When you think of Panama City your mind might go straight to the canal, Bridge of the Americas, Casco Viejo, or maybe you picture yourself picking up a Panama hat. But beyond the city (and even within it in some cases) lie a number of natural areas which, in our opinion, are the city’s real treasure.
A city literally built on top of the rainforest, you don’t need to venture far to feel as though you are in the Amazon. One trip to Panama wasn’t enough for us, and we returned to experience its wealth of wildlife and nature a second time on our around the world trip with Star Alliance and Marriott TRAVELER.
The following are some sure bet destinations around Panama City where you are nearly guaranteed to get in touch with your wild side.
Monkey Island, Lake Gatun
Actually a cluster of islands, they are aptly named as we were able to see howler monkeys, capuchins, tamarins, and owl monkeys. A boat tour allows you to circle the islands and get up close and personal with this wide range of monkeys. Keep an eye out as well for crocodiles the can be found in the waters surrounding the islands.
Soberania National Park
For a true wilderness experience, Soberania NP is a hikers dream. We spent an entire day getting lost in the jungle. We witnessed toucans, sloths, agoutis, snakes, bats, and more. Although we didn’t see any jaguars it is always exciting to know they are out there.
Neither heavy rain nor a broken belt would stop us as the rainforest offered all the tools we needed. A leaf the size of an elephant’s ear sheltered us from the rain and an extremely strong piece of vine doubled as a belt to keep my pants up.
Although we could have hired a taxi to take us to the top, we opted to strap on our hiking boots and walk up ourselves. By walking up you are sure not to miss all the wildlife the surprisingly abounds on such a small area in the middle of a bustling city.
We came across two types of sloths along with many toucans. Poison dart frogs added color to the undergrowth as we walked and caracaras as well as chachalacas cried out filling the jungle with noise. We were both definitely out of breath upon reaching the top but the views of Panama city and the wildlife you are sure to encounter are well worth the effort.
Metropolitan Natural Park
A well laid out network of trails make this a popular destination for hikers and joggers. Human activity however doesn’t seem to deter the local wildlife as we came across blue morpho and owl butterflies the size of our hands, a few types of monkey, lizards, agoutis, and long trails of hard at work leaf cutter ants. This is a very accessible park with a lot to offer in terms of peace and quiet away from the city.
Just 30 miles off the coast of Panama City lie the some 200 islands that make up the Pearl Islands. Huge Survivor fans, we had to visit the islands as it hosted one of the season’s contestants.
This is a completely different world to Panama City with amazing beaches and snorkeling. Humpback whales, sea turtles, iguanas, and the comical Blue footed booby can be seen. Abundant sunshine and very minimal threat from hurricanes makes the islands all that more inviting.
Megan and Mike Jerrard were solo travelers that met and fell in love. Now, they blog about their romantic adventures together at MappingMegan.com.