Panama lies between the Caribbean Sea and the Pacific Ocean. Double the coast means double the beaches. Which means you’re in luck!
In this article, we will explore the best beaches in Panama to make sure you do not miss out on what you are looking for. Each beach has unique characteristics; whether you are after quiet and tranquility, big Pacific waves or party vibes, Panama has it all.
Let’s start at the beginning…
Arriving in Panama
If you are traveling to Panama from overseas, you’ll most likely fly into Tocumen Airport, the largest airport in Panama. It also acts as the hub between South America, the Caribbean and North America.
From Tocumen Airport to Panama City, it will take you 40-minutes by bus or minivan. While city life may not be your thing, we strongly recommend a night or two in Panama City. It is a modern, fast-paced, funky city with lots of history.
Once you are ready to explore further afield, the best beaches in Panama await you!
The best beaches in Panama
If you are initially basing yourself near the airport, there is a lot to do in Panama City, but unfortunately, the best beaches in Panama are not in the city.
However, the first one on our list is very close…
Best for the day tripper who is short on time
Taboga Island, or the Island of Flowers, is one of the best beaches near Panama City.
The ferry departs from Amador Causeway and takes just 30 minutes, leaving every hour. This makes it one of the most popular destinations for locals and day trips.
Once you arrive, you will be able to get around on foot. The island is known for its abundant tropical plant life, spectacular beaches and soft sand.
Need a break from the sand, hikes to the island’s highest points, either Cerro Vigia or Cerro de la Cruz. Or walk into the colorful, historic town to the second oldest church in the Western hemisphere.
After all that relaxation and exploration, settle in at one of the many beach bars and watch the sunset.
San Blas Islands
Best for getting away from it all
Hands down, the San Blas Islands have some of the best beaches of Panama, if not the world.
The islands are the definition of paradise. We’re talking nothing but palm trees, beautiful white sand and crystal clear waters. With over 365 islands, you are spoilt for choice.
So, how do you experience the magical beaches of the San Blas Islands?
- Stay on one of the islands in a relatively rustic accommodation and experience island life
- Visit by sailboat on a day trip, which includes visiting multiple islands and the usual water activities
Personally, we recommend spending a couple nights on the islands, disconnecting from the world and sharing what the Kuna people offer as a more authentic experience.
Be sure to add these islands to your list of places to visit in Panama. You won’t regret it!
Coiba National Park
Best for wildlife and nature lovers
Coiba National Park is a UNESCO World Heritage site and the biggest island in Central America.
This uninhabited jungle island looks like it’s straight out of Jurassic Park. It has a wide variety of wildlife and remarkable untouched beaches, making it the perfect spot for any adventurer.
On one side of the island, you will find calm, tranquil waters. On the other, you can expect large waves, among the best in Central America for surfers.
If you are into marine life, then this is a bucket list destination. Coiba offers world-class diving with access to the Bahia Damas Reef, so you’ll have the chance to see manta rays, hammerhead sharks and whales. If you are visiting between December and April, you might be lucky enough to come across a whale shark or two.
Love wildlife, but diving isn’t your thing? Don’t worry! There are monkeys, crocodiles, iguanas and over 147 species of birds!
Tour operators can assist you with obtaining a permit if you are interested in visiting Coiba National Park. The quickest route to the island (1 hour and 15 minutes) is from Santa Catalina in the Veraguas province. However, several locations in Panama offer boat trips.
Starfish Beach (Playa Estrella)
Best beach for swimmers
If you are after a unique experience, Starfish Beach is for you. It is located in Bocas del Toro on the remote side of Isla Colón and is otherwise known as Playa Estrella.
Why is it called starfish beach? Because under the beautiful calm turquoise waters, you can spot colorful starfish everywhere. This makes it one of the best swimming beaches in Panama. In addition, the beach is lined with palm trees providing much-needed shade and a picturesque backdrop that will blow your mind.
If lazing on the beach all day isn’t for you, you can rent floating chairs, kayaks, snorkels and even water bikes where you can explore the mangroves. A few small restaurants are nearby if you feel like a cocktail or bite to eat.
Red Frog Beach
Best for wildlife-loving surfers
Red Frog Beach, what could that possibly be named after?
Little red frogs, yes actual frogs, hopping along the shores of Isla Bastimento in Bocas del Toro.
If that doesn’t entice you, then maybe the raw beauty of the beach will. The crystal clear water, with lush vegetation growing right behind the sand, makes it one of the most unique beaches in Panama.
The calm waters come alive when the currents and winds are right, making it one of Panama’s best surf breaks. The thick vegetation is home to both sloths and monkeys, and the marine life offshore is perfect for snorkeling. If you’re not one for tanning, there are also caves to be explored.
Chairs and umbrellas are available for rent, and a couple of restaurants serve both food and drinks. To reach this paradise, you will need to jump on a boat from the main town of Bocas, followed by a 10-minute walk through the stunning jungle.
Playa Venao, Azuero Peninsula
Best for day partiers
If you are looking for the best party beaches in Panama, Playa Venao should definitely be on your list. Depending on when you are there, it is not uncommon for an electronic music festival to be on. What a location for a festival—think a wide long picturesque beach with black volcanic sand.
It is also a highly regarded surf beach, with popular hostels along the coastline.
The beach offers many more activities such as horseback riding, stand-up paddleboarding and whale watching.
You’re almost ready… What should you pack?
Now that your beach itinerary is set, it’s time to work out what to pack.
Keep it basic. Like all Central American countries, Panama is very laid back. Be sure to pack a few pairs of swimmers, casual clothing for dinners, sunscreen and a few decent books to read. Temperatures in Panama are rarely below 74° Fahrenheit, so don’t pack too many layers or heavy clothing.
The scenery in Panama is incredibly stunning, so pack your camera and collect memories from some of the best beaches in Panama.
The official currency in Panama is the Panamanian Balboa (PAB). However, USD has now become a secondary currency too.
Before a trip to Panama, a vaccine against yellow fever is recommended, particularly during the rainy season. Other vaccines you may wish to have are hepatitis A, hepatitis B, malaria and rabies.
Panama boasts a lovely tropical climate year-round, making it an ideal holiday destination. In saying that, the dry season is from January to April, and the rainy season is from May through to December.