Carnival in Panama

A Simple Guide to Carnival in Panama

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Panama is an incredible diverse nation known for its vibrant culture, and one of the most exciting events that showcases this cultural richness is Carnival in Panama. Here, you’ll find people from every walk of life who all share an enthusiasm for living.

Carnival (Carnaval in Spanish) is an annual holiday celebrated throughout Latin America and the Caribbean that spans four to five days leading up to Ash Wednesday.

Las Tablas

Panama is best-known for the Panama Canal, but this South American nation also offers vibrant culture and vibrant cities. Home to thousands of bird species and stunning natural beauty as well as an eclectic mixture of cultural influences which can be seen through food, music, art and architecture, it makes Panama one of South America’s premier countries.

Las Tablas hosts one of the country’s premier carnival events every year – an acclaimed carnival in Panama that draws thousands. Each year the city divides into two rival streets called Calle Arriba and Calle Abajo and each street crowns its queen; then come floats, bands, food stands, contests, presentations, fireworks displays, parades until Ash Wednesday arrives!

At its center is when two queens take to the streets in battle before thousands of cheering fans, each spending thousands on floats, dresses, band equipment and fireworks for each side – down to every small detail such as water tanks equipped with massive water tanks from which a team uses a hose to spray dancing crowd (known as culeco) with wetter water than usual – excepting queens themselves and their floats; most other objects are fair game and make this sopping wet dance party come to life!

As with any family activity in Panama, remembering pickpockets will be active during this time can be tricky. Additionally, alcohol consumption is widespread. Furthermore, this requires booking accommodations months in advance from Panama City.


Bocas, in Panama’s northwest Caribbean province of Ngobe-Bugle Comarca, is an attractive vacation spot that comes alive during Carnival. Residents and visitors come together for food, music and dance events during this festive event.

Panama’s Carnival celebrations can be intense, and not suitable for the faint-hearted. At this event, street queens from two opposing streets (Calle Abajo and Calle Arriba) compete to gain votes to claim victory and ultimately be declared victorious on Ash Wednesday.

Tanker trucks equipped with water cannons line the parade route and people drench crowds from above on elevated platforms called culecos with water hoses, creating an incredible water party! While not firehose-strength, they get you wet enough to create an entertaining dance party; queens and floats are off limits but anyone else is fair game in creating sopping wet dance parties known as culecos.

An event wouldn’t be complete without fireworks, and this carnival features an extraordinary show every evening at nightfall. For an enjoyable experience it’s best to arrive early on Friday afternoon so as to beat both traffic from Panama City and crowds once arriving – making it easy to grab a great viewing spot and grab something to drink while waiting. Wear a waterproof rain jacket as well as carrying money, ID and phone securely in a pouch or poncho for maximum protection!


Panamanians love Carnival; it’s their premier celebration. Tens of thousands of people converge on the streets, playing lively music from speakers in every street corner and elaborately dressed “Carnaval Queens” parade through. Families, children, grandparents all gather together for fun and dancing!

Luxurious floats with whimsical themes, elaborate costumes and acrobatic performances take center stage during this week-long festival in Panama City and surrounding towns and villages where pre-industrial traditions still shape festivities. It is important to travel inland for authentic experiences in towns and villages where folk celebrations continue today.

Las Tablas in El Interior province stands as the center of Panamanian carnival. A battle between rival streets – Calle Arriba and Calle Abajo – crowns an official queen who reigns throughout carnival period. Each street features its own parades throughout the week to vie for her crown; on Shrove Tuesday the winner is unveiled in a grand show.

Panama carnival festivities may not be cheap, but they can certainly be enjoyable. A budget option would be to book accommodation that offers views of one of the carnival circuits (enquire with your hotel or look up Airbnb listings with views overlooking parade routes). Remember to bring extra batteries for your phone, as music plays nonstop; additionally be prepared for water trucks to spray the crowd; store valuables in waterproof cases while protecting from sunrays with sunscreen, and drink plenty of water throughout your stay!

Panama City

Panama City is one of Central America’s most vibrant cities and a hub for international trade. Home to almost half of Panama’s population and many tourist attractions like Metropolitan Cathedral, National Palace and Miraflores Locks on Panama Canal – almost two fifths reside here!

Carnival in Panama typically occurs four to five days leading up to Ash Wednesday, with celebrations primarily focused on Las Tablas and Penonome; however, Panama City itself remains lively during this time with bars and clubs still offering bachelor party events as well as family-oriented celebrations.

On Saturday and Shrove Tuesday, the biggest parades take place. Krewes bring their finest floats to perform, throwing beads and doubloons into crowds of thousands that enthusiastically grab hold of these goodies with delight and gratitude.

Casco Viejo and downtown Panama City offer ideal viewing conditions to witness parades. Walking or using Panama’s world-class mass transit system are convenient ways of getting around, while taxi drivers may attempt to overcharge visitors; to find out an accurate quote before making a choice it’s helpful to inquire with locals as to the appropriate price before hiring one.

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