Panama, located approximately 9 degrees north of the equator, is known as the heart of the Americas and forms a land bridge of some 29,339 square miles connecting North and South America.
The country is shaped like a lazy “S” and borders with Costa Rica to the northwest and Colombia to the southeast.
The Caribbean Sea lies to the north and the Pacific Ocean forms the southern coast of this narrow isthmus, which is much longer than it is wide, being less than 60 miles wide at its narrowest point. The topography consists of mountains, hills, wide coastal plains, extinct volcanoes, virgin rainforests and dry tropical forests.
Panama’s unique geographic location is also responsible for its immense natural wealth. Its vast biodiversity is unparalleled and can be traced back to the emergence of the isthmus more than three million years ago, considered by some scientists as one of the most significant geologic events of the past 60 million years. The land bridge that was formed separated two great oceans creating the ocean circulation we see today and allowing the flora and fauna of the northern and southern continents to interact.
Panama offers 12 distinct ecological zones and boasts more than 14,000 identified plant species, including over 1,200 native orchids, nearly 1,000 bird species and of the 5,000 known animal species on Earth, 1,500 of them live in Panama.
Another distinct advantage for Panama is that it lies below the hurricane belt, and, unlike its northern neighbors, has not experienced any appreciable volcanic activity since the now dormant Baru last erupted in about 500 AD. For most of the country, the tropical climate is divided into ‘winter’ or rainy season from mid- May to December and ‘summer’ or dry season from mid-December to mid-May. Temperatures remain fairly constant throughout the year, averaging 80°F/27°C in the coastal areas and becoming cooler and less humid in the highlands. Mountain areas such as Boquete boast spring-like weather year round with an average temperature of 68°F/20°C.
During the dry season, humidity levels are lower and there is a pleasant breeze, both day and night. The rainy season brings almost daily showers to most of the country but it rarely rains for more than a couple of hours, with intense downpours that can deposit incredible amounts of water in a short period. Then the sun comes out, along with a refreshed atmosphere and lowered humidity. The Caribbean coast can get over double the Pacific Coast’s rainfall, with some areas receiving more than 9 feet of rain per year.
You will soon discover that Panama’s heat and humidity is much more bearable than it sounds and acclimatization does not take long. Most homes and offices have air-conditioning – some people have jokingly referred to Panama City as Latin America’s coldest city and nights are usually much cooler than during the day.