Panama is a beach and island lover’s paradise, with its two long coastlines and more than a thousand islands. Where else on earth can you surf in the Pacific Ocean in the morning and take an evening dip in the Caribbean Sea, all in the same day?
We’ve scoured the best beaches Panama has to offer. Here are our top 12, in no particular order. Since each beach has its own charm and unique characteristics, it would be almost impossible not to be able to find the tropical beach atmosphere you seek somewhere along the coast of Panama.
1. Santa Clara & Farallón, Pacific Coast: These two are the most appealing beaches along the Pacific Coast, and the best for swimming. Best of all, they lie within a 2-hour drive of Panama City. Here the water is bluer and the sand is whiter than what you’ll find in many neighboring beaches closer to the city.
2. Isla Bastimentos National Park, Bocas del Toro: Cayos Zapatillas, or the “Slippers Islands” (so-called because they resemble footprints), not only fulfill the beach lover’s fantasy with their soft sand backed by a tangle of jungle. They are also surrounded by a rich display of coral that attracts hordes of fish, which makes for some excellent snorkeling.
3. Boca Chica, Chiriquí: We are a bit partial to Boca Chica, which offers pristine ocean views of tropical blue seas, lush vegetation, and remote islands with white sand beaches and swaying palms. Not to mention, this area also offers world-class fishing, diving, and snorkeling.
4. Santa Catalina, Veraguas: Originally a highly coveted secret surf spot, Santa Catalina probably has the most consistently great waves in Panama. It is the closest access point to Isla Coiba with its world class diving, pristine beaches, and nature reserve.
5. Contadora Isand, Panama: The beaches here are sandy brown, with warm waters suited for snorkeling and swimming. Contadora Island is one of Panama’s more affordable beach destinations.
6. San Blas Islands, Guna Yala: This is by far Panama’s premier beach destination with with powdery white sand, extensive coral reefs, piercing turquoise water, and clusters of enticing palm trees. The indigenous and colorful Kuna population administers this province, and their unique culture is one of the best reasons to visit the region.
7. Las Perlas Archipelago, Panama: The Pearl Islands are a relatively unsung beach destination, despite the fact that this Pacific archipelago is close to Panama City, has some of the country’s best snorkeling, and boasts white sand beaches and calm waters. Outside of holidays and the hard-core summer, you won’t find crowds here, even during weekends. It’s well worth a short boat ride to enjoy solitude at one of Panama’s best beaches.
8. Isla Coiba National Park, Veraguas: This island is Panama’s number one diving site. It’s rather remote, but its incredible beaches and the Isla Coiba National Park make it worth the excursion. If the main island is too crowded, try venturing to Granito de Oro where the beaches are so idyllic that midsize cruise ships make stops here.
9. Las Lajas, Chiriquí: One of the lesser known beaches in Panama, Las Lajas is worth a visit, with its swaying palm trees and perfect water temperature. This beach is known for having just the right amount of waves for bodysurfing. Given that the beach stretches for more than 8 miles, it is also the perfect walking beach as well.
10. La Barqueta, Chiriquí: Strong currents at this black sand beach mean the water is not ideal for swimming. However, like Las Lajas, it is lengthy and good for walking. It’s also home to an impressive nature reserve.
11. Playa Los Destiladores & Playa Venao, Azuero Peninsula: There are a multitude of beaches lining the coast of this peninsula, but these two are the best. Located within a 20-minute drive from one another, you can surf both in one day. Not into surfing? Try the protected cove at Playa Venao, where it is calm enough for a swim, or travel a bit farther east for the best beach surfing hotspot.
12. Burica, Chiriquí: Looking for an underpopulated stretch of some of Panama’s best beaches? Burica, apart from a few small towns and one accommodation, is absolutely desolate. So what is its attraction? Lots and lots of isolated beaches, rows of palm trees, and at times surfable waves. The beach is formed with gray sand and striated rocks that stretch all the way out into the sea.
Which of these Panama beaches is your favorite? Are there any others you think we should have included? Comment and let us know!