Tropical Panama has two seasons: the dry season and the rainy season. The rainy season runs from late April until November, but October and November are the wettest months. Late October in particular is very wet in most parts of the country. The Pacific coast and Caribbean coast have slightly different climates, with the Caribbean coast generally being wetter but with the notable exception of the Bocas del Toro Archipelago, which is generally dry in September and October.
Wet or not, the temperature will still be hot. The annual average temperature in Panama is 86°F (30°C) and it only fluctuates slightly throughout the year. The higher-altitude highlands are always a bit cooler than coastal areas.
Crowds & Costs
The rainy season is low tourism season in Panama so costs are low and crowds thin. If you're traveling on a budget you may be able to find good deals on accommodation and flights to Panama in October. The exception is the Bocas del Toro Archipelago, where October is shoulder season because of the comparatively dry climate. Book accommodation and transport in advance if there are certain hotels you really want to stay in, or trips you want to take.
Where to Go
Conventional wisdom tells you to visit Panama in the dry season (December to April) if you want a beach vacation. However, the Bocas del Toro Archipelago, off the northwestern Caribbean coast, is the exception to this rule. This archipelago contains three main islands and lots of smaller ones, which are covered in rainforests and gorgeous beaches. You might still find some rain, but the microclimate here is comparatively sheltered.
The capital, Panama City, is a large, modern city with plenty of things to see and do, whatever the weather. If you just have time for a short trip in October, a city break in Panama City should be on your radar. With old and modern architecture, great museums, interesting boutiques, and top-notch restaurants, you won't really care what the weather's doing.
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What to Do
Wildlife enthusiasts will love the variety of marine animals that can be seen during October. Humpback whales breed off the Archipielago de las Perlas (Pearl Islands) in southeastern Panama in August and September. Another place to spot cool sea life in the wild is the Coiba National Park on Coiba Island, a marine preserve in the southwest of Panama. Earlier in the month you may also get lucky and see nesting loggerhead and green sea turtles, particularly at Bocas del Toro or Isla Cañas (Cane Island), southeast of Panama City.
October is also a good month to try some adventure activities, as long as you forget about hiking in the rainforests. Experienced surfers enjoy the big swells off both coasts throughout the rainy season. White-water rafting is at its best with the swollen rivers. Scuba diving can be done throughout the rainy season, too.
Events in October
Día de la Raza (Columbus Day). This holiday on October 12th marks the day when Columbus first came to the Americas.
Feria de Río Tigre, Isla Tigre, Guna Yala. A four-day craft fair is held on the northern island of Tigre in the Guna Yala archipelago in the Caribbean, home to the indigenous Guna people. As well as buying handicrafts you can see them being made, and enjoy other performances.
Traveling to Panama in October? Check out these great itineraries
Panama's Pacific Coast: Panama City, Playa Reina, & Santa Catalina - 10 Days. Enjoy a mix of cultural attractions in Panama City with turtle spotting at Playa Reina and whale watching in Santa Catalina.
Best of Panama City - 7 Days. Melding colonial history and bold modernity, the cosmopolitan capital of Panama is a thriving hub in Central America.
The Wonders of Panama - 7 Days. Panama is a beautiful country brimming with history and diversity, and this week-long itinerary offers an exciting sampling of its many charms.