The climate in Panama is similar to many tropical Central American countries, which boast a warm climate for much of the year. However, Panama, although a relatively small nation, Panama also experiences a range of weather conditions depending on the area in question and the time of year. If you’re planning a visit to Panama, check out our guide to the climate of this stunning country.
Unlike North America, Panama does not experience four seasons, but two – the dry season and the rainy season. The dry season runs from mid-December to mid-April, and this is when the majority of tourists choose to visit. The rainy season lasts from late April until late November. However, contrary to common misconceptions, Panama’s rainy season doesn’t mean that the entire country is deluged with torrential downpours 24 hours a day. As with other nations with similar climates, Panama often experiences anywhere from light to intense periods of rain for a few of hours at a time, rather than a continual rain. Rain does not last for more than a morning or afternoon: if you enter a restaurant to grab a bite to eat while its raining, chances are the rain will have stopped by the time you leave. In addition, some days during rainy reason, especially in Panama City, are actually full of blue skies with only a few clouds and warm sunshine! Other parts of the country however, such as the coastal regions of the Caribbean side, can see lengthier periods of rain.
The climate of Panama is characterized as tropical maritime. This means that the majority of the country experiences prolonged periods of high temperatures (between 85 – 95 °F (29 – 35 ° C) during the dry season, and high levels of humidity during the rainy season. Between May and November, Panama can be quite cloudy, and while this offers some respite from the heat, it can also mean greater levels of moisture in the air, particularly in low-lying regions. As such, the most comfortable time to visit Panama is at the height of the dry season between December and April.
Although Panama is located in close proximity to the hurricane belt, these extreme weather systems are highly rare in Panama. The hurricane belt runs from the North Atlantic down through the Gulf of Mexico and parts of the Caribbean Sea, but Panama is not usually affected by these powerful storms. In fact, only one hurricane – Martha – has ever made landfall in Panama and that was in 1969.
Although Panama’s weather can be simply categorized into two seasons, that isn’t to say that the country doesn’t experience wide variations in regional climate. Some parts of Panama are much hotter and drier than others, while others are much cooler and refreshing.
For example, temperatures in Chiriquí, Panama’s westernmost province, tend to be a little cooler than other regions, largely due to the area’s high rainfall and elevation. It is not uncommon for Chiriquí to see prolonged rainy but spring-like periods for nine months of the year, including cooler temperatures and lush green surroundings. In these areas, including Boquete, Cerro Punta and Volcán, physical activities such as hiking and rafting are much more comfortable as a result. In contrast, the west-central province of Veraguas often experiences significantly more humidity than other areas, particularly during the rainy season.
While it is difficult to generalize, overall, the hottest parts of the country are the areas surrounding Panama City, especially in the dry season, as well as most of the country’s coastal regions. On the other hand, the Panamanian Highlands are often much cooler, with temperatures rarely exceeding 85° F (29° C).
Panama is a land of great diversity in terms of terrain, and this creates unique microclimates that can differ widely from one region to the next.
For example, In Los Santos, Panama’s southeastern province, the climate can change quite dramatically due to the difference in elevations and the premontane forest that covers much of the province. Pockets of high temperatures are created by the dense concentration of trees and the radical shifts in terrain, particularly around Canajagua and Cerro Hoya. Similarly, Herrera boasts a diverse climate, from the cooler temperatures of mountainous areas such as Cerro de Tijera, to the more humid climes of the Santa María plains and the city of Chitré. Boquete is also known for its microclimates, as Bajo Mono’s average temperature is typically several degrees lower than that of Bajo Boquete, despite there being just a few miles between the two places.