Best time to visit Panama

Updated: 10th June 2019

Panama City sunset - Best Time to Visit - On The Go Tours
A beautiful sunset over Panama City's shoreline

Seasons and Weather

Located in the tropics, Panama has just two seasons: the dry season that runs from December to March and the much longer wet season that lasts from mid-March to December. Naturally, the dry season attracts the most tourists as the chance of rain is at an absolute minimum. If you are planning on scuba diving it is also best to come during the dry season as visibility is at its peak due to the lack of rain.

Despite the likelihood of rain, visiting during the wet season is actually not a terrible idea. The rains usually only come for a short burst in the afternoon and the effects on the landscape are remarkable. The whole country is bathed in a lush green thanks to the plentiful water, making the scenery a photographer’s dream come true.

If you are visiting the Caribbean coast, the wet and dry seasons are not as straight cut. Rain falls intermittently throughout the year, meaning there is never really a bad time to come. The only month that should be avoided is November, not just because of the heavy rains, but also because of the multiple national holidays that take place then, meaning that hotels get booked up and the streets get pretty hectic.

Thinking of visiting Panama? Download a copy of our Latin America brochure for inspiration.

Climate | Panama City

JanFebMarAprMayJunJulAugSepOctNovDec
Temp Min °F777777797977777777777777
Temp Max °F909090908886868686868688
Rainfall (mm)0000000039000

Climate | Bocas del Toro

JanFebMarAprMayJunJulAugSepOctNovDec
Temp Min °F727273737373737373737372
Temp Max °F919393939088888888868688
Rainfall (mm)2810246731325326430533636024384

Upcoming events

To help plan your visit to Panama, here's an overview of the festivals and events taking place over the next year. This is by no means an exhaustive list so if you are thinking of heading to Panama outside of these dates and want to know what's on, check out this more comprehensive list.

2019:

September 14th-18th - Feria del Mar (Bocas del Toro)
October 21st - Festival de Cristo Negro (Portobelo)
November 3rd-5th - Fiestas Patrias (Panama City)

2020:

January 13th-18th - Panama Jazz Festival (Panama City)
February 25th-26th - Carnival (Nationwide)
July TBC - La Pollera Festival (Las Tablas)

There's also a number of national holidays in Panama and on these dates many businesses and some tourist sites will close for the day so plan your visit accordingly.

Panama parade - Best Time to Visit - On The Go Tours
Displays of a pollera skirt during a parade in Panama

Festivals and Events

Encompassing a mixture of Latin and Caribbean cultures, Panama is a diverse country and this is reflected in its festivals. Proud of their cultural identity and heritage, Panamanians celebrate their fiestas by combining folklore with music, dancing, traditional costumes and, of course, piles of tantalising food.

What is Panama Jazz Festival?

Starting in 1965, the Panama Jazz Festival is a 3-day event that sees performances from some of the best jazz artists in the world at various locations around Panama City. Some of the concerts are outside and free of charge, while others are slightly more exclusive. One of the aims of the festival is to bring people together and encourage peace and harmony through a mutual appreciation of music.

When is Carnival in Panama?

Undoubtedly one of Panama’s most celebrated festivals, carnival takes place during the four days before Ash Wednesday and is a veritable feast for all the senses. Live music, food stalls, fireworks and parades all fill the streets as the Carnival Queen is crowned and floats spray onlookers with cold water. Water balloon attacks are also not unheard of during this fun-filled fiesta. Las Tablas is said to be one of the best towns to experience carnival.

What is the La Pollera Festival?

Originally designed to spread awareness of the correct use of the pollera, a traditional Panamanian dress, this festival sees women from around the country come together to show off their stunning costumes and pay thanks to the artisans who work so hard to create them. There are competitions throughout the event, with awards being handed out for the best pollera in a variety of categories, including cross-stitch and embroidery.

What is the Feria del Mar?

The Feria del Mar, or Fair of the Sea, takes place along the waterfront on Isla Colon, the main island of the Bocas del Toro archipelago. The event celebrates the fishermen and boatmen who toil endlessly in the sea. Free snacks are given out as people can visit exhibitions set up by companies to explain their role in the sea industry. There are also rides on the beach, arts and crafts stalls and live music performances.

What is the Festival de Cristo Negro?

Every year, people gather in the town of Portobelo to honour a statue of black Christ which is alleged to have miracle-giving powers. The masses crowd into the San Felipe church to pay their respects before parading the statue through the streets after sunset, whilst dressed in a purple robe and, occasionally, a crown of thorns. The evening then continues with music and drinking until the early hours of the morning.

When is Fiestas Patrias?

In 1903 on the 3rd of November, Panama declared its independence from Colombia and this is celebrated annually and known as Separation Day. On November 4th the Panamanians then celebrate National Flag day followed by Colon Day on November 5th, commemorating the day when the people of Colon managed to avert a march by the Colombian army on Panama City. These three days are incredibly important for Panamanians not only because it is a celebration of freedom but also because it highlights what it means to be Panamanian. Expect dancing, fireworks and music throughout the capital.

See Also

For more help planning your trip to Panama take a look at these travel resources:

Best Places to Visit - what to see and do in Panama
Tourist Visas - what you need to know before leaving
Top Travel Tips - useful info on health, food and money in Panama
Style of Travel - what to expect on a Latin America group tour