Country Guide » National Parks
Coiba Island is Central America´s largest island, located in the province of Veraguas and a mere 25 minute flight from Panama City. The movement to create a National Park to preserve its biodiversity and immense wildlife came to fruition in the early 1990´s, and UNESCO´s further support in declaring the Park as a World Heritage Site in 2004 has helped conserve the vast marine wildlife and unique flora and fauna. Coiba National Park encompasses Coiba Island, 38 surrounding islands and the vast marine wildlife of the surrounding waters.
A unique set of plants and animals arose on the islands after Coiba separated from Panama´s maiand 12,000-18,000 years ago. The deforestation and overharvesting on the mainland has destroyed many of the unique tree species and animals once widespread throughout Panama, and Isla Coiba conserves these endemic species. With one of the largest coral reefs on the Pacific Coast of the Americas, 3 species of sea turtles, 33 species of sharks, manta rays, humpback whales, dolphins and orcas are among the many sea animals that make their home in Coiba waters. The unique dive environment from the Indio-Pacific current links Gulf of Chiriquí waters to the Galapagos Islands, and the unparalleled marine life is a constant source of study for scientists from Smithsonian Tropical Research. The indigenous Coiba Howler monkey and Scarlet Macaw are among the many above-ground species that can only be seen in their natural habitat on the islands.
Over 500 years ago, Coiba was used as a private pirate refuge, and pre-Colombian artificats reminiscent of prehistoric time are still being discovered today. Ecotours, fishing and scuba diving trips through local tour operators educate you in this natural, breath-taking laboratory.