Tips and Things to do in Panama During Carnaval

Print Friendly

Carnaval in Panama is just around the corner (March 2-5), and the country is getting ready for the biggest party of the year. Carnaval is a traditional celebration that marks the beginning of the holy week holidays each spring. It’s also a huge tourist draw, and Panama’s biggest celebrations generate millions of dollars in added revenue from both foreign tourists and locals. It’s a pretty intense party nationwide, comprising of parades, concerts, street foods, dancing, and elaborate costumes. There are so many things to do in Panama during Carnaval, it’s nearly impossible to do all of them in one year. But there’s something for everyone, if you know how to find it. Here are 5 fun things to do:

  1. Carnival in PanamaCarnaval in the City. Panama City, believe it or not, is relatively new to the Carnaval scene as far as state-sponsored parties go. Since 2012, the city has sponsored a big outdoor party, which lines the bay on the Cinta Costera and Ave. Balboa. They close the street to traffic for four days, and set up a scenario with local food vendors, beer tents, music stages, and parades. It’s a great way for city people to enjoy the festivities without traveling, and great for tourists who want to stay centrally located. It’s also free to enter, and typically attracts some big music performances by Latin American salsa and reggaeton stars.
  2. Las Tablas. Outside of Carnaval season Las Tablas is a relatively unknown part of Panama. During Carnaval, it turns into the party capital of the country. Las Tablas is famous for having two dueling Carnaval parades, each representing a different side of the main street in town. This party is not for everyone as it’s the country’s most intense. It’s very crowded, but has lots of fun things to do including the infamous “culecos”, which are trucks with fire hoses that spray the crowd to nearly every party-goers delight. Staying in Las Tablas is tricky, as rooms fill up fast, so it’s best to plan ahead
  3. Penonome. Penonome is another smaller city with a big Carnaval celebration. Unlike Las Tablas, however, this party has less tourists and more locals from the surrounding region. That’s not to say that it’s any less rowdy, however many Panamanians prefer Penonome for its authenticity, and smaller crowds. And by smaller crowds, we still mean it’s packed, but there is far less overcrowding than Las Tablas.
  4. Take a Road Trip. Seeing all of the Carnaval celebrations in Panama is not a realistic goal. However, if you time it right, you can catch a few. The Azuero Peninsula is home to dozens of local celebrations, many of which focus more on simple parades than rowdy parties. You can start on the Panamerican highway going west from the city, and head down the Azuero from Santiago to Pedasi. Traffic may be a bit tense around the bigger cities, but once you get a bit more rural, you’ll find that the towns are easy to get to, and you can even see a few Carnaval parties all in the same day.
  5. Bocas del Toro. Bocas is famous for a lot of things, but Carnaval is one of its most underrated attractions. That being said, if you’re looking for a unique Carnaval, this is the place to go. The archipelago’s main town turns in to Diablo city, with the famous Panamanian “Diablico” masks taking center stage. Red, exaggerated facemasks and bright costumes highlight the parades in Bocas, accompanied by traditional dances that have parade marchers interact with the crowd. Bocas is also a great place to vacation, so even when the parades die down there’s plenty to do, see, eat, and listen to. Again, space to stay is limited, so make sure to book ahead, and be careful of price gouging during the holiday season. 


About Manoj Chatlani

Manoj Chatlani is a Senior Partner at POLS Attorneys, a full-service law firm in Panama City, Panama. Specializing in offshore services, including asset protection, estate planning, offshore banking, and offshore corporations, as well as Panama immigration and real estate transactions, POLS Attorneys offers clients a streamlined solution to all their Panama legal needs. Manoj is a Panamanian lawyer and holds a law degree from USMA and earned a Masters in Communication Law and Panama Tax law.

Like what you've read? Subscribe to our Newsletter.

* denotes a required field
First Name: *
Last Name: *
Email: *