6 Stunning Sharks You’ll Find in Panama

Photo by squiddles/Flickr

I have ALWAYS wanted to visit Panama. It’s got everything:

Pristine beaches. Magical rainforests. Incredible wildlife.

And yes, that includes sharks!

Panama’s warm coastal havens are a paradise for these fascinating sea dwellers. Home to a variety of species, from the gentle whale shark to the swift hammerhead, the country offers a unique opportunity to see these magnificent animals in their natural habitat.

The Coiba National Park is an essential spot for shark enthusiasts. Here, amid the vibrant coral reefs and schools of radiant fish, you can observe these incredible predators as they glide majestically through their underwater domain.

Observing and learning about sharks in Panama doesn’t have to be scary, though. Panama has seen very few shark attacks and your odds of a dangerous encounter are extremely low. Instead, keep a curious eye out for shark species like nurse sharks, reef sharks, and even hammerheads!

Let’s learn more about some of the creatures that call Central America and the Caribbean Sea home.

6 Shark Species You’ll Find in Panama

Panama’s waters are home to a fascinating variety of shark species, each with unique behaviors and habitats. As you explore these waters, you’ll encounter everything from the gentle giants to more elusive creatures.

1. Hammerhead Sharks

Hammerhead Sharks are identifiable by their distinctive head shape, resembling a… you guessed it… hammer. They can be pretty big, up to 12 feet long or so.

In Panamanian waters, Scalloped Hammerheads (Sphyrna lewini) are common. They are generally not aggressive towards humans unless provoked.

2. Reef Sharks

By Albert kok – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0

Reef Sharks, especially the Caribbean Reef Shark (Carcharhinus perezi), are frequent residents of Panama’s coral reefs.

They are curious about humans but are considered low-risk for aggression.

3. Nurse Sharks

Public Domain

Nurse Sharks (Ginglymostoma cirratum) tend to be bottom-dwellers and are known for their docile nature.

You can often find them resting on the sandy seafloor, and they pose little threat to humans.

4. Bull Sharks

Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Bull Sharks (Carcharhinus leucas) frequent both salt and freshwater areas in Panama. They’re not the longest sharks, at around 7-11 feet long, but they are beefy and powerful.

They are known to be more aggressive and should be respected by maintaining a safe distance.

5. Whitetip Reef Sharks

By Unknown authorPublic Domain

Whitetip Reef Sharks (Triaenodon obesus) are night-time hunters and are relatively placid during the day.

They are not considered aggressive towards humans unless disturbed.

6. Tiger Sharks

By Albert kok – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0

The majestic Tiger Shark (Galeocerdo cuvier) is also found in Panama. You’ll know them from their impressive size (up to 14 feet long) and distinctive spots/stripes.

Their reputation may proceed them, but most swimmers and beach-goers shouldn’t worry.

While they are capable of aggression, unprovoked attacks on humans are rare.

Shark Attacks in Panama (Like Everywhere) Are Rare

When you’re enjoying the beautiful beaches in Panama, it’s crucial to remember that sharks are typically not interested in humans.

The International Shark Attack File (ISAF) provides historical data indicating very few reported incidents in the waters around Panama.

More specifically, they list 10 confirmed unprovoked shark attacks in Panama since 1580.

(Unprovoked would exclude accidents involving shark fishing or divers intentionally prodding the sharks.)

It’s important to follow local safety guidelines when you’re swimming or taking part in water sports like surfing and snorkeling. Respect any posted warnings at beaches, which might inform you of increased shark activity or other hazards.

And always stay in groups! Shark attacks are more likely, and more dangerous, when you’re swimming alone.

But most visitors shouldn’t worry. If you do catch sight of a shark fine, consider yourself lucky you got a chance to observe these majestic creatures.

And before you go, you might want to check out: