Coiba National Park - Panama
You should contact Coiba Tours from Santa Catalina in advance as they easily get full. However, if you show up on the beach around 8am and ask around, there is always the chance you can get a space. Alternatively, you could ask a local boat driver to agree to take you.
Coiba National Park is Best For
Directions to Coiba National Park
Coiba National Park is an archipelago of 38 islands located on the Pacific Coast of the Veraguas province in the Gulf of Chiriqui. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site as of 2005 due to 430,000 acres of rich and well preserved natural resources; 80% of which are completely untouched.
The main island in the park, and the reason why the park took its name, is Coiba Island. This island is the biggest in Panama (432km2) and is one of the country's main touristic destinations. Coiba Island was once a prison and it is believed that this is the reason why it is so well preserved, as its access was very restricted in the past.
This island offers beautiful virgin rainforest with a number of rivers draining to the ocean, multiple mammal species like howler monkeys and white-tailed deer, 97 bird species (out of 147 in the park) including the crested eagle, scarlet macaws and the Coiba spinetail and four turtle species: leatherback, hawksbill, olive and loggerhead.
Other islands in the park include: Granito de Oro, Jicaron, Brincaco, Uva, Rancheria, Canal de Afuera, Jicanita, Pajeros, Afuera, Montuosa and 28 smaller islets.
Granito de Oro has been catalogued as one of the top 10 diving destinations in the world due to its beautiful crystal clear waters and its marine life diversity. It is popularly known as the aquarium of Coiba and offers easy access to turtles, eels and multiple fish species. You don't even need to go that deep; this makes it a perfect stop for snorkelers as well.
It's worth mentioning that Jicaron, the second largest island on the park, is also great for scuba diving and snorkeling due to its great variety of fish and sea life including rays, sharks, marlins, dolphins, orcas, humpback and pilot whales. If you prefer not to get in the water here, a boat can be arranged to visit and also witness these beautiful species when they come to surface (dolphins and whales). You can also find beaches for swimming and relaxing all over the park.
Fishing is another very popular activity in this paradise. In the national park waters you can find year-round fishing challenges such as amberjack, blue and black marlins, dorado, grouper, rooster fish, pacific sailfish, cubera snapper, yellow fin tuna and wahoo. However, it is important to know that if you want to fish within the immediate area of the park, a fishing permit of USD 50 per boat per week is required and the fish need to be released. If you go farther, around Montuosa Island and Hannibal Bank, no permit is required and the fishes can be kept.
If you go to Coiba for the day you should bring your own snacks and drinks from Santa Catalina because you wont find any shops.
A special Permit issued by ANAM (National Authority for the Environment) is required if you wish to stay on Coiba Island. Get in touch with them on +507-998 0615 or use a tour operator who can arrange this for you.