Anytime is a good time to visit Panama. It is a beautiful country all year round. Just like anywhere else, though, there are better times than others. Like many Latin American countries, Panama is bustling with festivals and fiestas that are always worth traveling for. Before planning trips around these, be sure you’re not going to let the weather get in the way of your fun time.
Panama has two seasons: wet and dry. Dry season is referred to by the locals as their summer. It begins in December and runs through mid-April and it features the hot weather you’d be seeking for a nice Caribbean vacation without the rainfall you’d get during the rest of the year.
If you’re planning your visit anytime within the months of May to October, you’ll be visiting during the wet season, which still isn’t so bad. The rainfall is likely to hit every day that you’re there, but the rain will rarely last more than an hour. It could honestly offer some relief from the heat, not to mention the greenery is much nicer, much lusher, during these rainy months. The one month that is the worst for visiting is November. November sees the most rain and will allow for very little to enjoy in regards to the outdoors.
Plan your trip to Panama around a holiday or two if you’re looking to get a genuine feel for the culture.
Panama Jazz Festival
Each January, Panama kicks off summer with its famous Jazz Festival. This is one of Panama’s most important events, and it is internationally known for offering a great time. Jazz musicians come from all over the world. The festival itself lasts for a full week, and it features free shows, classes concerts and educational activities centered on music and culture. There’s nothing quite like it! It is hosted each year by the Danilo Pérez Foundation in Panama City.
Carnival may be Panama’s most celebrated holiday, and it lasts a full week leading up to Ash Wednesday. Celebrated each year in February, Carnival is best celebrated in either Panama City or the Azuero Peninsula, although you can witness large parade celebrations elsewhere in the country as well.
Most businesses are closed during this week, and even transportation can be tougher to find. Many local Panamanians even call out of work on Ash Wednesday to recover. The celebrations include parades, carnival rides, drinking, and crowds. If that sounds like a great time, February is when you should visit Panama.
Boquete Flower and Coffee Festival
The city of Boquete throws this festival each year in January, when its colorful flowers bloom. The festivities take place on the banks of the Caldera River and include folkloric bands from Panama and a few of its neighbors (usually Colombia, Bolivia, and Ecuador, to name a few). The festival is 10 days long and features – you guessed it – you guessed it: coffee and flowers. Boquete is known for its artisan coffee and for growing lots of colorful flowers after a push to help agriculture in the area. The Boquete Flower and Coffee Festival is the kind of festival for everyone to enjoy, because who doesn’t love coffee, flowers, and music?
Festival de Diablos y Congos de Portobelo
Two weeks after Carnival each year, there is a festival in Portobelo, on the Caribbean coast, to commemorate African slaves who were brought to Panama during Spanish colonization. During this time, some of the slaves escaped and proceeded to make lives for themselves. The festival is an exaggerated re-enactment of how these ancestors of some of the locals of today made their way.
Festival de la Pollera
This annual festival takes place in Belisario Porras park in downtown Las Tablas, and it is centered around the Pollera, a beautiful, intricately designed Panamanian skirt associated with folklore dances. The festival features a contest in which women compete for the best stitching and embroidery. The prize is the Margarita Lozano medal. Afterwards is a parade to celebrate and to end the festival. This celebration takes place each year in July, in conjunction with the festivities for Santa Librada, a patron of Las Tablas.
Feria del Mar
Feria del Mar, or Fair of the Sea, draws everyone into the country’s archipelago and Playa El Ismito, which is located just north of Bocas Del Toro. The celebration lasts four days in mid-September and it is centered around the fishing culture of the islands. People come from all over Panama to sell their wares – everything from jewelry and sandals to masks and plastic toys. The festival also features plenty of local cuisine and even games and rides for kids. This is an event that’s fun for the whole family!