Welcome to Panama’s aquatic playground, the Gulf of Chiriqui. The Gulf’s islands are a perfect jumping off point for the endless adventures that await in the deep blue. National Marine Parks and eco-resorts in the area offer a variety of opportunities for the thrill seeker, the nature nut, the master relaxer, and of course, the kids.
Scuba Diving and Snorkeling
While diving in the tropical waters of the Gulf, you can expect to swim alongside thousands of colorful fish among the coral reefs and rocky volcanic outcroppings. Giant manta rays, several species of sea turtle, and humpback whales are commonplace here (in season). The best visibility, up to 80ft, is from December to May.
Deep Sea Fishing
The Gulf of Chiriqui has long been known to insiders for some of the best sport fishing opportunities on the planet. World class sport fishing is one thing the otherwise little-known Gulf is famous for. The abundance of tuna, marlin, sailfish, swordfish, snapper, dorado, grouper, wahoo and many more pelagic species makes everyday a thrilling day to cast out.
Like many vacationers, humpback whales travel from the icy north to the warmth of the tropics each year. Their 4,000 mile migration, the longest of any animal, takes the humpbacks from their arctic feeding grounds to their tropical mating grounds for much of the year, with October and November the height of the season in the Gulf of Chiriqui.
Boating and Sailing
There are dozens of islands to explore in the Gulf of Chiriqui. Rent a vessel at the Port of Pedregal or the Boca Chica marina. A full service Marina and Yacht Club will be available on Isla Palenque in 2012, where you can store your own vessel, take a sport fishing or diving tour, or rent a yacht, powerboat, fishing boat, catamaran, or a kayak for a luxurious or thrilling day at sea.
Panama is gaining a reputation for world class surfing, and the 2010 ISA World Masters Surfing Championship was held on Santa Catalina, just outside of the Gulf of Chiriqui. The Gulf’s less crowded Moro Negrito is an island devoted to surfing and its enthusiasts. On the small island are a few grass huts, dozens of surf boards, a couple instructors and over 20-foot swells.
Many of the Gulf’s islands are uninhabited and all beaches are public land in Panama – perfect for island hopping! Become one with nature as you explore the interior of the many pristine islands or sit on one of the deserted white or black sand beaches. Go on a rigorous jungle hike or an educational bird watching tour. Planned to open in 2012, The Resort at Isla Palenque will offer an array of terrestrial adventures: jungle hikes for every level of difficulty, canopy walks and bird watching tours, a nature center, butterfly garden and orchid garden, yoga and wellness classes.
Gulf of Chiriqui Adventure Sport Hot Spots:
- Gulf of Chiriqui National Marine Park a protected archipelago of more than 25 islands and islets where an extraordinary number of marine species make their home. Perfect for island hopping, sailing, whale watching, snorkeling and fishing, the park has a small ranger station and allows camping on Isla Parida, the park’s largest island.
- Islas Secas is a small archipelago of 14 islands that harbors more than 10 dive sites and great fishing for tuna, dorado, snapper, and more.
- Coiba National Park, consisting of 38 islands total, offers what Lonely Planet named the finest diving to be found along the Pacific Coast from Columbia to Mexico. Scientists from the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute have proclaimed Coiba an unparalleled destination for discovering new species. “It’s hard to imagine, while snorkeling around a tropical island that’s [so close to] the United States, that half the animals you see are unknown to science,” Smithsonian project coordinator Rachel Collin says. Isla Coiba, the park’s largest island, is home to many rare birds and animals. Coiba National Park is an UNESCO World Heritage Site.
- Islas Ladrones are rugged volcanic islands that sit close to the continental shelf, offering numerous dive sites as well as opportunities for big game fishing.
- Hannibal Bank is the place on the ocean floor where in just two miles the undersea topography goes from 3,000ft deep to 124ft deep. This creates an optimal deep sea fishing experience: black marlin, blue marlin, swordfish, sailfish, Blackfin tuna, yellowfin tuna, and wahoo are plentiful.