Panama is a great destination at any time of year, not least because it's so close to the Equator that temperatures don't change by season. However, its tropical maritime climate, with distinct wet and dry seasons, differs by region and elevation. Plus, there's a year-round calendar of festivals and events to consider when planning the best time to visit, such as the immensely popular Carnaval in Las Tablas preceding the Catholic season of Lent.

Seasonal Planning for Panama Travel

A narrow isthmus between the Caribbean Sea and the Pacific Ocean, Panama has a warm to hot and humid "tropical maritime" climate, with daytime temperatures usually ranging between 75°F (24°C) and 90°F (32°C) all year round. The temperature in any particular locale varies so little throughout the year that there is no such thing as hot and cold seasons. Some areas are wetter or drier than others, but to escape the heat, you'll need to aim high: generally, places at 3,000 feet ( 914 m) elevation are about 10°F cooler than areas at sea level.

Unlike North America, Panama doesn't have four seasons. Instead, there's the dry or "summer" season, which typically starts in December and ends in April. The rest of the year is the wet and humid "winter" season. However, with two coasts, plus mountain chains running along much of the Continental Divide and studding the Azuero Peninsula, the country has several microclimates. Temperatures and rainfall can vary drastically between neighboring regions, depending on elevation and exposure to breezes.

The Caribbean coast and northern Highlands around Boquete receive the most precipitation during the rainy season. For example, Bocas del Toro and Portobelo typically get about 130 inches (330 cm) of rain annually—almost double the average of Panama City. The coastal Arco Seco ("Dry Arc") west of Panama City, and the adjoining Azuero Peninsula, get far less, with towns such as Pedasí and Las Tablas averaging only about 40 inches (102 cm).

The late winter and early spring months host some of Panama's best festivals, such as Carnaval in Las Tablas, during the four days preceding Ash Wednesday in March, and Semana Santa (Holy Week), in the week leading up to Easter. And, despite being some of the rainiest months, September and October host two important cultural festivals: the Festival de la Mejorana (the country's most important folkloric festival) in Guararé and the Festival of the Black Christ in Portobelo.

Seasons Pros Cons Best for Where to Visit
Spring (Apr) Still relatively dry through April; Semana Santa festivals Beaches and tourist sites can be crowded during Semana Santa Semana Santa festivals Boquete for the Feria de Orquídeas (Orchid Festival)
Summer (May-Aug) Fewer travelers at beaches and key tourist sites; lush and green Rainy season; extremely humid Whitewater rafting, whale-watching La Villa de Los Santos for the Festival de Corpus Christi
Fall (Sep-Nov) Fewer travelers at beaches and key tourist sites; lush and green; some top folkloric festivals Peak of the rainy season; extremely humid Whitewater rafting, whale-watching, folkloric festivals Guararé for the Festival de la Mejorana, Portobelo for the Festival del Cristo Negro (Black Christ Festival)
Winter (Dec-Mar) Dry season, with relatively little rain; Carnival and Semana Santa festivals; clear waters for snorkeling and diving; birds are most easily spotted Peak tourist season, with more travelers and higher prices; Azuero can be extremely hot Hiking the Highlands and beach vacations, snorkeling and diving, birdwatching Las Tablas for Carnival; Portobelo, and Archipiélago de Las Perlas for snorkeling and diving

Spring in Panama (April)

Panama in April
Early spring is an excellent time to visit the San Blas Islands

This is a transition period between the dry and wet seasons. The Azuero Peninsula and nearby Pacific coastal lowlands are at their most parched in early April, with brown and relatively leafless landscapes. However, many of the dry forest trees will be in spectacular bloom. The dry season lingers through mid-April when rainfall begins to spike upward and temperatures start to dip slightly, so pack accordingly. Cloud cover also increases as the month progresses. 

April is still a good time for vacations in the highlands, and for beach vacations to Bocas del Toro, the San Blas Islands, Archipiélago de las Perlas, and the central Caribbean. And Boquete shows off its tropical flora with its annual Feria de las Orquídeas (Orchid Festival) in mid-April. Semana Santa festivities make Easter a popular and busy period; hotels and transport book up months in advance, so it's best not to leave your reservations until the last minute for the more popular destinations.

Events in Spring

Semana Santa, nationwide. Religious processions reenacting the biblical story are held over five days of Easter, ending on Good Friday.

Feria Internacional del Azuero, La Villa de Los Santos. A traditional fair in mid-April honoring local customs, from cuisine to folk music and dance.

Feria de Orquídeas (Orchid Festival), Boquete. A showcase for thousands of varieties of orchids, including many endemic to Panama, occurs in the middle of April.

Learn More

Panama in April

Plan your trip to Panama
Chat with a local specialist who can help organize your trip.

Summer in Panama (May to August)

Caribbean houses over the sea with wooden docks on stilts in Bocas del Toro, Panama

The seven-month rainy (or "green") season is well established by May—the cloudiest month of the year—and remains constant through the summer months. This means frequent and heavy rains and extreme humidity, yet the rains are not protracted daily. And this equates to low season for travel, with fewer people and bargain prices for hotels.

The typical pattern is for sunny mornings gradually becoming cloud-covered, followed by short but intense tropical thunderstorms and downpours (lasting an hour or two at most) on most days. The change from sunny to thunderstorms can occur in half an hour, bringing a cool respite from the intense heat and humidity. The downpours on the Caribbean coast can be longer-lasting and more intense than on the Pacific.

Overall, the sky is overcast far more than it is sunny, so it pays to start your days early during the summer months, then relax undercover in the late afternoon. If you adjust your days accordingly, summer is an ideal time to visit. Adrenaline-seekers can take advantage of swollen rivers perfect for whitewater rafting, as on the Río Chiriquí in the Highlands, and Río Chagres, near Panama City.

Although the Azuero Peninsula has a similar climatic pattern to the rest of the country, it gets much less rainfall, so it is a good choice for this time of year. However, June is the busiest month for tourism in the Archipiélago de las Perlas—expect some of the year's highest prices for flights and hotels. By July, humpback whales (and other whale species) arrive for three months of mating and birthing in the warm waters of the Gulf of Panama.

Events in Summer

Festival de Corpus Christi, La Villa de Los Santos. This town in the Azuero Peninsula in June is known for its masked diablitos sucios (dirty devils) dances during a two-week religious festival.

Festival Patronales de La Virgen de Santa Librada, Las Tablas. In late July, paying homage to traditional culture, this three-day festival includes the Festival de la Pollera, showcasing Panama's colorful and delicately embroidered pollera dresses.

Learn More

Panama in May
Panama in June
Panama in July
Panama in August

Fall in Panama (September to November)

The Festival de la Mejorana occurs in October in Guararé

In short, this period is hot, wet, and humid as rainfall builds to a November crescendo at the peak of the rainy season, so pack an umbrella and lightweight rain jacket. There are regional variations, however. In Bocas del Toro, September typically sees a significant dip in rainfall, making this a good time to visit during these months, while Azuero Peninsula is the least rainy area. Though you will still need an umbrella and rain jacket, in general, these months are the rainiest of the seven-month-long rainy season, with almost a 40 percent chance of rainfall on any given day countrywide on average.

As with June-August, it doesn't rain continuously during the "green" season—mornings typically begin clear before cloud cover builds, resulting in afternoon thunderstorms lasting perhaps 30 minutes to two hours. However, October and November often see prolonged overcast days and rainfall that lasts through the night. Although this is the peak of hurricane season for much of the Caribbean, Panama lies southwest of the hurricane belt and doesn't experience tropical cyclones.

This is the time to go if you want to experience Panama with as few visitors as possible. The rainforests are at their peak lushness. Plus, there are several important festivals, ending with lively Independence Day celebrations in early November. Try to make it in October for the Festival de la Mejorana in Guararé.

Events in Fall

Bocas del Toro Feria del Mar, Bocas del Toro. This "Sea Fair" in mid-September celebrates the archipelago's fishing traditions with plenty of local fare, handicrafts, motorboat races, rowing competitions, plus traditional music and dance.

Festival de la Mejorana, Guararé. Lasting a week in late September and named for a traditional lute-like instrument, Panama's most important folkloric festival features scores of traditional dance troupes, musical performances, bull runs, fireworks, a cart parade, and beauty contests.

Festival del Cristo Negro (Black Christ Festival), Portobelo. Thousands of pilgrims descend on Portobelo on October 21 to perform other acts of devotion and pay penance as a wooden black Christ effigy is paraded through town.

Independence Days, nationwide. On November 3 and 4, Independence Day and Flag Day, these two days celebrate Panama's separation from Colombia with parades, fireworks, and entertainment. The two biggest celebrations occur in Panama City and David.

Learn More

Panama in September
Panama in October
Panama in November

Winter in Panama (December to March)

Panama in winter
The northern Highlands are perfect for winter trekking

December to February are the busiest months in Panama for tourism once the rains of November give way to the dry season (verano, or "summer" by Panamanians). February is the driest month of the year, with an average rainfall of 0.2 inches (0.5 cm). Schools close for "summer" holiday in early December and start again in late February or early March. Hence, this is when Panamanian families take their vacations.

These are also the sunniest months of the year, averaging equal parts sunny and cloudy, showing off this tropical country at its most stunning. And although they're the four least humid months, they're also the four hottest. For this reason, many Panamanians escape to the highlands, particularly in March. This is the best time for hiking in the Valle de Antón, Boquete, and Parque Nacional Omar Torrijos, as well as for beach vacations—especially on the Caribbean and Archipiélago de las Perlas (Pearl Islands).

At the start of the dry season, flowering trees burst into bloom, making Azuero (with its dry deciduous forests) an especially good place at this time of year. The Pacific coast receives less rain than the Caribbean, and the Azuero Peninsula usually experiences a drought, worsened by hot winds that peak in February. Toward the end of the season, much of the vegetation is parched and wilted. These are also the best months for birdwatching when the sparse foliage provides far easier viewing. 

Events in Winter

Sobresaltos Dance Festival, Panama City. Held in Casco Antiguo in December, this outdoor urban music festival features contemporary music.

Chiriqui Highlands Flower and Coffee Festival, Boquete. This 10-day festival is held in Boquete in mid-January.

Jazz Festival, Panama City. Live jazz performances by top international musicians span three days at the end of January.

Carnival, Las Tablas. Several towns in Panama celebrate the start of Lent with a carnival, but Las Tablas, in the Azuero Peninsula, is considered the place to be. Each of the five days (Saturday-Wednesday) is themed, including a Pollera Day (Sunday) with Panamanian women in the embroidered national dress.

Boquete Jazz and Blues Festival, Boquete. In February or March, the mountain town of Boquete provides a great backdrop for this 5-day annual music festival featuring top local and international artists.

Semana Santa, nationwide. Religious processions reenacting the biblical story are held over five days of Easter, ending on Good Friday.

Learn More

Panama in December
Panama in January
Panama in February
Panama in March