Parque Natural Metropolitano
Parque Natural Metropolitano information
Lonely Planet review
Up on a hill to the north of downtown, the 265-hectare Parque Natural Metropolitano protects vast expanses of tropical semideciduous forest within the city limits, and serves as an incredible wilderness escape from the trappings of the capital. It has two main walking trails, the Nature Trail and the Tití Monkey Trail, which join to form one long loop.
The loop is also home to a 150m-high mirador (lookout) that offers panoramic views of Panama City, the bay and the canal all the way to the Miraflores Locks.
Mammals in the park include tití monkeys, anteaters, sloths and white-tailed deer, while reptiles include iguanas, turtles and tortoises. More than 250 known bird species have been spotted here, and there are fish and shrimp living in the Río Curundú, which runs along the eastern side of the park.
The park was the site of an important battle during the US invasion to oust Noriega. Also of historical significance are the concrete structures just past the park entrance, which were used during WWII as a testing and assembly plant for aircraft engines.
The park is bordered on the west and north sides by Camino de la Amistad and to the south and east by Corredor Norte; Av Juan Pablo II runs right through the park. Pick up a pamphlet for a self-guided tour in Spanish and English at the visitors center, 40m north of the park entrance. Rangers offer one-hour tours to groups of five or more (around US$6 per person), but you need to call in advance.
An international team of scientists from the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute (STRI) have set up a crane in the park to study the forest canopy, which is home to a complete ecosystem 30m to 50m up from the ground. Although the crane was previously off-limits to the public, Ancon Expeditions was awarded permission to take tourists up to the tree-tops. This is a highly recommended experience that will provide you with an entirely different view of the rainforest, though you will need to book in advance as the number of tourists allowed up on the crane per day is limited.