When to travel to Panama
Panama has a typically tropical climate, with two distinct seasons - wet and dry. It's warm throughout the year, with temperatures rarely dropping below the mid-20s, apart from in the Highlands where they can get a little cooler. At its warmest, the weather gets to around 35 degrees Celsius, generally in and around Panama City.
Like many areas in the tropics, Panama does receive a fair amount of rain, but the showers are not usually prolonged, typically coming in short bursts and then clearing. This does, however, make the climate rather humid, which can mean it feels much hotter than it actually is.
The dry season in Panama runs from mid-December to mid-April, although rain does still sometimes fall on the Caribbean coast (it's less likely on the Pacific side of the country). It's also worth noting that the Pacific coast is generally a little cooler than its eastern counterpart, although not by a vast amount.
April to December is Panama's rainy season, although the wettest months are normally October and November. While this doesn't often cause problems, landslides and flooding can occur if there has been particularly heavy and prolonged precipitation.
When to travel
The peak tourist season in Panama is during the dry season, when rain is unlikely and temperatures are very pleasant without being overly hot. This is also helped by the lower humidity at this time of the year, which makes it more comfortable for anyone who struggles with the heat.
Of course, you can still visit the country during the wet season, although you will need to be prepared for showers. Panama City boasts a range of attractions - indoors and outdoors - so there should be something to keep you occupied when the downpours hit.
It is probably best to avoid October and November though, as this is when the most and heaviest rain usually falls.
When's best to get active in Panama?
Panama is a brilliant choice for active holidays but, as you'd expect, some times of year are much better than others for certain activities. For instance, scuba divers keen to see the coral reefs in all their glory should travel in the dry season, when the water is much clearer and visibility is better.
Hiking is also best between December and April, when the drier weather will make the experience much more comfortable, particularly in the rainforest and mountains. If you do intend to venture to higher altitudes, be aware that it can get quite chilly overnight and pack appropriate layers to make sure you don't get too cold.
Surfing, meanwhile, is possible all year round, particularly on the Pacific coast where the swells are consistent. The waves are generally a little higher between December and mid-April though, due to the offshore winds that blow in around that time.
However, if you're hoping to get some white water rafting in during your holiday in Panama, you should plan to visit between May and December. The higher levels of rainfall make the rivers swell and this means you'll have a much more thrilling experience than when water levels are lower.
Public holidays and festivals in Panama
There are some fantastic festivals and other events that happen in Panama each year. Visiting the country during one of these celebrations gives you an opportunity to really engage with the local culture. The following are just a few to look out for:
Held every year in the four days leading up to Ash Wednesday, Panama's Carnival is an explosion of colour, music and dancing. Expect to see parades winding their way through the streets and everyone out in force to celebrate. The liveliest festivities take place in Las Tablas and Panama City.
Semana Santa (Holy Week)
This religious festival is held in the week before Easter Sunday and there are often parades and other religious ceremonies taking place at this time. It's worth noting that Good Friday is a public holiday too.
Panama actually has two independence days - one on 28th November to mark independence from Spain, and the other on 3rd November to commemorate Independence from Colombia. Both are lively holidays with parades, firework displays and other events held across the country.
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