Panama: Summer seas and wonderful wildlife
The country's location coupled with habitat conservation programs offer an immersive and memorable opportunity to relax, explore and discover the wonders of ocean wildlife
We are entering a magical time of year to experience marine life in Panama, when two extraordinary sea creatures visit the pristine and nature-rich coasts of the Central American country: 1) the migration of humpback whales and 2) the nesting and hatching of sea turtles.
Panama's unique location between North and South America, and the Pacific Ocean and Caribbean Sea, coupled with habitat conservation programs, offer an immersive and memorable opportunity to relax, explore, and discover the wonders of ocean wildlife. Whale and turtle watching tours in Panama are carried out by very responsible local operators, trained to offer exciting tourist experiences in a safe way for marine life.
Below we highlight the nesting and hatching experiences of sea turtles (May to September) and humpback whales of Panama (June to October).
Vacationing with Humpback Whales
Panama is one of only two areas in the world that is home to humpback whales from both the northern and southern hemispheres. And although more than 30 species of whales and dolphins can be found off the coast of Panama, it is the humpback whales, with their leaps, surfacing and splashing, that attract curious people from all over the world. On average, more than 1,000 whales are known to migrate to Panama each year.
Whale watching takes place at various locations along the Pacific coast and some of the best local spots include Taboga Island and the Pearl Islands, both in the Gulf of Panama, closer to Panama City. . Other privileged places are the Isla Iguana Wildlife Refuge in Pedasí, in the province of Los Santos, the Gulf of Chiriquí near and around Boca Chica, and the Coiba National Park, one of the 50 UNESCO Marine World Heritage Sites. .
Walks with sea turtles
The natural wonder known as sea turtle nesting season takes over Panama's more than 200 beaches, which are protected nesting sites for nesting sea turtles and newborn hatchlings, and it's the only time to see this endangered sea creature on land. Visitors can observe five different species of turtles in Panama, all classified by the World Wide Fund for Nature as endangered, critically endangered or vulnerable species. Thanks to organizations such as the Sea Turtle Conservancy and Panama Wildlife Conservation, each year thousands of sea turtles are able to safely reach the coast of Panama to lay eggs, followed by the hatchlings who then make their maiden voyage to open water.
The province of Los Santos along the Pacific coast is home to some of the best nesting sites in the country. The Isla Iguana Wildlife Refuge, which can be reached by boat from Pedasí, is home to a wide variety of iguanas and sea turtles. Snorkeling and diving stations are located around the island, allowing you to see them in their natural habitat. Other important nesting sites in Los Santos include Isla Cañas, a vital nesting ground for green sea turtles, and the Pablo Barrios Wildlife Refuge, a popular area for turtle research and conservation initiatives.
In the Caribbean Sea, the province of Bocas del Toro is the nesting place for thousands of hawksbill and leatherback turtles. Two of the main nesting sites are Playa Bluff on Isla Colón and Isla Bastimentos National Marine Park, where conservation initiatives are carried out in the places where hawksbill turtles nest. The Ngäbe-Buglé indigenous people are instrumental in patrolling and documenting nesting sites in the marine park.