STRI's main location in the Republic of Panama provides an ideal natural laboratory for research in both terrestrial and marine environments. About three million years ago, the emergence of the Isthmus separated the marine life of the Atlantic and Pacific Ocean and formed a land bridge that allowed the previously distinct floras and faunas of North and South America to mix. This unique history offers opportunities for the study of evolutionary and ecological processes unequaled anywhere else in the world.
Located at the geographical center of the American continent, Panama joins North and South America. It borders with the Caribbean Sea to the north, the Pacific Ocean to the south, Colombia to the east and Costa Rica to the west.
Panama is the youngest area of land in the Americas, having emerged from the oceans approximately 3 to 10 million years ago. In biological terms, the fact that Panama linked the landmasses of the two Americas helps explain its incredible biodiversity. Despite its small size (75,900 sq. km. to be exact) Panama is home to more than 10,000 varieties of plants and more than 1,000 species of birds. Panama City is the only major Latin American city with a rainforest that is only minutes from downtown.
Panama has a warm, wet, tropical climate. Unlike countries that are farther from the equator, Panama does not experience seasons marked by changes in temperature. Instead, Panama 's seasons are divided into Wet and Dry.
The Dry Season generally begins around mid-December, but this may vary by as much 3 to 4 weeks. Around this time, strong northeasterly winds known as “trade winds” begin to blow and little or no rain may fall for many weeks in a row. Daytime air temperatures increase slightly to around 30-31ºC (86-88ºF), but nighttime temperatures remain around 22-23ºC (72-73ºF). Relative humidity drops throughout the season, reaching average values as low as 70%.
The Wet Season usually begins around May 1, but again this may vary by 1 or 2 weeks. May is often one of the wettest months, especially in the Panama Canal area, so the transition from the very dry conditions at the end of the Dry Season to the beginning of Wet Season can be very dramatic. With the arrival of the rain, temperatures cool down a little during the day and the trade winds disappear. Relative humidity rises quickly and may hover around 90 to 100% throughout the Wet Season.
The Pacific Coast
Forecasting day-to-day weather in Panama could be considered a waste of time. There is always a 90% chance that it will be hot and sunny during the Dry Season (mid-December to the end of April), and hot and humid with about a 40 to 50% chance of afternoon thunderstorms during the Rainy Season. No short-term weather forecast is more accurate than this.
The Panamanian currency is the Balboa and it is at par with the US Dollar. Panama uses US paper currency but has its own coinage, with the same denominations, shape and size as US coinage. US coins are also accepted everywhere, but remember to get rid of those Panamanian coins on the way back to the United States as the reverse is not true!
There is a surprising number of websites that provide information about Panama. Here we have provided a list of some of the best ones, and we will be updating them as the months go by.
Disclaimer: (*) While we have taken care to suggest links that provide reliable and accurate information, STRI cannot and does not take responsibility for the information provided on these websites. These are a few of various websites and we also make no claim for providing exhaustive information. We have no relationship, commercial or otherwise, with these sites and their mention should not be construed as an endorsement or promotion of any kind.