The rugged, wild nature of Coiba National Park and its namesake island is perfectly suited to eco-friendly vacations and outdoor pursuits such as fishing, scuba diving, snorkeling, hiking, and kayaking. If you’re looking to really enjoy all that this place has to offer, you’ll likely want to stay for a few nights.
The park is administered by Panama’s environmental authority – ANAM – with a field station located on the northeast tip of the island next to a sandy cove. You’ll find guest accommodations there. The accommodations are basic but clean and include air conditioning. There are also showers. It costs $10 per person per night to stay here and there is a $20 park entrance fee. If you’re accustomed to air conditioning, it bears mentioning that the ANAM station supplies diesel for the generators powering the a/c only during evening hours, starting at 6 p.m. It’s a bit like Cinderella’s pumpkin coach; the magic ends at midnight. If you want air conditioning after that time, you’ll have to bring your own diesel supply. About 15 gallons ought to be sufficient for a two nights’ stay.
The other option is to completely forgo staying in a cabin and pitch a tent on the sandy beach. Private tour groups departing from the mainland can arrange a visit, which includes tents and camping gear. These groups seem to prefer the beach at Damas Bay, on the eastern side of the island. The logistics of getting to this remote locale and the opportunity to explore it with people who know it well make taking a small group trip a good idea. If you’re from Canada, try the Canada-based Wilderness Adventures tour: Panama Coiba Island Kayak Wilderness Adventure. This tour is 6 days, 5 nights and includes a variety of adventure activities and the chance to explore the marine park by kayak. Or contact the Panamanian company Panama Outdoors, where you can see all the flora and fauna and also get some history about Coiba on one of their two-day tours.
It’s a good idea to bring long sleeve, lightweight pants and shirts as biting flies call the sandy beaches home. Insect repellent is also a must. This is real wilderness. Whether you go on your own or on an organized group trip, responsible tourism is key.
If you do make the trip out there, be aware you’re one of the fortunate few. Even fewer people have stayed overnight. Enjoy!