We have been cruising the Carib coast of Panama
since 2012, from Bocas del Toro to the far Eastern San Blas and almost everywhere in between. Obviously we like it here.
is a concern in Panama, but thats true almost anywhere in the W Carib during rainy season (Im on the Rio Dulce in Guatemala
now and we have been having biblical lightning). Ive been lucky, Ive stowed my catamaran
in both Panama and Guatemala
for many years and its yet to be struck, but I know of many others who have been in both places. We normally only cruise
in dry season. When we hear the first big strike of the season, my wife declares cruising season over and we head
for the dock
. Some cruise
Panama year round, but personally I would rather the boat get struck while stored than with us aboard or underway.
My 2c on some of the cruising spots etc:
San Blas (Guna Yala). We have spent most of our cruising seasons here in the San Blas...a special place. Enough time there that we have made Kuna friends and have been invited to experience things like Chicha Ceremonies which not many outsiders get to see.
Bocas del Toro. Bocas has grown on us. Most either love or hate Bocas Town itself, but there is also an extensive archipeligo which offers lots of exploring, anchoring
, and snorkeling opportunities with some of the most intense concentrations of invertibrates I have ever seen.
Portobelo has great potential, but unfortuntely it attracts derelict boats and people like a magnet. The bay is filthty and so is the town...which is a shame because, if you overlook that, it is quite a beautiful setting with interesting history
and a large good harbor.
Colon. Not a cruising venue per se, but a common stopping point. Colon town proper is a full on ghetto, best to avoid it. Cruisers mostly stick to the outlying areas for provisioning
etc and it is quite good for that.
Shelter Bay (Shelter Pay). Good marina with lots of amenties and services, but they are the only show in town and charge accordingly. Other than that, I like Shelter Bay. An unintentional effect of the Canal
Zone was to preserve many square miles of jungle. This results in some good day hikes around Shelter Bay where you can see lots of wildlife and explore interesting military ruins. You can also wade out onto the extensive flats along the N shore for interesting tidal pool exploring and good fishing
Between Colon and Portobello there are a couple of spots worth mentioning: Islas Naranjas and Bahia
Buen Aventura. Islas Naranajas is just to the E of the Canal
. It makes for a good short shake down cruise when departing Shelter Bay. Good anchorage. We prefer Bahia
Buena Aventura to nearby Portobelo.
From Portobelo to the San Blas there are number of interesting stops, but be aware that this section of coast has had some security
issues in recent years so choose your stops prudently.
Linton Bay. A good harbor with two marinas
. The anchorage gets quite crowed and has had some security
issues in recent years so best to stick to the marinas
(Linton Bay and PanaMarina). Linton Bay is a full service
marina and a convenient place to pick up a transient slip. PanaMarina is more of a storage
marina, but has a very good resturant. There is interesting exploring around Linton Bay.
Between the Bocas area and Colon there is not much of interest to cruisers...just a long desolate coast line devoid of good harbors.
For more details get a copy of Bauhaus's superb cruising guide. It is the ultimate guide for cruising Panama.