Congratulations! You’ve decided to visit one of my favorite places on Earth; the beautiful, diverse and utterly unique country of Panama. Before we dive in to our packing guide, I strongly encourage you check out my Itinerary for Your Best 2 (or 3) Weeks in Panama.
Now that you’ve decided where you’re going and how long you’ll be staying, it’s time to start packing!
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For my time here, I decided to bring a rolling carry-on but would encourage you to bring a medium or even large checked bag. To have the best possible time here, it’s important to pack smart which will mean packing more in certain categories.
Panama is a country full of micro-climates and it is a developing nation so sometimes fresh water and laundry aren’t always available. (They usually are… but sh*t happens).
OEE Luggage Packing Organizers Set
American Tourister Hardside Luggage
Water resistant backpack
You’ll want this for any rainforest hikes you decide to take.
For your time in the city. I love the Lo & Sons Claremont since it has room for your camera, wallet and other essentials. It also has a large flap with a lock, making it a difficult target for pick-pockets.
Grab a 20L or larger and this will be your bag to bring your things to the San Blas islands.
For your beach days on the San Blas and Bocas Del Toro islands.
The grocery stores in Panama City do not provide bags. It’s a small charge but save yourself the hassle and money and bring a bag with you. You’ll also want to make sure you have it with you when you head to San Blas.
Lo & Sons Claremont
Anti-Theft Water Resistant Bookbag
Shiraleah Out of Office Shopper
Marchway Waterproof Bag
1 neutral, comfortable and durable pair for your time on the islands.
I wore these a lot in Panama City since I did a lot of walking.
I’d worn down my best pair and didn’t have one with me but luckily purchased an amazing pair while in the city. Make sure you don’t leave Panama without purchasing a pair of the beauties pictured above!
I didn’t pack these and luckily, The Firefly had a pair I could use when I went to visit the Bat Caves, otherwise I would’ve been F****D. You have to trek through muddy rainforest for about 35 minutes to get there and flip flops would not have cut it. Don’t make my mistake and make sure to pack a pair or you may be walking through a rainforest barefoot!
Cole Haan Women’s Fernanda Grand Sandal
Khombu Womens Ashley Adjustable Active Sandal
Flojos Women’s Fiesta Flat
Adidas Grand Court Sneaker
As a rule of thumb, pack half as many dresses for as many days you are visiting. (IE; If your trip is 14 days, pack 7 dresses). I love dresses and rompers while I travel because it’s an entire outfit in one garment and saves space in the suitcase.
2 Cotton Bodysuits
I love my cotton bodysuits for both their support in the bust area and their breathability. I also love that I can wear them with pants and I don’t have to constantly re-tuck them and always look polished. Some days, you just don’t want to wear a dress! These are actually one of my secret favorite things to pack on all my trips–no matter the destination or duration!
Pack 2; One black and one white and they’ll go with everything!
Pack 1 or 2 in neutral tones and comfortable fabrics.
2 – 4 Pairs of Trousers
Like I said, some days you don’t want to wear a dress! I brought 2 pairs for the city to wear with my body suits and 2 flowy pairs for the beach. I love to get my beach pants from American Eagle in the warmer months though I have a hard time finding them in Fall & Winter, even on sale or clearance.
1 Pair of Leggings
Great for hiking or yoga.
Sports Bra + Hiking Top
If they’re not one and the same. In the rainforest, I would suggest covering up your skin to protect yourself from the mosquitos.
Another item I left behind and wish I hadn’t. Luckily, The Firefly had one to loan me but it turned out to be 100% necessary for one of my days in Bocas Del Toro. It takes up virtually no space so just pack it.
Pack as many pairs as days you’ll be there. You probably won’t need this many since there will be days you’ll be living in your swimsuit but better to have too many than too few. There will be days you’ll shower more than once a day because you’ll sweat so much and you’ll want to change your clothes. Don’t forget my Tips from Costa Rica and try to always opt for Cotton undies!
Lightweight T-Shirt Bra (I guess)
I actually didn’t pack one and specifically brought outfits I knew I wouldn’t need to wear a bra with. I hate wearing a bra most days and especially in a tropical, humid climate. If you’re the same, pack a pair of pasties instead. If you’re uncomfortable going bra-less but hate the feeling of a bra, try this beauty from True & Co. I wear it almost daily and and love it.
How many you bring could be up to your discretion. Don’t bring less than 4 and more than 8 would be excessive (if you’re traveling for 2 weeks like I did). I brought 5 and only ended up wearing 4 of them. Make sure you have at least one or 2 that have decent support in the bust area for those days you’re snorkeling so you’re ta-ta’s aren’t falling out!
Long Sleeve Watershirt
I’m not kidding. This item is a 1,000% essential! If/when you get burned in the islands, you don’t want to to miss out on the next day because you have to stay out of the sun! To read more about this, check out my San Blas Packing Guides.
Lightweight (but soft) Cardigan or Sweater
I wore one to the airport since it was cold in DC when I left and it came in handy much more than I thought it would. I brought it to the San Blas islands with me and ended up laying on it to protect my sunburned skin from the sand on my bed. I used it as a makeshift pillow at the shittiest hostel in the world in Bocas Town. And just countless other scenarios. Just trust me, pack it. Here’s one that’s very similar to the one I brought.
The sun is strong in Panama and you’ll want to cover your bum or shoulders at times, especially on the islands. It’s also a great way to add to your “beach look.” I snagged a really cute one in Bocas Town but you might not want to chance it and pack one beforehand.
You’ll probably want to pack 2 pairs. I prefer cotton, rayon or viscose for my PJ’s.
J. Crew Wide Strap One Piece
H&M Twill Pants
Baleaf Women’s Long Sleeve Rashguard
ASOS Mix & Match Pajamas
FP Feeling Groovy Dress
ASOS Mixed Floral PrintDress
Not only is this great for protecting your beautiful face from the sun, but you can also use it as a shield from the ocean spray on those sometimes gnarly speedboat rides on the San Blas or Bocas Del Toro islands.
Say it with me, ladies; “Micro-climates!” Panama has many of them and the weather here can be really unpredictable. Skip this small item, and you may be sorry.
Bring 2 pairs in case you lose or break 1 pair.
You need one that’s quick dry and sand resistant. I love mine!
Travel Mini Umbrella
San Diego Hat’s Striped Floppy Brim Sun Hat
ASOS Mid Square Sunnies
Relefree Microfiber Towel
Always the longest of any packing list I’ll create, don’t fret when you see the length. Keep in mind, most of these items are small and some (like contact lenses) you may not even need. Feel free to personalize this list to your own personal needs. This is my personalized list after years of travel. To keep things easy and organized, I separate my toiletries in to two bags; One for the shower (shampoo, soap, etc.) and one for the restroom (serum, moisturizer, makeup, etc.).
- Face wash
- Shower Oil or Body Wash
- Contact lenses (also bring a back up pair, solution, & glasses)
- Shampoo & conditioner
- Leave in conditioner
- Hair oil
- Wide tooth comb
- Chemical peel wipes
- Face spray
- Face wipes
- Ultra hydrating face mask
- Reef safe sunscreen
- After sun care
- Hand sanitizer
- Nail file
- Essential Makeup (Mine includes primer, tinted moisturizer with SPF, brow products, concealer, setting powder, blush, eyeliner, mascara and setting spray)
- Medications (birth control, pain meds, immodium, allergy, etc.)
Glow Receipe Blueberry Bounce Gentle Cleanser Mini
Cetaphil Gentle Skin Cleansing Cloths
Drunk Elephant Lala Retro Whipped Moisturizer
Dr. Dennis Gross Alpha Beta Universal Daily Peel
L’Occitane Cleansing & Softening Shower Oil Mini
Australian Gold Botanical Mineral Sunscreen, SPF 50
Sun Bum Cool Down After Sun Aloe Gel
Ouai Body Creme
Laura Mercier Tinted Moisturizer Broad Spectrum SPF 30
Briogeo Rosarco Milk Leave-In Conditioning Spray
Summer Fridays Jet Lag Mask Mini
OUAI Rose Hair & Body Oil
Glossier Boy Brow + Brow Flick Duo
Marc Jacobs Finish-Line Perfecting Coconut Setting Powder
BECCA Aqua Luminous Perfecting Concealer
Glossier Cloud Paint
Stila Stay All Day
Urban Decay All Nighter Setting Spray
Panama is one of the most photogenic countries I’ve ever been to. And if I’ve said it once, I’ve said it 100 times; You could be the worst photographer in the world and still leave the San Blas islands with some unbelievable footage. Make sure you pack the necessary gear to capture this haven… And stay in touch with the outside world, I guess… Don’t want the parents to worry!
- Action camera
- Action camera dome
- Waterproof phone case
- Portable lantern
- Headphones (with at least some noise cancelling capabilities)
- Mirrorless camera
- Kindle (or a good book)
- iPad or laptop
- Portable charger
Vont LED Camping Lantern
YOEMELY 6″ Dome Port for GoPro
GoPro HERO8 Black
Gnais iPhone XR Case
The list may seem long and daunting, but I wanted to create a very comprehensive guide for others visiting Panama so you may have an even better time than I did. There are a few things I brought with me (my waterproof phone case, iPad, portable lantern, sun hat, & hand sanitizer) that were much more useful than I could have anticipated. And there were other items, that I decided to forego packing, that I really wish I hadn’t–a reusable tote, rain jacket, GoPro and watershirt. I’ve included all of these here so that your experience can be optimally enjoyable.
If you decide to visit Panama, I’m sure you’ll fall in love with it just as I, and many others have. If you follow this packing guide, AND read my Mistakes to Avoid in Panama article your stress will be minimal and you’ll enjoy every minute of your time here and return home eagerly anticipating your return.
If you’re planning a trip to Panama, don’t forget to pin & save for later!