There are those who argue that the ancestral meaning of the term Panama is “abundance of fish” or “abundance of butterflies.” But this strip of land that links the two most important oceans in the world, the Atlantic and the Pacific, could very well be called: “abundance of beaches”. They are on both banks, bathed by the two oceans. They are of all kinds. But something they all have in common is a stunning beauty and powerful natural presence.
The top beaches in Panama we recommend are:
- San Blas
- Escudo de Veraguas
- Santa Catalina
Its indigenous name is Guna Yala. It is a group of 365 small islands located along the Caribbean coast of Panama. Of the 365, only 80 are inhabited. However, each one of them is a small explosion of white sands in the middle of the splendid turquoise waters. The rustic beauty of the islands, together with the simplicity of its inhabitants, make it possible to generate a genuine connection between visitors and a nature, away from unnecessary luxuries and linked to greater authenticity.
The archipelago is home to the Gunas, creators of the famous molas, colorful textiles, sewn with creative and complex designs.
The San Blas archipelago has become one of the most sought-after tourist destinations in Panama, thanks to the priceless beauty of its white sand beaches, the peace that seems to emanate from its harmonious waters, the rich signs of its culture and living warmth of its people.
Separating the Panamanian capital from the island of Taboga are a mere 12 kilometers. And yet, through the transit between the busy capital city and the placid tabogana island would seem to suggest that we have entered another world. Its beaches are very rich; Its small population has great simplicity, and a history bursting with adventures and cultures that traveled through its territory. Between 1849 and 1850 Taboga became the port of Panama and in 1887, it was visited by the French post-impressionist painter, Paul Gauguin, in his search for natural landscapes that would serve as pictorial inspiration. Because of its splendid beaches, its flowery landscapes, rich maritime life, water sports and whale watching; Taboga represents the biggest beach attraction for travelers who do not want to depart significantly from the capital.
Photo by Larish Julio
In the middle of the Las Perlas archipelago (in the Panamanian Pacific) Contadora stands as one of its main islands with 11 beaches, among which Playa Cacique, Playa Larga, Playa las Suecas, Playa Ejecutiva and Playa Galeón stand out. You can reach Contadora by air or by sea. The flights last about 20 minutes, whereas the ferry, which departs from the Causeway in Panama City, arrives in an hour and a half. The natural wealth of the island invites excursions and snorkeling. Contadora has a rich offer in restaurants and, if you plan on staying for a while, there are plenty of hotels to choose from which include two luxury establishments and three other lodgings.
Photo by dronepicr
This is the largest island in the Central American region, covering an area of 503 km2 on the Panamanian Pacific coast. It is part of the province of Veraguas and has an extraordinary natural wealth and a past dampened by dark history.
The island is a natural paradise. In 2004, and after an intense environmental struggle, the Coiba National Park was created, part of the National System of Protected Areas of the National Environmental Authority. A year later, it would be selected as a World Heritage Site of Humanity. Currently this area has a vital role in terms of its position within the Marine Conservation Corridor of the Eastern Tropical Pacific (CMAR due to its acronym in Spanish) that links five national parks: Cocos Island (Costa Rica), Coiba (Panama), Malpelo and Gorgona (Colombia) and Galapagos (Ecuador).
The dark side of Coiba occurred between 1919 and 2004, during which time it operated as a prison for high-risk criminals and political prisoners, considered enemies of the governments of the day. At its peak, the criminal island kept more than 3,000 prisoners in its facilities, divided into some thirty camps. Currently the prison is closed, and its old facilities are being taken over one by one by the lush nature.
Photo by: Kristallklares Wasser
Escudo de Veraguas
This island’s name can be misleading, because although it literally translates to “Shield of Veraguas”, this island is not really in the province of Veraguas, but rather, in the territories of the Ngäbe Buglé Comarca, on the borders with the province of Bocas del Toro. Its ecosystem is fantastic. Here we can find the pygmy sloth, endemic to the island, the hawksbill turtle and the long-necked hummingbird, also considered endemic to this area. The Escudo de Veraguas Island is part of the “Protected Landscape Escudo de Veraguas-Degó Island” and is vital for the inhabitants of the Gnäbe-Buglé region, who twice a year go to the island to fish and extract mangroves as firewood and for building.
The island is presently uninhabited; but it maintains certain buildings that function as refuge structures during the fishing season.
The Escudo de Veraguas is a rugged, wonderfully preserved space, with forests that keep very intense greens, crystal clear waters and colorful reefs. It is considered by many to be the true jewel of the Panamanian Caribbean.
Photo by: Bernal Saborio
And for the surfers…
Without a doubt, one of the best surfing beaches in Panama. Venao went from being a rugged beach to one of the most reputable places for surfers, with waves that cover various difficulty indexes, from the most suitable for newbies, to those that fit the most experienced surfers. Since the sun rises, wave seekers enter the sea in search of the one wave that is close to perfect. If at some point you get tired of riding the waves, Venao offers you plenty of options, such as a visit to Isla Iguana, canopy tours on the Azuero Peninsula or a fishing day on Isla Cañas. And if you still do not meet your relaxation needs, you can try yoga classes. Even more so, if you need higher levels of adventure, there are several little-known islands, which you could explore.
In exchange for being less known than Venao, Cambutal offers you beaches with fewer visitors, and a coastline that stretches for kilometers on end. Cambutal is an invitation to disconnect in the deepest way, while you go out in search of excellent waves without worrying about multitudes of surfers.
As in the other Panamanian beaches that we recommend, Cambutal has a strong natural presence. Waves, birds, vegetation, are elements capable of relaxing and filling you with vigor at the same time.
Santa Catalina is a fishing village located in the Panamanian Pacific. The waves here are unquestionably some of the best in the region. They have international fame and attract surfers from everywhere. Among its beaches, . It is the beach that best suits experienced surfers, while El Estero is the perfect beach for beginners or learners, largely due to the size of its waves. The waves of La Punta are powerful and break with extraordinary precision during the season that takes place between April and October. La Punta is also an excellent beach to get on a kayak or sail placidly on a paddleboard.
But if the waves of La Punta are too advanced for your level, Playa Estero which is located at the other end of the town, offers waves that are ideal for beginners or apprentices. You are not even required to travel with your own board! On the same beach, you can rent a board for a small fee. Also, if you have never surrendered to the waves before, we suggest you take a short class to develop enough technique in order to allow you to enjoy the powers of the sea.
However, we suggest that you stay very attentive to the tides. During high tide, Playa Estero is reduced to a few meters of sand. But at low tide, meters and meters of black sands become uncovered and generate beautiful reflections that also serve as courts where many enthusiastic football matches are played.
Photo by: Alex Proimos