Long, serpentine Panama merges the Pacific with the Caribbean. It's no surprise Panama's islands and mainland beaches are practically flawless -- some of the best in Latin America, by far. It's tough to choose the standouts, but the Panama beaches listed here are particularly unforgettable. Like Red Frog Beach, in Bocas del Toro, Panama, home to countless teeny red frogs. Or Playa de las Estrellas -- you've never seen so many starfish. Prepare to be delighted and amazed!
Playa de las Estrellas means Beach of the Stars in Spanish. And starfish are indeed abundant in the glassy waters of this Panama beach (also called Starfish Point). Located at the far northern tip of Isla Colon (the Bocas del Toro archipelago's largest island), Playa de las Estrellas is accessible via public bus or collectivo shuttle from Bocas Town. Although Playa de las Estrellas is can't-miss, for laying out you'll want to walk to the nearby Panama beach, Bocas del Drago.
Located on Isla Bastimentos in Panama's Bocas del Toro archipelago, Red Frog Beach is one of the most popular Panama beaches with the backpacker crowd. The island's unique rainforest-in-miniature setting results in some of Panama's richest island biodiversity -- including the Panama beach's namesake, the red tree frog. The area is (rightfully) protected; entry is $1, and the beach is a short walk from the drop-off point.
Not many travelers make it all the way to the San Blas Islands in Panama's northeastern Kuna Yala district, which is a shame. Many of the most pristine island beaches in the Americas are located in the San Blas archipelago -- in fact, almost every island is ringed by a sugary strip of white. Popular islands (well, popular in Kuna Yala terms) are Isla Pelicano, Dolphin Island, and Isla Robinson. Carti is a great destination for those who want to sleep in a real Kuna village; although the beaches aren't great, stays include tours to nearby San Blas beaches. Note: most accommodations in San Blas are the most basic of basic -- huts and mosquito netting -- and meals include whatever the sea provides that day.
Near Panama City (on Panama's Pacific coast) the beaches aren't spectacular, but Taboga Island offers several worthwhile ones. Located in the Panama Bay, the island is just a quick ferry ride from Panama City -- perfect for those who don't have the time to travel all the way to Bocas del Toro. The island is rich with local history (pirates, conquistadors, and the like); you can find an overview on Destination 360.
Boca Brava is yet another Panama island that sees far less tourism than you'd expect, judging by its picturesque golden beaches. The island sits at the western tip of Panama's Pacific coast, in the Gulf of Chiriqui near the Costa Rican border. To get there, take a quick boat ride from the fishing village of Boca Chica, about an hour from David.
Located 50 miles from Panama City in the Pacific Ocean, Contadora Island is the largest of Panama's Pearl Islands. The island offers thirteen separate beaches to explore, and travelers can easily book tours to uninhabited islands nearby.
Coiba Island is the largest island in Central America. Located off Panama's Pacific Coast, Coiba is an emerging destination, especially for divers and travelers intrigued by Coiba's abundant biodiversity. A number of endemic subspecies live on the massive island, like the Coiba Island Howler monkey and the Coiba Agouti. As you can imagine, Coiba's beaches are beautiful. However, the only overnight accommodations on the super-protected island are at the ranger station, which offers two air-conditioned rooms.