10 Best Beaches in Panama (including two called Playa Blanca!)
Panama, located in Central America, is blessed with beautiful beaches. Its unusual isthmus shape mean that you can watch the sun rise over the Pacific and set over the Caribbean! Panama City is located on the Pacific coast, so those beaches tend to be more populated, while the sandy white Caribbean beaches are less inhabited. The Caribbean beaches can also be pricier and see more of the rainy season. Here are our picks for best beaches:
1. Santa Catalina Beach
Midway between Panama City and David, this stunning beach town is located on the Pacific coast of Panama and provides a great mix of white sand, lush jungle and crystal clear waters. It offers great opportunities for surfing, swimming, snorkeling, scuba diving, kayaking, and fishing. There are also plenty of restaurants offering delicious local food and drinks. (From Panama City, you can take this tour to stay in Santa Catalina and tour Coiba Island for snorkeling).
2. Playa Las Lajas
Also on the Pacific, Playa Las Lajas is a tranquil seven-and-a-half mile beach in the Chiriquí province. Surfing, scuba diving, and sailing are popular.
3. Bocas del Toro
This beach town is located on the Caribbean side of Panama and is known for its stunning beaches, lush rainforest, and colorful mix of cultures. This destination also offers great surfing opportunities, incredible snorkeling spots as well as plenty of bars and restaurants to explore. It’s lively and popular for partying, but you can also see lots of nature like starfish and sloths. (See activities including boat tours.)
4. Playa Venao
Located on the Azuero Peninsula on the Pacific Coast of Panama, Playa Venao is an increasingly popular beach destination. The area is renowned for its spectacular coral reefs, diverse food scene, and great year-round waves for surfing. There are plenty of restaurants and bars to explore along the beachfront, as well as boutique hotels and surf lodges. If you’re turned off by the rainy season in Panama, Playa Venao is considered one of the dryest locations, popular with digital nomads and working expats. It’s adjacent to a national park with a sea turtle refuge.
5. Isla Grande
A short trip from Panama City by boat and car, this island off of Panama’s Caribbean coast offers some of the most beautiful beaches in the country. It is home to some incredible coral reefs, as well as great opportunities for swimming, snorkeling, and fishing. The former WW2 U.S. military base also boasts a vibrant nightlife with bars and restaurants with delectable Afro-Caribbean cuisine.
6. San Blas Islands
The San Blas Islands are an archipelago of several hundred islands located off the Caribbean coast of Panama. They’re known for their stunning white sand beaches and crystal clear waters. Most of the islands are uninhabited, while others are populated by the Kunas, who protect the islands from mass tourism. In addition to swimming and snorkeling, bird watching and fishing are popular. (Book tours & stays in the San Blas Islands).
7. Playa Coronado
Coronado is a popular beach destination for expats located on the Pacific side of Panama. The area is known for its stunning white sand beaches, modern amenities, shopping, activities like tennis, fishing, horseback riding, and golf, and plenty of restaurants, bars, and accommodation options. It’s popular with retirees for its lifestyle and proximity to Panama City for international travel and world-class healthcare. Immigrating families appreciate the infrastructure and multiple International Schools. It’s also in the dryer region of the country.
8. & 9. Playa Blanca
It’s confusing, but there are TWO beautiful beaches called Playa Blanca — one on the Pacific and one on the Caribbean (plus a THIRD on Taboguilla Island, but we’ll stick to two). On the Caribbean side near Colón, Playa Blanca is an unspoiled cove that’s perfect for snorkeling. On the Pacific side, it’s an upscale beach destination with high-end resorts just off the Pan-American Highway.
10. Playa Bonita
Last, but certainly not least, Playa Bonita is an incredibly beautiful beach located on the Pacific coast of Panama. It’s the closest beach to Panama City and also right next to the airport, so it’s easy to fly in for a beach vacation. Resorts and restaurants abound and homes and condos are available to rent or buy.
This is really just scratching the surface of this gorgeous, bio-diverse country that’s got every water option you can think of and some you probably can’t — oceans, gulfs, bays, inlets, coves, rivers, lakes, lagoons, and of course, the canal! There are beaches where you can escape for an afternoon and ones where you could disappear for days without seeing a soul. Beaches where you can buy a home or build, and ones you can only boat by. But if the coastal life feeds your soul, you will absolutely feast on Panama.