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panama tourism and travel

Bastimentos Marine Park

The Bastimentos Marine Park encompasses a significant portion of Bastimentos Island, Zapatilla Islands, and the waters and mangroves that surround these islands. Oddly enough, the portion of Bastimentos Island 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 the island; the shoreline is comprised entirely of dense mangrove and forests. You can access the park along its northern side but you’ll need to hire a boat to take you there, or you can walk from Bastimentos town/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 exists ample space for boat landings, most of the beaches can not be accessed unless weather/water conditions permit, and the best time of year for that 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 along the beach. Expect to get wet!

Bastimentos Island contains a healthy supply of wildlife including 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 whatever makes itself visible along the coastline. Though not part of the marine park, the area around Bastimentos town and Red Frog Beach are the best areas to see the multi-colored 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 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 mangroves and forests along the way. All visitors must pay $10 to enter the park.