January is peak season for travel to Panama, and with (mostly) clear skies and hot temperatures, who can blame vacationers for flocking to Panama's beaches at this time? Read on to learn more about traveling to Panama in January.


January is right in the middle of Panama's hot, dry season, so it's a perfect time for hitting the beach. However, Panama really has two quite distinct climates: that of the Pacific coast and that of the Caribbean coast. The Pacific coast is definitely dry in January, but you may still encounter some rain on the Caribbean coast, as well as in the highlands.

As a tropical country not far north of the equator, temperatures in Panama are hot year-round. The annual average temperature is 86°F (30°C), but this can rise to 90°F (32°C) during the dry season. The exception is the highlands, which can get quite cool (45°F / 7°C is possible) even in the dry season, but can be a nice respite from the coastal heat.

Crowds & Costs

While January in Panama may not be as busy as during the Christmas rush in late December, this month is still peak season. Cold winter conditions in North America and Europe entice travelers to Panama's beaches. Book accommodation and transport as far in advance as possible if you're traveling in January, especially to popular beach areas. Don't expect to be the only visitors along your stretch of beach.

Where to Go

Panama's Pacific coast (including Panama City) is dry in January, and conditions aren't bad on the Caribbean coast either, so this is a perfect time to relax on a beach. Among the highlights are the Pearl Islands, southeast of Panama City; Isla Palenque, near the western city of David; and Bocas del Toro, on the northwest Caribbean coast. 

The Caribbean San Blas Islands are ever-popular, and certainly contain some of the most beautiful white-sand beaches in the country. They're busy in January, although winds reduce visibility for snorkeling, which is one main reason to visit the archipelago. 

Nature, bird, and wildlife enthusiasts won't want to miss visiting some of Panama's tropical rainforests, and the dry season is the only feasible time to travel into the jungle, especially the Darien National Park in far-eastern Panama. The Gulf of Chiriquí National Marine Park and Bastimentos National Marine Park are alternatives if you'd rather explore nature by boat than on foot. The Soberania National Park is more accessible from the capital if you're looking for a day trip before or after your beach vacation.

To get away from the heat elsewhere, head to the Volcan Baru National Park or La Amistad International Park in the Western Highlands, where Panama's highest mountain, Volcan Baru, sits at 11,400 feet (3475 m). Bring a sweater and rainwear, even in the dry season.

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What to Do

Dry-season conditions on the Pacific coast mean visibility for diving and snorkeling is good in January. Consistent breezes on this coast also make kite surfing an appealing activity for travelers who prefer to get physical while on vacation. 

Away from the coast, bird-watching and hiking in the national parks are optimum in January. The Darien National Park in particular is an ecologically-diverse rainforest at the tip of Central America, bordering Colombia. It's home to rare species of flora and fauna, as well as indigenous people. Tours that include hiking by day and staying in basic accommodation overnight are a good way to experience the area. 

As most of Panama is open and accessible in January, this is a good month to take a road trip, whether self-driving or with a driver-guide.

Events in January

Panama Jazz Festival. This music festival in Panama City is held in mid-January. It's been running for two decades and is widely considered to be one of the best jazz festivals in the region.

Flower and Coffee Festival (Feria de la Flores y del Café). This fixture on Boquete's calendar is a great place to experience local culture, especially dancing, and sample its food and drink.

Traveling to Panama in January? Check out these great itineraries

Panama Island Tour: Panama City, Pearl Islands, & Bocas del Toro - 10 Days. This 10-day tour of Panama takes you from the city to the islands, including the Panama Canal and UNESCO World Heritage Site of Casco Viejo, the Pearl Islands, and Bocas del Toro.

Panama Rainforest Adventure - 8 Days. Ideal for hikers, birders, and lovers of wild nature, this off-the-beaten-path trek takes you to Darien National Park, an ecologically-diverse rainforest.

Panama Self-Drive Adventure: Coast to Coast - 17 Days. Discover dazzling diversity, from lush national parks and mountainous regions to the buzz of Panama City and the dreamy beaches of the Caribbean and the Pacific, while self driving.

More Helpful Information

Panama in December
Panama in February