Isla Coiba National Park


Location: Montijo District, Veraguas Map

Area: 503 sq km

Tel. 998- 4871


Description of Isla Coiba National Park

Isla Coiba National Park covers an island of Coiba off the South Shore of Panama. Isla Coiba National Park covers an area of 503 sq km in the Montijo District of the Veraguas province. In July 2005 Isla Coiba National Park was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site due to its unique land and marine biosphere.


Created by Executive Decree in the year 1991, the Isla Coiba National Park constitutes by its extension and by the wealth of its islands and the marine waters that surround them one of the natural jewels of Panama. Protects marine, insular and coastal ecosystems. The largest of these islands of volcanic origin is Coiba, which with 50,314 ha is the largest island in the Central American Pacific. Next to it are the Jicarón Islands (2,002 ha), Jicarita (125 ha, southernmost point of the Republic of Panama), Canal de Afuera (240 ha), Afuerita (27 ha), Pájaros (45 ha), Grape (257 ha), Brincanco (330 ha), Coibita (242 ha) and many others form the 53, 582 ha of island territories.

As a whole, the islands of the Isla Coiba National Park have more than 240 km of coasts that are mostly preserved in their natural state. Paradoxically, the conservation of this archipelago is basically due to the fact that from 1919 to 2004 Coiba Island was used as a penal colony by the Panamanian government. During the dictatorships of Omar Torrijos and Manuel Noriega (1968-1989), the dreaded prison was transformed into a kind of concentration camp for political prisoners and opponents of the regime. It is believed that more than 200 people were killed and tortured on the island. The most famous case is the murder and disappearance of the leftist leader Floyd Britton. The prison was demolished in 2004, fifteen years after the invasion of the United States Army to overthrow the regime of Noriega.

The island of Coiba has several endemic species, more than 80% of the island is covered by original vegetation, has mangroves and cativales of significant magnitude, its beaches come to spawn at least 3 species of sea turtles, has the best preserved coral reefs of the pacific Panamanian and an undeniable landscape value provided for tourism, the sustainable management of these natural resources is necessary to avoid their degradation.

After an environmental movement that involved many people and different groups, legal status is achieved for this area, through the law NO.44 of July 26, 2004 that creates the Coiba National Park, which regulates the operation of this area protected, where among other things this area is established as a National Heritage and part of the National System of Protected Areas of the National Environmental Authority, as well as the legal framework that governs the operation of this Park.

Due to the unique characteristics it presents, as a result of so many years of isolation and its biological importance, the Unesco World Heritage Committee accepted the proposal made by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) in granting to Coiba the category of World Heritage Site of Humanity, in Durban, South Africa on July 14, 2005, this being ratified by Panama on July 17 of the same year.

Currently this area has a vital role in terms of its position within the Marine Corridor of Conservation of the Eastern Tropical Pacific (CMAR) that links five national parks, including Coco Island in Costa Rica, Coiba Island in Panama, Malpelo and Gorgona in Colombia and Galapagos in Ecuador. Conforming thus a great corridor of 211 million hectares including five national parks and mixing exclusive economic zones of four countries.

In addition, this protected area is important for communities located in its continental coastal zone or buffer zone, where initiatives supported by projects financed by Conservation International, Avina Foundation and Walton Foundation managed by ANCON have emerged, where entrepreneurs' ideas have been strengthened. localities that has resulted in the formation of a network of sustainable tourism microenterprises called ARTURIS COIBA (Rural Association of Sustainable Tourism of the Coiba National Park Damping Area) through which they manage different projects for the area and make known its services.

The need for constant patrolling of the entire insular and marine area of ​​the park, led to the installation of a headquarters of the Aeronaval Authority of Panama that, among other things, offers logistical support and surveillance to the park rangers.


The average annual temperature is about 26 ºC and the average annual rainfall is around 3,500 mm.

On the island of Coiba coastal plains with elevations of less than one hundred meters predominate in the north and southeast of the island, while in the rest of the low elevation hills that barely exceed 200 masl constitute the dominant landscape. Only in the central sector there is a chain of hills where the highest points are found: the hill of La Torre with 416 meters above sea level and the hill of San Juan with 406 meters above sea level.

Water resources
In Coiba there are numerous rivers such as the Negro, with 40 km in length and eight tributaries, the San Juan, with 18.5 km in length and the Santa Clara, with 17 km in length.

The primary forests are those that predominate in Coiba although there are also forests intervened as a consequence of the camps of the penal colony and the forest extractions of past times. A total of 1,450 species of vascular plants have been enumerated with the presence of abundant specimens of ceiba (Ceiba pentandra), panama (Sterculia apetala), espavé (Anacardium excelsum), tangaré (Carapa guianensis) and cedar thorn (Bombacopsis quinatum).

Since 1993 and with the collaboration of the Spanish Agency for Cooperation, AECI, there is a biological station in the Isla Coiba National Park that to date has recorded 36 species of mammals, 147 birds and 39 species of amphibians and reptiles, with a high degree of endemism such as the Coiba ñeque (Dasyprocta coibae) and the howler monkey of Coiba (Alouatta coibensis) among mammals, and the Coiba's colaespina (Cranioleuca dissita) among birds. Coiba is the only place in Panama where you can still see flocks in freedom of the flag macaw, almost extinct in the mainland. But the natural wealth of the park is the marina. In the Bay of Ladies, a coral reef with more than 135 ha of extension is located, the second largest of the American tropical Pacific. To date, 69 species of marine fish, 12 of echinoderms, 45 of molluscs and 13 of crustaceans have been identified in the protected area.

Marine species
The seas of Coiba traditionally known for their abundant fishing harbor species such as the whale shark (Rhincodon typus), the tiger shark (Galeocerdo cuvier), the ray manta (Manta birostris), the goldfish (Coriphaena hippurus) and the yellowfin tuna ( Thunnus albacares).

The seas of Coiba are also the habitat of four species of cetaceans: the huge humpback whale (Megaptera novaeangliae), the orca (Orcinus orca), the tropical spotted dolphin (Stenella attenuata) and the bottlenose dolphin (Tursiops truncatus). In the waters of the park and adjacent areas, the occasional presence of 19 additional species of cetaceans found in the Panamanian Pacific has been observed. On the island of Coiba, used for many years as a haven for pirates, pre-Columbian remains have been found dating from about 500 years before our era.