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.

Snorkeling Coiba National Park, Panama
Some of the most beautiful spots along Panama’s Pacific Coast can be found in Coiba National Park (left: a Hawksbill sea turtle in Granito de Oro; right: a pufferfish in Isla Coco).

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.

Snorkeling in Bocas del Toro, Panama
Shared between mangrove swamp (left: Restaurante Alfonso) and coral reefs (right: the spot of Cayo Coral), the seabed in Bocas del Toro can be uncommon.

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.

When to go snorkeling Panama?

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.

Warm and humid
Warm and sunny

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