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Surrounded by a belt of tropical rainforest, trekking off the beaten path in Panama is fairly easy to achieve. And Soberania National Park is the best place to do just that. With over 400 species of exotic birds, and over 105 species of mammals, the park is a haven for wildlife enthusiasts, and a great way to spend a day hiking through the real Panamanian jungle.

Located 45 minutes from Panama City, the park is one of the best and most accessible locations for bird watching and wildlife observation in Central America. Though fairly close to the city, you feel like you are worlds away. Hiking through pristine rainforest where exotic birds call and monkeys howl tends to have that effect.

While there is a Rainforest Discovery Centre ($30 per person) offering marked nature trails and an observation tower, Pipeline Road is a better (and cheaper at $5 entry per person) option for a more authentic rainforest experience.

A morning walk of Pipeline Road will offer views of sloths, coatimundis, monkeys, toucans, kinkajous, tropical birds, and, if you’re lucky, jaguars. 17km long, the trail was originally built for the pipeline maintenance during World War II, and is now world famous for being the best spot for bird watching in Panama.

We had a pretty fabulous time during our day in the jungle, and managed to make the following friends!

Howler Monkey.

Spotted: Howler Monkey.

Spotted: Sloth.

Spotted: Sloth.

Spotted: Snakes of vivid green.

Spotted: Snakes of vivid green.

Did we mention there were abandoned bat caves?!

Did we mention there were abandoned bat caves?!

Spotted: Toucanet.

Spotted: Toucanet.

Spotted: Toucan.

Spotted: Toucan.

Spotted: Chachalaca.

Spotted: Chachalaca.

Gorgeous butterflies frequent the jungle.

Gorgeous butterflies frequent the jungle.

Getting to Soberania can be problematic. Guided tours will arrange transportation for you, however these can be expensive and you certainly don’t need a guide to explore the area.

Driving:

From Panama City drive to the town of Gamboa. Once you reach Gamboa, cross over the bridge (Chagres River) and follow the paved highway until you pass a large crane on the left side. The road will fork; stay to the left and follow the gravel road, with the Panama Canal on your left. You will soon see a sign pointing to Pipeline Road (Sendero Oleoducto), and the park entrance a little beyond that. It’s just a few minutes from the bridge in Gamboa until you reach the park entrance. Plenty of parking is available.

Taxi/Private Transport:

It is easy enough to get a taxi from Panama City, however the problem is getting a cab back. We pre-arranged private transportation to pick us up in Gamboa for $45 back to the city. There are no established fees or metres for taxi’s in Panama. Negotiate the price BEFORE you get in the cab.

Other trails in Soberania include:

Plantation trail (Camino Plantacion): 6.5km long, this area was used for cocoa and coffee plantations and then for military training. Look for howler monkeys and trogon birds along this trail.

The Natural Pond trail (Sendero Natural El Charco): A short 0.8km walk, you can swim in a small pond with clear water and stop for a picnic. Great family trail.

Cruces trail: The most difficult trail, this used to be the route the Spanish would carry gold between the two oceans. Trail is 10km long and few tourists venture here.

The Forest Spirit trail (Espiritu del Bosque): A marked trail, 1.7km long, this is an easy walk. Bike path trail (Cicloruta Distancia): A mountain biking trail, 17.5km long. Access is 2.5km from Soberania National Park.

Be sure to pack water, mosquito repellant, good hiking shoes, a hat and suntan lotion. Binoculars or a camera with a great zoom come in handy when trying to spot wildlife in the treetops.

We are currently traveling on behalf of Doubletree by Hilton DTour; a whole new way to plan – and share – your travels. We are staying at Doubletree by Hilton Panama City

 About Megan Claire

Megan is an Australian Journalist who has been travelling and blogging around the world for the last 7 years to inspire others to embark on their own worldwide adventure!  Her husband Mike is an American travel photographer, and together they have made the world their home.

Follow their journey on FacebookGoogle+ and Twitter.

    18 Comments

  1. My brother and I talked about going here when we were in Panama in the fall but decided not to. Wish we’d gone! Your pictures are beautiful!

    • Thanks Amy! SOunds like you have a great excuse for another holiday to Panama! The park was truly fantastic and we loved every minute of it – highly recommend this for your next trip.

  2. Amazing photos! Love being able to see wildlife on my travels.

    • Thanks Angela! We live for wildlife when we travel and really love the thrill of finding rare species. We live by the motto that captive doesn’t count!

  3. Great alternative trail! I’m gonna remember this if/when I ever visit Panama! Photography & wildlife looks stunning!

    • It was a really fantastic way to spend a day – a lot of hiking but that’s what we love! If you’re a wildlife/nature fan you will have a blast here – Panama is a fantastic country!

  4. Wow that snake is awesome and kinda less scary looking than the normal black and brown ones.

    • You should have seen him devour a frog! Though he had completely eaten it before we had a chance to focus the camera for a shot. Agree that he’s so beautiful though – funny how something is less threatening when it’s pretty lol :D

  5. I haven’t been to Panama, but have been to Costa Rica, which has amazing wildlife. that part of the world is mind blowing with beautiful (and some not so beautiful) animals. Just love the jungles there.

    • We were in Costa Rica just before Panama and loved it. The wildlife scene in Panama is very similar to Costa Rica, though what we loved was the lack of tourism in Panama as opposed to CR.

  6. A trip to the jungle was one of my most memorable experiences in Ecuador and I wouldn’t hesitate to do it again, so if I ever go to Panama (and I am sure that one day I will) then I will definitely keep this place in my mind!

    • We only did the Galapagos in Ecuador – would love to get back to explore the jungle! Our experience in Panama was just so amazing that I can’t wait to get back and explore the rest of the region in Central and South America!

      Definitely plan for a trip to Panama – if you loved Ecuador you’ll love it here too!

  7. This is inspiring! I’m loving your photos,Soberania looks like such a beautiful spat

    • Thanks Jenny! So glad you enjoyed our photos! Highly recommend Soberania if you end up in Panama City – it truly is a fantastic little spot!

  8. Awesome photography. The toucanet is actually a nemesis of mine. haven’t had a chance to photograph one as they are too skitish for me.

    • Thanks Dmitry! I hope you manage to catch a Toucanet sometime soon!

  9. Looks like you had a great day in the park, Megan. I’ve been to Pipeline Road twice and seen some great birds and animals, but you had some great finds — not to mention some great shots. The best thing is how close the park is to the city. You can even see great birds without even leaving the city, at Parque Metropolitano. That’s where I saw my first toucans — a day I won’t forget.

    • We really did Paul, so glad you’ve had the pleasure of experiencing it also! We loved the Parque Metropolitano as well as Ancon Hill too – we staked out this one tree for literally about an hour because there were Toucans flying back and forth from the same tree from which two sloths were hanging.

      We finally got a shot with two toucans and two sloths in the same photo!!

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