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Much of Central America is lined with beautiful beaches, but the beaches in Panama tend to stand out from the rest. With stunning stretches of coastline on both the Pacific and Caribbean sides, there are plenty of beautiful beaches in Panama. 

You can expect soft, fine sand in most places, crystal clear waters, and swaying palm trees lining the beaches. Although sometimes overshadowed by its neighbour Costa Rica, Panama is just as wonderful a beach destination.

In addition to scenic beauty, many of the best beaches in Panama are excellent for spotting sea creatures, surfing, and scuba diving, among other activities. You can take boat trips to nearby islands, go snorkelling, or take long walks along the sand. Whatever kind of beachgoer you are, Panama has something for you.

Best Beaches in Panama

Panama City Beaches

While there aren’t many beaches in Panama City, Panama itself, there are still a few that are great options for a particularly hot day in the city. All of the beaches in Panama City are located to the south of the city centre and are right on the Panama Canal.  You’ll have a chance to see some ships passing through. One of the best beaches in Panama City is Playa Venao.

best beaches in panama
Playa Venao. Photo by rawmeyn via Flickr CC.

For something a little bit out of the city, you can take a boat to Taboga Island to the south. Here, you can stay at one of the many resorts and enjoy the warm sands with a view of the city.

Bocas del Toro

Bocas del Toro, Panama, is one of the most popular places to visit in Panama for those looking for a tropical escape. The province can be found in the northwest corner of the country on the Caribbean side and is mostly jungle on the mainland. Bocas del Toro islands are visited by sunseekers from around the world.

things to do in panama, Photo by dronepicr via Flickr CC. https://www.flickr.com/photos/132646954@N02/26668484671/, best beaches in panama
Spectacular view of Bocas Del Toro Photo by dronepicr via Flickr CC.

The area is home to some of the best beaches in Panama. It is also a popular destination for scuba diving. In addition, the nearby villages are bright and colourful, offering plenty of accommodation and food options for travelers. Some of the islands don’t have any cars on them, making them peaceful and remote.

Bocas del Toro is a great place for surfing and diving and is widely known as an eco-friendly travel destination.

Bastimentos Island

Located to the east of the main island in Bocas del Toro, Bastimentos Island is technically a part of the Bocas del Toro archipelago. Snorkelling is popular here since there are shallow reefs and lots of things to see.

best beaches in panama
Bastimentos Island. Photo by dronepicr via Flickr CC.

It’s also the perfect place to really relax and be a true beach bum, as the island is car-free. Frog Beach on Bastimentos Island is one beach that should not be missed.

Isla Zapatilla

There are actually two Zapatilla Islands (I and II.) They’re located right next to each other to the east of Bastimentos Island. Although both are quite small, they are some of the best beaches in Panama thanks to warm, sunny stretches of sand, and beautiful reefs right offshore.

best beaches in panama
Bastimentos Island. Photo by dronepicr via Flickr CC.

San Blas Islands

This is one of the best sets of beaches in Panama to visit if you want to really get off the grid. Located in the Gulf of Guna Yala on the country’s Caribbean side, it’s the perfect peaceful island escape. The waters are warm and the sand is soft, offering the ultimate tropical paradise.

best beaches in panama
San Blas Islands. Photo by felipevalduga via Flickr CC.

If just lounging on the beach isn’t your style, you can try surfing the waves as well as windsurfing in the open sea. Diving and snorkelling are also popular activities in San Blas thanks to the brightly coloured reefs, friendly fish, and gorgeous starfish. In addition, San Blas sailing tours are a popular activity here.

There aren’t too many facilities on the San Blas Islands, Panama so you’ll need to be okay with being truly unplugged and disconnected. Hotel accommodations are all over the islands and can be quite remote, so you’ll need to take a water taxi to get around.

Isla Coiba

Isla Coiba, Panama, is an awesome spot for nature lovers of all kinds. There are excellent opportunities for dolphin and whale watching here as well as places to go hiking within the national park in the hopes of seeing local wildlife. Diving here is very popular, as there are tons of exciting things to see underwater.

best beaches in panama
Amazing blue-green waters of Coiba Island. Photo by rawmeyn via Flickr CC.

The beaches on the island are often empty. So, you’ll have plenty of space to yourself to unwind and enjoy. Just offshore, there are awesome chances to go snorkelling in the bright blue waters and see lots of swirling fish around the reefs. If you’re lucky, you might even see sharks, rays, and turtles.

best beaches in panama
Beach at Isla Coiba. Photo by rawmeyn via Flickr CC.

Isla Coiba is located off the country’s southern coast in the Pacific Ocean. There is very little infrastructure here, including very few hotels, so you’ll want to either book something on the island well in advance (you may be staying in the ranger station) or stay on the mainland and take day trips.

Portobelo

You can find Portobelo National Park directly north of Panama City on the Caribbean coast. Although it’s not a very popular tourist destination, it has some of the best beaches in Panama.

best beaches in panama
Playa Blanca. Photo by Dan Lundberg via Flickr CC.

Playa Blanca is one of the best beaches nearby, offering perfect white sands with deep green jungles in the background. It can only be reached by boat, making it perfect for those who are willing to make an extra journey for their own private slice of paradise. There are great snorkelling and diving opportunities here, too.

Back in Portobelo, you can see decaying Spanish fortifications and Congolese artwork, and drink a signature rum cocktail with fresh fruit juices.

Isla Grande

Isla Grande is located a short boat or car ride away from Portobelo and since it is so remote, the beaches are entirely unspoiled. It’s an excellent beach for surfing and has some huge waves that should only be attempted by experienced surfers.

best beaches in panama
Isla Grande, Panama. Photo by carnemolinda08 via Flickr CC.

If surfing isn’t for you, you’ll still have plenty of perfect stretches of sand to enjoy in leisure. There are plenty of restaurants on the island and in the nearby mainland harbour of La Guaira, as well as a good handful of hotels to choose from.

Pearl Islands

Often compared to San Blas, the Pearl Islands are a beautiful chain of islands to the southeast of Panama City. As the name implies, the islands are famous for their pearls and have lots of historical significance as well. Most people, however, come here for the beaches.

things to do in panama, best beaches in panama
Contadora, one of the most famous in Pearl Islands. Photo via Wikimedia Commons

Since there are more than 250 islands to choose from in the Pearl Islands chain, you will have plenty of places to relax and enjoy the sun and sand.

Contadora Island, Panama, in particular, is a great place to find some of the best beaches in Panama. You’ll find this small island in the north of the archipelago. It is, however, one of the most touristed islands. Just to the east, Isla Saboga is also a wonderful choice and is best known for the feeling of preserved local culture. Of course, it is famous for pristine beaches as well.

best beaches in panama
Playa Grande beach, Isla Saboga. Photo by **AM** via Flickr CC.

In addition to amazing beaches, there is also fantastic diving to be had here. You can plan to see stunning, brightly coloured corals just offshore, as well as large pelagics like whales if the season is right. If you’d rather spot these creatures from above the surface, take a whale watching tour through the stunning Pearl Islands.

No matter which beaches you choose to visit in Panama, you really can’t choose a bad one. With a location so close to the equator and with both the Pacific and the Caribbean on hand, you’ll be spoiled for your choices of sandy escapes. Not only is the sun warm and wonderful and the sands cozy and soft, but the ocean itself has so much to offer visitors.

There are gorgeous coral reefs teeming with life. Panama beaches have larger sea creatures that migrate through colder waters on the Pacific side and everything in between. Back on land, you’ll quite often have dense green jungles and tropical palm trees casting shade over the sands where you’ll spend your holiday. Overall, the beaches in Panama are a special kind of paradise.

Have you visited any beaches in Panama? What is your favourite?

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