Central America’s largest island, Coiba, once served as a penal colony but now makes up, with other islands and islets, the Coiba National Marine Park. Located off Panama’s Pacific Coast, Coiba is covered in ancient forest and surrounded by a large coral reef, making it home to hundreds of land and marine species that include various reptiles, monkeys, birds, dolphins, whales, sharks, sea turtles, sting rays and giant schools of fish. Sometimes called the “Galapagos of Central America,” Coiba harbors many rare and endemic species such as the Scarlet macaw and the Coiba Island Howler monkey.
There are many programs and activities available on the island where visitors can experience the remarkable wildlife firsthand including snorkeling, diving, fishing and hiking. Whale sharks can be seen in large numbers between February and May, while humpback whales frequent the area between June and October to give birth to their calves. What’s more, the island’s pristine beaches are ideal for relaxing and sunbathing. This nature lover’s paradise can be reached by boat rides and tour operations from the mainland in coastal towns like Santa Catalina, and Mariato on the Azuero Peninsula.