Coiba National Park is a tourist site of great importance in Panama. With 270,000 hectares, this exciting destination is located off the Pacific Ocean coast of Veraguas within the Gulf of Chiriqui. In 2005 it was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO for its reserve of enormous natural resources that protects coastal, island and marine ecosystems.
Coiba Island was Formed as Part of Galapagos Island
Coiba Island (the largest and most important in the park) is part of the underwater mountain range of Cocos plate. It was formed thousands of years ago as part of the Galapagos Islands, before the tectonic plates of today’s Coiba Island moved north. This geographical location also determined that many of the species that live in this sector are endemic. About 10 subspecies of birds only exist in Coiba.
From Penal Colony to Natural Paradise
One of the factors that allowed Isla Coiba to preserve its natural wealth was the maximum security penal colony that was established from 1919 to 2004. While all this was happening, the splendor of the flora and fauna of this island developed. Although a subsistence agriculture and livestock system was established, 80% of the island’s forest remained intact.
World Capital of Marine and Natural Life
The flora and fauna of Coiba National Park is unique in the world. Currently, more than 1000 species of vascular plants, 224 species of terrestrial vertebrates and approximately 2000 marine species have been identified, of which a great variety are endemic.
Under its waters live migratory humpback whales, sharks (including the whale shark), turtles and countless marine creatures. The coral reefs surrounding Coiba Island are the second largest on the entire American Pacific coast. This makes snorkeling and diving an experience like no other.
Likewise, Coiba National Park is also the nesting point of one of the three species of sea turtles, and a refuge for the scarlet macaw, the crested eagle, the howler monkey, the white-faced monkey and the white-tailed deer.
The Coiba National Park is full of activities to enjoy. Coiba Island has beaches with beautiful sand and transparent waters, such as Playa Damas and Playa Blanca. Likewise, there are impressive beaches on the Granito de Oro and Rancheria islands, among others.
World Class Diving
Thanks to the richness of its seabed, Coiba is a world-class destination for this sport. It has 31 authorized sites for sustainable underwater diving on the islands Jicaron, Jicarita, Canal de Afuera, Contreras, Rancheria, Granito de Oro, Gambute, Punta Cirilo and Punta Playa Hermosa.
The park’s location is in the same corridor as the Galapagos, allowing access to the largest reef on the western coast of the American continent. Diving into its waters, it is a true spectacle to marvel at manta rays, whales, hammerhead sharks and an incredible variety of fish. Of course, between December and April it is possible to see one of the largest fish in the world, the whale shark.
Activities on the Islands
Hiking is one of the options for activities to do on Coiba Island, since it has 2 viewpoints. One of these is Cerro Gambute and another is Cerro de La Torre. The Monkey Trail is a highly requested option, in addition to the marine trail of the Boca Grande estuary.