Despite its small size, Panama is one of the most biodiverse places in the world. Being smaller than Austria and Iceland, there more plant species are found in Panama than in all of Europe. Hosting tropical rainforests, cloud forests in the highlands, wetlands, mangroves and volcanic mountain ranges, Panama offers various opportunities for nature lovers.
About one third of the country consists of protected areas, with 40 national parks and protected areas officially declared for conservation, some of them within easy reach from Panama City. However, many parts of Panama are still undiscovered, making a superb base for outdoor adventures.
Unfortunately, many parts of our rich country are endangered by deforestation, building projects, environmental pollution and climate change. To protect our natural treasures, EcoCircuitos supports various conservation projects and dedicates itself to responsible tourism.
With its location on the crossroads of the Americas, the narrow Isthmus is a pathway for migrating species from North to South America. Therefore, Panama is home to an incredibly large number of different animal species and hosts species that can be found nowhere else in the world. For birdwatchers Panama is considered one of the best spots in the world, hosting over 1,000 bird species, which is more than the number of bird species in the USA and Canada combined. Some of the beautiful birds that can be found in Panama are the quetzals, Yellow-crowned Euphonia, Snowy Egret, Yellow-throated Vireo, Silver-throated Tanager, Rufous-tailed Hummingbird, Ruddy-breasted Seedeater, Keel-billed Toucan, Collared Redstart, Broad-billed Motmot and Panama’s impressive national bird: Harpy Eagle among many others.
Also for wildlife observation Panama is a unique destination, hosting 230 mammal species, like tapirs, anteaters, two- and three-toed sloths and several different types of monkeys, like the howler, the white-faced capuchin and the unique Geoffroy’s tamarin. Panama also hosts big cats, like jaguars, pumas, ocelots and margays. Although hard to spot, their footprints can easily be found when hiking through the jungle. Panama’s oceans host several tropical fish, reef sharks, whale sharks, barracudas, reys, humpback whales, bottlenose dolphins and sea turtles that can be spotted, amongst many others. Panama is also one of the only countries in Latin America, where manatees can be observed.
Panama’s reptiles feature different types of frogs, iguanas, crocodiles, basilisks and snakes; as well as a large variety amphibians and insects such as the famous Blue Morpho.
National Parks and Protected Areas
- Metropolitan Natural Park: is situated inside Panama City’s limits, being the only tropical forest in Latin America located inside a major urban center. It consists of dry lowland Pacific forests and hosts a variety of mammals and birds.
- Soberania National Park: located just under one hour outside Panama City and features several accessible trails. It is a birdwatcher paradise and holds the world record of bird counts, with 385 species identified within 24 hours.
- Barro Colorado Island: is a rainforest-covered island in the Panama Canal, hosting the Smithsonian biological research center, famous for its large number of monkey species.
- Chagres National Park: is a large national park close to Panama City, hosting several different wildlife species and indigenous communities that can be visited from the city during a day trip.
- Omar Torrijos National Park (El Cope): in the Cocle Province is difficult to access, but hosts diverse species in its beautiful cloud forest. It offers prime birdwatching and the possibility to view both oceans.
- Iguana Island Wildlife Refuge: in Azuero is a protected area with pristine beaches, rich marine wildlife, humpback whales and, like the name suggests, iguanas.
- Coiba National Park: protects the famous Coiba Island and 38 smaller surrounding islands. This area is a biological hotspot, hosting humpback whales, various marine species, coral reefs and a large area of neighboring tropical forests.
- Cerro Hoya National Park: is one of the hardest accessible and least developed national parks in Panama and protects one of the last remaining dry tropical forests on Azuero.
- In the province of Chiriqui, the hosts Gulf of Chiriqui National Marine Park host pristine white-sanded islands, whale watching opportunities and coral reefs waiting to be discovered.
- Baru Volcano National Park protects the highland area surrounding Panama’s only volcano, Baru and hosts part of the scenic Los Quetzales Trail which is famous for birdwatchers.
- La Amistad International Park: shared with Costa Rica hosts indigenous groups, pristine wildlife and tropical rainforests.
- The Darien National Park: is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is one of the richest and biologically diverse areas in Panama.