Best Diving and Snorkeling Spots in Panama

From: Dive Advisor

Panama was named after an indigenous word meaning, “abundance of fish.” This beautiful Central America paradise is one of the few places in the world where you can dive two oceans in one day. With the warm, tropical waters of the Caribbean on its east and the cooler waters of the Pacific on the west, it’s just a two-hour car ride between them in some places. Panama boasts 1,207km of Caribbean coast and 1,700km of Pacific coast.

On the Caribbean side, divers come for the abundance of colorful reef fish and corals. When rating the best diving in Central American, Bocas del Toro always comes up with its white sand beaches and many calm and the Bastimentos Marine National park. It’s a great place to learn how to dive and the marine life make it a great place to keep diving. Another popular spot on the Caribbean coast is Colon, only two hours from Panama City. Just offshore, the Portobelo National Marine Park has beautiful corals and the area is filled with a history of pirate battles and sunken ships.  Sir Francis Drake died at sea in 1596 and his body, clad in a full suit of armour and in a lead coffin, is thought to be off the coast of Portobello.

On the Pacific side, cooler waters and currents make encounters with pelagic common. Lucky divers can see several species of shark, whale sharks, humpback whales, dolphins, and more. Coiba National Marine Park is often referred to as the Galapagos of Central America and has the second largest coral reef in the Eastern Pacific Ocean and the Pearl Archipelago also offers great options close to Panama City.

Just nine degrees north of the equator, Panama is hot and humid year round. The rainy season is May- November and the dry season is December-April (with less humidity and almost no rain.) Panama is not in the hurricane belt, but it can get strong winds from nearby storms. Air temperatures throughout the year range form 20-32C, being a bit cooler in the winter/dry season. Water temperatures vary between coasts. The Caribbean side the water can be as cool as 25C in the winter and as warm as 28C in the summer. Coiba can get as cold as 20C during winter and reaches a high of around 24C in the summer.

Best Spots to Dive in Panama

Coiba National Park is a UNESCO World Heritage Site that includes 38 islands. Lonely Planet says it’s “The best diving to be found along the Pacific Coast from Columbia to Mexico.” Coiba gets the big stuff. Sharks can be seen on almost every dive including white-tip reef sharks, black-tip reef sharks, and occasional hammerheads, bull, and tiger sharks. Whale sharks are common visitors from December to April. Humpback whales are seen July through October and orcas and pilot whales frequent the area. Large schools of mantas and mobula rays sometimes swim by, and most dives have turtles, schools of large fish, angelfish, butterflyfish, and dolphins.

On the Caribbean side of Panama, close to the Costa Rica boarder, is Bocas del Toro. This archipelago of nine large islands includes the protected area of Isla Bastimentos National Marine. Bocas is known for its well-preserved hard and soft corals. Being outside of the official hurricane zone, away from large cities and river mouths, the coral is very healthy. It is estimated that 95% of the coral species found in the Caribbean Sea can be found within the archipelago.

Tiger Rock is rated one of the best dive sites around Bocas del Toro, and is three rock pinnacles that rise up from the sea floor at 40m. It’s an advanced dive and can have strong currents, but is a good place to see sharks, rays, large fish schools, whale sharks and dolphins. Its location requires perfect sea conditions for boats to be able to get there. Dolphin Rock is another offshore rock formation where sharks can be seen and has lots of colorful fish life. The diving is also very good around Zapatillas Cays, another more distant boat ride.

Closer to town, Bouy Line is a poplar shallow site (near a deep water channel buoy) that has sea horses, lionfish, crabs, and lots of morays. Hospital Point is near the north end of Isla Solarte and has healthy cauliflower and brain corals on a sloping wall. The dive usually has a slow current and is 15m deep max. Sashek is another drift dive between Bastimentos and Carenero that has rare long lure frogfish. Airport is a protected site good for training dives, and has lots of coral.

Also on the Caribbean side, but further southeast is Portobelo National Park. This is also a popular diving area with great marine life. Being closer to Panama City, people come directly from the city to dive this area that has great reef dives and several wrecks.

Water temperatures on the Caribbean side are warm year round (23-27C) and a 3mm is usually plenty. On the Pacific side, colder currents bring waters (15-23C), so a 5mm will be comfortable. For those doing deep dives in the winter, thermoclines can be present, so a 7mm might be useful.

If you are looking for good snorkelling one of the best spots is the San Blas Archipelago.  In this Guna land is forbidden to dive with a tank but here you will find one of the most untouched coral reefs by mankind. The reef holds its beauty for decades now since people do not pollute the waters around it.  The Kuna Indians or Guna indians live from the sea and hunt on it. They hunt the reefs and sandbanks by using simple snorkeling gear and do not over fish their own waters because they only take what is needed to stay alive. They are scared that scuba dives will kill the great schools of fish and leave the Kuna without food to survive. They will preserve the coral reef for future generations this way.

The rich sea life and the crystal clear water will give you plenty enough time to drift away from the world above water. One of the easy places to get in touch with this sea life is the shipwreck near Isla Perro. This place is perfect for people not used to snorkeling or scuba diving but also gives people that have done it before a nice challenge to spot all the sea life around the ship. Don’t forget to bring your underwater camera because spotting a wild turtle, shark or octopus isn’t a rare sight in the waters around the San Blas Islands.   The best way to snorkel in San Blas is charter a sailing boat.  EcoCircuitos Panama organize this adventure for you.

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Whale watching adventure in Azuero Peninsula

If you want to see humpback whales, the best place is Azuero Peninsula.   Every year thousands of humpback whales are swimming along the coastline of Panama as part of their migratory journey. They will pass Panama over a four months period, from July to October. This is an amazing opportunity to head out to the pacific ocean and admire the huge friendly giants from up close.  Join us in the adventure!

Day 1 – Welcome to Panama!

Today at the appropriate time an EcoCircuitos representative will be meet you at the Tocumen International Airport to assist and transfer you to your hotel located in Panama City. You will aso receive an EcoCircuitos information kit. Once arrival, please check in and overnight.

Your transfer will take 25-30 minutes approximately.

Overnight: Hampton Hotel. Standard Room

Day 2 – Azuero Peninsula!

Early in the morning after breakfast you will be transferred to the Azuero Peninsula. This diverse region of the country is made up of three culturally rich provinces: Herrera, Los Santos and Veraguas. The Pacific Ocean is located to the west and the Gulf of Panama to the east of the peninsula. Azuero is known as the folkloric center of Panama, the traditional clothing, such as the beautiful Pollera, and handicrafts, such as ceramics based on pre-Colombian designs, originated and are still made in the areaty in the Pacific off Pedasi is whale watching. Whales are a common sight in the waters of the Azuero Peninsula near Pedasi. Once you arrive you will check in and overnight at hotel.

Turtles Experience at Isla Cañas

At around 4:00 PM you will be transferred from hotel to the port of Cañas, where your boat will be waiting for you to take you to Isla Cañas. On the short boat ride you will enjoy the mangroves and the sunset over the Pacific Ocean. Isla Cañas with its 14km long beach is the most important nesting site for sea turtles on the Pacific Coast of Panama. From July thousands of sea turtles of five different species arrive to the coast of Isla Cañas to nest. Once you arrive to Cañas Island you will enjoy a traditional dinner prepared by a local family. After dinner, you will hop on a horse cart and start exploring the beaches of Cañas Island together with your guide, in order to look for the sea turtles to arrive and nest. Once you spot a turtle, your guide will take you closer so you can observe in detail how the impressive animal digs a hole in the beach and lays its eggs.  After the tour you will be transferred back to your hotel. Duration: from 4pm until 11pm approximately.  Overnight: Cubitá Boutique Hotel. Standard Room (B)

Day 3 – Made in Herrera

Discover the manufacturing process of the traditional products of the Herrera Province: sugar-cane, salt, clay and bread. Experience the many uses of sugarcane from refreshing sugarcane juice called “Guarapo”, traditional cooking of sugarcane honey to the production of artisanal sug-arcane liquor; see the extraction of salt from the Pacific Ocean; visit the production of handmade clay pottery; and learn how the famous La Arena bread is baked. Overnight: Cubitá Boutique Hotel. Standard Room (B)

 Day 4 – Whale Watching at Iguana Island

Today at the appropriate time you will be transferred to Playa El Arenal in Pedasí, to board your boat. After a short briefing about responsible whale watching you will start the tour on the Pacific Ocean. Around Pedasi’s coastline, dolphins are frequently seen and between June and October humpback whales. These whales migrate from cold waters to Panama’s Pacific coast with warmer water temperatures to give birth. Your captain and guide are trained for responsible whale watching and will enlighten you with many interesting de-tails about the whales, while – with a bit of luck – you are able to observe these giants of the seas.       After the whale watching you will head towards Iguana Island – a wildlife refuge 8 kilometers off the coast. The island is famous for its white sand beach, crystal waters and coral riffs including 17 different types of corals that shelter more than 350 species of fish. You will enjoy the white sand beach for a while before returning to the mainland for a lunch.

After the tour you will be transferred to your hotel in Pedasi. Overnight: Hotel Playa Venao. Standard Room (B, L)

 Day 5 – Free day in Azuero Peninsula

Free day for relaxation and optional activities. There are many activities that visitors can do during their stay such as: swimming, snorkeling, horseback riding, walks in a tropical dry forest, surfing in Playa Venao, deep sea fishing, turtle watching and more. Overnight: Hotel Playa Venao. Standard Room (B)

Day 6 – Transfer back to Panama City

At the appropriate time an EcoCircuitos Representative will be waiting for you for your transfer from Pedasi to Panama City.

Overnight: Hotel Playa Venao. Standard Room (B)

 Day 7 – Departure

At the appropriate time you will be transferred to the Tocumen International Airport for your outbound flight. They will arrive to the airport approximately 2 hours before their departure time.

Note: customers will be picked up 3 hours before flight time.

** END OF SERVICES**

PRICES PER PERSON: $1142.00

Minimum 4 people traveling together.

Rates valid from July 15th until Oct 30th, 2015

 The program includes:
– 6 nights of lodging and taxes

– Government taxes

– Private transfers in and out (Tocumen International Airport)

– Tours and meals as mentioned above

– Breakfast at all mentioned hotels (day 2 thru day 7)

– Information kit
– Lodging taxes

 

The program does not include:

– Optional activities

– International airfare and taxes
– Departure taxes ($40.00 per person for Panama)
– Meals not specified in the itinerary

– Alcoholic beverages

– Personal equipment
– Extras in hotels (laundry, phone calls, room service, etc.)
– Gratuities

 

Rates are valid until, October 30th, 2015 and subject to change due increases on fuel prices

  • Prices are net per person.
  • Prices are given in US Dollars.
  • Prices are subject to change without previous notice depending on any significant increase in rates, taxes, fuel or due to availability problems.
  • Prices are based on the minimum of paying participants previously informed.
  • If the minimum number of paying participants changes, the rates would also change
  • Tips for drives and guides not included

**Prices are subject to change without notice, according to fuel increases, taxes and hotel availability.  

Note: This is a quote not a reservation. Please note that all quotations given are subject to availability at the time of reservation and cannot be guaranteed until payment is received. Please note that credit card payments are subject to processing fees.

 

EcoCircuitos Travel Policy

EcoCircuitos realizes that has important environmental and social responsibilities in and out of the office.  We create memorable travel experiences in Panama’s natural history and cultural heritage.   Our office team and supplier ensure quality service, cultural sensitivity, local knowledge, innovation and social and environmental responsibility.  As travellers ourselves we believe giving something back is essential.  Therefore we work with our team, suppliers and customers to ensure that benefits will contribute directly to the communities we visit and their environment.

For more information, please visit our web page www.ecocircuitos.com at Responsible Travel Policy.

Enhance the traveler experience with local talents… local knowledge.

The whales are in the Bay of Panama!

The 2014 June-October Humpback whale watching season has started off with some amazing, up close encounters with the whales. Beny Wilson, one of our very experienced guides said this about a recent tour: “I’ve been guiding whale watching tours for 4 seasons, but today’s show was beyond my memories! 16 whales on the way to Contadora island. 12 on the way back to Panama. Lot’s of breaching (jumping), tail lobbing, spy hopping, pec (pectoral fin) slapping, belly ups, flukes up and all the ethological array that the humpback whales are known for. Contact us for more info on the whales tours. (whie the new hydrophone).

In partnership with expert marine biologist Anne Gordon and the local community of the Pearl Archipelago we offer many options:
● 1 day tours from Panama city to the Pearl islands
● 1 day tours from Panama city to the Isla Taboga area
● 1 day tours from Isla Contadora

● Sunrise Wildlife tours (from Contadora)
● Sunset  with the Whales tours (from Contadora)

For more information and prices, please contact us at http://www.ecocircuitos.com

Whale Watching Panama

Every year thousands of humpback whales are swimming along the coastline of Panama as part of their migratory journey. They will pass Panama over a four months period, from July to October. This is an amazing opportunity to head out to the pacific ocean and admire the huge friendly giants from up close.

From Panama City you will take a boat into the direction of the Pearl Islands and as soon you are in the wide open water the first humpback whales will emerge from the water. They are gigantic! This enormous animal is even bigger than the boat. You will keep a safe distance, but it will still be possible to see them really close.

After you have admired the whales for a while you will set sail to another spot. This because we do not want to disturb the whales too long with the spluttering boat. Here you could see more humpback whales. Some of them are taking it easy and other ones are jumping around. Maybe, if you are really lucky, you will see a mother with her child. Do not forget to bring your camera and to take some beautiful pictures. This way you can always remember this wonderful day.

On the way back to Panama City the show is not over yet. You could be accompanied by a group of dolphins. They will be swimming along side the boat and they will be jumping around and performing a show you can not miss.

In the evening at dinner you will still be amazed by the wonderful day you have had. You will look at your pictures and can not believe you have seen these massive giants for real. This was a day you will never forget.

If you are interested in the whale watching tour please check our website

 

By Jiske Schaling

Fish ID Guide App. Free on I-Tunes

by:  STRISTRI staff scientist, D. Ross Robertson has released the first, completely portable, bilingual species identification guide for the Tropical Eastern Pacific as a free Iphone application. Unique fish-finding and list-making tools provide powerful resources for scientists, divers and tour guides.

The Tropical Eastern Pacific, spanning Baja California to Ecuador and the Galapagos, is one of three great global centers of marine biodiversity. Until the 1990’s there was no region-level guide to the fishes of that area. The Iphone application evolved from the book “Fishes of the Tropical Eastern Pacific,” published in 1994 by Gerald R. Allen and Robertson.

Information for almost 1,300 species (vs 700 in the 1994 book) is compiled in the new app. “Not only can you carry the means to identify 10% of the world’s tropical shore-fishes in your pocket, you can make and share annotated species-lists that correspond to specific field trips,” said Robertson. “And you don’t need to be connected to a server to use it.”

Find the app in the iTunes website here:
Fishes: East Pacific. An identification guide for the shore-fish fauna of the tropical eastern Pacific.

Discover Coiba National Park

This national park and UNESCO World Heritage site is located in the southern part of the Veraguas province in the Pacific Ocean, made up of a group of islands. Coiba is the biggest island. The area of the land on the islands combined with the marine territory comes to the amazing total of 270,125 hectares (650,000 acres), making it one of the most extensive marine parks in the world. This park protects three different kinds of ecosystems: the island, reef and marine life. Due to its geographical location a penal colony was established here in 1910, the remains can still be seen today because of this situation the forest on the Coiba Island remained untouched.

For more information and itineraries to Coiba, please contact us at info@ecocircuitos.com

Biomuseo celebrates Biodiversity day in Panama

The Biomuseo design by Frank Gehry  is currently under construction on the Amador Causeway, but it is already celebrating international Biodiversity day with an outdoor fair called “El Suelo Está Vivo” (The Soil is Alive) on Sunday, May 22 from 10.00AM to 4.00PM

Location:

Old Officers Club, Amador Causeway, Panama City, Panama.

For children from 2 to 99 years old will have many fun activities with which you will learn how you can support the natural cycles of nutrient recycling:

The secret life of ants
Take advantage of the recent rioting that scientists have discovered the Smithsonian about these extraordinary insects.

The worms that make soil
The Boys in the Chinese-Panamanian School will show us the work they do with composting worms.

Painted with colors of nature
… Literally. We use flowers, leaves and seeds instead of crayons.

Tales of bugs
With the storytellers of the Panamanian Red storytellers in our beloved Corotú.

Organic market
Where you all kinds of organic products: soaps, herbs, ointments, vegetables, ginger candy, chocolate, pastries, eggs and fertilizer from regions as Zapayal (Darien), Cuculo (Los Santos), the waggish (Veraguas). Darien will also have crafts Tuira region and Jaque.

What is all this fuss of organic?
If you do not know what all the fuss with the organic, do not miss our talks about where you explain how it relates to our biodiversity.

Have we broken the cornucopia? What is wrong with the way we produce food. – José Manuel Pérez (UNDP).
Time: 11:00 am and 2:00 pm

Organic, sustainable and local. – Eylon Israel (Coriander Red).
Time: 1:00 pm

The Museum
Finally, take the opportunity to visit Biomuseo construction, a unique opportunity to work in this class, and participate in our presentations to find out what you’ll find inside.  Even Brad Pitt and Al Gore are some personalities that already visited, what you are waiting for?

Biomuseo is the first building design by Frank Gehry in Latin America.

For more information:  http://www.biomuseopanama.org/