Panama Destination Guide
Panama is the ultimate destination for those who want it all. Brilliant beaches, luscious rainforests, indigenous culture and an abundance of tropical islands help to make Panama one of the best places in the world to visit.
Where to go:
In Panama, the Atlantic and Pacific oceans meet, and this marriage offers a diverse array of relaxation, entertainment, and adventure choices. The northern Caribbean coast, with its white sand beaches, tropical reefs, and laid back atmosphere, is perfect for recharging your tired spirit or getting back in touch with someone special. Their all-inclusive resorts, like Bocas del Toro, are a highlight for many, thanks to their rainbow reefs and diverse sea life.
And if you’re craving activity, nightlife, and a bustling city scene, Panama City fills the bill. It’s packed with history and culture (but you can still find quiet spots tucked away, begging you to relax and reboot as well).
Finally, if water sports are your passion, plan to visit the Pacific coast side between April and August when the waves are the best and surfers flock to the area to make the most of them. Whether spectator or participant, there’s no shortage of amazing coastal entertainment during this season.
Panama has two major international airports, so your intended location should be considered before you book flights. Aeropuerto Enrique Malek serves the Northern part of Panama, and Panama City’s Tocumen International Airport serves the southern part of the country. Some flights to the north may transit at Tocumen airport, rather than flying direct. Ask your accommodation provider about airport transfers, or take a taxi to your intended destination. Although car hire is possible, it is much less common amongst foreign visitors.
US Dollars are widely used in Panama, and are classified as an official currency. The other official currency, the Panamanian balboa, is tied to the US Dollar at an exchange rate of 1:1. Some businesses will not break large US notes ($50 or $100), so try to carry smaller notes where possible. English language is very common in Panama City and other tourist areas, although Spanish is the country’s main official language. In some very remote areas, locals may only speak indigenous languages, although the majority of people will be able to make themselves understood using Spanish.
When to go:
Mid-December to mid-April is the peak season in Panama, and corresponds with the dry season in the country. Although the weather will likely be on your side, the major resorts can become much busier during this period. Be sure to plan far in advance, especially if you choose to travel during the Christmas or Easter holidays.
Top Attractions in Panama
The beautiful country of Panama connects North America with South America. This geographical connection is reflected in the historical and cultural traditions of the two regions.
One of Panama’s most well-known sites is the country’s famous canal, which cuts the country in half and runs from the Pacific to the Caribbean. Visit this magnificent feat of engineering to discover one of the country’s most important assets, and understand the history behind the site.
Snorkeling and Diving
There are plenty of opportunities for snorkeling and diving off of Panama’s Caribbean Coast. The most famous destination in the country for underwater activities are the beautiful rainbow reefs near Bocas del Toro. Bahia de Almirante is one of the best locations in this area, because it is protected from harsh waves, and therefore the waters are normally crystal clear.
Dolphin and Whale Watching
A variety of different dolphin and whale species can be found off the coasts of Panama. A number of tour companies help visitors enjoy trips out to sea, to view these magnificent creatures. Dolphins are more common on the Caribbean coast, whereas whales are usually spotted off of the Pacific coast. Some locations in the Caribbean even allow visitors the chance to swim with dolphins in the wild. June to November is the best time to spot either of these species.
Panama is well known for its large indigenous population. Guided tours are available which allow you to visit indigenous villages and experience indigenous traditions. There is also the opportunity to purchase traditional arts and crafts items, to take home as a memento of your trip.
The Pacific coast of Panama offers some of the best surfing in the whole of Central America. There are places to suit all levels of experience, from beginner to professional level surfers. At more popular locations, such as Santa Catalina, you will find surf schools, but in other places, you may have the waves to yourself.
Panama offers excellent freshwater and saltwater fishing opportunities. Because Panama has two different sea coasts, there are plenty of sports fishing opportunities, including the chance to catch tuna, marlin and bass. Gatun Lake, where freshwater fishing is popular, is one of the largest artificially built lakes in the world. Gatun Lake was created during the construction of the Panama Canal.