Index


Introduction



In Panama, a Central American country located just north of the equator, the climate is tropical, hot all year round.
The main difference is found in the rains, which are determined by the seasonal shift of the sun, which in turn determines the prevailing currents.
From May to November the south-west currents predominate, which carry abundant rainfall on the southern slope exposed to the Pacific Ocean, however it also rains in the north side, so this is the rainy season.
Instead, from December to April the northeastern trade winds prevail, which bring abundant rainfall on the north side on the Caribbean Sea, especially in the first part (December-January), that is to say when the sea is warmer, while on the south side, beyond the mountain ranges that are stretched in the interior of the country as a backbone, this is the dry season.
The rains occur mostly in the form of heavy downpour or thunderstorm (called aguaceros), usually in the afternoon or evening, but they can continue even in the early hours of the night.
However, there are some variations from one year to the next, which make the weather quite unpredictable, especially on the north side, while on the southern side the seasons are more defined.
The temperatures vary little throughout the year, however the coolest months, or rather the least hot, are usually October and November, at the end of the rainy season, although during this period the humidity makes the heat unpleasant. The hottest months are usually March and April, before the rainy season.

North-west



In the north-west, the province of Bocas del Toro has an equatorial climate, ie with no dry season. Near the border with Costa Rica, the northern side of the mountain range called Cordillera de Talamanca, where the Amistad International Park is found, is occupied by a cloud forest.
In this zone (see Changuinola, Bocas del Toro Archipelago), where about 2,500 millimetres (98 inches) of rain per year fall, there are two periods in which the rains have a relative decline: February-March and (a little less) September-October, while the wettest months are July, November and December.

Changuinola

Here is the average precipitation in Changuinola.
Changuinola - Average precipitation
MonthJanFebMarAprMayJunJulAugSepOctNovDecYear
Prec.(mm)2001451552052502202702551752102553002645
Prec.(in)7,95,76,18,19,88,710,6106,98,31011,8104,1
Days129891821222321222017202

Here are the average temperatures of Changuinola. As you can see, the temperatures are not too high, even though the air is humid.
Changuinola - Average temperatures
MonthJanFebMarAprMayJunJulAugSepOctNovDec
Min (°C)222223232323232323232322
Max (°C)282929303029292929292828
Min (°F)727273737373737373737372
Max (°F)828484868684848484848282

In this zone, the period of the northeastern trade winds, although it is rainy, is quite sunny, especially from February to April, when the rains become a little less frequent.
Changuinola - Sunshine
MonthJanFebMarAprMayJunJulAugSepOctNovDec
Hours789887766668

Other areas of Panama have an equatorial climate: the northern slopes of the highest mountains, and, in the south-east, the inland area of the province the Darién Province, on the border with Colombia, where an impenetrable rainforest dominates, so much so that even the Pan-American Highway, which otherwise would connect the whole American continent from Alaska to Patagonia, is interrupted south of Yaviza (the interruption is called Darién Gap). In this area, more than 3,000 mm (118 in) of rain per year fall, the only time when precipitation goes down to around 150 mm (6 in) per month is January to March.

North side



In the rest of the coast overlooking the Caribbean Sea, although the rains are more abundant than the southern side, there is a decrease in rainfall from January to April, more pronounced than in the northwest.

Colón

In Colón, near the Caribbean entrance to the Panama Canal, rainfall amounts to 3,300 mm (130 in) per year. In the wettest month, November, the rains become monsoon-like, reaching as high as 550 mm (21.5 in) in a month.
Here is the average precipitation in Colón.
Colón - Average precipitation
MonthJanFebMarAprMayJunJulAugSepOctNovDecYear
Prec.(mm)9550451253603403803603103955503403355
Prec.(in)3,721,84,914,213,41514,212,215,621,713,4132,1
Days97791920222319222417198

North-east of Colón we find the San Blas archipelago, made up of coral islands inhabited by the Kuna Indians.

South side



The southern side, being leeward from the trade winds, not only is less rainy than the northern side, but also is a bit hotter. On the south coast (see Panama City), the daily average temperature of the warmest month (April) is 28 °C (82 °F), that of the cooler months (October and November) is 26 °C (79 °F), while along the north coast, as we have seen, the average ranges from 27 °C (81 °F) in April and May, to 25 °C (77 °F) in November and December.

Panama City

In Panama City, the capital, located on the Pacific side, about 1,730 mm (68 in) of rain fall, almost all in the rainy season, from May to mid-December. This period is also characterized by a hot and muggy weather with poor sunshine.
Here is the average precipitation.
Panama City - Average precipitation
MonthJanFebMarAprMayJunJulAugSepOctNovDecYear
Prec.(mm)401617752002051851901952252501301728
Prec.(in)1,60,60,737,98,17,37,57,78,99,85,168
Days3214111211111213138101

In return, in the period from January to April, the sun shines and it almost never rains, but it's hot, with lows around 23/24 °C (73/75 °F), and highs around 32 °C (90 °F).
Here are the average temperatures of Panama City.
Panama City - Average temperatures
MonthJanFebMarAprMayJunJulAugSepOctNovDec
Min (°C)232323242424242423232323
Max (°C)313232323130303030293030
Min (°F)737373757575757573737373
Max (°F)889090908886868686848686

The amount of sunshine in Panama City is not great, because some cloudiness can always form; however, it's better at the height of the dry season, from February to April. On the other hand, even in the rainy season, the sun makes its appearance on average for a few hours a day, at least in the plains and along the coasts. The cloudiest areas are the east, towards the border with Colombia, and the mountainous inland areas. Here are the sunshine hours per day in Panama City.
Panama City - Sunshine
MonthJanFebMarAprMayJunJulAugSepOctNovDec
Hours788776666566

The sea in Panama is warm enough for swimming all year round: the water temperature goes from 27 °C to 29 °C (81 to 84 °F). And this applies to both coasts.
Panama City - Sea temperature
MonthJanFebMarAprMayJunJulAugSepOctNovDec
Temp (°C)272727272829282829292828
Temp (°F)818181818284828284848282

Panama City

The south-west



Panama, southwest

Across the southern plains to the west of the Gulf of Panana (see David, Santiago), and in the Azuero Peninsula, during the dry season the rainfall drops below 100 mm (4 in) already in December; the sun shines along the coast and the heat is intense in the interior, with highs around 35 °C (95 °F).

Santiago de Veraguas

Here are the average temperatures in Santiago de Veraguas.
Santiago - Average temperatures
MonthJanFebMarAprMayJunJulAugSepOctNovDec
Min (°C)202020222222222222222121
Max (°C)323334343231313131303131
Min (°F)686868727272727272727070
Max (°F)909193939088888888868888

South of the coast, we find the pristine island of Coiba, which is also a national park, and a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
In the southern provinces of Herrera, Coclé and Los Santos, west of the Gulf of Panama (see Anton, Chitré, in the small area circled in light red), precipitation drops to around 1,500 millimetres (60 inches) per year. In this region, the vegetation becomes less dense, so that there are also grasslands and shrubs. In the inland region there is even a desert, in the Sarigua National Park, actually formed as a result of deforestation made by settlers in the last century, to make room for pastures, rather than to the climate.

Hills and mountains



To find some cool weather, you have to climb above 1,000 metres (3,300 feet), in the so-called tierras templadas ("temperate lands"), which have a milder climate. In Boquete, 1,200 metres (3,900 feet) above sea level, on the slopes of the volcano Barú, which is the highest peak in Panama with its 3,475 metres (11,401 feet), the average temperature fluctuates between 20 °C and 21 °C (68 and 70 °F) throughout the year.
Here are the average temperatures.
Boquete - Average temperatures
MonthJanFebMarAprMayJunJulAugSepOctNovDec
Min (°C)151516171717171716161615
Max (°C)262627272625262625252525
Min (°F)595961636363636361616159
Max (°F)797981817977797977777777

In Boquete, 2.900 mm (114 in) of rain per year fall; the rains exceed 300 mm (12 in) from May to November, while they drop below 100 mm (4 in) per month from January to March.
Above 2,000 metres (6,500 feet), in the tierras frías ("cold lands"), nights can be cold, especially in the period from December to March. Above 3,000 metres (10,000 ft), it can get cold even during the day.

Hurricanes



Panama is almost always spared from hurricanes, which pass at a higher latitude. The only hurricane to hit Panama in historical times was Martha, which followed an abnormal trajectory (from north to south) and hit the coast in Mosquito Bay, in November 1969; more recently, two hurricanes, Otto in November 2016 and Nate in November 2017, have affected Panama, even though they passed further north, on the Caribbean Sea. However, the hurricane season runs from June to November, even though at so low a latitude they are almost always formed at the end of the period, that is, in October and November.

When to go



The best time to visit Panama as a whole runs from February to April, and in particular the months of February and March: it's hot almost everywhere, the sun shines and there is little rain, except on the north-west of the Caribbean coast and in the interior of the Darién province, where rainfall is quite frequent even during this period.
On the southern side, overlooking the Pacific Ocean, you can go from December (or better yet January) to April.

What to pack



For plains and coasts: lightweight clothes, a light sweatshirt for the evening and rooms with air conditioning; in the rainy season (from May to mid-December in Panama City, and throughout the year in areas with an equatorial climate), a light raincoat or umbrella for thunderstorms. For the reef, equipment for snorkeling, water shoes or rubber soled shoes.
For the tierras templadas: all year round, light clothing, a sweatshirt or sweater for the evening; raincoat or umbrella in the rainy season. In the dry season, sun hat and sunscreen.
For the tierras frías: throughout the year, clothes for spring and autumn, t-shirt for the day, sweater or sweatshirt and jacket for the evening, raincoat or umbrella in the rainy season.
For high mountains: warm clothes, jacket, hiking boots.

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