The best time to visit Panama is during its dry season, which lasts from late December to April. From May to nearly the end of the year, there can be almost daily showers and the humidity is higher.
Panama’s dry season is also windy, and partly cloudy, bringing relief despite slightly higher temperatures. Daily temperatures in Panama City range between 81ºF (27.2°C) and 83ºF (28°C) year round.
The Panama Canal runs south from the Caribbean, at Colón, to Panama City on the Pacific. Being only 37 miles wide at its narrowest means the country’s climate is heavily influenced by both the Caribbean and Pacific weather.
Visiting Panama By Season
Panama has a climate that is equatorial, as you might expect, given its location close to the Equator. Temperatures vary only slightly during the year, and the real division is into wet and dry seasons.
The dry season is called “summer” by Panamanians, and the wet season is “winter”. Summer lasts from December through April, while winter is from May to December.
The other big division is the highlands, and their rainforests, separating the Caribbean and Pacific coasts. The southern, Pacific side has a very different climate from the northern Caribbean side.
Even in the “dry” season, the Caribbean coast can have rain showers. Most regular visitors from North America will stick to the Pacific coast for its clear skies, and better guarantee of sunshine.
Panama City, being on the Pacific, enjoys the most of that sunshine. This is the best time to go to Panama to see sights such as the Casco Viejo (“Old Town”), and the Miraflores Visitor Center on the Panama Canal.
However, even light showers on the Caribbean side can’t dampen the thrill of seeing the magnificent San Blas Islands. Home to the Kuna people, only 50 of these 365 islands are inhabited.
This season is perfect if you want to lie around on the white sands of these ”paradise” islands, or any of Panama’s beaches. A trek in the rainforests for an eco-tour is also a good option now before the rains come.
While the festivals during this season are all big events, Easter stands out. With temperatures hitting 90ºF (32.2°C) during March or April, much of the family celebration is on the beach.
Easter also coincides with North America’s Spring Break, after which the season will start to wind down. By May, the rains mean the locals tend to stay indoors.
Winter—from May through December—means two different things in Panama, depending on which side of the country you are. On the Pacific side, there are thunderstorms, and fierce, but short (10-20 minute) tropical downpours.
In Panama City, a rain shower is an opportunity to linger in a café to watch it pass. Some of the best things to do in Panama include visiting the Museum of Contemporary Art, or the Frank Gehry-designed Biomuseo.
During August and September, humpback whales and orcas migrate along the Pacific Coast. April through December are also peak months for surfers to enjoy this coast’s best waves.
On the Caribbean side of the country, the rain is more of a constant presence in heavy skies. But while the sky might threaten rain, actual showers are less frequent, softer, and often at night.
This is the weather that gives Panama its rainforest beauty, and anyone who loves nature will welcome this season. If you do need a lift in spirits, how about a chocolate tour in the waterfall-rich highlands around Boquete?
When Is Rainy Season?
While the rainy season is from May through December, its peak is late October and November.
During these rainiest months, travel in the highlands becomes very difficult, if not impossible. Of course, activities such as scuba-diving, or shopping in the Duty Free Zone of Colon are not affected.
When Is High Season?
High season in Panama is from December to April, when northern visitors come for the warm weather. It takes in Christmas, New Year’s, and Easter, as well as Carnival season.
All these festivals are celebrated seriously in Panama. “Carnaval” is notable for the water trucks (“culecos”) that hose down the dense crowds in the hottest months of February, and March.
When Is Shoulder Season?
The shoulder seasons in Panama are the short spells between the wet and dry seasons. Mid-December and mid-April are actually great times to visit Panama for drier weather.
When Is Low Season?
The low season in Panama is the rainy season, and particularly the months from June through November. Of course, if you’re transiting the famous canal, the thrill is the same regardless of when you visit.