With two long stretches of coast, in oceans with completely different conditions, there are a lot of excellent and diverse options for snorkeling in Panama.
If you are looking for something near Panama City, you can head about an hour up to the Colon province and snorkel near where the infamous pirate Francis Drake was rumored to have been buried in a lead coffin!
If you are visiting the San Blas islands, your lodging may have already included a snorkeling excursion. If not, it is easy and affordable to add a half or full day snorkeling trip to your booking – just talk to your hosts and they will arrange the boat and provide the equipment. The waters here are absolutely perfect, as they are totally clear and calm. There is also a sunken ship off the coast of one of the small islands that attracts a lot of cool fish.
Bocas del Toro is also a classic destination for snorkeling in Panama. Most hostels and hotels have connections with reliable operators and many have equipment for rent. You can go with an operator, or rent a kayak and a mask and paddle out to a few spots on your own.
Without a doubt, the best snorkeling on the Pacific side of Panama is near Coiba Island. This UNESCO World Heritage Site is home to hundreds of kinds of exotic fish. From the town of Santa Catalina, you can arrange for a boat to either take you on a day tour of Coiba that includes snorkeling, or take you to the ranger station to spend a night or two and pick you up after.
On the gulf of Chiriqui, you can see leatherback and hawksbill turtles and many species of fish, all while landing back on white sandy beaches. You can also see howler monkeys and a huge variety of exotic birds along the coast.
Some recommendations for snorkeling Panama: