Panama is one of my favorite countries in the world! You are reading this right now so it means you are probably traveling to Panama soon, so go through this whole article and when you’ve finished, you’ll be prepared for everything and anything Panama tries to throw at you. If you’re looking to run wild on adventures, go cliff jumping, snorkeling, and waterfall hunting I’ve got you covered. This is the Ultimate Panama Packing list to prepare you for your adventures throughout Panama.
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THE ULTIMATE PANAMA PACKING LIST
These are all of the items I would recommend having for your Panama adventures!
THINGS TO KNOW WHEN PACKING FOR PANAMA
There are a few key factors that make Panama different from other countries and therefore make your packing list different are the following:
- Humidity: Panama can be sticky, sweaty, and a bit awkward at times. Waterproof dry bags, phone covers, insect repellents, and other measures need to be taken into account.
- Rain: Panama can be boiling hot one minute and pouring with rain the next. You can still have an awesome time but a waterproof jacket that isn’t too thick is key.
- Water: There are a lot of waterfalls and island hopping activities so a GoPro or waterproof camera can be a really fun tech toy to help record your adventures.
Mosquitos run rampant in the hot, humid climate of Panama. Pesky tropical mosquitos love to hang around the same places you do, like palm trees, lagoons, villa pools, and pretty much anywhere else you’ll find water.
While Malaria and Zika are rare in the country, Dengue is common. If you plan to visit, it’d be best to pack an effective Deet-free mosquito repellant like this one. If you want full coverage, here’s an alternative with Deet. It’s definitely a must-have item when packing for Panama.
Water shoes are a great way to explore Panama. Firstly, they prevent cutting up your feet on the volcanic rock that often accompanies white sandy beaches. They also protect your feet from sea urchin stings and accidental coral abrasions. Secondly, they can also protect your feet against hot, midday sand, and provide traction on muddy waterfall trails. These Xero Water Shoes tick all the boxes, with these NRS Water Shoes offering a slightly more cost-effective option.
An easy way to ensure all your electronics and valuables stay dry, traveling to an island without one seems negligent. If you plan to do any island-hopping, waterfall, or boat tours, a dry bag is highly recommended.
If you’re visiting during shoulder season or the monsoon, a dry bag might be necessary to keep your electronics safe during sudden downpours. Either way, make sure one of these options makes its way into your packing list!
This dry bag is large enough to fit all your valuables and includes backpack straps for easy carry. For a more minimal approach, this EarthPak Dry Bag provides 5 liters of protection at a more budget-friendly price.
- 100% waterproof
- DrySeal™ roll-top
- Removable straps and hip-belt
- Exterior bungee system
Travel Day Pack
Also known as the carry-on pretending to be a personal item, few people travel to Panama without one. A pack like this can comfortably carry your laptop, water, snacks, and a change of clothes for your long-haul flight to Panama City. It also doubles as an adventure bag for your island hopping tours and waterfall hikes. In conclusion, it’s an item that shouldn’t be left at home.
While we’re on electronics, let’s talk about underwater cameras. With so many picture-perfect beaches, waterfalls, and underwater activities to offer, having a waterproof camera on hand is always a good call. For this, the GoPro Hero 12 is my top recommendation. With HyperSmooth available in 4K resolution and slow motion, shaky, dull vacation footage is a thing of the past.
Need I say more? Pack yourself a selfie stick robust enough to handle the hard impact of Panama’s best cliff-jumping spots, and long enough to get the whole crew in the shot. Don’t be ashamed of using your selfie stick. They capture some of the best and most engaging angles.
I use the Sandmarc GoPro Pole for a few reasons. Firstly the Sandmarc pole is longer than the default GoPro stick. Second, it doesn’t have a three-arm bend. Most importantly, it’s built for holding out during a cliff jump, on a moped – it doesn’t bend or need adjusting. Just whip it out, get the shot, and put it away before anyone notices!
Reusable Water Bottle
Being on a tropical island shouldn’t be the only time you’re eco-conscious, but it can be a great reminder. Help keep Panama clean by opting out of plastic water bottles, and carrying a refillable Hydroflask instead.
Insulated and built to last, this is the bottle for all your adventures. Moreover, most bars and restaurants will happily fill a reusable bottle. If not, you can use the next item on my list to filter your water.
Grayl GeoPress Water Filter
I’ve used this water bottle for the past three years while traveling to some of the most remote and raw places in the world, and have never gotten sick. It filters your water with one 8-second press. In addition, you can drink directly from it once it’s been filtered. As a result, you could never buy a plastic water bottle again!
You should never travel without a travel adapter, even if you’re visiting a country with the same plug-in points. Being stuck during a layover with dead electronics is a drag. This universal travel adapter includes 2 USB ports to allow multi-device charging, as well as covering over 150 countries. It’s a lightweight and convenient way to improve your travel kit for a couple of bucks, and certainly shouldn’t be overlooked.
I’ve been using Anker power banks for years and highly recommend them for a few reasons. Firstly, this model features dual-USB ports to allow multi-device charging. Secondly, it comes with a massive storage capacity, which can be more useful than you know.
Light Rain Jacket
A lightweight rain jacket is a very handy addition to your adventure backpack. Panama is known for its great weather but it’s pretty common for there to be a short burst of rain each day. I always have this in my daypack and it comes in very handy.
- 3-layer H2No® Performance
- Self-stuffing pocket
- bluesign® approved and Fair Trade Certified
Never underestimate the need for a lightweight travel towel – especially in a place like Panama. Having a microfiber towel on hand can be the difference between shivering through a boat ride or enjoying a sunset cruise. These microfiber travel towels pack are very small and easily fit in your day pack or beach bag.
Crushable Sun Hat
A wide-brimmed hat offers an extra layer of sun protection while also keeping beach hair under control. A crushable hat makes for the most travel-friendly option. If you’re looking for something you can also take hiking, this Lanzom Crushable Fedora also offers UPF 50 protection, sweat wicking fabric, and a chin strap.
Declutter your suitcase and invest in some packing cubes. This packing set can keep help separate your electronics from your swimwear, activewear, and resort casual outfits. Personally, I love packing cubes as they’re the closest thing to having a wardrobe and a chest of drawers on the road.
While Panama is generally known as a very safe and travel-friendly destination, I always recommend carrying the next two items on the list. First up, is the money belt. This is a sleek redesign of the travel fanny pack and hides seamlessly under a shirt.
I’ve been keeping my travel documents and bank cards in my passport wallet for the past 6 years, and have never had an issue – unlike some of my friends who randomly lost passports and atm cards. With vaccine cards to add to the list of travel requirements, having a place to store all your documents is needed for peace of mind. Therefore, I always recommend a passport wallet.
Panama Packing Checklist
Aside from the highly-recommended items above, here is a complete Panama Packing Checklist so you can start packing for your vacation:
- Breathable t-shirts (2-3 pairs)
- Quick-dry shorts (1-2 pairs)
- 1 pair of full-length pants
- Long-sleeved outer layer
- Rain jacket
- Light puffy jacket (if hiking in the mountains)
- Workout clothes for hikes & adventures
- Bathing suits/board shorts (always have spare while used pairs dry)
- Beach cover-ups & sundresses for women
- Long-sleeved button-up shirts for men (Resort casual is enough to get you into most places)
- 1 dressier outfit if going out in Panama City, or upscale bars
- Hiking/walking shoes
- Flip flops
- Water shoes (optional but recommended)
- 1 dressier shoe (some nightclubs require for entry)
- Lip balm (SPF)
- First-aid kit
- Prescription medication
- Insect repellent
- Lotion (local products often contain whitening agents)
- Feminine hygiene products
- Travel-sized versions of your favorite toiletries:
- Shampoo & conditioner (optional if hotel/local products suffice for you)
- Power bank
- Travel Adapter
- Charging cables
- Memory cards
- Spare batteries
- Backpack or bag for daily adventures
- Reusable water bottle / water filter
- Packing cubes
- Dry bag
- Money belt
- Passport wallet
- A good book
How the weather impacts your packing list for Panama
Panama has a tropical climate with distinct wet and dry seasons, and the weather can vary depending on the time of year and the region you plan to visit. Understanding the weather can help you pack appropriately for your trip to Panama. Here’s an overview:
- Dry Season (December to April): This is the most popular time for tourists to visit Panama. During the dry season, you can expect warm and sunny weather with little to no rainfall. Here’s how it affects your packing:
- Lightweight Clothing: Pack lightweight, breathable clothing such as shorts, T-shirts, sundresses, and swimsuits. Light, moisture-wicking fabrics are ideal for staying comfortable in the heat.
- Sun Protection: The sun can be intense during the dry season. Don’t forget to pack sunscreen with a high SPF, sunglasses, a wide-brimmed hat, and a reusable water bottle to stay hydrated.
- Rain Gear: While the dry season is generally rain-free, it’s a good idea to have a small, foldable umbrella or a lightweight rain jacket in case of unexpected showers.
- Wet Season (May to November): The wet season in Panama sees heavier rainfall and increased humidity. Here’s how it affects your packing:
- Lightweight Rain Gear: Pack a good-quality rain jacket or poncho, as you’re likely to encounter frequent rain showers. Waterproof footwear or sandals can also be useful.
- Quick-Drying Clothing: Opt for clothing made of quick-drying materials like nylon or polyester. These materials will help you stay comfortable when clothes get wet.
- Insect Repellent: Mosquitoes are more active during the wet season, especially in tropical areas. Pack insect repellent to protect yourself from bug bites.
- Waterproof Bag: Consider bringing a waterproof bag or pouch to protect your electronics and important documents from rain and humidity.
- Outdoor Gear: If you plan to explore rainforests or engage in outdoor activities, bring appropriate gear such as hiking boots, moisture-wicking socks, and a backpack for day trips.
- Mountainous Regions: If you plan to visit higher-altitude areas like Boquete or El Valle de Anton, be prepared for cooler temperatures, especially at night. Bring a light sweater or jacket for cooler evenings.
- City Exploration: If you plan to spend time in Panama City or other urban areas, casual attire is generally acceptable. However, some upscale restaurants and clubs may have dress codes, so consider packing slightly dressier clothing for such occasions.
- Beach Destinations: If you’re heading to Panama’s beach destinations, don’t forget to pack your swimwear, flip-flops, and beach towels.
- Travel Essentials: Regardless of the season, always have your travel documents (passport, visa, copies), necessary medications, and travel insurance.
HAVE YOU CHECKED OUT MY OTHER PANAMA GUIDES
- 70 AWESOME THINGS TO DO IN PANAMA: The ultimate guide to exploring the whole country!
- 26 AMAZING WATERFALLS IN PANAMA: The ultimate guide to waterfall chasing in Panama.
- 6 BEST CLIFF JUMPING SPOTS IN PANAMA: The guide for thrill-seekers and adrenaline hunters.
- 37 AMAZING HIKES IN PANAMA: All of the best hiking trails. Many you’ve never heard of!
- 18 AWESOME THINGS TO DO IN BOQUETE: Hiking, waterfalls, and volcanoes.
- 12 AWESOME THINGS TO DO IN EL VALLE DE ANTON: My favorite place to base in Panama.
- 10 AWESOME THINGS TO DO IN SANTA CATALINA: Surf, hike, swim, kayak, and explore.
I hope you enjoy my guides and have a great time exploring Panama!