Panama lies between the Pacific Ocean and the Carribean Sea, a link between the North and South American continents, the gateway to the world’s economy. While a small country, the majority of the population live along the country’s long coasts. Aside from the economy of the Panama Canal and its burgeoning financial prosperity, Panama’s tourist economy is heavily based on the amazing beaches that frame the country.
Does Panama have good beaches?
With the Pacific Ocean rushing to the shores with high winds, ripe for sailing, breezy climate great for sailing, and hidden bays with miles of powdery sand all to yourself, the Pacific coast of Panama is a place of independent exploration and curious discoveries. The Carribean coast brings forth another side of Panama’s charm. The tame, warm waters almost hug the shores, where you can hole up on the beach for hours in the velvety hot air, the calm currents making great opportunities for splashing around and exploring the life underneath, and the brilliance of the turquoise waters that will glisten in the Carribean sun.
A country of contrasts, the beaches will dazzle you with versatility and hospitality; whichever side you may choose!
Does Panama have clear water? Why is the sand black in Panama’s beaches?
Panama has one of the most beautiful waters in the region, and the activities to do are almost endless! Further, the waters around Panama’s shores are clear. This is due to the absence of organisms like plankton and other particles. Temperate oceans tend to facilitate plankton because of the biomes that suspend them throughout the waters, making the base of the food base in those oceans. Tropical ocean water is warm and extremely sterile as a result, making tropical waters generally nutrient-poor. Thanks to coral-reefs, the adaptation in the distribution of nutrients has created a good environment for tropical fishes to thrive.
Panama’s territory lies under what is commonly known as the ring-of-fire. This is a geological feature of the earth where volcanic and seismic events are commonplace around the rim of the Pacific Ocean. This means that Panama is no stranger to earthquakes and volcanic eruptions throughout its history. For thousands of years, the accumulation of volcanic ashes settling in the ocean, soil and dirt have created a heavily fertile landmass, as well as heavy minerals that, after weathering and erosion, turn into the black sand that you see today. These sands are glittery and beautiful and are not all tar-black like you would imagine. Lots of beaches in Panama have gold sand and peachy sands that are in part, thanks to the deposits of black sand.
Can you swim in the oceans in Panama? Are Panama’s beaches safe?
Panama is famed for its endless shores and great beach culture. This reputation does not come from nowhere. The country sells itself as a place where you can explore its many beaches and the possibilities are endless of where you can visit for a dip. With this being said, it is good practice to exercise great caution when you are visiting a beach away from population centres or any tourist sites as they are less likely to travel by. For the most part, most beaches have safe swimming areas when they are around or near tourist centres, but it is recommended to do safety-checks first. This is because most beaches do not employ lifeguards and, especially in the Pacific Coast, there are many riptides that dot the coast, so make sure to do some research with any of the beaches that you plan to go to.
Read our detailed guide: Safety in Panama
Are there sharks in Panama?
Although the warm waters around Panama’s coast facilitate an ideal environment for sharks, most commonly bull sharks, shark attacks are rare. Between 2003 and 2009, there have only been four shark attacks. Two of which occurred thanks to fishermen actively irritating sharks, one of which are the typically docile nurse shark. According to the Wildlife Museum organization, the odds of being attacked by a shark are 1 in 3,748,067. So, breathe a sigh of relief and bring some swimming gear!
What are the nicest beaches in Panama?
The closest beach to Panama City, Playa Bonita is definitely a great place to begin your beachside journey through Panama. Mostly serviced by Dreams Playa Bonita, as well as other resorts, Playa Bonita is located on a calm section of the Pacific Ocean. The proximity of Playa Bonita to a metropolis might be worrying, but the Panamanian government as well as the trajectory of the sea currents keep any potential water pollution away from these beaches, so you will be safe swimming in these waters. It is recommended that you exercise caution when walking through the waters as some portions of the beach are slightly rocky, so ask a staff member to tell you where to look out for.
Two hours away from Panama City on the Pacific Ocean, is the Playa Blanca area just by the town of Farallon. Most people who visit Playa Blanca stay at the Playa Blanca Resort, which services much of the beach. It is easily accessible from the Panamericana highway, and is well connected to inland tourist attractions. Playa Blanca is a very clean beach and extremely safe to swim in. The waters are warm and peaceful, and somewhat emulate the Carribean coast waters. Activities along Playa Blanca include but are not limited to swimming, sailing, kayaking, jet skiing, fishing and boating.
A small fishing village on Panama’s Pacific coast, this village services the Gulf of Chiriqui. This is one of the protected areas of Panama, which facilitate awfully clean and pristine beaches and waters. This is perfect for snorkeling and scuba diving. There are easy access to the beaches and some opportunities to visit the beaches in islands like Isla Palenque, Isla Bolanos, Isla Gomez and Isla Mono. Marvel at the trees spilling into the sea and the breathtaking bays and coves!
One of the most impressive beach destinations in Panama, Rio Hato is surrounded in blissful isolation from the hustle and bustle of the rest of Latin american destinations. Surrounded by multiple national parks, the beaches that line endlessly along its coasts provide the best opportunities for you to have beaches all to yourself! With a landmass of 140 square kilometers and a population of 15,701 inhabitants, it’s very easy to find yourself having all the amenities to yourself. Visit the Playa Farallon where you can lay out by the beach while having beach access to restaurants and bars.
Read our detailed guide: What to do in Rio Hato
Bocas del Toro
Located on an archipelago of islands on the Carribean coast, this is one of the most breathtaking areas of Panama. There is a huge abundance of coral reefs, which make it ideal for scuba diving and snorkeling. There are many resorts and cabanas to stay in in Bocas del Toro. The beaches are mostly powdery, white sand. The crystal clear waters are ideal for swimming and boating. Bathe yourself in the warm Carribean waters, to get a full idea of how beautiful this country is!
San Blas, Panama is another archipelago of islands located in the Pacific Coast. A little bit more isolated than Bocas del Toro, you can find islands all to yourself in these areas. Other than the beaches, San Blas has increasingly become a burgeoning scene for ecotourism and pristine environments. The best thing about San Blas is that you can book essentially all year round, since hurricanes are rare to make landfall in this area. Enjoy the culture of these islands by visiting these islands, which are the ancestral lands of the Guna people, and take a tide on one of their Cayukos, which is a traditionally built dug-out canoe. With lots of culture, beauty and relaxation, San Blas is definitely a list topper!
Keep exploring: Best Waterfalls in Panama