Edited by: Keri Stooksbury
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With coasts on both the Caribbean Sea and the Pacific Ocean, Panama is a tropical paradise that’s the perfect spot for a beach vacation. You can try your hand at fishing and diving or even tackle the country’s world-renowned waves. However, you also won’t have any trouble finding a quiet spot to relax on the sand if you prefer to unwind while on vacation.
Whether you’re traveling alone, as a couple, or with your family, there’s a Panamanian shore fit for your getaway needs. To make your planning as stress-free as possible, we’ve looked at all of Panama’s beaches and come up with this list of the nation’s best.
Map of the 12 Best Beaches in Panama
1. Dog Island, El Porvenir
Dog Island, also called Isla Perro, is one of the most famous spots in Panama. Located among the San Blas Islands, it’s clean and pristine both in the water and on the shore.
The shore is covered in cushion-soft white sand that’s perfect for laying out and relaxing in the sun. Just make sure you bring sunblock or a beach hat since there isn’t much natural shade. The water is crystal clear and brilliantly blue, so you don’t have to worry about bringing goggles to see underwater if you go for a dive.
In fact, because the water is so clear, this is a great spot to do some snorkeling and explore the colorful sea world that’s just below the surface. You can even stay overnight on the island. There are cabins you can rent for your stay, or you can bring a tent to camp in.
2. Playa Boca del Drago, Colón
Though its name might be intimidating, you can rest assured that you’ll have a calm and relaxing day at Playa Boca del Drago. Characterized by its narrow, white-sand beach, lush coastal greenery, and clear water, this is the perfect place to go if you’re on the hunt for a tropical paradise.
You might even see the orange starfish that tend to find their way on the sand. Just remember, many of these starfish are alive, so, while you can certainly admire them and take pictures, don’t touch or bother them.
Even if you want to put them back in the water, being handled is stressful, and they’re very sensitive to most perfumes, sunscreens, and even natural oils.Hot Tip:
While there are water taxis, it’s recommended you take on a pleasant walk through the trees. Don’t worry, the path is easy to follow.
3. Playa Diablillo, Colón
If you’re looking for someplace quiet where you can relax and unwind, Playa Diablillo is the place for you. Located in Fort Sherman, this coastal gem offers clean water, pristine sand, and plenty of natural shade, thanks to the tall palm trees that grow directly on the sand.
However, make sure you look up the times of the ebb and flow of tides before you visit. Typically high tide occurs in the afternoon, and when that happens, this part of the coast routinely floods, cutting your beach day short.
The water is typically gentle and warm, especially in the middle of the beach. Coral can be found at the extreme ends of the shore, though. If you venture to those areas, swim carefully to avoid getting snagged or injured by the sharp reefs and disturbing the local underwater wildlife.
4. Playa Langosta, Colón
Playa Langosta, also sometimes written as Playa La Angosta, is a famous beach where you’ll almost always hear a pleasant hum of people.
There are restaurants just a short walk from the sand, so there are plenty of food options. It’s also a great place to grab a reservation around sunset so you can see the sun sparkling on the water. The beach isn’t just a food-lovers haven, though. It also appeals to visitors who love being active.
You can rent a kayak and head out to the water, go for a run on the sand, or swim for hours. The waves and currents near the shore are usually pretty gentle, but they get a little stronger the further away from the land you venture. If you get tired of the water, you can relax in the sun on the sand or rent a shaded beach chair.
5. Polo Beach, Isla Bastimentos
Polo Beach is a beautiful gem on Panama’s Bastimentos Island that shows how unpredictable nature is. Try to be flexible with your plans when you visit.
Some days, the water will be nice and calm, without any waves, so you can swim or snorkel peacefully. On other days, instead, the water will be choppy all day, so you’ll only be able to wade in the shallow areas near the shore or head out with a surfboard in hand.
The beach is also pretty remote. It’s easy to get to, but parking areas aren’t right by the sand. So wear comfortable shoes because you’ll need to trek for about 45 minutes before you actually get to the coast. Since that can be a bit far to lug a picnic basket, there is food available on the beach you can enjoy on a budget.
6. Starfish Beach, Bocas del Toro
Starfish Beach, unsurprisingly, gets its name from the red starfish that like to inhabit the shallow waters in this part of Panama. It’s very common to see dozens, and even hundreds of them scattered around the sand.
While they’re sure to make your vacation pictures one-of-a-kind, make sure you only take photos and videos at a distance. These starfish can’t survive outside water, and they often suffer a lot of stress if they’re touched or handled, so locals ask that these creatures be admired from a distance.
This is a relatively remote beach, so you’ll need to walk for a few minutes to reach it. However, don’t expect that to limit crowd levels. This is a popular shore, so it’s not uncommon to find it full of tourists, especially during the winter months when the tourist season is at its highest.
1. Gavilla Beach, Boca Chica
If you’re traveling with children or people who can get overstimulated by too many sounds and a lot of excitement, Gavilla Beach is a wonderful place to go to enjoy Panama’s Pacific coast. The waves here are notoriously calm, and the current is very gentle, so people of any swimming level can enjoy the water. It’s also shallow, making it kid-friendly.
You can lay out a towel, but there are also chairs available to rent on the sand, though there aren’t many other onsite amenities. If you intend to spend the whole day here, bring your own refreshments and double-check that you have everything you need in your beach bag before heading out.
Due to the humidity and warm temperatures, mosquitos are active around the beach, especially around sunset. So, bug spray is another essential you’ll want to bring along for your beach day.
2. Lagartero Beach, Veraguas
Lagartero Beach often gets overlooked by tourists, which means it’s a great spot for people who want to avoid crowds. Though you might encounter a few other beachgoers while you’re here, they’re usually locals, meaning this shore offers you a more authentic Panamanian experience.
Make sure you wear water shoes while you’re here since the shore alternates between being muddy and being flooded, depending on if you visit at high or low tide. So, this isn’t an ideal spot to lay out a towel for some sunbathing.
However, you can try your hand at numerous water activities. Near the coastline, currents are usually calm, offering a pleasant swimming experience. The further out you venture, though, the more likely you are to encounter waves. If you’re new to surfing, this is a good place to get some practice in. Just be careful because there are no lifeguards.
3. Las Lajas, San Félix
Las Lajas offers its visitors a wide expanse of soft sand to visitors to curate the beach vacation of their dreams. This particular part of the coast is near multiple resorts, so you can happily spend an entire vacation on these shores.
The beach is particularly popular in the evening. You can watch the sunset dip over the horizon and admire the dramatic colors in the sky and on the water. Though don’t make the mistake of thinking that’s all the beach has to offer. With consistent waves not too far off into the water, surfers love coming here to spend a little time on their boards, no matter their skill level.
If you have small children or people who don’t love swimming with you, the water is shallow around the beach, offering stress-free wading. Or, you can enjoy the soft sand while getting some sun.
4. Playa La Barqueta, Palo Grande
Playa La Barqueta is a huge beach, measuring over 18 miles in length, so it’s virtually guaranteed that you’ll find a spot to enjoy your day by the water. For direct access, you can stay at one of the resorts that lead right to the sand, but you can also come just for the day if you’d prefer.
There isn’t much natural shade in many spots, so this is a popular sunbathing beach. However, that also means you’ll need to bring sunscreen or a beach umbrella to avoid getting a sunburn if you’re on the sand between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.
The beach is pretty calm during the week and Sunday mornings, but on weekend evenings, much of the area starts bustling with local parties. Keep that in mind if you’re visiting with kids.
5. Playa Santa Catalina, Sona
Santa Catalina is a quiet beach near a quiet town, so it’s perfect if you want to relax and unwind while on your Panamanian vacation. The activities you do while here will depend on the time of year you visit.
It is often cited as a surfing beach, but that’s not always the case in the winter months. You’ll want to keep an eye on the water and the weather if you have your heart set on hitting the waves at that time.
This coastline’s biggest draw is its seclusion. You’re near shops if you need any necessities, but the beach isn’t in the middle of town, so it’s very peaceful. It’s also a bit of a hidden gem. That not only cuts down on crowds but also guarantees you’ll have a more unique and local experience than at other more curated beaches.
6. Playa Torio, Mariato
Playa Toria has earned a reputation for being one of the best beaches for families on Panama’s Pacific coast.
That’s in large part because it’s relatively calm. You don’t have to worry about rowdy parties or clubs that might not be appropriate for children to be around. Instead, you can let your kids walk the beach and search for shells or build sand castles, and in the evenings, everyone can gather around to watch the sunset.
It’s also a safe spot. The water is quite shallow and gradually deepens without any sudden drops. Even when the current is a little stronger, and there are more waves, you can stick close to shore while still having a good time in the water.Hot Tip:
There aren’t too many frills here, though, so if you’re used to the all-inclusive resort-type beach experience, Playa Torio might take a little getting used to.
Clearly, Panama has no shortage of beach vacation hotspots. From relaxing on the sand to tackling the waves, you can do it all in this corner of Central America. We hope that this list has helped you narrow down your options so you’re one step closer to planning your Panamanian dream trip.
Featured Image Credit: Rowan Heuvel via Unsplash
Frequently Asked Questions
Panama is a popular country for tourists looking for a warm and tropical getaway. So, it’s not surprising that the nation has numerous lovely beaches that are worth visiting. Due to its location, Panama also offers visitors both Pacific and Caribbean coast beach experiences.
Both of Panama’s coasts offer unique swimming experiences for beachgoers. The Caribbean coastline to the north tends to have calm water, which is ideal for families or relaxing vacationers. The Pacific coastline in the south is, instead, prone to stronger tides and larger waves.
Panama is generally one of the safest countries in Latin America, and that reputation extends to its beaches. You can find gentle and relaxing beaches for a secure swimming experience, and the locals are kind and friendly. Like anywhere, be aware of your surroundings.
Each of Panama’s coasts offers something different for its visitors. The Caribbean coastline provides more opportunities for relaxation thanks to its gentle tides. The Pacific coast can also be relaxing, but you’re more likely to find large waves which are perfect for surfing.
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