December is the start of the dry season in Panama, so combine that with the major holiday of Christmas and it's a busy time of year to visit. But with great weather, you might find the peak season worth it anyway. Read on to learn more about visiting Panama in December.

Weather

December is the start of Panama's dry season, which extends to mid-April. The weather is generally hot and dry, and although humidity is lower than during the wet season, temperatures are higher. As a tropical country not far north of the equator, temperatures in Panama are hot year-round and fairly uniform across the country. The annual average temperature is 86°F (30°C), but this can rise to 90°F (32°C) during the dry season.

Panama has two somewhat distinct climates: that of the Pacific coast and that of the Caribbean coast. The Pacific coast is dry in December and rain is rare, but you may still encounter some rain on the Caribbean coast, as well as in the highlands. The Western Highlands in particular can get quite cool (45°F / 7°C is possible) and wet, even in the dry season.

Crowds & Costs

Combine optimum conditions for a beach vacation with the major holiday of Christmas and you have peak tourism season in Panama. Vacationers from North America and Europe find December an ideal time to escape the cold conditions at home, while Panamanians themselves travel around the country to spend the festive season with their families. Costs for accommodation and transport will be at their highest, and both should be booked well in advance.

Additionally, many services shut down completely around Christmas, to give locals a vacation. If you're planning to be in Panama during Christmas itself, or the few days leading up to it, it's preferable to stay put in one place rather than try to travel far around the country.

Where to Go

The dry season attracts locals and foreign tourists to Panama's two long coastlines during December. The southern Pacific coast is more reliably dry but conditions are also decent on the northern Caribbean coast. Among the highlights are the Pearl Islands, Isla Palenque, Bocas del Toro, and the ever-popular San Blas Islands off the Caribbean coast. 

For hiking and bird and wildlife spotting, the dry season is the only comfortable time to travel into the rainforests. The Darien National Park in far-eastern Panama borders Colombia and is a biodiversity hot spot. The Gulf of Chiriquí National Marine Park and Bastimentos National Marine Park are aquatic alternatives, while the Soberania National Park is more accessible from the capital if you're looking for an easy day trip before flying out of Panama City.

To get away from the heat elsewhere, head to Boquete, the Volcan Baru National Park, or the La Amistad International Park in the Western Highlands, where Panama's highest mountain, Volcan Baru, sits. Bring a sweater and rainwear, even in the dry season.

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What to Do

As most of Panama is open and accessible in December, and no longer cut off by rain, this is a good month to take a road trip, whether self-driving or with a driver-guide. Just make sure to book a vehicle and accommodation well in advance if you're traveling later in the month.

If you're into surfing, then December is a good time to hit the Caribbean coast. While the swells may be larger during the rainy season, the period between December and March brings more consistent surfing conditions to this coast.

Events in December

Christmas. This is a major holiday for the predominantly Catholic country and locals travel around Panama.

Sobresaltos Dance Festival. This outdoor dance festival celebrates contemporary music and dance and is held in the old quarters of Panama City, the Casco Antiquo.

Traveling to Panama in December? Check out these great itineraries

Ultimate Panama Road Trip: Panama City, Gamboa, Pacific Coast, & More - 15 Days. This self-drive itinerary will take you around the most notable regions of the country: Panama City, Gamboa, El Valle de Anton, Boquete, and the Pacific coast.

Panama Island Tour: Panama City, Pearl Islands, & Bocas del Toro - 10 Days. Visit the world-famous Panama Canal and UNESCO World Heritage Site of Casco Viejo in Panama City, then venture to the Pearl Islands and Bocas del Toro for relaxing time on the beach.

Panama Multi-Sport Adventure - 11 Days. Combining beautiful landscapes, exuberant nature, and pleasant weather when you fly through a cloud forest, raft along a river, and trek up a volcano to witness two oceans from above.

More Helpful Information

Panama in November
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