When is the best time to visit Panama? With beautiful weather all year round and all kinds of seasonal tourist activities, you really can’t go wrong with a visit any time of year.
But If you want to enjoy the ever-popular destination to its fullest, you should plan your visit around the type of experience you’re after.
For the standard tourist experience, you can visit anytime from December to April, while budget-conscious travelers may prefer a visit between May and January.
Want to know why you should avoid booking your trip for November? Keep reading to find out!
When is the Best Time To Visit Panama?
Tourism is at its highest in the country throughout its dry season which runs from December to April.
The dry season isn’t guaranteed to be free from rainfall, but the humidity is less fierce, making it the best time to visit Panama for exploring and enjoying the many natural wonders of the area.
As you might expect, Panama is at its busiest at this time of year. If you enjoy meeting and exploring with other travelers from around the world, then this would definitely be the best time to visit Panama.
Those traveling in February or March can also join the lively celebrations of Carnival.
Unfortunately, with increased demand, it’s also more expensive to visit Panama during times of heavy tourism.
You’ll pay a premium for everything from airfare and accommodations to activities and food.
If you don’t mind rain and humidity, you can save money and enjoy the country at its most lush and vibrant with a trip between May and January.
While the humidity is intense throughout the day, the majority of downpours happen in the afternoon, leaving you with plenty of time for outdoor activities with an early start.
If you really need a break from all the rain, stop in at a seaside town like San Blas, Bocas del Toro, and Colon. Each has a unique weather pattern, keeping them mostly dry throughout the year.
Though Panama sees less tourism through the rainy season, travelers will want to avoid planning trips for November. It’s a month full of national holidays, including the country’s Independence Day on November 3rd.
During the month, accommodations can be difficult to come by and many local businesses are closed as Panamanians enjoy the celebrations.
Things to do in Panama
With so much to do in Panama, it can be hard to know where to start. Here are my recommendations on the best time to visit Panama and can’t miss activities.
Explore Panama City
You can’t plan a trip to Panama for any season without exploring its capital, Panama City. A unique blend of modern construction and old-world architecture, Panama City is a constant work in progress with an ever-changing skyline.
The city is divided into two districts, the modern Panama City and the old city, better known as Casco Viejo. Each half of the city has something unique to offer.
The modern city is full of important buildings and all the amenities you expect from a world-class destination, while Casco Viejo, a World Heritage site, is overflowing with historical buildings and local culture.
Things to do in Panama City
There’s so much to explore in Panama City, but it’s only a fraction of what there is to see in Panama. To make the most out of your time in the city, without spending your whole trip there, I recommend taking a guided tour.
There’s plenty of tours to choose from, but I’d suggest the Panama City Day Tour or the Hop On Hop Off Bus Tour. Both will take you through the must-see landmarks of the city over a few hours.
Highlights include Las Bóvedas (The Vaults), Plaza de la Catedral, Teatro Nacional (National Theatre of Panama), and the Palacio de las Garzas (Heron’s Palace), the official residence of the President of Panama.
Enjoy the Local Flavors of Panama in Casco Viejo
No matter how you choose to explore the city, you’re sure to work up an appetite. Thankfully, the unique cuisine of Panama offers another window into its rich cultural history. You’ll find the best of it in Casco Viejo.
Among the local dishes, you will find elements of cuisines from around the world, including Chinese, Spanish, French, American, Afro Antillean, Amerindian, and others.
Each of these cultures has played a role in creating the unique global culture found in Panama today. The food is so unique, Panama City was named a UNESCO Creative City in Gastronomy in 2017.
Such a reputation comes with an equally expensive price tag, as such, eating out in Panama is more expensive than in most Central American countries.
Don’t let that deter you though, you can enjoy traditional dishes like Ceviche, Camarones Al Ajillo, and Arroz Con Guandu at local markets on a budget.
I tried a few dishes on the street and in restaurants and enjoyed how light and fresh they were. You can’t go wrong with either experience!
Shop For Handcrafted Goods at the Karavan Gallery
Panama has an international reputation for affordable shopping at its many import malls, but the best place to find a piece of Panama to take home is the Karavan Gallery in Casco Viejo.
Wandering the market you’ll find the handwoven fabrics Kuna women displayed alongside chacara bags of the Ngobe-Buglé, and crafts from indigenous people including the Emberá and the Wounaan.
There are traditional goods, like baskets, hats, and tribal masks available, as well as more modern items like bags and throw pillows. Each item is handmade with traditional techniques and materials.
My favorite part of the market was the vibrant natural dyes used to color many of the items, which made the market a visual treat to explore.
See The Panama Canal
The Panama Canal is one of the country’s most iconic landmarks. Located just outside of Panama City, a trip to Panama wouldn’t be complete without checking it out. Thankfully, you can stop by any time of year!
Enjoy the view and watch the ships pass by or explore the canal from a different angle with a relaxing cruise along its waters.
After you’ve taken in the sights, there’s a great museum on site which documents the construction and history of the Canal.
If it’s available during your visit, the cruise is worth the cost of admission! It was a very unique experience to actually travel along the canal and see the landmark from another perspective.
Visit Panama’s Geisha Coffee Farms
If you’re a devoted coffee drinker, the best time to visit Panama is now! and you can’t go past the Geisha Coffee Farms in Panama’s Chriqui Highlands, home to the most expensive coffee beans in the world.
Not to be confused with the Japanese Geisha, Geisha coffee beans are named for the Gori Gesha forest in Ethiopia from which they originate.
After a short period of study in Costa Rica, the beans were eventually imported to Panama, where they continue to thrive to this day.
Panama’s Specialty Coffee season begins in September and ends in March with the harvest, but you can try this coffee any time of year and stop by to learn about the process of growing and harvesting these world-class beans.
After trying the coffee for myself, I can see what makes it so special. The brew possesses a soft but strong floral scent, similar to jasmine tea with a delicate flavor you wouldn’t expect from coffee.
Though it is pricey, it’s definitely worth the experience to try a cup!
Take a Rum Tour in Pese
Those unfamiliar with the culture of Panama may be surprised to find that country has a thriving rum scene.
The heart of which is located in the small town of Pese, where the oldest sugar mill and alcohol distillery in the country still operates.
Enjoy a tour of the distillery and try a glass of the country’s national beverage, Seco.
You’ll also have the opportunity to sample a variety of the finest rums in the world, including a rum aged for 100 years, made in the town’s very own distillery!
Those who visit during the dry season (from December through April) may even get a peek at the very start of the rum-making process.
I enjoyed learning about the manufacturing process and how the growing popularity of Panamanian Rum has affected the local communities.
I’d definitely recommend checking it out! Even if you don’t want to sample the drinks, it was an interesting and informative experience.
Visit the Sloth Sanctuary in Gamboa
If you’ve got the time, why not stop by and ‘hang around’ with the adorable sloths of Gamboa?
You can find these slow-moving cuties living wild all over Panama, but if you want to get up close and personal with one, you’ll need to visit a sanctuary.
The Sloth Sanctuary in Gamboa is the perfect place to interact and learn about these incredible animals.
Over the course of an hour, you’ll tour the facilities, meet the sloths, and learn about the efforts of the Pan-American Conservation Association to rehabilitate and reintegrate Sloths into their natural habitats.
I found it really amazing to see the efforts that the people here put into caring for the animals and preserving their habitats. The Sanctuary does a lot for the local wildlife that you might not be aware of!
Stop by the Isla Iguana Wildlife Refuge
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If wildlife is your thing, be sure to plan a visit to the Isla Iguana Wildlife Refuge. Despite what the name may suggest, the refuge is home to a lot more than just Iguanas.
In fact, there are more than 5000 types of birds living in the refuge, alongside countless tropical fish, a giant coral reef, and more!
There are so many activities to enjoy at the refuge, you may want to spend a few days here. Luckily, you can camp on-site and enjoy everything it has to offer.
Whether you’re watching birds or whales, enjoying a picnic, or diving with the fish, you’re sure to have a wonderful time. I’d definitely visit again if given the chance!
Escape The City Life in Cerro Azul
Just 40 minutes from Panama City, you’ll find the town of Cerro Azul, a hidden gem untouched by the hustle and bustle of the city.
You might be surprised by its appearance, tucked away in the mountains, Cerro Azul looks like it could have been plucked from the Swiss Alps.
The relaxing scenery and peaceful atmosphere make it the perfect spot for a weekend getaway.
It’s also a lovely place to rest and recoup after a few days of tropical adventures! I enjoyed the change of pace from the other places we visited.
Though it’s quiet, a visit to Cerro Azul is far from boring. The elevation of the town offers travelers can get an incredible view of the surrounding Chagres National Park, filled with valleys, streams, and wildflowers.
Looking for more adventure? You’re free to trek down and explore the park for yourself, though I wouldn’t recommend it in the wetter months.
Relax at Las Lajas
If you prefer to do your relaxing on the beach rather than in the mountains, Las Lajas is the place for you!
You won’t find it on many lists of things to do in Panama, but this secluded beach on Panama’s pacific coast is the perfect place to get away from it all and relax.
Las Lajas stretches 20 km with soft sand and palm trees as far as the eyes can see. Stretch out and enjoy the sand, ride your bike along the coast, or go for a dip in the beautiful naturally warm water, the beach is yours to enjoy!
I recommend stopping in for an early evening picnic to enjoy the sunset in its purest form. If you’re lucky, you might even spot some crabs, peeking in and out of their burrows on the beach as the tide changes!
With so much to see and do, you now know the best time to visit Panama. To be honest there isn’t really a bad time to visit.
The most popular time for travelers to visit is from December to April, but you can enjoy the many attractions of the country nearly year-round.
Weather, cost, and availability are the major factors you need to consider before booking your trip to Panama.
If you are looking for more amazing travel destinations take a look at our website TravelCroc.com for the latest travel tips!