Panama Travel Guide
When to Go
Hotels often fill up between Christmas and Easter, especially on weekends. Reserve rooms weeks or months in advance if you plan to be here during Christmas week or Semana Santa (Holy Week). Holidays mean crowded times at the beach, but they hardly affect Guna Yala and the Darién. Check the Panama Tourism Authority's website (www.visitpanama.com) for holiday and festival dates.
Most visitors come during the December-May dry season, but there's no bad time to visit. Just choose your activity.
Bird-watching is best from October to March, when northern migrants boost the native population.
Fishing excels from January to March, though Pacific sailfish run from April to July, and there are plenty of fish biting from July to January.
Surfing is best from June to December in the Pacific, whereas the Caribbean gets more waves between November and March, and some swells in July and August.
White-water rafting and kayaking are best June to December, when you have half a dozen rivers to choose from.
Scuba diving varies according to the region. The Caribbean's best diving conditions are between August and November, though March and April can also be good. The Gulf of Panama has better visibility from June to December, but the trade winds make the sea progressively colder and murkier there from December through to May. Those winds have less of an impact on the Gulf of Chiriquí and Isla de Coiba, where the diving is best from December to July.
Get the idea? It's all in what you plan to do.
Dry Season/Wet Season
Panama is an unmistakably tropical country, where temperatures fluctuate between 70°F and 90°F year-round, and humidity hovers around 80%. The country experiences only two seasons: dry, from late December to May, and rainy from early May to December. January through April are the sunniest months for most of the country. Panama experiences a mini dry season in July and August, where you may have long stretches of sunny days. Count on downpours most afternoons in May, June, September, October, and November. Bocas del Toro province gets plenty of rain in December and January. The Darién receives more rain than the rest of the country, and has a slightly shorter dry season.
Panama Jazz Festival. The Panama Jazz Festival brings together international and local artists for a concert series at various venues around Panama City in mid- to late January. www.panamajazzfestival.com.
Semana Santa. Semana Santa is celebrated with religious processions throughout Panama. It's a week when Panamanians flock to the beaches.
Fundación de Panamá. The Fundación de Panamá celebrates the founding of Panamá Viejo with a ceremony and folk dances at the ruins on August 15.