Panama is a destination that has all its cards in order to be a great success: a Latin American nation that has overcome a long period of isolation, with beauties that make it a kind of huge park, a lively culture and a kind population, and some of the most beautiful beaches in the world.
Lapped by both the Atlantic Ocean and the Pacific, Panama (or Panama’, as they say in Spanish, the official language of the place) has over 1200 km of coastline on both sides, with the addition of hundreds of islands and islets that are part of different Archipelagos. If the two main coasts have beaches often made from long strips of sand, the coasts of the islands can be more eventful and rocky. With corners of absolute splendour in all cases: they are united by a very clear, turquoise sea and a thick, emerald green jungle.
Panama's coasts are little-known havens, which is a reason for travel lovers for visit them right away. Go explore Bocas del Toro and the Islas de las Perlas, to find idyllic spots. Head to the small coves that invite you to relax, swim and snorkel. Don't miss Playa de las Estrellas, with sand covered with colourful starfish. Get to know the Kuna Indians on the San Blas archipelago. Go surfing or watch those who do so in the Santa Catalina waves.
In short, go to Panama to get to know a sweet and exciting country: Costa Cruises allows you to discover it on its cruises full of excursions, which show you its historical and natural beauties. Are you curious to know what are the most beautiful beaches in Panama? Here are the top 10.
Panama's 10 best beaches
- Cayos Zapatillas
- Beaches of the San Blas Archipelago
- Playa Estrella
- Playa Santa Clara
- Playa Santa Catalina
- Playa de Pedasi
- Playa Venao
- Las Lajas
- Beaches of the Las Perlas Islands
- Playa Bluff
The beaches of Cayos Zapatillas, two gulf islands, are located south of the island of Bastimentos in the province of Bocas del Toro, above the lagoon of Chiriqui. They are part of the Isla Bastimentos National Marine Park, a protected area that protects the very green and beautiful islands of the area. The Cayos are completely uninhabited: the northern island extends for 14 hectares, the south is a little larger, 34 hectares. They are called this because they resemble the footprints of a slipper (zapatilla in Spanish): according to a legend, they were created by thefootprint of God's feet as he descended from the sky.
The Zapatillas are amongst the islands preferred by tourists who move around independently and go in search of new and little-frequented places. They are attracted by the white sand and waters surrounding them. The islands are covered with mangroves, which are endemic throughout Bocas del Toro. The best way, but also the only way, to visit them is by boat, with a 40-minute trip from Bocas Town, to then spend maybe a full day on the islands.
Cayo Zapatilla's north beach goes from the western tip to the north side of the island, the rest is covered with palm trees and jungle plants. Cayo Zapatilla South has beaches all around the island, but they are narrower. In the sea you will find expanses of corals that entice us to go snorkelling and diving to observe colourful marine flora and fauna. But there's another reason why Cayos Zapatillas is a destination for those who love nature and adventure: the presence of sea turtles, an endangered species, that come here to lay their eggs. You can meet them while walking round the island, an exciting sight that conveys feelings of prehistory.
Beaches of the San Blas Archipelago
The archipelago of the San Blas Islands is considered one of the most beautiful in the world: anyone lucky enough to visit it will undoubtedly enjoy wonderful views. It is located in the Atlantic Ocean, just north of the Gulf coast of Guna Yala, and is composed of 378 islands and atolls dotted with beaches and with turquoise waters and white sand. Thanks to a forward-looking policy pursued by the Native Cuna Indians (or Guna, or Kuna), who took refuge here driven out by the conquistadors, they have been saved from wild tourism. They also have the advantage of being far from hurricane zones. That's why they are also one of the favourite destinations for sailing enthusiasts.
The San Blas can be reached by plane or boat. Only 80 islands are inhabited by the Cuna, who manage hospitality in the small eco-friendly resorts spartans. You come here to experience fairytale days on the beaches, which have palm trees just beyond the strip of sand and the reef in the sea.
The main island of the San Blas archipelago is El Porvenir, which houses the airstrip, a marina, restaurants and some small beaches. It is worth taking a few excursions into the sea to see the beautiful atolls surrounding Porvenir, such as Achutupu, where a cargo ship sank that has now become an attraction for diving enthusiasts because it is populated by thousands of colourful fish.
Other dream beaches are on the islands of Dupir and Arridup, perfect for diving and snorkelling along the white sandy shore. Kuanidup gives sensations as if it were Paradise Lost. Fans of typical artisanal products here can buy Molas, colourful patchwork canvases with tribal embroidery, handmade by indigenous women.
The island of Colon is one of the most popular destinations for adventure seekers. It's a nature reserve (which also includes other nearby islands) offering fine sandy beaches, dreamy sea and dense jungle. Playa Estrella, also marked by indications as Starfish Beach, is believed to be one of the most beautiful beaches in all of Panama.
It is located between the area of the headland of Boca del Drago and the meandering bay of Ground Creek and can be reached by boat. It is also a bay, with a sharp-angle curves that protects it from the tides and gives it calm, wave-free waters. Behind, rows of palm trees that offer natural shade. Nothing better for those looking for relaxation, with an element that makes it unique: the starfish, to whom it owes its name. Playa Estrella boasts a constellation of orange starfish that stands out against the turquoise background of the sea. The transparent water allows you to see them very well even without diving, an unequalled show of colour. That's why Star Beach is particularly popular with tourists from all over the world. The important thing is not to touch them and leave them in their position in the sand, to prevent them from suffering and going extinct. But you can photograph them!
Coming here to Starfish Beach and spending the day bathing, starfish watching and sipping a pina colada means enjoying life and recharging your batteries.
Playa Santa Clara
Santa Clara Beach is located on the pacific side of Panama, 108 km from Panama City; you can reach it in an hour and a half’s drive. It's a long and gorgeous white-sand beach, one of the most beloved with the locals as it stretches for kilometres without interruption and it is easy to find areas to be alone, away from everything. The sea of this beach is calm, with a gently-sloping seabed, perfect for swimming. Nearby there is accommodation and restaurants to alternate the moments in the sun with breaks to refresh yourselves.
Playa Santa Clara is a beach to see before it becomes too well known, as its popularity is growing. Lounging around and walking for miles with your feet in the blue sea is one of the favourite activities for those who come here. And it is also the right place to see the Panamanian fiesta with your own eyes: On weekends it is filled with people who play football and dance to the rhythm of Caribbean music. If you want peace of mind, just take a few steps further and you'll find yourself in the desert world you've been looking for.
Playa Santa Catalina
Among Panama's most beautiful beaches we can definitely count Santa Catalina. It is located on the Pacific coast, in front of Cébaco Island and Coiba Island. It is surrounded by hundreds of kilometres of wild forest that covers the many headlands of the coast: Santa Catalina also offers a wild and primordial nature.
In Santa Catalina there is a quiet fishing village, with some restaurants. It is a rather renowned resort, frequented by both locals and international tourism. It is also one of the best places in all of Central America for surfing. The beach is popular with surfers due to its powerful, high and constant waves, typical of this area of the Pacific, which become an irresistible attraction when the storm surges arrive. Here you can surf almost year-round, and it is no coincidence that international competitions are also held here.
In fact, Santa Catalina offers not only beaches for surfers, but a mix of coastline suitable for all tastes. There are rocky bottoms, perfect for breaks to ride with their boards, and there are more regular gentle seabeds with black sand. Santa Catalina is also a strategic place to visit the inland nature: a walk not to be missed is that of the Sendero de la Cresta, an itinerary with an amazing view of the Gulf of Montijo. But you can also set sail for the Isla de Coiba, with boats departing every day. Coiba is essentially an entire nature reserve, the Parque Nacional de Isla Coiba.
Playa de Pedasi
On the east side of the Azuero Peninsula, on the Pacific coast, we find Pedasis, a quiet, folklore-filled town, with colourful colonial houses decorated with tiles. The small centre is the ideal landmark to explore the area and its beaches, which stretch from the southern one of Punta Mala to the northern one of El Uverito. Between them there are miles of coastand and beaches, including those of Isla Iguana and Isla Canas, two islets worth visiting by reaching them by boat. Isla Iguana has an extraordinarily beautiful bay, where the water is a pure turquoise colour, the rest is all protected forest.
Pedasi is also a good place to start exploring the Azuero Peninsula and its dense forest: the Carretera Nacional road goes into the forest and a good idea is to walk it right to El Ciruelo beach.
Venao beach is located on Panama's south Pacific coast, in the Peninsula de Azuero, between the Parque Nacional Cerro Canajagua, the Reserva Forestal La Tronosa and the Refugio vida silvestre Isla Canas. In short, one oasis of unspoiled nature after another.
Venao (whose real name is Venado, but is shortened for convenience) has the form of a semi-oval and is a protected area. Like other Panamanian beaches it is also much loved by surfers, who come here because they find breaks in both directions. Venao's seabed is black sand, of volcanic origin, while the shoreline is closed at the ends by rock formations. There are facilities for sleeping and eating and some small shops. There is also a training ground for surfers, with equipment rental.
Playa Las Lajas is located in the Tolé district, on the Pacific Ocean, in the province of Chiriqui. It is one of the longest beaches in all of Panama, so much so that even on crowded days there is always a reserved corner. To the right and left the sea forms streams of water that head inland. In Las Lajas you can walk for hours in total relaxation from one end to the other, between Boca Chica and Isla Toro.
Beaches of the Las Perlas Islands
Las Perlas is a large archipelago in the Pacific, about 30 miles off the coast in Gulf of Panama. The archipelago consists of 90 islands that each have a name of their own and another hundred nameless islets and reefs, all united by wild nature, white sandy beaches and waters of intense blue colour. Las Perlas is an extraordinary and delicate ecosystem, allowing you to see many tropical fish and, further offshore, to spot the whales passing by.
The name of Las Perlas comes from the abundant presence of large pearls that can be found in the surrounding waters. They were named by the Spanish explorer Vasco Nunez de Balboa, who landed here in 1503, discovered the existence of pearls and decided to annex the archipelago to the Spanish Empire.
Las Perlas is one of the most pristine islands in South America. The largest is Isla del Rey (the second largest in Panama after the island of Coiba), but the best to a visit is Isla Contadora, where there is a small airport that allows you to fly to and from Panama City in 15 minutes. The island's name means "Counting", because here the Spanish conquistadors counted the pearls collected in the archipelago.
Contadora is an extraordinary and exclusive island where nature dominates unchallenged and pelicans move around freely on the deserted white beaches, but it also hosts luxurious villas where celebrities come to relax. There are twelve beaches almost always depopulated; Of these, six are particularly beautiful: Playa Cacique, Playa Galeon, Playa Canoa, Playa Camaron, Playa de las Suecas and Playa Caracol.
The other islands accessible and popular with tourism are Isla San José, home to a resort, Isla Casaya and Isla Casayeta, great places if you are looking for pearls to buy. Isla Saboga, which offers an insight into Panamanian island culture, is also notable. If you can reach the uninhabited Isla Pacheca (there is a small pier where boats dock), a little further north than Isla Contador, you will be won over by the even more transparent waters and the absolute peace that you feel.
Playa Bluff is a long and heavenly beach located on the island of Colón, in the province of Bocas del Toro. Although it is only 8 kilometres from the city of Bocas, it is practically deserted, perfect for those looking for peace and relaxation in a fabulous natural setting, but easy to reach. There are three options to get there: a 90-minute walk, by rental bike on the same route in much less time, or with a 15-minute taxi ride.
Playa Bluff has over three kilometres of yellow sand gold where waves crash, while behind it, the dense tropical jungle emerges. That's why it's a spot much loved by surfers, who come here to take advantage of its long and regular waves and surf safely thanks to a fairly uniform seabed. The best place for swimming is located at the beginning of the beach, where the currents are less strong.
A unique feature of Playa Bluff is its very high humidity: the encounter between the crashing waves and the nearby jungle creates a very fine steam in the air and a particular microclimate, which makes it particularly suitable for people with breathing problems.
But in general Bluff is a place for all beach sports fans, who can have fun with beach volleyball and beach soccer and snorkelling, if careful of the currents. It is good for to know that the equipment must be brought from the city (it is also the beauty of this unspoiled island), because there are no tourist facilities here, except a restaurant and a stables that allows you to go horse-riding on the beach.
Like in the Cayos Zapatillas, the giant sea turtles come here to nest too: from April to September they lay their eggs here, therefore in these months you have to leave the beach at 6 pm to allow the animals to move around in peace.
For those who want to discover new Caribbean destinations where you can relax between sea and nature, Panama is perfect. Most of the islands have unspoiled beaches, some are even unexplored. Costa Cruises brings you here to get to know this country washed by two oceans, which still preserving an extraordinary environment.