National Parks & Reserves
Bastimentos Marine Park
The Bastimentos Marine Park encompasses a significant portion of Isla Bastimentos, Islas Zapatilla, and the waters and mangroves that surround these islands. Oddly enough, the portion of Isla Bastimentos that has been reserved for the park resides in the middle of the island, and runs north - south. The island’s western end, which includes Bastimentos town and Red Frog Beach, and eastern end, which includes Cayo Coral, are not part of the marine park.
There is no access to the park along the southern side of Isla Bastimentos, as the shoreline is comprised entirely of dense mangrove and forest. You can access the park along its northern side, but you’ll need to hire a boat to take you there or walk from Bastimentos town or Red Frog Beach. Keep in mind, the northern side of the island faces the Caribbean Sea, and as a result has much rougher seas. While there is ample space for boat landings, most of the beaches can’t be accessed unless weather/water conditions permit - the best time of year would be between August-October. The landscape along the northern side varies, and includes large rock outcroppings, stretches of long beaches, and numerous coves and inlets. There is no defined trail, you’ll just have to make your way. Expect to get wet!
Isla Bastimentos contains a healthy supply of wildlife, including the white face and howler monkeys, sloths, and the ever so popular poison dart frogs, but the absence of interior trails means you’ll be limited to the whatever makes itself visible along the coast. Though not part of the marine park, the area around Bastimentos town and Red Frog Beach are the best areas to see the multicolored poison dart frogs. Only 3/4” in length, they come in a multitude of colors and shouldn’t be too difficult to find, even without a guide.
The park’s headquarters are located on Isla Zapatilla’s southernmost island, where Panama’s National Environmental Authority (ANAM) maintains an office. There is a short nature trail that leads to the windward side of the island, winding through mangrove and forest. All visitors must pay $10 to enter into the park.