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in the Caribbean, Mexico & Beyond

Best and Worst Times to Visit Panama

Celebrity Equinox
Celebrity Equinox is one of the ships that visits Panama. credit: Wikimedia Creative Commons license

The best time to visit Panama is during the dry season from the late winter to late spring. The worst time is the rainy season from June through November. But some months are better or worse than others.

Panama is famous for the Panama Canal that connects the Caribbean Sea with the Pacific Ocean. Caribbean cruises often visit the port of Colon at the eastern end of the canal while Pacific coast cruises visit Panama City on the western end.

The two ports, which are only 45 miles apart, share similar temperatures. Daytime temperatures are consistently in the high 80s to low 90s Fahrenheit and low 30s Celsius for most of the year.

Wet and Dry Seasons

Both coasts of Panama have heavier rains during part of the year as a result of both the Caribbean and Pacific hurricane seasons. The Panama season begins in May and the Caribbean season begins in June. Both last through November.

These seasons begin mildly and become more active until reaching a high point during the fall months of September and October.

Panama City monthly rainfall
© 2021 Scott S. Bateman

Heavy bursts of rain occur during this rainy season. The Caribbean side of the Panama Canal receives twice as much rain as Panama City. It is known for having short, sudden afternoon thunderstorms.

Much like the Caribbean, the Panama Canal Zone has a tropical climate with high humidity year-round.

The average high temperature on the Caribbean coast reaches the upper 80s Fahrenheit during the entire year. For the west coast and Panama City, the average highs reach into the 90s Fahrenheit, according to Instituto de Meteorologia e Hidrologia de Panama, Panama’s national meteorological service.

But visitors should bring warm clothes if they plan on going to high altitudes, say Boquete, El Valle or Cerro Punta. The weather is also crisp and bright during this period, making it a great time for surfing, snorkelling and diving.

It stands to reason that for tourists visiting a country like Panama, they would expect to focus on such things as shopping and excursions.

Panama monthly temperatures
© 2022 Scott S. Bateman

But they should take into consideration that Panamanians simply love their holidays. As such, if they visit at the wrong time (during the holidays), they may find a ghost town with all attractions, banks, offices, stores and restaurants closed.

If the official holiday falls on a Saturday or Sunday, expect everything to stay closed on the following Monday.

As a general rule, visitors will find holiday closures more often in early January, February, the Easter period and November. The dry season historically goes from late December through April.

Local Events

During the dry season, Panama is lit up with the colors of its various celebrations. As an example, January ushers in the Flower and Coffee Festival in Boquete and the Jazz Festival in Panama City.

Many travellers like to organize their visit around Carnival Mardi Gras parties occurring four days before Ash Wednesday for town parades, dancing and music.

Holy week during March is a major calendar event in Panama. During this time, the streets become aglow with processions and parades. During the 40 days after Easter, the quaint, two-week religious event, Festival Corpus Christi in La Villa de Los Santos is marked by devil-mask-wearing dancers.

Visitors travelling to Panama will find it’s so much more than its famed canal. But it is necessary to visit at a time conducive to enjoying all that Panama has to offer so that visitors can make the best of the experience.

Scott S. Bateman is a professional journalist who has traveled widely throughout the Caribbean and the Americas. He is the author of four books about cruising in the Caribbean, Alaska and Mexican Riviera.
January 16, 2024

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