On the Pacific side, Isla de Coiba is the best option. The crystal-clear waters surrounding the islets of Coiba National Park are one of the best place in Central America to spot hawksbill sea turtles (for example in Isla Coco or Granito de Oro). Isla Parida (in the Gulf of Chiriqui), along with Isla Iguana in the Gulf of Panama, are also good options.
On the Caribbean side of Panama, Bocas del Toro archipelago San Blas archipelagos are frequently mentioned as the best snorkeling areas.
Made up of nine main islands, some 50 keys and several hundred tiny islands, Bocas del Toro archipelago provide varied and easily accessible snorkeling options. Barrier reefs made up of hard coral (Cayo Zapatilla), reefs with many soft coral and sponges (Cayo Coral), mangroves and seagrass beds scattered with starfish (Playa Estrella, Restaurante Alfonso), and shipwrecks (Barco Hundido) – each spot brings a new experience. A large number of reefs in the Bocas del Toro archipelago are protected by the Parque Nacional Isla Bastimentos, and most spots are accessible by boat (many tour guides will take you there from Isla Colon). The only negative points are the underwater visibility (which can vary strongly throughout the year) and the fast deterioration of the corals, due to mass tourism.
Further east, the San Blas archipelago is made up of more than 350 coral cays, of which only 60 are inhabited. These tiny remote islands, with their few coconut palms and their white sand bordered by the Caribbean Sea, have a taste of paradise. Most of the islands of San Blas are bordered by vivid coral reefs accessible from the beach (for example at Isla Diablo), and also shelter some shallow wrecks, as at Isla Perro Chico.
Snorkeling is possible all the year round in Panama, where the climate is tropical and temperatures vary between 75 and 86°F (24 and 30°C). The Caribbean coast is more humid than the Pacific coast, rainfall is more frequent and heat is omnipresent (86-95°F/30-35°C).
During the dry season, from January to April, the heat and humidity are less pronounced than during the rainy season. During the rainy season (or green season), from May to December, it rains almost every day.
The water temperature is constant (about 82°F/28°C) on both coasts, with variations according to the season and the weather.
More than 220 spots have already been published on Snorkeling Report, but there are still many spots to be added! You too can contribute to populate the map by sharing your favorite snorkeling spots around the world. The more snorkelers will contribute, the easier it will be for you, and other snorkelers, to find sites and enjoy the underwater world!
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On the Caribbean coast only. You can’t miss them in Bocas del Toro, especially at Playa Estrella and Restaurante Alfonso
Frequently sighted in Coiba National Park, in particular at Granito de Oro and Isla Coco
Found on every snorkeling spot of the Caribbean coast; a very similar species (abudefduf saxatilis) occur on the Pacific side
Found on the Pacific coast; abundant at Granito de Oro and Isla Coco
Juveniles are frequently sighted in Bocas del Toro, especially at Playa Estrella and Cayo Zapatilla
Common on all spots of the Caribbean side
Common in Bocas del Toro, for instance at Cayo Coral
On all spots of the Caribbean side
On all spots of the Pacific coast
On all spots of the Caribbean coast
Rocks and coral reef with turtles and colorful fish
Shallow lagoon with seagrass meadows and hard coral
Rocky seabed with turtles, sharks and reef fish
Coral and sponges reef with lots of fish
Coral cay fringed by a coral reef
Sandy beach and mangrove with fish and sea stars
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