best Places to Visit During Rainy Season
The Chiriquí Region, most notably Boquete, is a fantastic place to visit during wet season. The already lush jungle surrounding this region gets even more vibrant thanks to the tropical rains. Boquete is known for its stunning landscapes, cool climate, and coffee plantations. So, even if you face a rainy day, it's a great place to relax in a hammock and enjoy the soothing sounds of nature.
Humpback whales migrate up the coast during the rainy season. It's possible to see them from June-October but September is prime time. While I never went whale watching in Panama, I did get the opportunity to see them further south on their migration when living in Ecuador and it's seriously an incredible experience. It's possible to see them all along the coast but the best chance for viewing is Taboga Island, Pearl Island, Coiba Island, and the Gulf of Chiriquí.
Another recommended place to visit during Panama's wet season is Bocas del Toro. Bocas is actually at its dried in September and October so if you want to visit Panama during "rainy season" but actually want to escape the rain, head to Bocas del Toro. Bocas is a tropical paradise known for its crystal-clear Caribbean Sea, diverse marine life, and massive mangrove forests. This area is best explored by kayak and a snorkel in my opinion.
Dry Season in Panama
- Typically Mid-December to mid-April
- This coincides with high season
- You still might see a little rain, especially on the Caribbean and in the Highlands
From mid-December to mid-April, the rains tend to die down and dry season begins. With the combination of minimal rains and plenty of holidays, dry season in Panama coincides with high season. Just know that without the rain to cool anything down, the dry season also means the hottest months of the year.
It's a really great time to visit Panama if you want to be sure your plans won't be affected by rain, although know that in the Caribbean and Highlands, rare showers are still possible. You'll also have to be willing to rub elbows with plenty of other tourists, local and international, during this time because trust me, you're not the only person who though dry season is the best time to visit Panama.
With events like Christmas, New Years, Easter, and Carnival, there are loads of events to take part of during these few months.
Best Places to Visit During Dry Season
Dry season is a great time to visit the San Blas Islands (also known as Kuna Yala). When I lived in Panama, I spent a month working in Bocas del Toro but the rest of the near year working on these islands. Dry season is of course the most popular time to visit but if you want to endless sunshine while frolicking around private islands, this is the time to go.
I don't know about you but I really don't enjoy cities in the rain. Put me in nature and I can relax for days, put me in a city and I'm immediately bored. Because of that personal preference, I recommend visiting Panama City during this time of the year. Since this also is the time for most of the big events in the country, the city is lively and a lot of fun.
Annual Events to Plan Around
Depending on your personality and travel preferences, you might prefer to plan your trip during these events or around them. Regardless, it's important to know when the biggest holidays of the year are celebrated in Panama.
These are the biggest events in Panama each year:
- Carnaval: Usually February or March, depending on the year, throughout the country
- Panama Jazz Festival: Every January, in Panama City
- Semana Santa: The week leading up to Easter Sunday, throughout the country
- Independence Day: November 3-4, throughout the country
- Flower and Coffee Festival: Every January, in Boquete
While you might be tempted to avoid these annual events, it is a fun time to get to know more of the culture of Panama and see just how much fun locals are. Trust me, you're in for a treat!
When Will You Visit Panama?
The best time to visit Panama will depend on what you're hoping to see and do while visiting. From lower prices and humpback whales in the rainy seasons to the biggest events and endless sunshine in the dry months, there time you decide to plan you trip will play a big role.
So, when is the best time to visit Panama for you?
All photos by depositphotos.com.