WHAT TO DOHiking in Panama

Metropolitan Natural Park

There are multiple networks of trails in Panama that are clearly marked and lead you into natural areas surprisingly close to the city. The country offers diverse natural settings to go hiking, whether in mountainous areas or flatter places. Even inside the urban area of the capital city, we can find well-marked trails. This trail system is within the 232-hectare Metropolitan Natural Park, the only protected area of tropical forest in Central America that is located within the limits of a city. Trail names: Motmots, Mahoganies, Oak, Titi Monkey, Small Swamp.

Another nearby site for hiking is along the banks of the Panama Canal between the towns of Paraíso and Gamboa. There is also Summit Municipal Park, one of the largest sites in Panama devoted to a botanical garden, where well-marked nature paths takes you through this haven of tropical animal and plant diversity.

Soberanía National Park (with marked paths), Pipeline Road, Plantation Path, The Pond nature trail, Trail of the Crosses and Spirit of the Forest. Another nearby site for hiking is along the banks of the Panama Canal, between the towns of Paraíso and Gamboa.

Taboga Island

If you would like to combine swimming on beaches with hiking, Taboga Island has it all: Hike on the Trail of the Three Crosses, Hill Trail, and the Trail of the Cross on Cross Hill, topped with a huge cross and affording excellent views over the town, beach, and the neighboring island of Urabá. From atop El Vigía, the highest elevation at 333 meters above sea level, you can see the islands of Boná and Otoque behind the island and the brown pelicans when they nest in the summer season (January to April). St. Peter's Cave, the ruins of the Spanish Convent, and the house of Francisco Pizarro, conqueror of Peru, are other attractions. When you come down from the hill, refresh yourself with a dip in the sea and a rest on the beach.

Walking Panama is a nonprofit organization that advocates this activity and provides complete information. www.caminandopanama.org