Carnival from an Expat’s perspective

Last week Carnival took over the streets of Panama. While most try to avoid this Panamanian holiday, Coronado resident Steve Most and friends went right to the action!

Here’s what Steve has to say about his Carnival 2019 experiences in the towns of Penonome & Las Tablas. 

While parades were taking place all over Panama on opening day of Carnival, one parade that took place just an hour from Coronado was truly unique. Penenome is the only place where the parade takes place on water. Floats literally float, down their river! Carnival in the river is a nice change from the typical celebration that involves crowded streets, and the heat of the town center. 

Awaiting the parade, time passed quickly as the crowds enjoyed the refreshing water, swimming and playing in the river. waiting. Things that remain the same include, loud music, grilled meats, and beer! 

The first day of Carnival always takes place on the Saturday, and the parade begins at 4 PM at the Balneario las Mendozas. A handicap pass will allow you to park on site, but otherwise it is a 15-minute walk from town where the main celebration is in full swing. 

From 4-5 pm the 6 -7 floats are gently guided past the crowds and brought to the main stage when the princesses and queen are escorted to an upper area to wave at their adoring crowds. Live music, and performers entertain. Carnival in Penonome is truly a one of a kind of event, that you might want to consider checking out next year! 


While Penonome offers a calm approach to Carnival, Las Tables on the other hand, the Panamanian mecca for Carnival, was anything but!  Packed streets, dozens of water trucks hosing everyone down, loud music from everywhere and of course beer and street food are all plentiful. Get there early (10:00 a.m. - 11 a.m.) as it can take a while just to enter after having ID checked. You will also be personally searched upon entering. Coolers are free to bring in and many do. It is much hotter in Las Tables than the Coronado beach area. Dress in less, bring lots of sunscreen and a hat, and prepare to be packed in with all the locals that are there to party! 

Floats are slowly towed down through the streets followed by bands all day long. And the Floats, WOW. The costumes are incredible and like nowhere else in Panama. But be aware that the packed streets will part to allow the floats through and that means than everyone is squished to the sides. Not sure how it is possible to move that many to the curbs, but it happens. 

The daytime events break at about 4:00 p.m.; they make everyone leave so they can clean the streets of tons of trash. Nighttime partying begins again around 10:00 p.m. and goes all night. If you have the stamina and can deal with crowds, it is really something to experience.