Headquarters of the Chiriquí Land Company, the company that produces Chiquita bananas, Changuinola is a hot and rather dusty town surrounded by a sea of banana plantations. Although there is little reason to spend any time here, overland travelers linking to Costa Rica will have to pass through.
A few hundred meters southeast from Isla Colón lies the often-overlooked Isla Carenero. This tiny island takes its name from ‘careening,’ which in nautical talk means to lean a ship on one side for cleaning or repairing. In October 1502, Columbus’ ships were careened and cleaned on this cay while the admiral recovered from a bellyache.
Playa Bluff & Around
A string of beaches on Isla Colón's east coast can be reached by a road that skirts along the shore up from Bocas town. This has traditionally been the terrain of surfers (and turtles), but as more lodgings pop up, travelers are discovering this once-secluded option. Playa Bluff stretches for 5km all the way to Punta Rocosa.
Humedal de San San Pond Sak
These relatively unknown wetlands covering 160 sq km just 5km north of Changuinola harbor an incredible variety of tropical fauna. In addition to sloths, river otters, white-faced monkeys, caimans, iguanas, sea turtles and poison-dart frogs, the fresh waters of San San are also one of the few known Central American habitats for the manatee.
Boca del Drago
Located on Isla Colón's northwest coast, this sleepy beach is known for its huge number of starfish along Starfish Beach, a 15-minute walk around the bend. The recent addition of commercial stands and cabins as well as increased water-taxi traffic have taken their toll on the beach, however. There has been a lot of erosion and the starfish have moved much further offshore.
Parque Internacional La Amistad (Wekso)
The 4000-sq-km Parque Internacional La Amistad was established jointly in 1988 by Panama and Costa Rica – hence its name of 'Friendship Park.' In 1990 it was declared a Unesco World Heritage Site and later became part of the greater Mesoamerican Biological corridor.
Set in rainforest hills, the small indigenous community of Las Delicias lies along the Río Sixaola, 20km from the Costa Rican border crossing at Guabito. The community has shifted its income source from harvesting and logging to preservation and ecotourism. Visiting is one way you can make a positive contribution.
Bosque Protector de Palo Seco
Set high in the Talamanca range, the 1675-sq-km Bosque Protector de Palo Seco is a lush cloud forest home to monkeys, sloths, armadillos, butterflies, tarantulas and eyelash vipers. Birdwatching is superb – keep an eye out for rarities such as the lanceolated monklet, rufous-tailed jacamar, dull-mantled antbird and speckled tanager.