Life will Thrill You, if You Let it – Whale Watching in Panama

Acting as the bridge between Central and South America, adventure-seeking travelers are spoiled for choice when it comes to exciting things to do in Panama. But with so many traditional activities like sport fishing or jungle hikes to enjoy in this beautiful sliver of country, it’s easy to overlook those more niche adventures. And they’re often and unexpectedly the most thrilling of them all.

Take whale watching as a prime example. Unless you’re exploring the oceans either side of Panama, it won’t be an activity that’s immediately on your radar. But make the effort to venture out to Panama’s tropical waters in search of these mammals and you might be in for one of the most memorable wildlife experiences the country has to offer. One colossal exhale and a 3ft cloud of ocean spray from a rising humpback coupled with a few breaches from the little ones in tow and you’ll question why whale watching wasn’t top of the bucket list from the get go.

Sitting on the boundary of Panama’s pristine Gulf of Chiriquí National Marine Park is Isla Palenque, one of the Cayuga Collection’s private island properties and a new member of the National Geographic Unique Lodges of the World. It’s lucky enough to be located in a major whale watching hotspot where from July to October, visitors have a golden opportunity to witness the wonder of active humpback pods and take in their playful interactions up close and personal.

Isla Palenque in Panama

This time every year, humpback whales migrate to the Gulf of Chiriquí to give birth and fatten up for the winter in the warm waters just off Isla Palenque. They’ve been summering here for centuries and once they’ve been spotted for the first time (usually around July), they’re seen on a daily basis around the Gulf until October. As the summer fades to fall, the new-born humpbacks slowly but surely become more self-assured, breaching higher and becoming braver until they are strong enough to return north to face the cold hard realities of winter far from Isla Palenque’s tropical shores.

“That is one of the reasons I chose to develop an eco-resort in Chiriquí,” says Ben Loomis, Isla Palenque’s owner, “because of the limitless experiences this area offers nature enthusiasts. This time of year, spotting multiple breaching whales is nearly guaranteed on a whale-watching trip in the Gulf of Chiriquí. It’s no wonder that it’s getting more recognition for being one of the best whale-watching spots in the world.”

So how can you experience the great humpback spectacle?

Head out on dedicated naturalist-led whale watching tours at Isla Palenque, taking you within mere feet of entire pods. Alternatively, you can leave it to chance.  Much to the delight of many, it so often happens at Isla Palenque that these friendly giants appear boat-side without anyone actively looking for them. You could be on you way to the far-flung Isla San José for a romantic picnic on the beach, or island hopping around the areas’ oceanic garden, and out of the blue, the flick of a tail, or the spray of a blowhole! And of course the thrilling sense of wonder that accompanies it.

A 400-Acre, Luxury Island Resort in Panama

Whether you’re planning to stay beached or use Isla Palenque as a jumping off point for the best whale watching in Panama and other awe-inspiring aquatic adventures, our Travel Advisors can help you plan your ideal itinerary. Chat to us or reach out via email at

Visiting Costa Rica instead? You’ll also find world class whale watching on the Central Pacific Coast in Uvita. See them from the breezy heights of Kurà, the Cayuga Collection’s adults only ultra-luxe Uvita resort, or from Arenas Del Mar Beachfront & Rainforest Resort an hour north in Manuel Antonio. For more information, chat to us or drop us an email at

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