Golfo de Chiriquí
The Golfo de Chiriquí extends from Punta Burica at the western edge of Panama toward the Azuero Peninsula to the east, encompassing the entire coast of Chiriquí province and much of the Pacific coast of Veraguas. It’s a region of superlatives. It contains the richest mangrove forests in Central America, the largest island in Panama, and one of the largest coral reefs in the Pacific. It offers truly world-class diving, surfing, and sportfishing.
Conservation organizations have targeted the Golfo de Chiriquí area as one of the most ecologically important in Central America. This area has seen less development than other parts of Panama, but human pressures are mounting. Panama has reacted by establishing protected areas, most notably two huge marine parks: Parque Nacional Marino Golfo de Chiriquí and, more recently, Parque Nacional Coiba.
Because the Golfo de Chiriquí is still relatively remote and untouched, it’s only now beginning to take off as a tourist destination. When I first started writing about this area in 1999, there was really only one (rather rustic) place to stay in the entire Parque Nacional Marino Golfo de Chiriquí that was worth writing about, and it stayed that way for years. There are now half a dozen good options, plus decent places to eat and reliable tour operators. More are on the way.
Playa Santa Catalina is also growing fast, both because it’s the best surfing spot in Panama and because it’s a convenient jumping-off point for Parque Nacional Coiba. All these places are much more accessible than ever before.
© William Friar from Moon Panama, 3rd Edition