Cenegón del Mangle is a 776-hectare wildlife refuge that’s worth a quick visit on the way to or from Chitré  or Las Tablas . There’s no admission fee or set opening hours. It’s best to go in a four-wheel-drive vehicle.
The part that’s accessible to visitors consists of a half-kilometer-long boardwalk that loops through tall black mangroves near the shore. It makes for a short, scenic walk that’s halfway between spooky and pretty, since it’s easy to imagine all kinds of creatures in the mangroves and the murky marsh below one’s feet.
This is a major heron hangout. In fact, some of the herons that grace the fountain in the Palacio de las Garzas  (Palace of the Herons), the presidential palace in Panama City , are captured here. The area attracts what birders call “mixed colonies” of herons, including the great egret, tricolored heron, and cattle egret.
It’s also easy to spot caimans here, especially when some of the herons nest, June–September. The toothy critters wait patiently under the nests, like dogs by the dinner table, in hopes the odd egg will fall from a nest and into the marsh. Yum. Also be on the lookout for iguanas and the occasional crocodile. Herons can be spotted year-round.
Access to Refugio de Vida Silvestre Cenegón del Mangle is from the village of París, the turnoff to which is at a gas station seven kilometers north of Parita . If you’re heading up from Chitré , which is 17 kilometers southeast of París, the turnoff is to the right. There’s no sign marking the turn from this direction. París is one kilometer down this road.
Once in París, which won’t remind you of the one in France, take the right fork when the road splits at the church. Then make a right turn 0.3 kilometers past this fork onto a road that quickly turns to dirt. Go six kilometers, until the road forks at the none-too-scenic garbage dump.
The left fork leads to the mangroves. Park just past the dump. There’s a dirt trail on the left. Follow this to the boardwalk, about a five-minute walk away. This area is parched in the dry season, but even then there are plenty of marshy areas as one gets closer to the shore.
If you have trouble finding all this, ask around back in París. A local kid will probably hop in your car and show the way for a quarter or two.
The right fork back at the dump, by the way, leads to some so-called thermal pools said to have medicinal properties. These consist of shallow, foot-wide puddles with nasty-looking stagnant water. They look like boils on the face of a sunbaked patch of earth. To say this is easily skipped is a wild understatement.
It takes about 45 minutes to drive to Refugio de Vida Silvestre Cenegón del Mangle from Chitré .