Best Beaches in Panama
Panama’s coastline stretches for hundreds of kilometers along both the Pacific Ocean and Caribbean Sea, with over a thousand islands just offshore. This means that the best beaches in Panama are also incredibly diverse. Some of Panama's beaches have soft white sand and border calm turquoise waters perfect for swimming, such as Playa Blanca; other beaches have grey, brown, or black sand, and are served by routine swells that lure international surfers, like Playa Cambutal. Panama’s islands — including those in Bocas del Toro, the Gulf of Chiriquí, and Guna Yala — have some of the prettiest beaches in the country.
Bocas del Toro Province
Isla Bastimentos is a sizable island in the Bocas del Toro archipelago. Explore both the popular public beaches and the few within the Isla Bastimentos National Marine Park.
Most of the beaches are on the northern end of the island. Visit spots like Red Frog Beach for its clear, bright blue water and, often, fairly strong surf. Playa Wizard has a usually fairly empty stretch of sand and similarly lively waves. To see one of the most beautiful beaches in Bocas del Toro, arrange for a trip to the nearby Cayo Zapatilla, which offers one of the most tranquil swimming spots in all of the Bocas Islands.
Besides the public beaches, you might also want to visit the more remote beaches in the Isla Bastimentos National Marine Park. These are surrounded by jungle. To see more local wildlife, go snorkeling in the Cayo Crawl, a shallow channel on the southern end of the island.
This is a popular island to visit, so you’ll find a nice variety of options for hotels. Choose from laid back beach bungalows and luxury resorts, as well as a few pleasant options in between. Some of the nicest options put you right on top of the water, with private patios looking out over the ocean.
The Azuero Peninsula
Playa Venao attracts both local and international surfers. You’ll have your choice of surf shops and surf lessons — or the chance to simply relax and watch surfers take on the waves.
While you’re here, you might want to combine a surfing trip with a fishing excursion — the Azuero Peninsula is known for its abundance of tuna. For more adventure, consider hopping a bus or arranging for a driver to take you to the nearby town of Chitré, where you can take a scenic tour of surrounding farms and gardens. On a visit to Playa Venao, you can stay at comfortable, boutique accommodations in the small town of Pedsasí.
Gulf of Panama and Canal Zone
Isla Contadora spoils visitors for choice with secluded, white-sand beaches. There are a total of 11 beaches on the island, and even more on the secluded beaches of the Pearl Islands archipelago. Arrange for snorkeling and boating tours, and stay at some of the beautiful properties right on the beach.
If you’re looking to have a bit of beach all to yourself, make sure to visit Playa Cacique while you’re on the island. Playa Ejecutiva is another popular beach with warm waters that make for lovely swims. Playa Larga stands out because of the abandoned ferry near the shore. These are just a few options — with so many tropical destinations to choose from, you can fill your vacation with some of the prettiest beaches in Panama.
The Azuero Peninsula
Playa Cambutal is an up-and-coming beach destination in the Azuero Peninsula. Surfers and fishermen will find plenty to do in the area, and adventurous visitors can also explore the coast in a kayak. Schools of tuna, marlin, and grouper thrive in these deep, cold waters.
Cambutal also puts you right next to the Cerro Hoya National Park. This park isn’t very well developed, but if you go with a guide, you’ll get to see one of Panama’s most off-the-beaten path nature destinations. You can explore the peaks of Cerro Hoya and Cerro Soya on hikes through the rainforest where you’ll keep an eye out for macaws and the Azuero parakeet.