- 1 Park information
- 2 Biodiversity
- 3 Tourist Attractions
- 4 Human Impact and Conservation
- 5 Practical Information for Visitors
- 6 Photo Gallery
In the Pacific of Panama, the Gulf of Chiriquí National Marine Park (in Spanish: Parque Nacional Marino Golfo de Chiriquí) stands as a captivating destination, full of incredible natural treasures that capture the pure essence of biodiversity. This marine national park invites you to immerse yourself in its fascinating underwater world and to explore the pristine islands that are scattered in the serenity of the Pacific blue.
The Gulf of Chiriquí National Marine Park is located in the province of Chiriquí, on the western coast of Panama. It extends over 150 km², covering about 14,470 hectares of marine surface and includes several islands and islets. Its geographical coordinates are: 7°19′28″N 81°48′00″W / 7.32444444, -81.8.
Established on August 2, 1994, this park has been safeguarding the marine and terrestrial biodiversity of the region, providing a secure sanctuary for numerous species. Its roots lie in the concern of various groups to establish a protected area for marine ecosystems in the Archipelago of Islas Paridas, including several islands such as Parida, Paridita, Tintorera, Santa Catalina, Obispone, Los Pargos, Corral de Piedra, Saíno, Carey Macho, Carey Hembra, and San José, among others.
The history of the park dates back to the need to preserve the valuable marine ecosystems present in this area, including mangroves, seagrasses, and coral reefs. Various groups and organizations joined forces to promote the creation of a protected area that would safeguard the rich biodiversity and fragile ecosystems present in the Gulf of Chiriquí.
Thanks to conservation efforts, the Gulf of Chiriquí National Marine Park has played a crucial role in protecting marine ecosystems and promoting sustainable tourism in the region. Through management and administration by the Ministry of Environment of Panama, work has been done to conserve these valuable natural resources for present and future generations.
The climate is tropical, with an average annual temperature of 27°C. The park’s geography is characterized by the diversity of islands and islets and the vibrant coral reefs.
The geography of the Gulf of Chiriquí National Marine Park is characterized by its beauty and diversity. The park extends across the Gulf of Chiriquí, on the western coast of Panama, covering a wide area of ocean and various islands and islets. These islands, such as Parida, Paridita, and others, are part of the archipelago that makes up the park. Vibrant coral reefs, mangroves, and tropical forests intertwine in this region, creating a fascinating marine and terrestrial landscape rich in biodiversity.
Flora and Fauna
The park is home to abundant biodiversity, including a wide variety of marine species such as turtles, dolphins, and whales. On land, a variety of bird and mammal species can be found, with notable examples including the Scarlet Macaw (Amazona autumnalis), a bird that inhabits forests and semi-open areas with tall trees, the Plain Pigeon (Columba cayennensis or Patagioenas cayennensis), the Brown-throated Parakeet (Eupsittula pertinax), Green Iguana (Iguana iguana), the Green and Black Poison Dart Frog (Dendrobates auratus), and the incredible Leatherback Turtle (Dermochelys coriacea), among others.
In the Gulf of Chiriquí, there are unique endemic species that are not found anywhere else in the world. Among these species are the Gulf Snapper (Lutjanus panamensis), a characteristic fish of the region, as well as endemic corals and marine anemones exclusive to this ecosystem. The presence of these endemic species underscores the importance of conserving and protecting the park’s biodiversity to ensure the survival of these unique species.
Among the endangered species according to the IUCN list are the Hawksbill Turtle (Eretmochelys imbricata), Great Hammerhead Shark (Sphyrna mokarran), and the Mantled Howler Monkey (Alouatta palliata), with this platyrrhine primate being one of the iconic species of the park.
The park serves as a refuge for several threatened species, such as the hawksbill turtle and the green turtle, and plays a crucial role in their conservation.
The park stands out for its impressive diversity of corals, which is one of the major attractions for divers and marine biologists.
Marine and Terrestrial Ecosystems
The park’s marine and terrestrial ecosystems are intricately intertwined, with tropical forests meeting mangroves and coral reefs, creating a truly diverse landscape.
Diving and Snorkeling Activities
With its rich marine life and colorful coral reefs, the park offers excellent opportunities for diving and snorkeling. Here, you can swim alongside turtles, dolphins, and a variety of tropical fish.
Kayak excursions are another excellent way to explore the park, allowing you to navigate through crystal-clear waters and discover uninhabited islands and beautiful mangroves.
Whether on land or at sea, the park offers incredible opportunities for wildlife observation, from dolphins and whales in the sea to birds and mammals on the islands.
Exploring the islands is a must-do activity during your visit. Each island offers something unique, from pristine white sand beaches to vibrant tropical forests teeming with life. Among these islands is the beautiful Boca Brava Island, which captivates with its untouched white sandy beaches and crystal-clear waters, where you can relax and enjoy the natural surroundings. Additionally, you can venture into its lush tropical forests and marvel at the diversity of wildlife that inhabits them. Exploring these islands will allow you to immerse yourself in the beauty and tranquility of this natural paradise.
Human Impact and Conservation
Environmental Challenges and Threats
Despite its protection, the park faces several challenges, including illegal fishing and climate change. These threaten the park’s biodiversity and its fragile marine ecosystems.
Conservation and Restoration Efforts
The park is at the center of various conservation efforts, including the protection of threatened species and coral restoration. The involvement of the local community and visitors is crucial in these efforts.
Visitors must remember that their behavior has a direct impact on the health of the park’s ecosystems. Therefore, it is essential to follow park rules and minimize the impact on nature.
Practical Information for Visitors
How to Get There
There are different ways to access the Gulf of Chiriquí National Marine Park. If you prefer to travel by car from Panama City, the journey takes approximately six and a half hours. You should follow the Pan-American Highway and then take exit 407, where you’ll continue for about two more hours on a more local road. Although the road might seem like a small-town road, keep going and don’t worry, you haven’t gotten lost. In total, it’s around a 420 km journey.
Another option is to take a flight from Panama City to David Airport (DAV). From David Airport, you’ll be very close to the park and can arrange additional transportation to the area. There are regular boat services from Boca Chica and Pedregal.
Whether by car or by plane, you’ll be able to reach the region and enjoy its natural wonders.
Best Time to Visit
The best time to visit is during the dry season, from December to April. However, the park offers unique beauty year-round.
Rules and Regulations
The park’s rules and regulations are designed to protect its fragile ecosystem. It’s essential to respect them to ensure the park’s conservation for future generations.
Accommodation and Services
There are several accommodation options near the Gulf of Chiriquí National Marine Park, ranging from luxury hotels and resorts to simpler cabins and campsites. Additionally, in the vicinity of the park, you’ll find services such as restaurants, dive shops, and tour agencies that can help you plan and enjoy your visit.