Declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2005, Coiba Marine Park is a marine reserve located off of Panama’s Pacific coast in the Gulf of Chiriquí. Once a penal colony, access to the island was historically limited, allowing much of the area’s natural resources to survive untouched. Today, the marine park boasts some of the greatest biological diversity in the world.
Coiba is a world-class diving destination on the same corridor as the Galapagos Islands, offering access to Bahia Damas Reef, the largest reef on the western coastline of the American continent. A dive there means you’ll have the chance to see manta rays, whales and hammerhead sharks. If you come between December and April, you might just see some of the biggest fish in the ocean, the whale sharks!
Not into diving? You can still experience the local wildlife by taking a whale watching tour, or a hike through the island’s untouched rainforest. Look out for over 147 bird species, as well as monkeys, crocodiles and iguanas. And, if surfing’s your thing, you’ve come to the right place. Coiba’s surrounding beaches offer some of the best, most consistent waves in Central America.
To access the park, you’ll need a permit, which can be obtained with the assistance of tour operators offering fishing, diving and ecotours. The island can be accessed by boat from several locations in Panama, but the quickest trip is an hour and fifteen minute boat ride from Santa Catalina in Veraguas.