Gulf of Chiriquí, the best-kept secret of tourism in Panama

Located in the Pacific Northwest of Panama, the gulf is home to the National Marine Park, created to protect an area of more than 150 km²

The Gulf of Chiriquí, with its dozens of islands of volcanic origin and secluded beaches of white sand, leafy mangroves and a reef barrier considered one of the most preserved in Central America, is one of Panama’s best-kept secrets.

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Located in the Pacific Northwest of Panama, near the border with Costa Rica, the gulf is home to the Marino National Park, created in 1994 to protect an area of more than 150 km², and includes the Paridas Islands, easily accessible from Boca Chica, a small port situated just over an hour from the city of David.

There are two dozen islands with dense forests and several islets and lizards where thousands of sea turtles of various species nest from the beginning of July. And there can also gather dozens of humpback whales and pilots in their breeding season (between August and December), away from the pressure of the flow of ships en route to the Panama Canal.

It is in the gulf that are the Dry Islands, a dozen small extensions of private property, but whose beaches, publicly owned, can be reached by sea, in any of the boats that offer sightseeing from Boca Chica itself or any one of the coastal hotels.

Captain Chichi, a veteran of sports fishing, the master of a generation of navigators in the Gulf, told Efe that the Gulf of Chiriquí is one of the best places in the world to catch the marlin, with 200 kilos.

These fish are the stars of a marine fauna that in the Gulf includes species such as the gigantic 20 kg snapper (specimens that are up to 50 years of age, since they add up to almost a pound of weight for each year of life).

But there is also room for dolphins, sea bats, hammerhead sharks, white-tipped reef sharks, and all species that take refuge in the coral, including colorful parrot fish and trumpet fish, easily visible in waters that pass from turquoise blue to celestial in a range of continuous hues.

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The clear and generally calm waters make the islands an excellent place to practice snorkeling, as well as being privileged for bird watching. In a single day, you can see 50 different species in the surroundings of Cala Mía, an ecological hotel located on Boca Brava island where the dawn is marked by the cries of black howler monkeys.

In its surroundings are nesting eagles, hawks, various species of hummingbird and you can easily find stints, potatoes, and tanagers.

The islands alternate forests, lonely beaches, and mangroves, now protected after decades of devastation, which create sea lanes through which raccoons, squirrels, and monkeys, among other species of mammals, circulate.

The silence of practically uninhabited islands where a tropical climate predominates adds to the lack of light to allow better observation of a night sky in which the name of the Milky Way acquires its full dimension.

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