Panama Rainforest Discovery Center

Park in Around Parque Nacional Soberanía
Image by StudioNate / Getty Images

Geared toward ecotourism and environmental education, this is an excellent facility for birdwatchers and nature-lovers. Since you are probably here to watch wildlife, it’s worth making an effort to roll out of bed early – 6am to 8am are the best times. With advance reservations, groups can set up special night tours.

A 32m-high observation tower (172 steps) made of recycled material from the canal is great for spotting blue cotinga and toucans; during premium hours, just 25 visitors are admitted at one time to minimize the impact on wildlife. The sustainably built visitors center provides information and has 15 species of hummingbirds (of Panama's 57) feeding nearby. A new sloth-rescue center offers sanctuary to these shy creatures and prepares them for reintroduction into the wild.

Guides at the visitors center and tower can point out wildlife. Currently, a 1.2km circuit of two forest trails offers options that range from easy to difficult. Lake-side you can view aquatic birds such as wattled jacanas, least grebes, herons and snail kites. Other animals around include monkeys, crocodiles, coatis, butterflies and two- and three-toed sloths.

Contact the center if you'd like to participate in bird migration counts. These are run by the Fundación Avifauna Eugene Eisenmann, a nonprofit organization with the mission to protect Panama’s bird fauna and rainforest habitat. Within the center, scientific research includes studies of migratory birds, green macaws and raptors as well as investigations into carbon capture.

There's no bus access to the park. It's best to book a taxi, rent a car or go with an organized tour. The center is located 2km from the entrance to Pipeline Rd. Pass the town of Gamboa, at the end of Gaillard Rd, and follow the signs.