When it comes to ecotourism, Panama has learned a lot from Costa Rica, which is a good thing. Costa Rica is frequently touted as the leader in Central American ecotourism, so learning from the industry leader can only mean good things for Panama. As the link between North and South America, as well as the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans, Panama’s tourism has historically surrounded its famous canal. Now, however, ecotourists are visiting the country, well aware of the ample opportunities for activities such as birding, hiking, and wildlife spotting.
Explore the City and the Jungle
Panama Urban Adventures’ two tours, Jungle Experience and Panama Urban Adventure are two great ways to explore Panama City and the surrounding area. As a part of this local, responsible tour operator, these tours not only take visitors to the famed Panama Canal, but show you the ‘real’ Panama, in both the city and the jungle. Ecotourists will delight in the Urban Adventures tours’ ability to expose insights into urban and rural cultures, and city and village life. Visit the Gamboa Rainforest Resort and the Soberania National Park for spectacular birdwatching (according to the Audubon Society), and stop in at local communities to learn all about culture, customs, and history. These are ecotourism experiences that will stick with you for a long time after you leave Panama.
Experience the Canopy
Think of the Canopy Tower Family as what happens when eco-friendly form, function, and fun combine. The resort is composed of a tower, lodge, and B&B, as well as an adventure park, not to mention a wildlife haven; if you’re into birding, this is absolutely the place you want to be. Canopy Tower was recently named one of the top 100 birding sites in the world, and they have resort packages specifically designed for avid birdwatchers, including an all-encompassing, two-week birdwatching excursion, and packages that include stuff for history and cultural buffs too.
Fear not – if you’re not into birding, Canopy Tower has a lengthy list of alternative activities to delight all types of ecotourists. Aside from the onsite Canopy Adventure, ecotourism opportunities include horseback riding, visiting an orchid farm, cycling, hiking, mud baths and thermal pools, and an amphibian rescue centre. Canopy Tower proves just how exciting ecotourism in Panama is – there exists a wealth of experiences and activities for all levels of eco-enthusiasts.
Excitement Above Ground and Below Water
Up or down? Volcano, or underwater ecosystems? In Panama, you don’t have to choose between the two – you can do both! The Baru Volcano National Park is Panama’s only national park that is home to a volcano, and Baru happens to be a pretty magnificent volcano. Trails are available to take to the summit, which, at 3,474m high, is the highest point in Panama, and offers views of the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea. The park itself is home to a massive amount of wildlife species, including, naturally, a spectrum of birds (black-bellied hummingbird, anyone?).
Fancy going underwater? Head to the Bastimentos Island National Marine Park in the Bocas del Toro archipelago. The park has a huge mangrove zone, as well as coral reefs and sea turtle nesting beaches. The most popular area for ecotourists are the Zapatillas Cays, which allow you to snorkel and scuba dive, as well as hike in the nearby forest using guidance from park rangers.
Ecotourism in Panama
Due to its unique geography as a land bridge between two continents, Panama is home to wildlife species from both North and South America. As such, the country offers fascinating opportunities for ecotourists to marvel at both flora and fauna in a setting not found anywhere else. Ecotourism in Panama is fantastic, and it’s only a matter of time before its popularity rivals that of its neighbour, Costa Rica.
Image Credit: Billtacular – this guy has some seriously amazing photos from Panama…it was hard to pick the main image from his amazing selection!