Panama Summer Weather
Panama is a unique country with a pre-equatorial climate. Situated just eight degrees north of the equator, this is a unique situation as the weather mirrors that of its equatorial counterparts. The weather in Panama is primarily tropical with two seasons: wet and dry, this is colloquially known by Panamanians as summer and winter. “Winter” typically lasts from May to December and “summer” is from December to April.
While it may be summertime where you are, and you are itching to take some time off to escape and hide out on the beach, you will be able to find that Panama will give you a mixed bag. Panama’s weather is very bisectional. It is surrounded by the Caribbean to the North and the Pacific to the south, and separated by towering highlands and rainforests in between. This creates two impressive biospheres. On the Pacific side, winter means short bursts of refreshing downpour and rattling thunderstorms. On the Caribbean side of the country, this usually means hazy skies and night-time sprinkles.
While it may sway you away from the summer craze, you will actually find that Panama’s natural beauty really comes alive during these times. Firstly, the rain will be fueled by the rain to stay green and lush, which creates an absolutely stunning spectacle and makes for great exploring excursions! This also means that Panama is not a type of place where if it rains, it rains all day. Quite the contrary, actually. ‘Rain’ in the Panamanian definitions is usually a short spat, where if you go to a restaurant or cafe, the rain is most likely to have stopped by the time you leave the establishment. The sound of a rainy season might not be so enticing, but we can assure you that you will be able to have as much fun in the sun if you stay on the Caribbean side of the country and avoid activities that may have to contend with impending rain. It will be just as fun, sunny and painless, but just requires some extra planning!
The best thing to know about Panama’s dynamic climate is that although Panama is technically situated in the hurricane zone, it is extremely rare for a hurricane to actually ever make landfall in Panama. As a matter of fact, only one hurricane has ever hit Panama inconceivable history, and that was 51 years ago!
Panama during our summer season is a time of great discovery. You can explore the many cultural icons that dot the country’s capital, Panama City. Take a boat and go for an adventure through the paradise islands of San Blas. Explore the culture of one (or all) of seven different indigenous groups who inhabit different parts of the country through a new and burgeoning sector — community tourism! Ecotourism is also something to take into consideration as you will be able to make fun excursions through the cooler temperature area of Boquete. The world is yours to explore, and what easier place to do that than in Panama!
Where to go in Panama in Summer
Panama City is the biggest and most famous city in the country, as well as being a household name of the region. This city is a beacon of economic prosperity and the frontrunner of stability in an otherwise increasingly unstable region. With over 1.5 million inhabitants, the city is the entrance of the Pacific as well as the Carribean. Founded by Spanish Colonists, it was a stopover of one of the most important trade routes in the world at its time, so prosperity is something that Panama City has experienced since time immemorial.
Visit the UNESCO World Heritage Site of the Casco Antiguo, the old town of Panama to step into the rich colonial past of the city, as well as getting a good view into the modernity of the country. The Panama Viejo is a great way to see the city’s initial inception and learn about its uphill battle against the pirates that infested the seas. Best of all, visit the Panama Canal to get an experience of one of the most important trade passages in the entire planet!
Panama City is a great place to hide out from the rain through its many activities that do not involve much of any outdoor requirements! Take a taxi to the Miraflores Visitor centre and observe the marvelous process of the Panama Canal locks. This is a great way to educate yourself about the Panama Canal and learn about why it is so important for the growth of the country. Visit the famed Biomuseo which is focused on the natural history of the country, which you might come to find out its geological inception was extremely recent. The church of San Jose is one of the most magnificent pieces of religious architecture in the country. Built in the 1670s, it contains a golden altar, which is one of Panama’s most viewed artifacts; bringing devotees from all over the place. With art galleries, churches, museums and other places of interest, there are many ways you can conquer the rain without having to even see a drop in Panama City!
Read our guide: What to do in Panama City
If you want to splurge and go on an adventure unlike any other, take a visit to the famed San Blas Islands! This is a great place to disconnect from your phone, take a boat tour around (even for days), and learn about the local indigenous culture, the amazing seafood, and the amazing sea life and natural beauty that these islands are famous for.
There are varied ways of getting to these islands, most of which seem to make getting there very difficult, but it seems to actually be very easy! Your accommodation in the islands will make sure to book your transportation from wherever you are in Panama to the port to get to the islands, and you will be able to easily find coordinated movement to get from island to island, as this is what the locals do almost every day!
San Blas islands are your best bet if you want to vacation for the water activities. The waters around these islands are particularly calm and are subject to the shifting and poor visibility of the rainy season in other parts of the country. If you have the money to spare, it is suggested that you hire that Catamaran, which is great for calm waters like this location. You can sail for days and stop at any beachside location without having to deal with any docks, and you can choose any beach you would like to stop at! If you cannot afford a Catamaran, sailing is also a great option to explore these islands, where you can make your daily catch, or even buy the catch of the day through the local markets for way less than eating at a restaurant, and you will be able to cook your own meals at almost any beach, for a castaway experience (without the stranded feeling!).
If you want to experience the indigenous landscape of Panama to its fullest, the San Blas Islands is the perfect place to be! These islands are actually located in an autonomous area in the country, rich with culture, craftsmanship and tradition. Check out the handmade boats, with pops of colour and rich with history. You can still see the traditional clothing in the area and can learn and talk to the very friendly locals!
San Blas is an explosion of beauty, colour and relaxation, and is a great place to unwind; far, far away from all the bustling activities on the mainland!
Read our guide: Best Beaches in Panama
What to Do in Panama in Summer
Have a meal at El Trapiche
If you are looking to escape the spat of rain in Panama City, make your way down to El Trapiche cafe! This is the best place to try Panama’s delicious local fare. If you did not get a chance to stay dry before getting street food, El Trapiche is your place to get an appetizer of an assortment of Panamanian Street food! You can also try their sandwiches which are made with deep-fried bread! If you would like to try Panamanian entrees, then you would be delighted to try the local beans, rice and pulled pork which is very popular here. It is very easy to find this place as it is out of the bustling old town and more into the local crowd.
Around August is the best time to get on a covered boat and watch the beautiful whale-watching activities. This is around the time when the whales migrate to the Gulf of Chiriqui to congregate. Revel at the majesty of these beautiful and docile creatures as they pop up and down from the waters to show off and bring joy to the crowds who watch! They are affordable activities and are great for a quick excursion for some wildlife watching.
Experience the traditions of the Guna people
The Guna are the indigenous peoples of Panama and Colombia who live along the coast. These are people who have stayed with the traditions steadfast for many, many years, and continue to hold strong to these values. Nothing is more evident of this than when they declared the San Blas Islands, their autonomous territory, which still holds true today. Their long seafaring history and their love of the oceans is evident in their culture, where boating reigns supreme and their traditional clothes are worn with pride!
Take a Chocolate-making class (!!!!)
In the cooler highlands of Boquete, you are able to put on a light sweater and cozy up in a nice repurposed hut. But if the rain is getting you down in these highland regions, there is nothing better to do than to take a chocolate-making class! Boquete is the chocolate capital of Panama, and there is nowhere more fun to do this than the Perfect Pair: Chocolate and Coffee where you can have a bite to eat while learning about the processes of chocolate-making — from bean to bite.
Buy artisanal crafts at the Karavan Gallery
In Panama City, you may be blinded by all the glitz and the glamour of the high street life. From the high-ticket stores at the expensive and foreign invested shopping malls to the high-brow restaurants around the Corniche in the city. But within the old city is the Karavan Gallery. This is a beautiful assortment of arts and crafts that are celebrated all over Panama and are an excellent place to find traditional Panamanian crafts and arts that are excellent souvenirs to bring back home!
Learn about Human history in Panama
The Museo Antropologico Reina Torres de Arauz (or MARTA) is Panama’s go-to anthropological museum. Established in the 1980s and curated thousands of artifacts, the museum is a great testament to human history. You can explore the displays that include more than 15,000 pieces of pre-Colombian pieces and artifacts from the Barriles tribe, which were the first human inhabitants of Panama. You can also find the modern and old Pollera dresses and even antiques from the households of the early colonial settlers!
Panamanian culture and cuisine is a vibrant mix of European, Indigenous and Afro-Caribbean influences. Take a Panamanian Culinary Heritage and Food Tour, where you can enjoy the amazing dishes that Panamanians have been eating since time immemorial. You can try the delicious foods like codfish cakes, patacones and seafood platters to your liking! While doing this, you are able to explore the diverse neighbourhoods of Panama City and learn why and understand the culinary influence the Panamanians hold so sacred to their lifestyle! Finish the tour with probably the best coffee you have ever tasted.
Learn about the wonders of the Panamanian wild
The Punta Culebra Nature Centre, curated by the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute is a wildlife exhibition museum that is focused on the education of the marine and coastal biospheres. This is a great family activity to do if you are bored and want to explore the wildlife with kids without worrying about a hike where there is a risk of your child being distracted and going off the path! There are so many interactive activities such as the touch tank for turtles and sea life as well as an entire wing dedicated to the ‘Fabulous Frogs’ of Panama. After your tour, you are able to take a final trail through a tropical dry forest where you can witness animals and even butterflies roaming wild!
What to Pack
During the Summer, it is recommended that you bring light rainwear with you, firstly. You will also need hiking boots that are waterproof if you are an athletic soul and would like to plunge into the wild during the rainy season. For a nice time on the Caribbean Coast, you will find it helpful to bring swimwear and sunscreen, because you will have a lot of time to catch some sun as well as sunglasses during this time. It is advisable to carry an umbrella during the walking tours as you it will be a lot more convenient for you keeping dry rather than soaked in the raincoat.