Highs in the upper 70s, low humidity and cooling breezes… Ahhh. Although it might sound like a summer day in Maine, this is a typical forecast for Boquete, a small town in the highlands of Panama’s Chiriqui province.
It’s easy to picture Panama as a country of sweltering tropical jungle, but this is only partly true. You’ll find your hot, sunny beach oasis along Panama’s extensive coastline, but an hour’s journey inland finds you in much more temperate locales. And once you venture out from the mainland, you can keep comfortable by visiting the Gulf of Chiriqui’s pristine paradise islands to enjoy cooling ocean breezes and the shade of the jungle canopy.
As is true throughout the tropics, elevation determines ambient temperature. The coastal plains and lowlands have an average daily high of 87 degrees Fahrenheit, with little seasonal change. Mountainous regions (from 4,000-6,000 feet above sea level) are more comfortably mild, keeping to the 70s with lower humidity and cooling breezes. You’ll literally feel it as you make the climb from the Pacific lowlands to the highlands in the vicinity of Volcan Baru and Boquete. For the most temperate time of the year to visit Boquete, plan your visit around the spring equinox. March and April see the most pleasant Panama weather, consistently warmer and drier than in the fall.
Rainfall, too, varies depending on where your Panama travels take you. While Isla Palenque and its neighboring islands are covered largely by tropical dry forest, the highland areas are home to misty cloud forests and rainforests. Annual rainfall is lower on the Pacific side of the Continental Divide (where you’ll find Isla Palenque) and heavier on the Caribbean coast of Panama. Humidity in Panama is generally high, hovering around 80 percent but often closer to 100 percent during rainy season. Women who travel in the off-season love what Panama does for their hair.
There are distinct dry and rainy seasons in Panama. The dry season runs from December to April, and rainy season generally lasts May through November, with daily showers during most of this period. But rainy season showers shouldn’t put you off from planning your trip when it’s convenient for you – it usually only rains in the afternoon or evening. Mornings are sunny and clear, so set out early on an adventurous jungle jaunt. As your energy starts to flag, the clouds that have been building all day culminate in a brief afternoon downpour. Just take a siesta on the veranda, let Panama get it out of its system, and once the skies clear you can head out to enjoy the breezes that stir up just after dusk. However, the tail end of rainy season (late October and November) can bring on some serious deluges, so pack a poncho.
You’ll never hear of hurricanes hitting Panama. That’s because the country benefits from its privileged location, tucked away out of the path of storms developing off the coast of Africa. Steering winds and prevailing currents send these storms north and west of Panama.
The length of Panamanian days is fairly constant. Due to its proximity to the equator, the lengths of the shortest and longest days of the year vary by less than 30 minutes. The sun sets in an explosion of color around 6:30 p.m., putting on a fireworks show as you sit down to dinner. Twelve hours later, it’s back to brighten your morning with a 6:30 a.m. sunrise. Could be that this dependable solar cycle is part of the reason Panama residents are among the happiest and healthiest people in the world. Early to bed, early to rise… It might not be as fun as seeing the summer sun set at 9 p.m., as in northern latitudes, but the year-round warm weather more than makes up for it.