La Amistad International Park (PILA) - Panama
This is one of the wettest areas in the country so be prepared with waterproof clothing and shoes. You should also bring your own supplies and camping gear if you are planning to spend the night.
Directions to La Amistad International Park (PILA)
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La Amistad International Park is a UNESCO World Heritage site created jointly by Panama and Costa Rica governments in order to protect several endangered species that live in the shared region that lies along the Talamanca mountain range.The park is popularly known as PILA for its spanish intials (Parque Internacional La Amistad) and it covers an area of 401,000 hectares, 207,000 of which are in the Panama side.
PILA is located along both Bocas del Toro and Chiriqui provinces and even though the majority of the area is in the Bocas del Toro side, the park is extremely difficult to access from there thus it is always visited from the Chiriqui side.
The park encompasses a beutiful area of remote wilderness, featuring most of Panama’s endangered animals including the jaguars and tapirs, more than 400 bird species, 25 reptile species and 32 amphibian species. In addition, the area is also home to members of three indigenous groups: the Naso (Teribe), the Bribri and the Ngöbe-Buglé.
PILA is also very popular for having great hikes both easy and challenging.
The most popular softer options are the following:
- Sendero Panama Verde, also known as El Puma: It is an easy 15-minute incursion into the forest.
- Sendero El Retoño (1.3 miles / 2.1 kilometers): It is a mostly leveled terrain with great scenery including a bamboo tunnel, excellent bird watching opportunities, and relatively easy jungle streams.
- Sendero La Cascada (2 miles / 3.4 kilometers): It is relatively strenuous uphill climb with nice views of the surrounding mountains, valleys, even the Caribbean on a clear day and a wonderful waterfal, for which the trail took its name(Cascada). This trail is one of the most popular trails in the park because it is well-maintained.
If you are well fitted and have an adventurous spirit looking for an extreme hiking experience, you can also find it in PILA. The options are:
- Cerro Picacho trail: A 3 ½ hour trek over challenging terrain to a height of 2,937 meters(9,635 feet) to get a magnificent view encompassing both the Pacific and the Caribbean coastlines.
- Vereda La Montaña: A 4 kilometer uphill hike through the jungle towards a mountain.
- An unmarked eight-hour hike through dense forest to reach hot springs.
It is possible to camp in the park if you want to do a multiple day hike, but make sure to talk to the park ranger for guidance.
Admission Fee: USD 5 per person
Office hours: 7:45am - 4:00pm
Since several areas of the park are unexplored, there is no map to guide you through it, except for some trail maps. Therefore, it is highly recommended to hire a professional guide to take there. The jungle can be a very dangerous place.
In addition, if you are driving, make sure to ask about the road conditions before going there. They might be rough and a 4x4 vehicle might be necessary. Taxis from the local area can take you there on request.