Cerro Hoya National Park

In the vibrant country of Panama, located on the border between North America and South America, you’ll find one of the most cherished protected areas: the Cerro Hoya National Park (in Spanish: Parque Nacional Cerro Hoya). This natural space is a stunning backdrop of biodiversity, adventure, culture, and conservation. If you are passionate about nature and seek unforgettable experiences, you cannot miss this hidden paradise.

National Park Information

Cerro Hoya National Park

Geographical Location

Located at the southwestern tip of the Azuero Peninsula, Cerro Hoya National Park is a fascinating travel destination, secluded yet accessible, offering a close encounter with Panama’s pristine nature. It is situated in the provinces of Los Santos (La Tronosa, Guánico, El Cortezo, and Cambutal), and the Mariato district (Arenas and El Cacao), positioned at coordinates: 7°17′0″ N, 80°42′0″ W.

The area protected by the Government of the Republic of Panama encompasses part of the coastline, spanning from the mouth of the Ventana River to the mouth of the Restingue River, including Restingue islands and the surrounding continental shelf with its islets, mangroves, coral reefs, and coastal cliffs, all within an area of 333.4 km².

Park History

Cerro Hoya, with its volcanic origins, harbors the oldest rocks in the Isthmus of Panama. It was established as a reserve through Decree No. 74 on October 2, 1984.

Within this natural reserve, the sources of 10 rivers are located, including the basins of Tonosí, Guánico, Portobelo, Quebro, El Pavo, and La Playita. These watercourses play a vital role in protecting the main hydrographic basins of the Azuero Peninsula.

The first explorations in the region took place in 1981, revealing the existence of extensive cloud forest areas at altitudes above 800 meters above sea level, as well as very humid tropical forests in the coastal zone. Additionally, impressive cliffs and coral formations culminating in the Restingue islet were discovered.

Given the ecological and biological significance of this region, as well as its key role in safeguarding water resources, the decision to conserve it was made. Cerro Hoya National Park is the result of these conservation efforts, with the aim of preserving its natural wealth and ensuring its survival for future generations.

Importance of Cerro Hoya National Park for Panama

Beyond its ecological relevance, Cerro Hoya Park holds a symbolic value for Panamanians as a testament to the country’s commitment to environmental protection and the promotion of sustainable tourism.



The park is characterized by its diverse topography. The peak of Cerro Hoya, at 1,559 meters in height, is the highest point of the Azuero Peninsula, accompanied by neighboring peaks of 1,534 meters and 1,478 meters respectively. The park has a volcanic origin and is composed of the oldest rocks in the Isthmus, formed during the Upper Cretaceous and Paleocene.

The mountainous region of the park, known as the Azuero Massif, is steep in all its points. Approximately 80% of the park’s area is above 300 meters above sea level. The three highest mountains of the Azuero Massif, Cerro Hoya, which lends its name to the park and provides a breathtaking panoramic view, Moya, and Soya, with heights of 1559, 1534, and 1478 meters above sea level respectively, form the geographic heart of the park.

In the lowlands, there are hills, undulations, and sedimentary plains. Some parts of these areas have been covered by large Quaternary deposits, such as alluvial deposits from the Tonosí, Guánico, Pavón, Playita, and Varadero rivers. To the south of the park, the coastal area presents significant irregularities, and there are no coastal plains. The relief near the coast is characterized by moderately rugged hills and undulations.

The diverse topography of Cerro Hoya National Park creates a picturesque landscape and offers opportunities for outdoor activities in different environments, from mountain peaks to hills and the coast.


The park is the source of numerous hydrographic basins that play a vital role in the region’s agricultural activities. Some of the most notable rivers in the area originate in this park, including the Tonosí, Guánico, Cobachón, Punta Blanca, Sierra, Varadero, and Pavo rivers. These rivers are known for their impressive waterfalls and clear pools. These water resources not only provide scenic beauty but also hold great importance for wildlife and local communities.

Several of the rivers that flow through the park cascade down in spectacular waterfalls, offering a vital water source for the park’s fauna and a majestic sight for visitors.


Flora: Diversity and Endemic Species

This park is home to a variety of endemic plants, including numerous orchids and bromeliads. The abundant flora is a treasure trove of biodiversity, crucial for maintaining the ecological balance of the park. There are more than 30 species of endemic plants. The most common plants are espavé and mahogany.

Fauna: Diversity and Endemic Species

The protected area harbors an impressive diversity of fauna, including endangered species like the jaguar, the American lion (Felis concolor), the ocelot (Felis jaguaroundi), and the scarlet macaw. The park is also home to monkeys, three of which are only found in the Isthmus: the Coiba howler monkey, the Azuero spider monkey, and the Azuero howler monkey.

As for birds, the park is home to over 95 species of birds, some of them threatened, such as the scarlet macaw and the painted parakeet from the southern region of Azuero, as well as the osprey and the mangrove hawk.

Due to their diversity, amphibians are also important, with a wide variety including Bufonidae, Centrolenidae, Dendrobatidae, Hylidae, and Leptodactylidae. In total, there are 10 genera and 16 cataloged species.

Within the class of reptiles, various species have been found in Cerro Hoya National Park. In the order Squamata, suborder sauria, members of the families Corytophanidae, Iguanidae, Polychrotidae, Scincidae, and Teiidae have been identified. Species present include Basiliscus basiliscus, Corytophanes cristatus, Ctenosaura similis, Iguana iguana, Mabuya unimarginata, Ameiva ameiva, and Ameiva undulata, totaling 7 genera and 8 species.

In the order Squamata, suborder Serpentes, representatives from the families Boidae, Colubridae, Elapidae, and Viperidae have been recorded. Some of the present genera and species include Boa constrictor, Epicrates cenchria, Chironius grandisquamis, Clelia clelia, Drymobius margaritiferus, Imantodes cenchoa, Leptodeira annulata, Leptophis ahaetulla, Oxybelis aeneus, Oxybelis fulgidus, Pseudoboa neuwiedii, Rhinobothryum bovallii, Sibon nebulatus, Xenodon rhabdocephalus, Micrurus nigrocintus, Pelamis platurus, Bothrops asper, and Porthidium Iansbergii. In total, 17 genera with 18 species have been identified, of which 4 are venomous.

Observing these creatures in their natural habitat is an exciting and unique encounter.

Climate in Cerro Hoya

Cerro Hoya and its surrounding area fall within the humid tropical climate region. However, there are significant differences in climatic conditions between the coast and the high mountain peaks. Along the coast, average temperatures hover around 26°C, while annual precipitation reaches approximately 2,000 mm. In contrast, at the mountain peaks, average temperatures are around 20°C, and annual precipitation can reach up to 4,000 mm.

Rainy and Dry Seasons

The dry period, known as summer, extends from January to April, during which rainfall is scarce. On the other hand, the rainy season, or winter, spans from May to December and is characterized by abundant rainfall. The months of September and October usually see the highest rainfall.

Temperature variation in the park depends on altitude. In the study area, the average annual temperature varies between 20°C and 28°C. As you ascend to the mountain peaks, temperatures tend to be cooler and more pleasant.

It’s important to consider these climate variations when planning a visit to Cerro Hoya National Park. During the dry period, conditions are usually more favorable for outdoor activities. However, during the rainy season, rainfall may affect trail access and wildlife observation.

Each season offers a distinct and beautiful experience.

Best Time to Visit

The best time to visit the park is during the dry season when trails are more accessible, and wildlife observation opportunities are better.

Recommended Activities and Excursions

Hiking and Mountaineering Routes

There are numerous trails that take you through dense forests and steep mountains, providing an unparalleled opportunity for hiking and mountaineering.

Bird Watching and Wildlife Observation

With its diverse bird and wildlife population, the park is a favorite destination for bird watchers and wildlife enthusiasts.

Nature Photography

For photography enthusiasts, both within the park’s boundaries and in the surrounding region, there are stunning landscapes, captivating wildlife, and lush flora, offering endless opportunities to capture the beauty of nature.

Guides and Tour Services

Hiring Local Guides

To make the most of your visit to Cerro Hoya National Park, it’s recommended to hire the services of expert local guides. These guides have an in-depth knowledge of the park, its trails, and its fauna. They can provide valuable information and enhance your experience with their expertise.

Accommodation and Dining Options in the Surrounding Area

In the vicinity of the park, you’ll find accommodation options ranging from small hotels and rural inns to camping in designated areas. There are also local restaurants offering traditional Panamanian dishes, allowing you to enjoy delicious food while exploring the park.

Safety Tips and Preparing for Your Visit

Before your park visit, it’s important to take some precautions. Ensure you carry enough water, sunscreen, insect repellent, and suitable walking or hiking gear. It’s also advisable to inform someone about your visit plan and to stay on designated trails to ensure your safety.

Conservation and Sustainability

Role of the Park in Environmental Conservation

It plays a crucial role in conserving the unique ecosystem of the region. By protecting biodiversity and natural resources, the park contributes to preserving Panama’s natural beauty and ensuring its survival for future generations.

Current Conservation Efforts

Currently, conservation efforts are underway, including research programs, species monitoring, and environmental education. The involvement of the local community in park protection is also encouraged, and sustainable tourism is promoted as a means to support its conservation.

How Visitors Can Contribute to Park Sustainability

As a visitor, you can contribute to Cerro Hoya’s sustainability by following the guidelines set by park authorities, such as not littering, respecting the flora and fauna, and avoiding the use of products that could harm the environment. You can also support the local community by purchasing sustainable products and services and respecting local traditions and customs.

Scientific Research and Education

Ongoing Scientific Research

Currently, ongoing scientific research is being conducted to better understand the ecosystem and its biodiversity. These research efforts cover topics such as species ecology, conservation of natural resources, and the impact of climate change on the park.

Educational and Environmental Awareness Programs

In addition to research, educational and environmental awareness programs are developed to promote knowledge and respect for the park.

These programs include activities such as lectures, workshops, and guided tours, aimed at both the local community and visitors. The goal is to raise awareness about the importance of conservation and provide information about the flora, fauna, and ecosystems present in the park.

Cerro Hoya National Park in Panamanian Culture

Local Myths and Legends

Cerro Hoya National Park is infused with local myths and legends that reflect the relationship between nature and Panamanian culture. These stories convey the spiritual and symbolic significance of the park, often emphasizing the need to respect and protect the natural environment.

Festivals and Cultural Events

On special occasions, festivals and cultural events are held in and around the park. These celebrations involve music, traditional dances, and exhibitions of local crafts, providing a unique opportunity to immerse oneself in Panamanian culture and appreciate the connection between the community and its natural surroundings.

Meaning of Cerro Hoya for Panamanians

It’s considered a symbol of pride and connection to nature for Panamanians. It’s a place that represents the country’s richness and diversity, as well as the commitment to preserving its natural heritage. The park offers Panamanians the chance to connect with their natural environment, learn about conservation importance, and enjoy the wonders of their own land.

Photo Gallery