- Places to Explore
- Travel Tips
- Fodor's Choice
- Spanish Phrases
Fodor's In Focus Panama
Parque Nacional Portobelo (Portobelo National Park)
Parque Nacional Portobelo (Portobelo National Park) Review
Parque Nacional Portobelo is a vast marine and rain-forest reserve contiguous with Chagres National Park that protects both natural and cultural treasures. It extends from the cloud forest atop 3,212-foot Cerro Brujo down to offshore islands and coral reefs, and comprises the bay and fortresses of Portobelo. It holds an array of ecosystems and a wealth of biodiversity that ranges from nurse sharks and sea turtles along the coast to toucans and spider monkeys in the mountains. There is no proper park entrance, but you can explore the rain forest and mangrove estuaries along the coast on hiking or boat trips from Portobelo.
You can't miss the remains of the three Spanish fortresses that once guarded Portobelo Bay. The first is Fuerte Santiago de la Gloria, which is on the left as you arrive at the bay. It has about a dozen cannons and sturdy battlements that were built out of blocks of coral, which were cut from the platform reefs that line the coast. Coral was more abundant and easier to cut than the igneous rock found inland, so the Spaniards used it for most construction in Portobelo.
Portobelo's largest and most impressive fort is Fuerte San Jerónimo, at the end of the bay. Surrounded by the "modern" town, it was built in the 1600s but was destroyed by Vernon and rebuilt to its current state in 1758. Its large interior courtyard was once a parade ground, but it's now the venue for annual celebrations such as New Year's, Carnaval, the Festival de Diablos y Congos (shortly after Carnaval), and the town's patron saint's day (March 20).
Fuerte San Fernando, across the bay from Fuerte Santiago, consists of two battlements—one near the water and one on the hill above. The upper fortress affords a great view of the bay and is a good place to see birds because of the surrounding forest.
Local boatmen who dock their boats next to Fuerte Santiago or Fuerte San Jerónimo can take you across the bay to explore Fuerte San Fernando for a few dollars. They also offer tours to local beaches, or a trip into the estuary at the end of the bay, which is a good place to see birds.
- Address: Surrounding Portobelo, Portobelo
- Phone: 507/448–2599 park office
- Cost: Free
- Hours: Open 24 hrs
- Location: Portobelo
- 80 Degrees: Fodor's Helps You Find Your Best Beach Vacation Spots
- Fodor's Go List 2014: Where we are going in 2014
- World Cup Fever: Start planning your trip to Brazil!
- Fodor's 100 Hotel Awards: Check out the winners of 2013
- Weekend Getaways: Fodor's Recommends the Best Weekend Escapes in the US
- Great American Vacation: Find Your Next U.S. Trip with Fodor's
Who we were: I grew up in Panama and wanted to share that beautiful country with my namesake, mi tocaya. Read more
We returned from a two weeks tour of Panama, a country that has so many interesting to offer. Read more
Recently I wrote up a trip report:
Here are the pictures that go along with that report (i Read more
· News & Features
Here are 11 reasons to sit at your computer on Cyber Monday and click away in pursuit of your next beach ... Read more
Ace Hotels are bringing their signature brand of hip, clubhouse-style hotels even further afield this... Read more
Want to know a cruising secret?... Read more