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David Carmona / 500px

Centro Natural Punta Culebra

Panama City

Ideal for families, CEM is operated by the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute (STRI). This informative marine museum features two small aquariums and a nature trail with three-toed sloths and iguanas in a surviving patch of dry forest, once prolific along Central America’s Pacific coast. Signs are in English and Spanish.

A tropical frogs exhibit brings you up close with creatures like the strawberry poison dart frog. Separate aquariums allow for comparison of fish from the Pacific and the Caribbean, with the differences explained by staff. Exhibits examine the role of marine resources in the country’s economy, and the destructive effects of harvesting fish and shrimp by net.

Exhibits include a small six-sided building with sweeping views of the Bahía de Panamá, built by Manuel Noriega for intimate gatherings. Today it has exhibits on the history of Panama’s indigenous cultures.

Outside, large, intelligent illustrations of vessels allow visitors to glance out at the ocean and identify the types of ships waiting to transit the canal, aided by a telescope.

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