Panama lies between 7 degrees and 9 degrees above the equator, which places it firmly within the Tropics. Accordingly, average year-round temperatures are a balmy 75°F to 85°F (24°C-29°C), varying only with altitude. The average temperature in the Chiriquí Highlands, for example, is 60°F (16°C), and is the only area in Panama where you will likely feel cold.
Humidity is always high in Panama, and rainfall varies noticeably between the Pacific and Caribbean sides of the country, with some areas in the Caribbean receiving almost twice the yearly rainfall of Panama City. The best time to visit Panama is during the summer dry season from mid-December to mid-April. This is also high season, and some hotels and resorts charge higher rates during this period. Caribbean destinations such as Bocas del Toro have a shorter dry season, usually September/October and February/March, but really showers can occur on any day.
The Chiriquí Highlands experiences a variety of microclimates that can change drastically, sometimes even within a few miles. In Boquete, high winds and a peculiar misting rain called bajareque are common from mid-December to mid-February; January sees the occasional thunderstorm, and March to May are the sunniest months.
If you are unable to visit during the dry season, keep in mind that the early months (Apr-July) are characterized by sudden, heavy thunderstorms in the afternoon that are short in duration, and can happen every few days. Often, the skies are sunny in the morning or afternoon.
For up-to-date information on weather in Panama, go to www.accuweather.com.
There is a saying in Panama that the only thing Panamanians take seriously are their holidays -- and it's no joke. Nearly every business, including banks, offices, and many stores and restaurants, close, making even Panama City feel like a ghost town. Official holidays that fall on a Saturday or Sunday are usually observed on Mondays, allowing for a long weekend. Transportation services are also greatly reduced. During holidays, most locals head for the beach or other getaway destinations, so if you plan to travel during this time, book lodging well in advance and make certain you have confirmed reservations.
Panama's most revered holiday is Carnaval, the 4 days that precede Ash Wednesday. (Though not officially a holiday, most call in sick to work to recover from Carnaval on Wed.) The largest celebrations take place in Panama City and the Azuero Peninsula, with parades, floats, drinking, costumes, and music. Note that celebrations in Panama City can be a bit raucous and aren't usually as classy as those on the Azuero Peninsula. The dates for upcoming Carnavales are: February 21 through 24 (2009), and February 13 through 16 (2010).
Official holidays in Panama include January 1 (New Year's Day), January 9 (Martyr's Day), Good Friday, Easter Sunday, May 1 (Labor Day), August 15 (Founding of Old Panama -- observed in Panama City only), October 12 (Hispanic Day), November 2 (All Souls' Day), November 3 (Independence Day), November 4 (Flag Day), November 5 (Colón Day -- observed in the city of Colón only), November 10 (First Call for Independence), November 28 (Independence from Spain), December 8 (Mother's Day), December 25 (Christmas Day).
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.