4 May 2021
Panama, in Central America, straddles the Caribbean Sea and the Pacific Ocean. The name Panama is said to originally mean Place of Many Fish. And Panama does indeed have many fish.
The best diving includes Coiba on the Pacific coast. The diving on this side of Panama is much more dramatic than the Caribbean, although the Caribbean is perhaps better for learning to dive. But for the big stuff - sharks and rays - go to the Pacific south.
The water is warm throughout the year, rarely falling below 24 oC and sometimes reaching 30 oC. It is cooler on the Pacific side than the Caribbean, but not by much. Panama's dry season is from January to May. The rain tends to fall more heavily on the Caribbean side.
The Panamanian currency is the balboa. It is fixed to the US dollar at 1 to 1, and dollars are accepted throughout the country.
At the moment entry to Panama is closed to anyone, with the exception of Panamanian nationals and residents, that has been in either the United Kingdom or South Africa within 20 days of their arrival in the country. Upon your arrival in Panama, you will be asked to fill out an Affidavit of Health form. There is currently a curfew from 10pm until 4am.
"Volcanic rocks, warm water + 29 o and many, many fish. A slight current, but incredible diving, I saw a manta !!! on December 23, 2009"
"The best dive we've ever done off these islands. Saw many reef sharks, and also larger 6ft sharks (? Bull), eagle rays, spotted rays, shoals of beautiful small fish as well as larger (e.g. barracuda)"
"Incredible caves, almost like a fantasy, white tips sharks !!"
Coiba is the largest island in central America. It is in the Coiba national park which was declared a World Heritage Site in 2005. The park includes Coiba and 38 smaller islands, all off the southwest coast. You might see humpback whales, pilot whales, killer whales, dolphins, turtles and manta rays here. The diving here is excellent.
I just wanted to share that the diving in this area was so good, that I went to IDC then moved from Florida (also great diving) to Panama to dive Coiba and the Pacific Coast of Panama for a living. I have been here one year and have immensely enjoyed each and every dive. And there are so many unexplored areas to dive here, that I don't think I will find them all in my lifetime. Just yesterday, we dove a new site at Isla Secas which was stunning - a nice 40 ft deep dive with mild current and so much life. We had two Panamanian divers along who have lived in the area all their lives and they were speechless at how beautiful it was...they had no idea they lived so close to such natural splendor. During the boat ride we saw humpbacks breaching at a distance. I heard unusual sounds underwater that sounded like conversation and when we got back in the boat, the captain said a humpback had come nearby. What a treat for me to realize the sounds I was hearing underwater was the humpbacks communicating.
Coieba Island: Best diving for sharks in the Pacific!
"Beautiful dives, excellent visibility. Rays, many fish, turtle. Also dolphins on the boat ride every time."
I've never seen such a diversity of colors, the rainbow is lame compared to this reef!
Dawn, USA, April 2021
Very colorful with lots of huge barrel sponges, the amount of fish is like swimming in a tank with fish around you.
A little current wich made it for a nice slow drift dive, and the size of the lobsters can feed two.
Dawn, USA, April 2021
Bocas is your typical Caribbean backpackers island. Nothing real fancy. Lodging is simple and inexpensive, food around the island is varied and ok, not great, and lots of inexpensive crafts from street artists. The language school experience was excellent. Part of their program included diving. I took advantage.
We dived six different spots between Isla Colon and Bastaimentos. Diving was shallow, no deeper than 40 ft (12 m). The water was extremely calm, no currents. Almost like diving in a swimming pool. We dived one interesting wreck. Diving Panama (on the Caribbean side) was OK. Not fantastic. Fish are not "prolific". Everybody says Coiba Island is the place to dive where there are many Pelagics. Coiba was the site of a prison for many years. Now all that exists is a rustic resort. Next time.
"The instructor/divemaster is very calm, professional with a great sence of humor! Serves a delicious pineapple in between dives! Best ladder in the area with lots of space to put your gear away. Best hotel in the area.. The Bongo Hotel. The service is great from the start, safety is number one, communication, with awesome history about the sites, speaks fluent English as well. Highly-qualified and recommended! "
Dawn, USA, 2021
"Great little dive shop at Hotel Contadora. Very professional and safety conscious."
"We went to this island last year for 5 days to dive. Everything was arranged by e-mail. When we got to Contadora, we were told that the dive shop was closed because the owners did not feel like working. They finally asked us if we would like to dive on the last day (we were flying back to Panama City). The most unprofessional experience I have ever had with a dive operator. Would never recommend these guys to anyone.
Tel: +507 261 3841
Corregimiento de San Francisco
Calle 71 avenida Las Gardenias Plaza Bahia
Local 2c-1 edificio Plaza Bahia Panama City
Tel: 507 66559273
Main Street Isla Colon
Bocas del Toro
Tel: +507 757 95 34
"We are a Padi Dive Center and the nicest shop in town."
Bocas del Toro
Tel: +507 6348-9597
"Bocas Dive Center is the most modern and well equipped center in Bocas Del Toro. We are the only PADI 5☆IDC location in the region and boast an exclusive dive site (Mayday) at our dock."
Tel: +1 507 6536 1776
"Very good professional responsible Divers !! In Las Perlas , with Coral Dreams we have a great time !! The Tiger boat is very fast, the equipment in good condition, cost $ 95 x two dives all inclusive. "
"I dove with a group of professionals in 2006, the company called Coral Dreams. I organize my next vacation encontarar Contadora and hope to dive with these people again, really true professionals!"
Cinthia (Argentina), 2011
Main Road, in front of the Beach
Tel: +507 6980 7122
"ScubaCoiba Centre are located in the small village Santa Catalina (3 hrs from Santiago). Excellent service and great diving experiences. "
If you've dived Panama, we'd love to hear from you. Send us your comments below or fill in our more detailed diving review form.