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The 10 Best Beach Destinations in Panama

As a lover of beaches and travel, I’ve always been drawn to Panama as a destination. With its pristine coastline, clear waters, and lush tropical landscapes, Panama offers some of the best beach experiences in Central America. In this post, I’ll be going over the 10 best beach destinations in Panama, along with some tips on what to do, where to stay, and when to visit.

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1. Bocas del Toro

Located on Panama’s Caribbean coast, Bocas del Toro is a collection of islands and islets that offer some of the best snorkeling, diving, surfing, kayaking, and beach hopping experiences in the country. The archipelago is home to a vibrant Afro-Caribbean culture, and the town of Bocas del Toro is known for its colorful wooden houses, lively bars, and laid-back vibe.

What to do in Bocas del Toro:

  • Go on a snorkeling or diving tour to see the coral reefs and marine life
  • Take a surfing lesson or rent a board and catch some waves
  • Explore the different beaches on foot, bike, or boat
  • Visit the Bat Cave to see thousands of bats in their natural habitat
  • Learn about the local culture by visiting the Ngobe-Bugle indigenous community

Where to stay in Bocas del Toro:

  • Hotel Bocas del Toro: a boutique hotel located in the heart of the town
  • Selina Bocas del Toro: a popular hostel with a pool, bar, and co-working space
  • Red Frog Beach Island Resort: a luxury eco-resort located on a private island
  • Vacation rentals: there are many Airbnb and VRBO options in Bocas del Toro, ranging from beach bungalows to treehouses

Best time to visit Bocas del Toro:

The best time to visit Bocas del Toro is from November to April, when the weather is dry and sunny. Avoid visiting during September and October, which is the rainy season and can lead to flooding and landslides.

2. San Blas Islands

The San Blas Islands are a stunning archipelago of over 350 islands and cays on Panama’s Caribbean coast, inhabited by the Kuna Yala indigenous people. The islands are known for their crystal-clear waters, white-sand beaches, and vibrant coral reefs, making them a paradise for snorkelers and scuba divers.

What to do in San Blas Islands:

  • Go island hopping and explore different islands and beaches
  • Snorkel or scuba dive to see the colorful marine life
  • Visit a Kuna Yala village to learn about the local culture and traditions
  • Enjoy fresh seafood and traditional Kuna cuisine
  • Relax and soak up the sun on a hammock

Where to stay in San Blas Islands:

  • Eco-lodges: there are many eco-lodges on the San Blas Islands that offer a unique and sustainable way to experience the beauty of the archipelago, such as the Yandup Island Lodge or the Coral Lodge
  • Rustic accommodations: for a more budget-friendly option, there are also rustic accommodations available on some of the islands, such as the Franklin’s Guesthouse on Isla Tigre
  • Liveaboards: some tour operators offer multi-day trips on a liveaboard, which allows you to explore different islands and snorkeling spots while staying on a boat

Best time to visit San Blas Islands:

The San Blas Islands can be visited year-round, but the best time to go is during the dry season, from December to April. The rainy season, from May to November, can bring heavy rain and rough seas, making it difficult to travel between the islands.

3. Santa Catalina

Located on Panama’s Pacific coast, Santa Catalina is a small fishing village that has become a surfing mecca in recent years. With consistent waves and a laid-back atmosphere, Santa Catalina attracts surfers of all levels, from beginners to pros.

What to do in Santa Catalina:

  • Surf at Playa Santa Catalina or other nearby breaks, such as La Punta or El Estero
  • Go fishing or hire a boat to explore the coastline
  • Snorkel or dive at Coiba National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage site known for its biodiversity
  • Explore the nearby mountains and waterfalls on a hiking or biking tour
  • Enjoy fresh seafood and local cuisine at one of the many restaurants in town

Where to stay in Santa Catalina:

  • Hotel Santa Catalina Panama: a boutique hotel located near the surf break, with a pool and restaurant
  • La Buena Vida: a hostel with a bohemian vibe and a rooftop terrace
  • Vacation rentals: there are many vacation rentals available in Santa Catalina, ranging from simple cabins to luxurious villas

Best time to visit Santa Catalina:

The best time to visit Santa Catalina for surfing is from April to November, when the waves are at their best. However, this is also the rainy season, so be prepared for occasional showers. If you prefer dry weather, visit from December to March, when the waves are smaller but the weather is sunny and dry.

4. Isla Contadora

Isla Contadora is a small island located in the Pearl Islands archipelago, off the Pacific coast of Panama. The island is known for its crystal-clear waters, white-sand beaches, and abundance of marine life, including humpback whales that can be spotted during the migration season.

What to do in Isla Contadora:

  • Go beach hopping and explore different beaches, such as Playa Cacique or Playa Ejecutiva
  • Snorkel or dive to see the colorful coral reefs and fish
  • Watch humpback whales from a boat or go on a whale watching tour (available from July to October)
  • Take a day trip to nearby islands, such as Isla Saboga or Isla San Jose
  • Enjoy fine dining and cocktails at one of the island’s many restaurants and bars

Where to stay in Isla Contadora:

  • Hotel Punta Galeon: a luxury resort located on a hill overlooking the island, with a pool and spa
  • Contadora Island Inn: a boutique hotel with a beachfront location and a restaurant
  • Vacation rentals: there are many vacation rentals available on Isla Contadora, ranging from villas to apartments

Best time to visit Isla Contadora:

The best time to visit Isla Contadora is from December to April, when the weather is dry and sunny. However, this is also peak tourist season, so expect higher prices and more crowds. If you want to see humpback whales, visit from July to October, when they migrate through the area.

5. Pedasi

Pedasi is a small town located on Panama’s Pacific coast, known for its world-class surfing, fishing, and whale watching. The town has a relaxed and friendly vibe, with colorful houses and a charming central square.

What to do in Pedasi:

  • Surf at Playa Venao or other nearby breaks, such as Playa El Toro or Playa Arenal
  • Go fishing for tuna, marlin, or dorado (mahi-mahi) with a local guide
  • Whale watch from a boat or take a tour to see humpback whales (available from July to October)
  • Visit nearby Isla Iguana, a nature reserve known for its white-sand beaches and marine life
  • Hike or bike to nearby waterfalls and natural pools

Where to stay in Pedasi:

  • Azuero Lodge: a boutique hotel located in a tropical garden, with a pool and restaurant
  • Selina Pedasi: a hostel with a pool, bar, and co-working space
  • Vacation rentals: there are many vacation rentals available in Pedasi, ranging from simple apartments to luxurious villas

Best time to visit Pedasi:

The best time to visit Pedasi is from December to April, when the weather is dry and sunny. This is also the best time for surfing and fishing. If you want to see humpback whales, visit from July to October.

6. Playa Venao

Playa Venao is a beautiful beach located on Panama’s Pacific coast, known for its world-class surfing, yoga retreats, and eco-friendly accommodations. The beach has a relaxed and bohemian vibe, with plenty of opportunities for relaxation and adventure.

What to do in Playa Venao:

  • Surf at the main break or take a lesson from a local surf school
  • Practice yoga or attend a wellness retreat at one of the many yoga centers in the area
  • Hike or bike through the nearby forests and hills
  • Go horseback riding on the beach
  • Enjoy fresh seafood and cocktails at one of the beachfront restaurants and bars

Where to stay in Playa Venao:

  • Eco Venao: an eco-friendly resort with beachfront bungalows, a pool, and a restaurant
  • Selina Playa Venao: a hostel with a pool, bar, and co-working space
  • Camping: there are also camping options available on the beach

Best time to visit Playa Venao:

The best time to visit Playa Venao is from December to April, when the weather is dry and sunny. This is also the best time for surfing and yoga. If you want to avoid the crowds, visit from May to November, but be prepared for occasional rain showers.

7. Playa Blanca

Playa Blanca is a beautiful white-sand beach located on Panama’s Pacific coast, known for its calm and clear waters, water sports, and luxurious accommodations. The beach is also close to other attractions, such as the historic town of Penonomé and the El Valle de Antón mountain village.

What to do in Playa Blanca:

  • Swim, paddleboard, or kayak in the calm and clear waters
  • Snorkel or dive to see the coral reefs and marine life
  • Go on a sunset catamaran tour to see the coastline and the sunset
  • Visit the nearby attractions, such as the Chorro de las Mozas waterfall or the El Valle de Antón market
  • Enjoy fine dining and cocktails at one of the beachfront restaurants and bars

Where to stay in Playa Blanca:

  • Royal Decameron: a beachfront resort with all-inclusive packages, a pool, and a spa
  • Playa Blanca Resort: a luxury resort with beachfront villas and apartments, a pool, and a restaurant
  • Vacation rentals: there are many vacation rentals available in Playa Blanca, ranging from apartments to villas

Best time to visit Playa Blanca:

The best time to visit Playa Blanca is from December to April, when the weather is dry and sunny. This is also peak tourist season, so expect higher prices and more crowds. If you want to avoid the crowds, visit from May to November, but be prepared for occasional rain showers.

8. Punta Chame

Punta Chame is a long and narrow peninsula located on Panama’s Pacific coast, known for its strong winds and flat waters, making it a perfect destination for kitesurfing and windsurfing. The peninsula is also a haven for eco-tourism, with a variety of natural attractions and activities available.

What to do in Punta Chame:

  • Kitesurf or windsurf in the flat waters and strong winds
  • Explore the mangroves and wildlife on a boat or kayak tour
  • Visit the nearby beaches and islands, such as Taboga Island or Isla Grande
  • Learn about the local culture and history by visiting nearby towns, such as Chame or San Carlos
  • Relax and soak up the sun on the beach

Where to stay in Punta Chame:

  • Nitro City Panama Action Sports Resort: a beachfront resort with kitesurfing, wakeboarding, and skateboarding facilities, as well as a pool and a restaurant
  • Punta Chame Villas: a luxury eco-resort with beachfront villas, a pool, and a restaurant
  • Vacation rentals: there are also many vacation rentals available in Punta Chame, ranging from apartments to villas

Best time to visit Punta Chame:

The best time to visit Punta Chame for kitesurfing and windsurfing is from December to April, when the winds are strongest and most consistent. This is also the dry season, so expect sunny and dry weather. If you want to avoid the crowds and get better deals, visit from May to November, but be prepared for occasional rain showers.

9. Coronado

Coronado is a beach town located on Panama’s Pacific coast, known for its upscale and luxurious atmosphere, as well as its variety of activities and amenities. The town has a large expat community and is popular among retirees and vacationers looking for a comfortable and convenient destination.

What to do in Coronado:

  • Play golf at one of the nearby golf courses, such as the Coronado Golf and Beach Resort
  • Go shopping and dining at the Coronado Mall or the nearby towns of San Carlos and El Valle de Antón
  • Relax at one of the beach clubs, such as the BlueBay Coronado Golf and Beach Resort or the Casa de Campo Beach Club
  • Visit the nearby natural attractions, such as the Los Cajones de Chame waterfall or the Cerro La Cruz hiking trail
  • Enjoy water sports, such as jet skiing, paddleboarding, or parasailing

Where to stay in Coronado:

  • Coronado Golf and Beach Resort: a beachfront resort with all-inclusive packages, a golf course, a pool, and a spa
  • The Buenaventura Golf and Beach Resort: a luxury resort with beachfront villas, a golf course, a pool, and a spa
  • Vacation rentals: there are also many vacation rentals available in Coronado, ranging from apartments to villas

Best time to visit Coronado:

The best time to visit Coronado is from December to April, when the weather is dry and sunny. This is also peak tourist season, so expect higher prices and more crowds. If you want to avoid the crowds, visit from May to November, but be prepared for occasional rain showers.

10. El Palmar

The lovely, white-sand beach of Playa El Palmar lies 14km (8.7 mi) southwest of Playa Coronado, one of the best beach towns in Panama for ex-pats near the village of San Carlos.

What to do in El Palmar:

  • El Palmar Museum, where you can learn about the history and culture of Panama
  • Zoo where you can see some of the exotic animals that in habit Panama
  • El Palmar National Park, where you can see some of the amazing wildlife that Panama has to offer

Where to stay in El Palmar:

  • A budget-friendly option, the Palmar Beach Club & Hotel is a good choice
  • If you’re looking for something a bit more luxurious, the El Palmar Beach & Golf Resort is a great option, located on a private beach
  • Vacation rentals: There are also a number of vacation rentals available in El Palmar, which can be a great option for those looking for a more private and unique accommodation.

Best time to visit El Palmar:

The best time to visit El Palmar is from December to April, when the weather is dry and sunny. This is also peak tourist season, so expect higher prices and more crowds. If you want to avoid the crowds, visit from May to November, but be prepared for occasional rain showers.

Check out this short video to get a sneak peak of Panama

FAQ’s

Q: Are the beaches in Panama safe to swim?

A: Yes, most of the beaches in Panama are safe to swim, but it’s important to check for any warnings or signs indicating dangerous conditions, such as rip currents or jellyfish.

Q: Do I need a visa to visit Panama?

A: It depends on your nationality. Some countries are visa-exempt and can stay in Panama for up to 90 days without a visa, while others need to apply for a visa beforehand. You should check with the Panamanian embassy or consulate in your country for more information.

Q: What is the currency in Panama?

A: The official currency in Panama is the Panamanian balboa (PAB), which is equivalent in value to the US dollar (USD). The USD is widely accepted in Panama, and many places also accept credit cards.

Q: What is the official language of Panama?

A: The official language of Panama is Spanish, but many Panamanians also speak English, especially in tourist areas.

Q: Is it safe to travel to Panama?

A: Yes, Panama is generally a safe country to travel to, but it’s important to take normal precautions and be aware of your surroundings. Petty theft and scams can occur, especially in tourist areas, so it’s important to keep your belongings safe and be cautious when dealing with strangers.

Additional Resources

If you are looking for information and ideas on what to take to the beach and tech to keep you connect, have a look at the following:

Packing

When you’re heading out on your vacation, you want to make sure that your possessions get to their final destination in one piece, not scattered in the trunk or airport luggage carousel due to something like a broken zipper. Check out Nomatic for some great luggage options.

Conclusion

Panama is a great place to travel to and visit. And with all the amazing beaches Panama has to offer, you can’t go wrong. My top pick out of all the beaches listed would have to be Bocas del Toro. With a variety of activities, including a bat cave, beaches and unique wooden houses this is a great holiday destination.

Check out our Beach Destinations Resources for more beach ideas.

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