Much To Do And See
Festivals and Cultural Activities
Panama is a diverse country with a mixture of races and cultures. Its topography ranges from tropical beaches to cool mountain ranges to steamy rain forests. Throughout the country, there are many things to do and see. There are frequent festivals celebrating everything you can think of and more. There is an abundance of outdoor activity. There are still areas that haven't changed much, if at all, since colonial times. There is active night life in the cities. There are open markets and weekend dances in almost every village.
Wherever you go in Panama, from the Colombian border west through Panama City, into the Azuero Peninsula that juts down into the Pacific Ocean, and finally on to Chiriqui Province that borders Costa Rica (and where Roca Milagro is located) you will find lots to do. And, perhaps more importantly, you will find many North Americans and Europeans who have relocated to Panama for a more relaxed lifestyle and the wonderful Panamanian people themselves who are welcoming and friendly.
Many of the following annual events are local festivals and their exact date may vary from year to year.
Feria de las Flores y del Café (Flower and Coffee Festival), Boquete. One of the grandest celebrations of flowers in the world, drawing thousands to Boquete for 10 days. There are lush and beautiful flower displays, food stands, live music, amusement rides, and handicrafts booths. Hotel rooms should be booked far in advance. Mid-January.
Jazz Festival, Panama City. For one 3-day weekend, Panama City throbs with live jazz performances by outstanding international musicians. Some events are held outdoors and are free; www.panamajazzfestival.com. Late January.
Carnaval (Carnival). Panama's largest yearly celebration takes place during the 4 days that precede Ash Wednesday. The largest celebrations are in small towns on the Azuero Peninsula, such as Las Tablas, and in Panama City, with parades, music, and dancing.
Semana Santa ( Holy Week). Parades, religious processions, and other special events take place across the country. Palm Sunday through Holy Saturday.
Feria de David. The Chiriquí capital's largest festival draws more than 500 exhibitors from around the world to display industrial products and new technology. During the 10-day event, the city hosts plentiful cultural and folkloric events; www.feriadedavid.com. Mid-March.
Feria de Orquídeas (Orchid Festival), Boquete It's not as grand as the flower festival, but the Orchid Festival is enjoyable because it showcases thousands of varieties of these delicate flowers for public viewing. At the fairgrounds around mid-April.
Feria Internacional del Azuero, La Villa de Los Santos. This multiday festival is something akin to a county fair, with animal displays, food stalls, and lots of drinking. Mid-April.
Festival Corpus Christi, La Villa de Los Santos. The The town explodes with activity for a 2-week religious festival known for its elaborate dances led by men in devil masks. Forty days after Easter.
Festival Patronales de La Virgen de Santa Librada, Las Tablas. This festival is famous for its Festival de la Pollera on July 22, which showcases the region's most beautiful pollera dresses and elects the "Queen of the Pollera" for that year. July 20 to 22.
Feria Internacional del Mar (International Festival of the Sea), Bocas del Toro. This 5-day event features food stands serving local cuisine, handicrafts booths, exhibits by the Smithsonian Institute and ANAM (the park service), folkloric presentations, and dances. Around the second week of September.
Festival de la Mejorana, Guararé. This nationally famous folkloric festival features hundreds of dancers, musicians, and singers coming together for a week of events and serious partying. Last week of September.
Festival del Cristo Negro (Black Christ Festival), Portobelo. Thousands of pilgrims come to pay penance and perform other acts of devotion at the Iglesia de San Felipe, home to a wooden black Christ effigy that is paraded around town on this day. October 21.
Feria de las Tierras Altas, Volcán. This Highlands Festival is a 5-day celebration of agriculture, local arts, and culture. Around the last week of November.
Independence Days. Panama celebrates three independence days. November 3 and 4 are Independence Day and Flag Day and the largest independence celebrations, featuring parades, fireworks, and other entertainment in Panama City and larger cities like David. November 10th is a holiday for the "First Call for Independence," as is November 28th honoring Independence Day from Spain, with some regional festivities -- but nothing matching November 3 and 4.
Everywhere in Panama there are Christmas celebrations, often with parades and lots of noise, including fireworks.
There is much to do in Panama if you are an outdoor enthusiast. Ecotourism is widely available. Bird-watching is rewarding nearly everywhere in Panama. White-water rafting is available on many of Panama's rivers, There are many places to hike or to ride horses. ATV rentals are available in many areas. Climbing Volcan Baru, Panama's highest mountain, is something that any reasonably healthy person can accomplish. Fishing, boating, snorkeling, what's your pleasure? With The Caribbean on the north and the Pacific on the south, Panama has lots of beaches to swim and surf in.
When you are tired of all that activity and the fresh air, climb into the nearest hammock, have a cold drink, and reflect on the beauty of Panama.