With beautiful islands, Indigenous outposts, dense rainforests, cosmopolitan cities and two magnificent coasts to explore, Panama is somewhere to linger.

But it pays to go at the right time – Panama lies just 9 degrees north of the equator, buffeted by the trade winds, meaning a tropical drenching often comes with the territory.

The best time for your trip to Panama will depend entirely on what you want to do while you're there. If you want to bask on golden sands or trek into the rainforest, visit during the dry season from December to April. 

Surfers prefer the rainy months from April to December when the best waves are unleashed along the coast. Divers and wildlife spotters gather from August to September when humpback whales, sharks and orcas congregate off the Pacific shoreline. 

Many locals say Panama actually has two climates – one for the Caribbean and one for the Pacific. A visit to the Caribbean Coast can be a damp experience at any time of year, though the sun usually puts in an appearance in the morning and afternoon. The Pacific Coast sees sunny skies (and peak prices) during the dry season from December to April when hordes of sun-seekers flock south from the US.

Don’t underestimate the impact of Panamanian public holidays; normal life shuts down completely for seasonal celebrations such as Día de la Independencia in November, Easter in April, and Christmas in December. Plan the best time for your visit to Panama with our seasonal guide to climate and events throughout the year.

People parading and performing at 1000 Polleras Parade, known as the 'Desfile De Las Mill Polleras' in Las Tablas, Panama
Festival season may be crowded, but it's a wonderful time to see Panama drenched in color and music © MarcPo / Getty Images

Easter, November, Christmas and New Year are the best times for festivals

Panamanians go all out during festivals and Christian feast days, so these holidays are always a lively time to visit. Locals flock to the coast in big family groups and beaches can be mobbed. Arrive early to stake out a patch of sand.

Plan your travel well ahead of time for any public holiday – hotel prices can rise to double the normal rate, and transport is often booked out weeks in advance.

Panama is warm year round, but temperatures creep even higher from December, peaking around Easter when daytime highs of 32ºC (90ºF) are common. Plan to be somewhere near the ocean or a waterfall if you visit in March or April.

Surfers are still enjoying swells on both the Pacific and Caribbean coasts in March, and if Easter falls in the same month, things can get very busy. Semana Santa celebrations blaze a trail through Panama in the week before Easter with processions and re-enactments of the crucifixion held all over the country. As April rolls on tourist numbers dwindle, meaning lower prices and less competition for space.

Note that Easter coincides with spring break, when North American students join the tourist throng, adding to the demand for accommodations and transport.

Don't expect to get much done in Panama in November – the whole country takes off to celebrate multiple independence-related festivals from both Spain and Colombia, such as Colón Day and Día de la Independencia. Panama City empties out and beaches fill up, but there’s still plenty of rain and it can be torrential at times.

The warm-up for the Christmas holidays impacts travel right through December. Locals move around the country in huge numbers, and tourists start to flock in from elsewhere, particularly North Americans seeking winter sunshine. Christmas itself sees maximum demand and peak prices.

With dry season and tourist season at their peaks, January is a big month for travel in Panama, particularly in beach areas. The weather creates prime conditions for kitesurfing, with Pacific temperatures at their warmest and consistent breezes along the coast. The mountain town of Boquete is filled with people and blooms for its flowers and coffee festival, and music fills the streets of Panama City during the Panama Jazz Festival.

Warm, dry weather keeps tourists coming to the Pacific Coast well into February, and the Caribbean Coast also sees plenty of visitors. Depending on the timing of Ash Wednesday, February can be one of the busiest times of the year as the carnival rolls into Panama City.

A man wearing a backpack walks across a metal bridge during a hike in Boquete, Panama.
The shoulder season is the perfect time to go for a hike in Boquete © William Flenniken / Shutterstock

Mid-December and mid-April are the best times for dry weather

The prime time to visit Panama is during the dry season, but you’ll have to share the experience. Beach areas are swamped by local and international visitors from Christmas through Easter. Savvy travelers mix up time on the coast with trips to explore the rainforests in the interior.

Be aware that “dry season” is a relative term in Panama. While the Pacific Coast – Panama City and anywhere south of the continental divide – basks under sunny skies, the highlands and Caribbean Coast still get some showers. 

This is the busiest time for hiking in Boquete and exploring the San Blas Archipelago, but the wind can reduce visibility for snorkelers. 

With the flood of winter sun-seekers, expect lots of competition for rooms, transport and space on the beach all over Panama. Prices are high everywhere and hotel rates are not far off the festival peak throughout the dry season.

A crowd of people being sprayed with water at a street festival
Panamanians celebrate regional fairs and festivals in October and November © Antonio Quinzan Bueno / Lonely Planet

Mid-April to early December is the best time for budget travelers

The rainy season is the quietest and cheapest time to visit Panama, but you’ll get wet. There are regular rain showers, some of them torrential, but it doesn’t rain all day, every day – you’ll still get a daily dose of vitamin D. 

With sporadic, refreshing rain showers, the weather is generally pleasant throughout Panama in May. This is the start of the five- to six-month nesting season for loggerhead and green sea turtles on the Caribbean coast and is the best time to visit if you'd like to observe them in the wild.

Humidity soars in June and July, and rain showers grow more frequent with regular thunderstorms. Tourist numbers are low, and so are prices, and the worst rains are still several months away. Devils hit the streets for Corpus Christi, mixing up Catholic tradition with Panamanian customs, and music and dancing light up Santa Catalina as the locals celebrate the Fiesta de Virgen del Carmen.

The rainy season coincides with the best swells on both the Pacific and Caribbean coasts, attracting plenty of surfers. August and September are also the prime months to visit Parque Nacional Coiba and the Archipiélago de Las Perlas for sightings of sharks, whales or orcas. 

This is a time to travel strategically; in late October and early November, the rain can be unrelenting, so it pays to be based somewhere with plenty of things to do indoors. On the flip side, crowds dissipate and prices drop to affordable levels across the country.

Bucking the national trend, September and October are the driest months to visit the Bocas del Toro islands. There's also the opportunity to enjoy the festival of the sea, Feria Internacional del Mar, celebrated with folk music and a feast of seafood in September. In October, Panamanians celebrate regional fairs, such as Isla Tigre in San Blas. In Portobelo, the Festival del Cristo Negro attracts thousands of devout pilgrims from all over the country to pay penance and party.

Scuba diving is a year-round activity, including during the rainy season, but land-based activities can be trickier. During the rainiest months, travel can be almost impossible in parts of the highlands.

This article was first published Jun 26, 2021 and updated Dec 1, 2023.

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