In Western Panama, about one hours drive from the highland Boquete, lies the region known as the Golfo de Chiriqui, a National Park and group of islands on the Pacific Coast of Panama. This rarely visited paradise consists of wild, dramatic, jungle clad islands jumping out of Panama’s Pacific coast………
Most people use Boca Chica as the base to visit the Chiriqui Gulf islands. Boca Chica is a small, two road town with a dock from where boats set off to explore the islands. We arrived in our car, called ahead to a hotel on one of the islands and within 30 minutes they’d sent a boatman to collect us. We chose to stay on one of the Chiriqui Gulf’s actual islands, but with hindsight this was probably a mistake as the hotel was a disappointment.
The sportfishing offshore from the Chiriqui Islands is a major draw for tourists, and there are many accommodation options that cater towards sportfisherman. Other people come to do some wildlife watching, others to simply escape and relax on some wild beaches. It’s the pacific coast so the sea is not as crystalline as found in the Caribbean side of Panama, but once you travel a reasonable distance offshore, the seas become more transparent and good for snorkelling. I was told that the sea and sand were truly Caribbean-like if you make it as far offshore as the Islas Secas.
We spent three days relaxing, beach-combing, exploring, walking along some rainforest trails spotting monkeys and exploring the islands of the Chiriqui Gulf. It was whale watching season while we visited, and we were lucky enough to spot some Humpback whales whilst on a boat tour. Beautiful creatures, it’s a shame the boatmen aren’t trained to keep a moderate distance from the whales though. Sometime we were just a few metres from a surfacing whale – it was clear they were disturbed by the buzzing presence of various boats.
I’d rate Boca Chica and the Chiriqui Gulf as an interesting stop off point in Western Panama. It bears some similarities to Costa Rica’s South Western Coast (the Osa Peninsula), which is probably a little more impressive if I’m honest.