A Holiday Guide to Panama City, Panama

Photo taken by Lawrence Wilder

The holidays in Panama are full of joy, parades, parties, and markets. This season begins the first week of November and ends on New Year´s Eve. Thus, Panama is non-stop fun for 2 months. 

To find out about these parades, markets, parties, and other events you need to either be on Instagram, connected to a WhatsApp community group, or ask around at bars. 

As of 2022, Instagram and WhatsApp have become the primary ways Panamanians run businesses and share information. If you’re visiting, check out Instagram to find out about events around the city. 

Adondeirpty is the leading IG account currently that tries to give you the most events happening in Panama City in one place. 

November Holidays and Activities

During the first week of November, you can expect to see the city celebrate its Independence from Colombia on November 3rd, Flag Day on November 4th, and Colon Day on November 5th. 

Yes, 3 holidays back to back. 

Therefore, many people travel to the beach areas during this time such as San Blas, Coronado, Venao, Colon, Bocas, Santa Catalina, and more beach towns. So, if you are planning to go to the beach during these Panamanian holidays be sure to book in advance. 

A beach area close to the city and usually never seems too packed is Saboga and Contadora islands in general. These islands are pretty quiet with beautiful beaches. 

The next holidays are November 10 Los Santos Uprising Day and November 28th Independence from Spain. 

There is also November 2nd which is the Day of the Dead. The Day of the Dead is not celebrated like it is in Mexico. In Panama, there are no parties or cool festivals. Locals will go to graveyards or visit a church to pay their respect and remembrance to their dead loved ones. 

This is a mostly normal day, apart from being unable to buy alcohol. On this day, wine, beer, and liquor are prohibited and unavailable for purchase. These traditions led to the creation of another tradition – parties and markets selling alcohol at midnight on November 3rd. So when the clock strikes 12, cue the reggaeton and buckets of Panama and Balboa beers. 

November is the month for Panamanians to celebrate being Panamanian and all their hard work in being an independent country. It´s also the time to pull out polleras, tembleques, which are their traditional clothing, and headpieces, and to wear the real Panamanian hat. The hat that Theodore Roosevelt wore is not a Panamanian hat. 

You will also see many people wearing the national colors of Red, White, and Blue which represent the freedom of this fairly new country. 


In the city, there will be a plethora of parades to visit. Many school bands and private bands participate in the parades, which usually last several hours. They pass through the central area of the city, around Calle 50, before ending around Ave. Balboa. There are parades in Rio Abajo on the Afro-Antillean street during this month as well. 

I can´t forget fireworks. Panamanians love fireworks, and they do this all year round. Therefore, you will see quite a bit of firework shows during these holiday months. 

What to expect for parades in Colon 

Panama has many parade celebrations, but local Panamanians say the parades in Colon are the most exciting. 

A few differences, Colon will be on CP time (colored people time). No one knew what time it would start. In Panama City, parades usually start within an hour of the designated start time. 

Ha, it´s Latin America. Most things don´t start exactly on time. 

The parade started 5 hours after we thought it would in Colon. The 5-hour later start time is reflected in how late they party. In Colon, parades end around 10 or 11 pm, while those in the city finish around 5 or 6. 

The vendors in Colon had a little more variety and more safety precautions. The vendors had hair nets, and many of them had gloves. In the city, it was about 50/50. Many of the vendors in Colon City also speak English. This is also a plus because if you are a native English speaker you can connect with people a little easier and better. 

I always enjoy the feeling of Colon. It feels familiar, so the parade was no different. It felt like a big cookout vibe with cousins. You had music blasting, people eating, laughing, and patiently waiting for the dancers and performers to come by to cheer and dance with them. 

December Holidays and Activities

Photo taken by Lawrence Wilder in Panama City

December is a month of celebrations all around the world. Most of the world is located in the Northern Hemisphere which means December is cold and a time to bundle up.

On the other hand, The southern hemisphere and tropical places enjoy sunshine and warmth. 

The Christmas season may not have snow or bundles of clothes, but that doesn’t mean Christmas activities will be any less exciting. Grab your hot chocolate or an iced mocha and your shorts with a Santa hat, and join in on the many activities in Panama. 

December is when all the lights go up in all the major parks and surrounding park areas. People will also put up their Christmas trees and decorate their balconies. The major malls will have different holiday activities, such as pictures with Santa, pop-up Christmas shops, Christmas musicians, and many more. Can´t forget to buy some Ron Ponche, this is spiked egg nog. 

Christmas Activities and Locations

Panamanians love Christmas, so head into Total Dollar or any other store selling Christmas items and grab your Santa and reindeer headbands for you and/or your dog. Then head to one of the following parks. 

Parque Andres Bello

This park is in the heart of El Cangrejo. On the road to the park, you will experience the beauty of all the lights in the trees. Once you enter there will be different activities each weekend leading up to Christmas.

Some festivities include performances by a Christmas orchestra, ballet dancers, and others. The park has food vendors offering chorizo and popcorn, toys for the kids, and artists who will create a painting in front of you. Families of all ages enjoy the fun and laughter of the Christmas season.

Photo taken by Lawrence Wilder Panama City

Parque Omar 

This park is in San Francisco. This park is the biggest in the city. Here you will find beautiful Christmas lights, beautifully decorated trees, as well as, many vendors selling ice cream, flavored shaved ice, and more. This park also has many performances, including traditional dances, ballet performances, magicians, and more. This park is usually busy in general, but with the added holiday activities it has even more people there to enjoy the lights and performances for the Christmas holiday. 

Parque Urraca 

This park is a smaller one across from Cinta Costera. This park is very active with lots of children. This is the first park many people end up coming to because it is right off Ave. Balboa. This place is great for pictures. Here you will find a sign that says Feliz Navidad. Just be sure you act quickly because many people will be wanting to do the same. 

Here you have many vendors as well. Since this park is smaller it gets crowded quickly. There aren’t a lot of events here in this park, but it is a pleasant place to visit and later take an evening stroll along the Cinta Costera. 

Plaza Catedral (Santa Ana Plaza) 

Panama is not in a shortage of Christmas lights. When you enter Casco Viejo, you’ll be greeted with beautiful Christmas lights with the backdrop of the Pacific Ocean in the background. In the Plaza Catedral, you will find many restaurants having Christmas activities with jazz musicians, fire twirlers, and dancers in this area. 

For people who like to party, you will find clubs such as Selina´s rooftop or in their basement Pa´Vacailar, Buena Vaina, Chupitos, Rush, or Tantalo to party at during the holidays. 

Disclaimer: Businesses in Panama open and shut down very quickly. Please always check if these clubs are still open. 

The Malls 


Alta Plaza 


Pacific Center 

Metro Mall 

Town center in Costa del Este

Photo taken by Lawrence Wilder

Panama has many big malls. So during the holiday season, you can find a variety of holiday-themed activities to go with your holiday shopping. 

The Town Center in Costa del Este features a beautifully decorated plaza, as well as a fountain that displays the different Christmas colors and is accompanied by Christmas music.

Children or adults can also have the opportunity to take pictures with Santa or The Grinch. 

In a few malls, there will be classic Christmas movies for the kids. There will also be performances by students and performers singing Christmas songs, as well as vendors selling holiday-themed items, and they will have musicians playing Christmas music. In 2022 they even created an ice skating rink in the Multiplaza mall for the holidays. 

Do you Celebrate on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day? 

In Latin American countries, Christmas is celebrated on Dec. 24th. So, on Christmas Eve Panamanians will spend this time with their families, kids will open presents and play with them, and Partygoers will head to the clubs around 1 am until early in the morning. 

New Year´s Eve

So here in Panama City there is no big ball dropping from the sky. However, there are plenty of ways to celebrate New Year’s in Panama. Similar to Christmas, locals spend time with their families first, before they venture out to party. 

Most people head to Casco Viejo to celebrate New Year´s. Tantalo has been known for its New Year´s party. However, several hotels and restaurants will have a New Year´s celebration in the city. 

The current most popular hotels to spend New Year´s are The W, JW Marriott, Sortis, Playa Westin, Playa Blanca, and AC Hotel. 

Popular restaurants are Taco la Neta at Selina´s, Tantatlo, Lazotea, Casa Casco, Luna rooftop, Terrat, and Panaviera.

NYE PTY Cover Charges 

What took me by surprise on my first New Year´s in Panama was the cover charges. Considering I’ve never lived in a major city, paying so much for a holiday party was shocking. I´m also a church girl. So for most of my childhood, I spent New Year´s in the Lord´s house! 

Let the church say Amen haha. 

Back to these cover charges. 

New Year’s Eve cover charges vary from $10-$150 per person, with the majority between $60-100. Most tickets need to be purchased in advance, or they won´t let you in if it´s a popular location. 

Mieventos.com is where you can find and buy tickets for clubs, restaurants, and hotels for NYE. However, I would always suggest messaging them on Whatsapp or Instagram to ask about the most suitable way to pay in advance. 

Some challenges may occur as a tourist trying to pay in advance if the place doesn´t have an online payment system. You are unable to use their Yappy payment system and cannot do a Panama bank transfer. This may mean heading to the event venue, paying in cash, and receiving some type of confirmation. 

NYE Beach Options

You can also spend NYE on Contadora Island via Sonny Island. You can also take a trip to Portobello and spend the evening on Isla Grande at Hotel Candy or Hotel Cocotal


Panama is packed with holiday activities, and not to mention most events are free or very little cost. 

Don´t miss out on all the fun with your friends, children, or a stranger you just met while visiting. We live in a world that is about memories. So take pictures of the parades, parties, and markets and celebrate Panamanian independence with the Panamanians. Also, marvel at all the Christmas lights. Get a 2-for-1 deal at the mall by shopping and having entertainment for yourself and your children. Party hard on New Year´s at a hotel or restaurant. 

Panama has so much to offer. Don’t miss out!

2 responses to “A Holiday Guide to Panama City, Panama”

  1. Love the glasses and the peppermint stick hat, Biola! Your reports are always so lively, and you make me feel as though I’m right THERE. You’re doing a great job reporting. So, are you gonna write a book on your experiences? You really should! Warmly, Hazel in COLD far northern Florida

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