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.
Don't forget that beaches in Panama have a lot to offer — especially if you're willing to go further offshore. Sport fishing, windsurfing, snorkeling, diving, and more are exciting alternatives to the popular pastime of surfing. Whether you prefer listening to ocean waves from the comfort of your luxury resort or enjoying a few moments of your own private paradise on an uncrowded island, Panama's beaches will offer you both the fun and relaxation you need this vacation.
#1: Isla Bastimentos
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.
#2: Playa Venao
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.
#3: Isla Contadora Archipelago Perlas
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 (although still not overcrowded) 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.
#4: Playa Cambutal
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.
Frequently asked questions
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- Where are the nicest beaches in Panama?
Combined, Panama’s Pacific and Caribbean coastlines stretch for over 1,786 miles (2,857 km). There are good beaches on both sides of the isthmus, but we’ve boiled down some of the best and put them into the following list.Isla Bastimentos, Bocas del Toro: This island in the Bocas del Toro archipelago has the region’s nicest beaches, including Wizard Beach and Red Frog Beach. These golden-sand beaches are wide and backed by dense jungle. They also have decent snorkeling opportunities offshore.
Gulf of Chiriquí: The islands within the Gulf of Chiriquí are home to a wide range of stunning, uncrowded beaches. Some of the best are remote and take some effort to get to (i.e. 45-minute boat rides), but you’ll be rewarded with a scattering of small, lovely beaches lined by coconut palms.
Las Perlas Archipelago: This group of islands is a quick flight from Panama City. The islands offer travelers isolated white-sand beaches with excellent snorkeling and swimming conditions. The most developed island in the group, Contadora Island, has several beaches to choose from.
Playa Los Destiladeros, Playa Venado and Playa Cambutal, Azuero Peninsula: These beaches, which line the southern shores of the Azuero Peninsula, are the best and most accessible in region. Playa Destiladeros is wide and has brown sand, while Playa Venado and Playa Cambutal are surf-havens that are beginning to attract more widespread attention.
Isla Coiba: The centerpiece of a national park bearing the same name, Isla Coiba is massive and has a good scattering of deserted, white-sand beaches. It’s also the country’s best dive site.
Playa Farallón: This beach along the central Pacific coastline is one of Panama’s hottest new beach destinations. Sometimes referred to as Playa Blanca, this beach is wide, attractive and within two hours of Panama City. Those interested in upscale beach vacations can hit up the Decameron Resort, which lines a section of the shore.
- Is it easy to get a sunburn in Panama?
It is fairly easy to get sunburned in Panama — because the closer you are to Earth’s equator, the stronger the sun. Panama lies between 7 and 10 degrees north of the equator, much closer than states like Texas or California, which are billed as sunny destinations.You can go outside for a short amount of time in Panama – say, only 15 or 20 minutes – and still get burned. In order to protect against painful sunburns, it’s advisable to wear sunscreen with at least SPF 30. It’s also important to drink water and stay hydrated, especially when you’re on the beach. Bring a bottle or two with you and take breaks in the shade throughout the day.