The first island that you'll reach on the Amador Causeway, Isla Naos, is dominated by the marine research laboratories of the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute (STRI). On the far side of the island are various restaurants, a large marina, which is where you catch the ferry to Isla Taboga, and the STRI Marine Exhibition Center on Punta Culebra. The dirt road that leads to the marina and Punta Culebra is on the right just in front of the restaurant Mi Ranchito, which has a high thatch roof. Just south of Mi Ranchito is a small strip mall with several bars and restaurants, one of which has a swimming pool that costs a few dollars to use.
Centro de Exhibiciones Marinas Punta Culebra. Though it doesn't compare to the aquariums of other major cities, the Centro de Exhibiciones Marinas (Marine Exhibition Center) is worth a stop. It was created by the scientists and educators at the STRI and is located on a lovely, undeveloped point with examples of several ecosystems: beach,
mangrove forest, rocky coast, and tropical forest. A series of signs leads visitors on a self-guided tour. There are several small tanks with fish and sea turtles, as well as pools with sea stars, sea cucumbers, and other marine creatures that kids can handle. The spyglasses are great for watching ships on the adjacent canal. Be sure to go out to the lookout on the end of the rocky point. Punta Culebra, Isla Naos. 507/212–8760. www.stri.si.edu/english/visit_us/index.php. $5, children $1. Tues.–Fri. 1–5, weekends 10–6.
Panama City, Panama