Tropical Storms Be Damned… Panama’s Rainy Season Rocks
Off-season, rainy season, winter…
These are just a few of the names you’ll hear from Panamanians describing the months between April and December. It’s a time when most of the Gringo tourists and “rain birds” – a spin on the Canadian snowbirds term – head north to avoid Panama’s famous torrential downpours.
Anyone who’s visited Panama during peak tourist season knows three things.
- The daily sun will warm your body and mind.
- The winds will blow you around a bit.
- The Pacific beaches will be crawling with North American tourists shopping for real estate.
Off-season is different. First, the weather in Panama gets a little “intense”.
I recently spent a couple of Days in Nueva Gorgona, one of the first real beach towns on the Pacific Coast after leaving Panama City. It’s about 45 minutes past the Bridge of the Americas or Centennial Bridge; The only 2 points connecting North and South America across the Panama Canal.
About 15 minutes after leaving the city, a tremendous downpour greeted us out of nowhere. And the trip became… Well… An adventure.
With zero visibility, and windshield wipers thrashing at full speed, we crawled along like a 3-toed sloth; watching closely for the blinking hazard lights of the vehicles in front of us. Almost impossible to spot when you couldn’t see the front of your car.
Then, as suddenly as the rain started, it stopped…
No, I didn’t say the rain slowed… Or gradually cleared up.
One second, you couldn’t see a damn thing…
The next, the roads were bone dry.
It doesn’t drizzle in Panama. It is either a body-drenching torrent – soaking you to the core in seconds. Or it’s sunny… And busy drying up all evidence it ever rained.
When you watch the impending rains thundering towards you, all you see is a wall of water… Then just as quickly – it vanishes.
That’s the secret to why many of us love winter in Panama… The storms are wicked fun to watch… And if you’re willing to wait it out, the rewards are breath taking.
Sunny skies, soft breezes… And best of all, the tranquility that comes from being alone in your own tropical paradise.
Granted, even during peak tourist season, you can still find vast expanses of beach where you barely run into a soul. But not like this. Two mornings in a row, as I walked towards the Gorgona Fish market, Malibu Beach was deserted…
By the time I returned from my journey, my tracks were gone. And there was nothing but crab trails in their place.
Relaxing by the pool, in the mostly deserted condominium complex, was the same surreal experience. So different from the blaring of horns and rat race in the city we choose to call home.
Part of me feels like I shouldn’t be writing this – Panama’s big secret. But…
Off-season has an allure all its own. It’s still warm, and most days the sun shows itself… For at least a little while.
The already serene beaches are almost deserted, and you can enjoy the holiday amenities all to yourself. The winds are calmer – and your chances for bigger surf, skyrocket.
Finding a place to stay offers another adventure because of the variety of choices. If you are a surfer or “hippie”, you can find small shacks, and older hotels right in Gorgona or San Carlos. But they are hard to track down if you don’t know someone.
If you aren’t into roughing it, there are several higher end places like Coronado Bay… And a few real upscale accommodations in Santa Clara (Sheraton), Farallon (Decameron) and Rio Hato (Playa Blanca and Buenaventura).
Running the gambit between frugal and lavish are my first choice, condos – like Playa Serena, Bahia, Coronado Country Club and many others. There are a few cute B&B’s scattered about. But start your research early, they can be tricky to find.
Rainy season in Panama is my favorite time of year.
Yes, I know, tomorrow, it will pour. The streets will flood… And city traffic will wind its way into a gridlocked nightmare. If you’re outside when it happens, you’re getting wet.
But, I also know soon enough the sun will do its duty and destroy the evidence.
The Pacific beaches get less rain than the city and the Caribbean, so they’ll dry out even faster. Plus, they won’t be crowded, and you have an excellent shot at some mind-blowing surf.