Top 5 Best Beaches In Panama
When it comes to beautiful beaches to spend your days working on your tan or frolicking in the ocean, Panama spoils you for choice. Thanks to its geographical position, Panama has access to both the Pacific and the Atlantic, not to mention a whole selection of white-sanded islands. Take a look at the top 5 beaches in Panama.
Puerto Frances, Colon
North of Panama City, in the Colon province you’ll find many beautiful beaches on the Atlantic coast. If you don’t mind crowds, any of the popular beaches like Isla Grande or Isla Mamey in Colon will work for you. But if you’re like me and prefer as little people around as possible, white sand, clear and calm water, Puerto Frances in Colon ticks all those boxes. Colon has incredible beaches.
To get there it’s necessary to take a boat from Portobelo, you can coordinate your pick-up time at the island until 5 p.m. The boat owners will charge you from $8-$10 approximately. Since most of the islands in Colon are inhabited, I strongly suggest to take your own cooler with drinks, snacks and anything else you could possibly need for your beach day. Some of the islands have bathroom facilities but not all of them do, so be prepared for any situation.
Once you get on the boat in Portobelo, it’ll take you about 20 minutes to get to the island. Every boat has life jackets but be prepared for a bit of a bumpy ride to the island. Another word of caution for when you go snorkeling, there is a warning sign for whirlpools near the buoy so keep clear of that area.
You can also ask if the boat can give you a tour of the other 2 nearby islands: Playa Huerta and Playa Blanca. All three beaches are equally beautiful.
Now to get to Colon, I recommend going by car and taking the Transistmica route through Chilibre (during the day, during the night there’s not much visibility and the road is not properly signaled which causes a lot of accidents). By bus or by car, the entrance point of reference is El Rey supermarket in Sabanitas. Once you get to Fort Santiago de la Gloria you’ll find a parking lot and the dock right there.
San Blas Islands
This is what you picture when you think tropical paradise. The San Blas Islands are the most beautiful in the entire country in my opinion. Dolphins, starfish, white sand, crystal-clear waters… you’ll find the whole shebang here.
The San Blas Islands are located on the Caribbean side in the Guna Yala (indigenous group) region. Getting there can be quite a hassle on your own so I recommend going with a tour, there are many to choose from. Most of the tours pick you up early in the morning and include your lunch, and the fee you have to pay the indigenous for entering the islands.
The road that takes you to the main port to get to the islands is not in very good shape so if you’re prone to car-sickness, this might not be the trip for you. The 2-and-a-half-hour trip to the port is not the most comfortable and should only be done in a 4×4 vehicle.
On the islands you’ll find restaurants, volleyball nets, and more, however, because there’s not much cellphone service or internet, only cash is accepted (U.S. dollars). The best thing to do in San Blas is of course island hopping and enjoying the company of starfish in the natural pool (sunken island with water shallow enough to walk in).
Fun fact, part of season 3 of Money Heist was filmed in San Blas…
Santa Catalina Beach
Santa Catalina is located on the Pacific coast near Isla Coiba which is a famous natural reserve.
This beach is known as one of the best beaches to surf in Central America. Many surfing competitions have been held here and visitors come from far and wide to ride Santa Catalina’s waves.
If you’re not a surfer, you can also enjoy the beach, though it takes a bit of walking to find an area of the beach with less waves. Besides surfing, Santa Catalina is said to have the most beautiful sunsets and is considered one of the most beautiful beaches in the country. Even though it doesn’t have that classic white sand, this beach is still considered a slice of paradise.
You can also access a hiking trail called Sendero la Cresta and take a quick trip to Isla Coiba from Santa Catalina. There are restaurants and places to spend the night here, camping is also an option. Getting to Isla Iguana is not that hard by bus. Just take a bus in Albrook (Panama City) to Soná. From there another bus that will take you to Santa Catalina.
Isla Iguana, Los Santos
Panama is fortunate enough to see large numbers of whales migrating from July to mid-October. Humpback whales and orcas pass through the isthmus and there are plenty of tours from the city to Isla Iguana which is located in Pedasí in Los Santos.
The island is a protected area so there are certain rules to follow such as no smoking, drinking, or playing loud music. There’s a Mi Ambiente (government entity that overseas natural resources) building on the island where the police officers lay out the rules before they let you enjoy your beach day.
There are no restaurants on the island so be sure to bring your own snacks.
The island is called Iguana Island due to the large number of iguanas and hermit crabs found on the island. The water is crystal-clear, the sand is white and there are lots of trees for shade… all the makings for an unforgettable beach day. You can enjoy your beach day swimming, snorkeling and even jet skiing.
To get to Isla Iguana you’ll of course have to pay for a boat to transport you from the port to the island. I recommend booking a tour from the city to the island so you don’t have to worry about your food or transportation. A whale watching tour from the city to Isla Iguana goes for around $80 and it is 100% worth it.
The trip from the port to the island only takes about 20 minutes and unlike the boat rides to the islands in Colón, this trip is relatively smooth.
Red Frog Beach, Bocas del Toro
Bocas del Toro is known for its beautiful beaches, incredible wildlife, and its vivacious nightlife with tourists and spring brakers having a blast on this tropical island. Bocas is also home to many islands, cays, and beaches, including the famous Red Frog Beach.
This beach gets its name from a small, poisonous frog that inhabits the island, though you won’t actually find any on the beach. Red Frog Beach is perfect for snorkeling and kayaking. The beach is usually calm and fairly easy to access. From Isla Colon, Bocas del Toro, you hop on a boat which can charge you about $5 and will take you to the Red Frog Marina in Bastimentos. Because Bocas del Toro is an attractive tourism destination, you’ll find that most people speak English.
And there you have it, a quick look into Panama’s top 5 beaches. Some honorable mentions due to proximity to the city are Coronado and Santa Clara, both notorious for their black sand, but both options are within 2 hours of the city. You’ll find restaurants, hotels and a whole expat community developed in this area.