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Best and Worst Times to Visit Panama

Celebrity Equinox
Celebrity Equinox is one of the ships that visits Panama; credit: Wikimedia
Over the years, the beautiful Central American country of Panama has seen millions of visitors arriving at its shores to partake of its attractive wonders.

Such visitors mostly arrive in winter or spring when the risk of rain is lowest. However, the best time to visit Panama generally depends on individual priorities and a number of other factors that are described here.

Holidays and Availability

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

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 be remain closed on the following Monday.

As a general rule, visitors should try to avoid early January, February, the Easter period and November. Once they arrive outside these periods, they will find the streets teeming with activity.

Wet and Dry Seasons

Both coasts of Panama experience heavier rains during part of the year as a result of both the Caribbean and Pacific hurricane seasons.

Both of those seasons begin mildly in the early summer and become more active until reaching a high point during the fall months of September and October.

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

Apart from the driest months mentioned before, the dry season typically persists from around mid-December until May. This is perfect for people who like to such activities as hiking.

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 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.

Local Events

During the dry season, Panama is alit with the colours 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 a 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.

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February 17, 2020
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