El Centro de Exhibiciones Marinas
There’s a long-established little museum, El Centro de Exhibiciones Marinas (Punta Culebra on Naos, tel. 212-8000, ext. 2366, rainy season hours: 1–5 P.M. Tues.–Fri., 10 A.M.–6 P.M. Sat. and Sun.; dry season hours: 10 A.M.–6 P.M. Tues.–Sun., US$2 adults, US$0.50 children), toward the end of the causeway that’s well worth a visit. Try to call ahead of time, as opening and closing hours shift erratically.
This nicely designed marine exhibition center is run by the Panama-based Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute. (Search “Punta Culebra” at www.stri.org for history and current information.) Exhibits set up along a beach-side path explain the extensive natural and human history of the area and touch on that of Panama in general. There’s a small outdoor aquarium and an air-conditioned observation building.
Free telescopes are set up along the path; check out the ships waiting to transit the canal. At the end of the path are a few hundred square meters of dry forest, once common all along the Pacific coast of Central America, but now mostly wiped out since it’s easy to burn. It’s amazing what you may find in this little patch of forest. There are lots of iguanas, and the last time I was there I saw a shaggy three-toed sloth walking upside down along a branch just a few meters above my head.
The center is on Punta Culebra toward the end of the causeway. At the public beach on the first island, Naos, make a right when the road forks. There should be large signs.
© William Friar from Moon Panama, 3rd Edition