Panama City’s Top 5 Outdoor & Wildlife Experiences
By: Mike Jerrard
When you think of Panama City, Panama your mind goes straight to the canal, Bridge of the Americas, Casco Viejo, and of course getting yourself a Panama hat. Beyond the city and even within the city however lies the Panama’s real treasure, its natural areas. Literally built in the rainforest, one doesn’t need to venture far to feel as though you are in the Amazon. One trip to Panama wasn’t enough for us as we returned to experience its wealth of wildlife and nature a second time. These 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 the 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 the surprising abundance of wildlife that find refuge in 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. 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 lies 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. It is a 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.