Best time to visit Panama?
Ah, Panama: that S-bend of land that connects South America to North America. Known across the globe for its famous canal and as a booming business center, the place might seem like somewhere to avoid on that gap year adventure. But woe betide the person who writes it off! Woe betide the person who thinks there's simply never a best time to visit Panama!
Look beyond the sprawl of Panama City and the big banks of the metropolis. Look deeper. Look into the country's wild, green heart. Look there and you'll find a land of adventure; a land of natural wonders and breathtaking beauties. You'll find a land of swinging three-toed sloths and primeval rainforests. You find awesome resplendent quetzals and smiling locals chewing tobacco fresh from the hills. Look even further and you'll find a tropical paradise of Robinson Crusoe beaches and desert islands untouched and untrodden, with not a single footprint on their sands! Look there and you're bound to be impressed.
And if all that sounds splendid and you're travel buds are just a-tingling with excitement, then the only thing left to do is pack up the board shorts, wax down the walking boots and decide when it is you'll visit. But when is the best time to visit Panama exactly? No worries, we're here to help- read on to find out…
There really is no best time to visit Panama!
It's an annoying answer, we know! But hey, it's the truth. There actually is no best time to visit Panama. Why? Well, because the month you choose to travel to this gorgeous land in the tropics will depend entirely on what it is you want to do there. With two distinct seasons, the country oscillates between dry and cool and wet and humid throughout the year. That also means the forests and beaches are at their best at different times. So, you'll need to think about where you want to go and what you want to do on the ground before booking those flights and looking for those packages.
The climate and seasons of Panama
Panama only has two real seasons. These occur like clockwork each year, and follow the classic tropical pattern of rainy and dry. Temperature wise, the country enjoys pretty regular levels of mercury, which is why it's been hailed as the land of eternal heat. That means year-round temps that sit somewhere in the mid-80s. The main difference between the two seasons is the rainfall, which is also altered by where you are in the country – the Caribbean side of Panama is much wetter during the monsoon season than the Pacific side, which is worth remembering if you're determined to join the seven-day sand-side shindigs of LBW's IslandLife itinerary in spring.
Panama's dry season
The dry season is when the country enjoys little rainfall and cooler temperatures. This runs from around December to March (give or take a week or two either side) each year, and also sees the bulk of the visitors. The boom in crowds to the beach resorts and the ecolodges isn't just due to the stopping of the rains though, because this time also coincides with the North American and European winters, which means there are oodles of folk simply trying to escape the dreary cold of their hemisphere's colder months. That said, there's no question that the beaches are at their best at this time of year, with minimal risk of downpours and calmer seas virtually guaranteeing a prime sun, sand and sea experience in salt-washed places like Bocas del Toro and the south coast.
The dry season is also the best for SCUBA divers and snorkelers, when visibility is better in both the Caribbean and the Pacific Ocean, and when sessions underwater can't be interrupted by sporadic storms. Surfers and sport fishers will also find this prime time to head to the Caribbean coast, when conditions can be perfect.
On the whole, the dry season is by far the most popular time for travelers to come to Panama. Crowds of American and European travelers take over the resorts and the hotel and tour prices are at their highest throughout the country. It's also typically more expensive to fly into Panama City during this period.
Panama's 'green season'
Notice that Panamanians don't like to write off the wetter months with the ugly moniker of the 'rainy season'. Instead, the locals here hail the monsoon as the onset of the 'green season'. Yep, just when you thought the tropical forests of Boquete and the volcanic highlands couldn't get any greener, that's precisely what they go and do! Running roughly from April to late-November, this time of year is marked by daily downpours on the coast and prolonged bouts of afternoon rain in the mountains.
The increase in water hitting the ground adds another layer of verdant color to the rainforests, and acts to swell the river ways and streams. That makes the so-called green season perfect for wildlife lovers and intrepid types. All of Panama's 300 rivers become wilder and full of energy too, making this time of year the choice for whitewater rafters. It also brings out the sheer biodiversity of the forests, adding a lush vibrancy to the canopies and making it more likely you'll spot those multi-colored forest frogs and rare sloths.
What's more, just because it's also known as the rainy season, it doesn’t mean it always rains. On the Pacific coast especially, the days are typically broken by just one hefty downpour that will evaporate speedily under the sun. That means you might not even notice the difference between this and the dry season, and those sparkling beaches are still very much in play.
In short: The green season means far fewer people, cheaper flights, and ebbing hotel rates! (Many think it's the best time to visit Panama for that reason alone!). It also means regular downpours and a wetter jungle environment.
And on a closing note…just in case you were worrying about the presence of tropical storms and hurricanes during the time you've chosen to visit Panama – don’t! That’s because this country sits far away from the passage of the Atlantic Hurricane Belt, and so very rarely – if ever – receives the same sort of typhoons that can ravage other parts of Central America and the Caribbean. Yep, it's just another one of the awesome aspects of this tropical country.
Have you traveled to Panama during the green season? Have you hit the tropical land during the dry season? What were your experiences and what are your thoughts on the best time to visit Panama? We'd love to hear all about it in the comments below…Or, if you think it's time you explored the country, be sure to head over and check out our Panama itineraries…
Learn more about our Panama tours HERE!