The magnificent country of Panama and it’s surrounding islands is fast becoming the destination of choice for anyone that loves spending their holiday enjoying sun, sand and surf.  Situated between the Pacific and Caribbean Oceans, there are vast stretches of crystal clear water and white sandy beaches that are a haven to everyone that visits or lives here.  While surfing these amazing waters is the most popular sport in the country, sailing around the islands is also a thrill, and with the beautiful coral reefs teeming with many varieties of colorful marine species, diving and snorkeling are also fantastic ways to spend your time.

Contadora Island is only about 50 miles from Panama City and boasts 13 spectacular beaches as well as hotels, restaurants and shops of all sorts that cater you your every desire.  With the amazing stony coral reefs here, you will find the best scuba diving, snorkeling and even fishing can be enjoyed on this island.  Sharks, turtles and a wide variety of marine life are also readily visible in the waters around the entire country.  For anyone that loves to bird watch, Pacheca Island is where you will want to head.  Some of the most spectacular frigate birds in the world can be spotted here.

San Blas is another magnificent island just off the mainland, and a day of sailing around this island is one you will never forget.  There are several islands nearby that you can sail to and find your very own uninhabited beach to spend the day at in whatever way you like.  There are even a few nude beaches in Panama for those that enjoy the waters Au-naturale.  Whether it is soft sand, rocky surroundings or plenty of coconut palms that adorn many beaches, you will able to find that perfect spot to wile away the days.

1. El Palmar Beach

 

best beaches Panama

Flickr Credit: Matty Stevenson

El Palmar Beach is a terrific place for surfing with waves that can be equal to any around. It is a beautiful, rocky beach that is smaller and more secluded beach so is generally not as crowded as many others.  There are quiet stretches that are covered with some amazing black sand that you don’t see just any where.  There are rocks and caves that can be explored when you aren’t swimming and playing in the warm water.  One end of the beach is often more crowded, with a lot of fun going on all the time.

Join in one of the football games or play some beach volleyball or spend the evening around a bonfire singing and dancing.  Or take a stroll during low tide and look for some amazing sea shells.  During the day you will want to take advantage of the surfing school that is here if you don’t already know how to surf.  It is great for beginners as well as the more advanced to hone their skills, and of course has all of the equipment needed that you can rent.  With a restaurant and hotel as well as beach bars and food vendors, you have all the amenities you need to enjoy this very scenic and relaxing piece of heaven.

2. Playa Kobbe or Playa Bonita

 

best beaches Panama

Flickr Credit: J-Mass

Playa Kobbe or Playa Bonita as it is also known, is one of the closest beaches to Panama City. It is located on the other side of the Panama Canal however, which makes it’s water much more pristine.  You will probably be treated with the spectacle of some large ships headed to the Canal.  The beach lies on a beautiful cove that is surrounded by tropical forest.  If staying at one of the two local hotels, you will have full access and amenities that you could desire, and walk right out onto the beach from your rooms.  While all beaches are public property under Panamanian law, it is not as crowded as many other Panama beaches so can be much more serene and relaxing.  For that picturesque tropical beach vacation, this could just be the most ideal spot.

3. Playa Larga

 

best beaches Panama

Flickr Credit: Clockwork Gypsy

Playa Larga is located on the beautiful Contadora Island, and is the largest of the beaches on the island. It’s pristine white sand is as warm and inviting as any you could find anywhere in the world. This is one of the favorite beaches for the locals to hang out, so can be a very fun place to be.  The turquoise water is warm and calm, making it the perfect place to swim and play for people of all ages.  There is a shipwrecked ferry and a reef that are both make for a perfect place for snorkeling, where you will see a myriad of colorful tropical fish.  At one end of the shipwreck there is a natural pool that is a very fun place to swim and snorkel as well.  There is also an abandoned resort that is very interesting to explore.  If you are lucky, you may even spot a whale or two!

4. Comarca Kuna Yala

 

best beaches Panama

Flickr Credit: BORIS G

Comarca Kuna Yala, also known as the San Blas Islands, is located along the eastern Caribbean Coast of Panama. It is an archipelago made up of around 365 islands. With the idyllic surroundings of amazingly blue water, pristine white sand and swaying coconut palms, you will be tempted to stay on a different island each day of the year. Inhabited mainly by the indigenous Kuna people, the entire archipelago is a wonderful place to step back in time and enjoy the native land, people and wildlife. Take in the culture, fantastic food and customs of the people and be sure to purchase one of the many items made in the famous Mola handicraft.  These are hand-made, reverse stitched embroidery items made into so many unique things that you will find several to take home with you.

Selling these and the very abundant coconuts are the main sources of income for the Kuna people.  Since the people still largely live in the old traditional ways, you will be able to learn of their ways, partake of their magnificent cuisine and relax in a way you have never felt before.  Fishing is such a great adventure as well if you do it in the Kuna way.  Taking a leisurely sail from island to island is a great way to see some of the best beaches in Panama.  You will also want to snorkel along the spectacular coral reefs, swim and play in the crystal clear water or swing in a hammock stretched under the shade of swaying palm trees. With the hundreds of beaches and islands here, you can find just that perfect spot for the tropical holiday you have always dreamed about.

 

Related: The 13 Best Beaches in Puerto Rico

5. Isla Perro

 

best beaches Panama

Flickr Credit: KHUSI RAIAS

 Isla Perro (Dog Island) beach is located in the Kuna Yala archipelago and is one of the more famous beaches for international tourists. It has all of the warm white sand, crystal clear turquoise water and swaying palm trees that the area is so well known for. In addition there is a shipwrecked gunboat just off the shoreline that is a spectacular place for snorkeling.  The colorful varieties of coral and wide range of tropical marine life species that call this place home makes it one of the most popular places to visit.

During low tide you can see the top of the rusty hull of the ship, which adds to the mystique of the island.  When not snorkeling, you can enjoy playing a rousing game of beach volleyball on the court they have, or just swim or sunbathe in the warm sand or in a hammock under the shady palms.  There is a beach bar right there where you can get your favorite tropical drink to enjoy while watching a magnificent sunset.  Camping facilities are here as well that are ideal for anyone wanting to spend every possible minute at one of the best beaches in Panama.

6. Bocas del Toro

 

best beaches Panama

Flickr Credit: Laguna Azul Panama

 Bocas del Toro is another archipelago full of some of the most amazing beaches in Panama. Along with the many beaches, there is an abundance of native jungles, tropical forests and mangroves that make for some spectacular hiking, birdwatching and enjoying the natural wildlife and flora that abounds in the area. Back out in the crystal clear and warm waters of the Caribbean you will be treated to many coral reefs with rich, colorful displays of various types of coral as well as many varieties of aquatic life that make snorkeling one of the favorite past-times on these islands.

Scuba diving is also one of the best ways to enjoy some of the marine life that you would not otherwise be fortunate enough to see.  Another popular activity for locals as well as visitors is surfing.  Many beaches along the way have some of the best waves you will find anywhere. Several of the islands are protected by the Bastimentos Marine National Park, which means they have some of the most pristine beaches, some of which have sea turtles nesting, as well as areas that are ideal for enjoying the surrounding nature, history with cultural traditions.  As with the other archipelagos, you can spend your time on one or many of the islands, finding that perfect get-away.

7. Bluff Beach

 

best beaches Panama

Flickr Credit: Yves

Bluff Beach is located on Isla Colon, the largest island in the Bocas del Toro archipelago, and is also one of the easiest to get to. If you are a surfer, this is one of the absolutely best beaches to head to.  The beach is very long, giving everyone ample room to enjoy the day on.  The waves here are very strong, creating some ideal surfing, but is also a much safer place to surf than beaches such as the nearby Dump, where the waves break close to a coral reef.

The beach is also close to Bocas Town, where you will find all sorts of fun.  Fantastic food, shopping galore and a lively nightlife where you can dance the night away to some of the best reggae music are just some of the things to look forward to here.  You may also want to visit Dolphin Bay and watch the dolphins play.  There are also some beautiful, colorful old houses here that display much of the Caribbean culture and other things for the whole family to enjoy when not out on the beach enjoying the sun, sand and surf.

8. Playa San Carlos

 

best beaches Panama

Flickr Credit: akeemc87

Playa San Carlos is very near Panama City, and is one of the first beaches people see after flying into the city. Whether you enjoy surfing, swimming, sailing or any other water sport you could imagine, you will find this one of the most ideal beaches in Panama where you can do it all. All of the amenities you could want are here that will help make this the most enjoyable and safe place to play for the whole family.  Shops are available for rental of any equipment you need, as well as food and drink vendors.  Play some beach volleyball or swing in a hammock stretched between a couple of palm trees while sipping your favorite tropical drink.  Watching a magnificent sunset while listening to some fun reggae music is the perfect way to end the day.

9. Playa Sueca

 

 best beaches Panama

Flickr Credit: j.labrado

Playa Sueca, or Playa de las Suecas, is located on the beautiful Contadora Island, and is the premier place for anyone wanting to enjoy the beach au-naturale! It is one of only a hand full of beaches in Panama where it is ok to bare all, which makes it one of the best places on earth for nudists to take a wonderful tropical holiday. It also boasts of being one of the best beaches in Panama for diving and snorkeling, with coral reefs that are teeming with colorful marine life.  Swimming and playing in the warm waters here is such a special treat while in the nude, and one not soon to be forgotten.  With all of the amenities offered, you will not lack for anything.  This beach could easily become one of the best tropical vacations you could ever hope for, and one that you will want to return to year after year.

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best beaches in Puerto Rico
best beaches in Puerto Rico

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Justin Carmack
Justin is a dive master and world traveler on a mission to dive and document the top 100 dive sites in the world. In doing this he hopes to bring love for the marine environment to the world!
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