Panama has a tropical climate with high temperatures of 32 C and lows of 21 C. The Pacific coast has a dry season from December through March, and can be the best time to visit.
When to fly to Panama
Several religious festivals dominate Panama’s social calendar and attract huge crowds resulting in higher prices for visitors. The best-known of these is the local Carnival celebration that takes place over the four days leading up to Ash Wednesday. The exact date varies from year to year but it is celebrated across the country and features raucous celebrations in the form of parades and outdoor dance clubs as well as fireworks. Several weeks later, during Holy Week (the run-up to Easter) features yet more public festivities with street processions marking the event. In Kuna Yala, February is the time of Independence Day celebrations of the indigenous Kuna peoples.
Although the temperatures remain fairly high throughout the year, most people taking cheap flights to Panama tend to avoid the rainy season between May and November.
Getting around Panama
By car: Roads in Panama are reasonably good and car rental agencies are well-represented throughout the country but keep in mind that you need to be at least 23-years-old to rent a car. If you’re planning excursions off the beaten path it may make sense to opt for a four-wheel drive vehicle.
Taxis are common throughout the country but are not metred meaning that it is wise to agree a price in advance to avoid any potential misunderstandings later. Nevertheless taxis are quite cheap and drivers do not expect tips. Finally, seat belts are mandatory for passengers in the font seats.
By bus: There is an extensive bus network in operation throughout Panama and they are popular way for the locals to get around. However, keep in mind that they can be excruciatingly slow at times and avoid if in a hurry.
By rail: The Panamá Canal Railway Company operates a 76km passenger route from Panama City to Colón. However, this is more of a sightseeing rather than transportation option.
Panama insider information
- An area near the Costa Rican border is developing a reputation as a destination in itself. Located in Chiriqui National Marine Park, Boca Chica features a never-ending supply of outstanding natural beauty in a tropical setting. Fishing, diving and snorkelling are obvious pastimes at the local eco-hotel or fishing lodge but they’re just the beginning in what is promising to become a future hotspot.
- For a panoramic view of Panama City, nothing short of an airplane beats Ancon Hill. Take stairs from the foot of the hill and then follow the road for about 30 minutes as it heads through a rain forest before revealing an eye-catching view from the summit. From here you can see much of the city below to one side and the canal and its shipping traffic on another.
- Of course, a visit here would not be complete without taking in the Panama Canal, once described as the eighth wonder of the world. It took ten years to complete and used 250,000 workers in the process, but now effortlessly connects the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans. Learn about its construction and current operation at the Miraflores Visitors Center and its four exhibition halls.
- Get away from the heat at sea level by heading for the mountains of Boquete in West Panama. Volcan Baru, a nearby, though inactive, volcano provides views of the area, and local tours describe the vegetation that thrives in the rich volcanic soil prevalent here. Local activities include but are not limited to water rafting and kayaking, golf, birdwatching, horseback riding and coffee farm tours.