I’m walking along the Panama Bay, under a clear sky the color of cornflowers. The tide is high, and the waves of the deep Pacific are breaking close to the shore. A warm, strong breeze swooshes through the palms…their rattling leaves are the sound of summer. Everywhere I look, there’s blue and green…the deep blue of the sky and the ocean…the grassy green of the palms and the deep jungle green of the denser foliage around them.
The brisa de verano or summer breeze reigns from December to April, when Panama’s coastal towns are at their driest and sunniest. But even during the so-called wet season, sunshine is my constant companion…at least from the morning until about 2 p.m. Rain is predictable, coming for an hour or two in the late afternoon. Days of gloomy gray are rare, and tend to occur late in the season, from September to November. Sunny and warm, this is my tropical Panama.
There are never any hurricanes and temperatures are mild—the daytime average is 88 F, with evenings about 10 degrees cooler. Most days I’m fine with a lazy ceiling fan that circulates air and helps keep clothing and shoes from molding. Humidity is generally high at about 80%—if you’ve ever lived seaside in Florida, then you know what I’m talking about.
There are mountain towns that are cooler and coastal towns that are a bit drier—but Panama City’s climate suits me perfectly. I don’t spend my days slathering on hand cream, as I did when I was in the States. There’s no static cling and no worrying about chapped lips. My skin is healthier here, thanks to the moisture in the air. I’m not the only one…people here tend to look 10 years younger than they are.
These days I can’t imagine living anywhere cold enough to need a coat. Even when I visit verdant, cool mountains towns—like El Valle, just a two-hour drive from my home in the city—a lightweight cardigan is all I need. I find that I don’t need air conditioning, either. There are a few days each year that are especially hot and muggy—usually at the beginning and end of the rainy season. But most of the year my power bill is low.
Life in Tropical Panama: Microclimates
It’s easy to see why, in Panama, the Pacific coast is generally more desirable. The region around Panama City gets half the rainfall of the Caribbean coast (about 69 inches of rain annually versus about 129 inches on the Caribbean). That’s why the Pan-American Highway is here. Use it to travel the entire Panamanian isthmus…from the jungles of the Darien to Costa Rica. All along the Pacific Coast, infrastructure is better…better roads, better power, better water service.
But climates can vary greatly, depending on where in Panama you are. The Azuero Peninsula is on the Pacific Coast, with towns like Chitré, Las Tablas, and Pedasí a four- to five-hour drive from Panama’s capital. Here, rainfall can be as little as 39 inches a year. In fact, you’ll find the region’s only semi-desert just outside Chitré.
In landlocked mountain towns like Boquete, the annual rainfall can be just as high as it is in the Caribbean archipelago of Bocas del Toro. But cooler weather—about 70 F to 80 F during the day and 60 F to 70 F at night—means that you don’t feel sticky in the humidity. In Boquete a misty rain falls frequently, even on sunny days. This is why Boquete is known to many as a town of rainbows.
So is tropical Panama right for you? Take your pick—beaches, mountains, the city—the choice is yours. There’s something for everyone…especially if you like warmth, clean air, and sunshine!
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