Learn about the plants and animals of Panama at Soberanía National Park, a tropical forest just 20 minutes outside of Panama City. Located on the east side of the Panama Canal and forming part of its water basin, this is one of the most accessible of the country’s protected parks, with almost 55,000 acres of forest to explore.
Declared a protected area in 1980, there are some 1,300 plant species, 79 reptile and 55 amphibian species in the park. Among the 105 mammal species are monkeys and tamarins, sloths and anteaters, which are often spotted by visitors.
In addition to the site’s fishing activities, eco-studies and hiking, it’s also one of the best bird-watching areas of Central America, as bird-watchers come from all over to spot some of the 525 known species. The Rainforest Discovery Center has an observation tower for visitors to look out from, but for a more active route, hike along the Pipeline Road to spot birds.
The long Las Cruces Trail (Camino de Cruces) crosses the park from east to west, uniting the Atlantic and Pacific, and was used by the Spaniards to transport merchandise and treasure from South America. The original cobblestone that was laid 600 years ago can still be seen here.
The park is located a 30-minute drive away from Panama City, at the intersection of Avenida Gaillard and the entrance of Gamboa. It is open daily from 8am to 4pm, and admission costs $5 for foreigners. The area also has eco-lodges, and although camping is allowed, here are no established sites.