Located just off the coast of Panama’s Chiriquí Province, the Gulf of Chiriquí is an unspoiled paradise, comprising two national parks and dozens of islands surrounded by crystal waters and thriving coral formations. Protected from overdevelopment by the environmental group ANCON, the lush jungles on its islands and year round temperate waters are home to a plethora of exotic wildlife and marine life including sea turtles, dolphins, hammerhead sharks and stingrays. Proving to be a perfect destination for outdoor enthusiasts, the Gulf rivals the Pacific coasts of Central America and Mexico for top-notch snorkelling, scuba diving, sport fishing and yachting.
Three not-to-miss spots in the Gulf:
Boca Chica – This private reserve on the mainland borders the sparkling waters of the Gulf, offering pristine ocean views, lush vegetation and swaying palms. An unexplored gem of Panama, the town has sparked the interest of tourists offering attractive lodging options from an eco-boutique hotel to a fishing lodge. The waters offer world-class fishing, diving and snorkelling. Serving as the main departure point for the islands in the gulf, water taxis run from its port Pedregal to Isla Boca Brava, from which visitors can reach all of the other islands including two untouched National Parks.
Chiriquí National Marine Park – A delicate ecosystem formed of over 20 islands, vast mangrove swamps, crystal clear waters and coral reefs. This reserve allows budding biologists to explore an abundance of wildlife that call this park home. Scour beaches lined with palm trees for sea turtles and green iguanas, or take a boat ride and spot humpback whales, hammerhead sharks or dolphins, all of which are known to frequent the area.
Coiba National Marine Park – Boasting an ecosystem comparable to the Galapagos, this national park was named a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2005 and is made up of 38 islands including Isla Coiba. Because Isla Coiba once served as a Panama penal colony, access to the island was restricted and thus almost by accident, 80% of the islands natural resources have survived untouched and have continued to flourish. Today, the 500-square foot island is covered by virgin rain forests making it ideal for jungle safaris. In addition, the waters surrounding the park are famous for sightings of large blue and black marlins, sea turtles, dolphins, humpback whales, and sting rays. Tours of the preserve are available with a number of guides.