Panama’s unique position between North and South America – and the Pacific Ocean and Caribbean Sea – along with habitat conservation programs, provide visitors with immersive and memorable opportunities to observe wildlife, both on land and at sea.
Majestic marine life
Although it is an exciting year-round destination for nature and wildlife exploration, until October is the perfect time to see two amazing sea creatures in Panama – whales. humpback and sea turtles – as they visit this ecosystem-rich Central American country during the annual migratory breeding seasons. Whale and turtle watching tours are conducted by highly responsible local operators who are qualified to provide exciting sightseeing experiences that are safe for marine life.
Holidays with humpback whales
Panama is one of only two regions in the world to be home to humpback whales from both the northern and southern hemispheres. Nearly 2,000 humpback whales migrate to the warm waters of Panama to mate and give birth to their young. These “sea performers” are known for their acrobatics which involve leaping or leaping entirely out of the water and theatrically striking the surface of the water with their flippers. And did you know that only the humpback male regularly sings what sailors call “mysterious” tunes that can be heard for miles around?
Whale watching in Panama takes place at several locations along the Pacific coast, including the Pearl Islands in the Gulf of Panama closer to Panama City. Other favorite locations are the Isla Iguana Wildlife Refuge in Pedasí in the province of Los Santos, the Gulf of Chiriqui near and around Boca Chica, and Coiba National Park, one of the 50 UNESCO World Heritage Marine Sites. UNESCO.
Sea turtle hikes
The natural wonder known as sea turtle nesting and hatching is a major celebration of new life in Panama that takes place on more than 200 beaches. Protective nesting sites for sea turtles and hatchlings provide the only time to see this endangered sea creature on land. Visitors can observe five different species of turtles in Panama, all classified as endangered, critically endangered or vulnerable by the World Wide Fund for Nature. Thanks to organizations such as the Sea Turtle Conservancy and Panamá Wildlife Conservation, thousands of sea turtles arrive safely on the Panamanian coastline to lay their eggs, followed by hatchlings making their maiden voyage in open water after gestation. Protective nesting sites for sea turtles and hatchlings provide the only time to see this endangered sea creature on land. Visitors can observe five different species of turtles in Panama, all classified as endangered, critically endangered or vulnerable by the World Wide Fund for Nature.
The province of Los Santos, along the Pacific coast, is home to some of the best nesting sites in the country. For example, Isla Iguana Wildlife Refuge, accessible by boat from Pedasi, is home to a wide variety of iguanas and sea turtles. Additionally, snorkeling and scuba diving stations are located around the island to help view marine life in its natural habitat. Other Los Santos nesting spots include Isla Cañas, a vital nesting site for green sea turtles, and the Pablo Barrios Wildlife Refuge, a popular turtle research and conservation area.
In the Caribbean Sea, the province of Bocas del Toro is the nesting place of thousands of hawksbill and leatherback turtles. Two of the main nesting sites are Bluff Beach on Isla Colon and Isla Bastimentos National Marine Park, where conservation efforts are underway for hawksbill nesting sites. The indigenous Ngäbe-Buglé people are instrumental in patrolling and documenting nesting sites in the marine park.
For the latest information on Panama’s health and safety protocols for international visitors, please visit: https://www.tourismpanama.com/plan-your-vacation/advisories/.