Panama’s 5 National Parks Worth Visiting

National Parks and Protected Areas in Panama

Despite its relatively small size, the territory of Panama is densely covered by protected areas. The ancient fauna of the country is considered one of the most diverse on the continent and there are over 1300 species of plants and the mountain forests of Panama are considered to be the last refuge of the rarest relict species. The Antin Valley (El Valle de Antin, 120 km west of Panama City) is widely known for its orchids and the botanical gardens of El Nespero as well as its unique treetop hiking trails – there are special platforms in the crowns which can be hiked over without disturbing the locals. Trips to the famous Tropical Research Institute on Barro Colorado Island, with its Tropical Research Laboratory, are so popular that you need to reserve a tour there at least a month in advance.

Birdwatchers will also not be disappointed in Panama – there are about 950 species of birds and the country is deservedly considered one of the best places on the planet for bird watching. National Park Soberania (220 square kilometers), lying 40 km north of Panama City, is considered one of the richest places on Earth in terms of the species diversity of birds – there are about 200 species of them. It is also home to the last population of harpy eagles in the country (Audubon-Sisayeti has been awarding the park first place in the world for bird species diversity for 19 years).

El Vaie de Anton is one of the most famous nature reserves of the country. It is located in the crater of an extinct volcano almost 5 km in diameter (the second largest in the world) at an altitude of 600 m above sea level. The reserve protects a unique ecosystem of humid mountain forest, with its magnificent orchids and golden frogs (a national symbol of Panama). The Metropolitano National Park (8 km from Panama City) is not only famous for its biodiversity, but it also offers an observation deck with a beautiful view of the Panama Canal and Orchid Green House Orchid Park.

Also noteworthy are the Camino de Cruces National Park, linking Soberania and the Metropolitan Natural Park, Portobelo National Park with its rich rainforest, Altos de Campaña National Park west of Panama City, protecting one of the oldest mountain rainforests in Central America, La Amistad International Ecological Park (lies between Panama and Costa Rica), Volcan Baru National Park, where you can see the magnificent Quetzal bird, Bastimientos Island National Marine Park, Bastiientos Island National Marine Park, protecting endangered sea turtles, famous for its marine mammals, Coyba Island National Park, the second largest island in the eastern Pacific, Cerro Joya National Park on the southern tip of the Azuero Peninsula, Sarigua National Park with its archaeological sites, UNESCO Biosphere Reserve Darien National Park with its more than three hundred species of birds and colorful Indian tribes, the Punta Patico Private Reserve, and the rainforest on Barro Colorado Island in the Panama Canal.

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Testimonials and travel stories

Mountains, pines and chickens at El Valle de Anton

The main thing I knew about El Valle de Anton is that there are trees that are square in section. We spent the whole day there and saw a lot, but we never got to those trees Read more →

La Amistad National Park

La Amistad International Park occupies a significant percentage of the territory of the two countries of Costa Rica and Panama. The park stretches across the borders of Panama and Costa Rica, from the coral reefs of the Caribbean Sea to the peaks of the Talamanca Range. La Amistad National Park, which means “Friendship” in Spanish, is part of a joint Central American project to create one continuous forest corridor from Mexico to Panama in an effort to preserve a region where 80 percent of the natural habitat has been destroyed. Read more →

Top 22 best attractions in Panama

Panama is an attractive Central American country, washed by the Caribbean Sea on one side and the Pacific Ocean on the other. Almost all of its territory is covered by a chain of mountain peaks, surrounded by coastal lowlands with fantastic beaches. The state also includes several islands, one of which is a pearl mine.

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Who goes to Panama and why?

Most tourists associate Panama with a canal of the same name. In fact, the tourist potential of the country is impressive. Lovers of unusual architecture will appreciate Panama City because of its bold projects and unusual solutions.

Due to the fact that the state is located in a zone of humid equatorial forests, people have not affected the state of local nature. These areas are home to 220 species of mammals, 978 varieties of birds, hundreds of species of insects and reptiles, and tens of thousands of plant species.

To get acquainted with the native inhabitants of the country, it is enough to take a canoe trip on the Chagres River. In the jungle are built thatched houses of the Embera tribe, the indigenous people of Panama. To see the traditions of their life will be very interesting.

And surfers should stop by Santa Catalina to enjoy first class waves. The waves reach their maximum in February and March.

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Of course, one of the reasons to visit the country are the colorful holidays. And no matter when a tourist comes to Panama, he can always witness colorful events.

Architectural Sights of Panama

Panama City

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Panama City is a true cluster of architectural sights in the country. You can walk along Balboa Boulevard, go to the National Theater and San Jose Church, the fortress of Las Boevdas, which was built to protect gold and silver from pirates and is now used as an art gallery. A monument to the national hero Simon Bolivar has also been erected here.

Panama Viejo

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This town was built back in 1517 and is now part of Panama City. The inhabitants were regularly forced to defend themselves against Indians and pirates, but in 1671 another invasion left their dwelling in ruins. Now every tourist can see the ancient architecture of Panama Viejo.

Bridge of the Americas

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It is the first undivided bridge between the north and the south of America. In 2004 work was carried out on its expansion, as a result of which the structure can pass about 35,000 vehicles per day. The bridge looks incredible in the evening hours when it is illuminated.

Museums and Galleries

Panama City Biomuseum

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In 2014, the Biomuseum opened in the suburbs of Panama City. Popular architect Frank Gehry was responsible for the project. The 4,000-square-meter building is bright and eye-catching.

The museum has beautiful natural history exhibits. The most interesting is the room with 12 screens, creating an effect of immersion in nature. They are placed not only on the sides of the visitor, but also under his feet and over his head. Monkeys jump in front of tourists, sharks swim under them. And how the heart sinks from the recreated storm!

Museum of Sacred Art

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This museum was erected on the site of an old chapel that was destroyed by fire, like most colonial-era structures. The restoration of the building in 1974 made it possible to recreate its original image. Nearby are the ruins of the monastery of Santo Domingo.

The Museum of Sacred Art exhibits religious heritage objects from the colonial era and personal belongings of religious figures, ministers and their family members. The exhibits date back to the 16th and 18th centuries.

What attracts the most attention is the eighteenth-century altar made of gold. The legend says that the old priest painted the altar black so pirates would not steal it. In addition to the regular display, temporary exhibitions are also held here.

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Panama Canal Museum

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The museum was founded as a non-profit public organization. Since 1997 its doors are open to travelers who want to know the details of the construction of the canal.

The museum occupies three floors with various posters, stretchers, photographs, sketches, etc. One of the rooms shows a film made on the bow of the ship. Other rooms show the life and equipment of the construction period: workers’ clothes, tools, telephones. Here you can even see samples of soil.

Art Gallery Diablo Rosso

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The gallery was founded in 2006 and is an experimental project that helps young artists to show their work to the world. The founders of the gallery try to encourage their unusual perspective on art and develop young talents.

Diablo Rosso is a multifunctional and innovative center that includes an exhibition hall and a concept store. It organizes exhibitions, film screenings, lectures and workshops. The store sells items and clothes from young designers.

Weil Gallery

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The gallery’s motto is “Art as the fuel of life.” Superb paintings and sculptures, artisan works by local and international specialists are exhibited here. It is the only art auction house in the country. The owner of the institution puts his heart and soul into the work, sourcing pieces from around the world.

Marion Gallery.

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The institution is dedicated to developing new types of contemporary art. The gallery includes three large halls. Characteristic of the Marion is the Carlos Cruz-Diz exhibit, presented on a regular basis. His plastic works surprise with a play of colors that deceives the eyes of the ordinary viewer. In this way, visitors are invited to look at art from a new angle.

Interesting Places

Boquete Town

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The mountain town of Boquete is located in the foothills of the volcano Baru. This place is considered a paradise because of its pleasant climate and scenic views. In Boquete you can taste the most delicious coffee in the world, including expensive varieties such as Geisha for $ 1600 per kilogram or 40 per cup. Older people love this city for its ecology and good living conditions.

Mercado de Abatos

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It is a farmer’s market that sells almost everything from beans and coffee, to aromatic herbs, fruits, vegetables, and ready-to-eat foods. All products are quality, fresh and tasty. Onions, pineapples, avocados, mangoes, and peppers are fairly cheap at the market. Travelers often come here to try the local street food, experience the color of the market, and buy souvenirs.

Azuero Peninsula

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This place is considered the soul of Panamanian culture. There are many farms and ranches here that were not affected by the Spanish colonizers. Incredible scenery of hills, quiet and calm beaches, and the soothing sound of waves. Here you can forget about the outside world and be alone with yourself.

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The culture of Spain still left a mark on the local architecture. Buildings in the colonial style look curious. On the peninsula are often organized noisy parties. And surfers are advised to visit the Venao beach.

Fish Market

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This is the best place to try traditional Panamanian dishes. It is worth wandering the aisles first to get a sense of the inexpressible atmosphere. And the prices of the gourmet seafood here don’t sting, on the contrary.

All the products are of unbelievable quality and always fresh. After examining the goods, you can go up to the second floor, where the restaurant row is located.

La Loma Chocolate Farm

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Chocolate farm is just an incredible place, cut off from civilization and without electricity. It is located on a remote island called Bastimentos (Bocas de Toro archipelago). Travelers will be told and shown how chocolate is grown and produced, and will be given the opportunity to taste the fruit of cacao beans at any time of the year.

Bastimentos also allows walks through the mangroves that descend to the beaches. The mysterious semi-submerged Nivida Cave, under the arches of which you can swim, attracts the attention of intrepid tourists.

Souvenir market

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Every trip you want to bring nice gifts for friends and relatives and to take something for your memory. The choice of goods at the souvenir market is amazing. For example, you can buy a molasses, a woven blanket, embroidered by local craftsmen.

These blankets depict abstract patterns or pictures of nature. The product is durable and sturdy, so this textile is very popular among tourists.

Natural attractions and islands

San Blas

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This is a tropical archipelago, which includes a huge number of islands with white sand and clear water. The locals call San Blas “Guna Yala,” the name of the Amerindian people living there. The islands are arranged in groups and individually, and bamboo houses are built on them. The inhabitants of the archipelago are engaged in fishing and raising pets. By the way, the natives love to host tourists.

San Blas – a great place to relax in a hammock between the palm trees. You can lay like that all day, enjoying the scenery and drinking coconut milk.

Ancolahill

ankolahil

The hill is 360 meters high and is considered a historical treasure of the country. The land on it used to belong to the authorities of America, and only in the eighties it passed to the rightful owner. Now the flag of Panama flies on Ancolahill. It is the only high point around the capital, and the view from the hill is breathtaking.

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Baru Volcano

vulcan baru

The volcano is located in the national park of the same name in the province of Chiriqui, near the Talamanca mountain range. Baru is considered the highest point of the country and reaches 3.4 thousand meters. The volcano is popular for its therapeutic thermal waters, so tourists from all over Central America come here – for recreation and recovery. Also, climbers and mountaineers will appreciate this place.

There are trails along the slopes of Baru to watch the beautiful quetzal bird, exotic orchids, tapirs, and other representatives of the local wildlife. The volcano looks beautiful at dawn. It’s not easy to get up there, but the sight is definitely worth the effort.

Contadora Island

kontadora

The island is located 50 kilometers off the Panamanian coast in the Pacific Ocean and is included in the Pearl Archipelago. Travelers consider it a paradise, because there are beautiful sandy beaches and the water has an amazing shade of turquoise. Contadora Island has Panama’s only nudist beach.

Panama’s National Parks

Chagres

chagres

This reserve was created to protect the ecosystem of the river of the same name providing drinking water for Panama’s capital city. Recreation conditions for tourists are well organized: you can go water-skiing or scootering, fishing, live under the open sky of the rainforest. There is a unique opportunity to buy goods of local artisans.

Koiba

koiba

This park is rightly considered one of the most beautiful places in the country. Here you can see marine life: dolphins, coral reefs, and bright tropical fish swimming among actinia and algae. In the local waters it is easy to meet a hammerhead fish or even a whale shark.

The national park has excellent beaches. Coiba is an archipelago of 38 islands in the Gulf of Chiriqui. The park is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is one of the main natural attractions of Panama. What is interesting, there are not many tourists on Coiba, so the infrastructure is not much developed and the park has kept almost pristine condition.

Gathering

nac park soberania

Half an hour from Panama City and you’re in a national park where you can watch birds and animals. The park runs along much of the Isthmus, passing along Lake Gatun and reaching Paraiso.

Sobrania is considered the most accessible rainforest in the country. There are several trails formed for tourists, along which people encounter sloths, black howler monkeys, and monkeys. There are also more than five hundred species of birds from toucans to tanagers.

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