The humpback whale is a mammal that continually moves us to marvel. Not only for its massive size, but for its tenacity to undertake one of the longest migratory journeys of any mammal on earth; making its annual journey to feed near the poles to its breeding grounds in the tropics. They can be found at different times throughout the year in all of the world's oceans but one of the best places to witness the culmination of their mighty journey is off the shores of Panama.
As winter in Antarctica sets in, humpback whales from the southern hemisphere begin an annual migratory route to their breeding and calving grounds in the warmer tropical waters of the Pacific, traveling up to 5,000 miles. Arriving off the shores of Panama from July through September, up to 2,000 humpback whales breed and give birth to their calves in the warm shallow waters just a few miles off-shore from Panama City and along the entire Pacific coast. Panama and Costa Rica are also the only places in the world where humpback whales from both hemispheres can be seen, although northern hemisphere humpbacks come from Dec-March in much smaller numbers (around 300).
WHERE TO SEE THEM:
For a day excursion from Panama City, Las Perlas archipelago, located about 35 miles from the Panama Canal´s southern entrance is the best bet. For an extended stay and more of a chance to enjoy them, the best places to go are in the Darien Provence, Pearl Islands, Azuero Peninsula, Gulf of Chiriqui (we recommend a stay at Cala Mia, or Isla Palenque), Islas Secas, or Coiba National Park. Along with a 99% chance of seeing whales, you'll also likely see resident pods of spotted dolphins, Pacific bottle-nose dolphins, short-beaked common dolphins, spinner dolphins and more.
The peak Panama travel period is December through April, when travelers want to escape the cold winters in North America and when average rainfall throughout the country is low and migrant bird populations are highest. But many others who prefer to travel in Panama during the off-peak "green season" (May - November) will appreciate natural areas more to themselves, lush vegetation, better choice of guides and accommodations, low season rates, greater variety of blooming orchids and flowers and other benefits such as much better chances of seeing humpback whales. During the green season, rain typically falls for a few hours in the afternoon or at night and rarely disrupts the adventures of the day.
The increasing number of adventure travelers to Panama during the green season have made it a year round destination and we can help you travel to Panama any time of year based on a well planned itinerary. If you're interested in seeing whales check out our trips to Panama or contact Grettel Calderon at 800-345-4453.
Want to see these same whales in a very different setting? Watch this video from our alumni travelers in Antarctica.