Best time to visit Panama

TransPanama Trail

An excellent combination of hiking and canoeing across Panama's volcanoes, jungles, indigenous settlements and ancient paths of conquistadors

TransPanama Trail
TransPanama Trail
TransPanama Trail

It would be a kind of cheating to traverse Panama across its width, as its narrowest passage between the Atlantic and Pacific is just about 42.2 mi (68 km) wide. TransPanama refers to the route along its length, the trail stretches for 700.3 mi (1127 km) and involves not only walking, and hiking, but also canoeing. It runs from Panama's eastern border with Colombia westwards to another border with Costa Rica. Besides traditionally breathtaking landscapes with volcanic mountains, and rivers flowing amidst lush rainforests, the trail also promises encounters with indigenous tribes, including the Kuna and Embera, and even ancient paths that were carved by Spanish conquistadors some 600 years ago.

The hike was conceived in 2009 when a group of volunteers gathered by Mike Esquivel determined to construct the route. The process was stuck due to the lack of funds and other unfavorable conditions. Yet one of Mike's friends didn't give up and decided to pave the route on his own during the first thru-hike of TransPanama Trail. It was Rick Morales who accomplished the course in 2011 in only 93 days. In one of his interviews, he mentions various struggles he lived through during that journey: there were thick rainforests, fields of mud mixed with cow dung, trench foot, and other difficulties. Luckily, his girlfriend helped him out, refreshing his food supplies.

The trail is doable year-round, but dry season between December and mid-March is recommended as considerably more convenient. Still, Rick Morales's accomplished his pioneer thru-hike during the wet season, as at other time he works as a naturalist guide. The only indisputable benefit of the rainy season is you will never run out of water.

Practical info

What can one expect while hiking the TransPanama Trail?

The TransPanama Trail is a diverse hiking trail that spans the length of Panama. It comprises jungles, lowlands, mountains, and narrow footpaths along with steep hills and muddy areas that may pose a challenge for novice hikers. The path also contains ancient routes carved by conquistadors and offers a rare opportunity to traverse through various ecosystems present in Panama. Show more

When is the ideal time to go hiking on the TransPanama Trail and why?

The TransPanama Trail permits hiking throughout the year, but the ideal time to hike is during the dry season, between December and mid-March. This period offers drier weather, which makes hiking less challenging. Additionally, dry seasons could enable hikers to see more animals as they come out in search of water sources. However, those seeking a more challenging experience could opt to hike during the rainy seasons. Show more

Are there any safety concerns to consider when hiking on the TransPanama Trail?

The TransPanama Trail is generally safe, but hikers should be cautious while hiking through remote areas prone to landslides, drowning, and diseases such as malaria and dengue fever. Carrying adequate supplies, such as insect repellents, water bottles, and a well-stocked first-aid kit, is necessary. It would be best to hike with a local guide or in a group to familiarize yourself with the terrain, potential animal threats, and find places to get water. Show more

Are there opportunities to meet the local indigenous tribes while on the hike?

The TransPanama Trail provides a chance for tourists to interact with indigenous populations and learn about their living languages, culture, food and understand colonialism's historical impact on these communities. Visitors can interact with the Embera and Kuna tribes and seek permission if they want to spend quality time in villages with local hosts. Tourists should show respect while interacting with the locals to learn from the hosts. Show more

What is the typical duration of time to complete the TransPanama Trail?

The TransPanama Trail is over 700 miles, so hikers typically take 45-60 days to complete it. The duration depends on various variables such as the hiker's fitness level, the frequency of stops, and the amount of time spent indulging with the dwelling places and scenic beauty. If you plan to hike during the rainy season, be prepared to encounter more challenging conditions, causing the hike to take longer, increasing the duration up to nearly 50% longer. However, your itinerary can be customized based on your requirement and timeframe. Show more

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Last updated: by Eleonora Provozin