Provinces of Panama


There are 9 Panama Provinces and 3 provincial-level indigenous territories called comarcas. A comarca is an area with a substantial Indian population which is equivalent to a province. There are also a further two comarcas that are subordinated to provinces, and which are considered equivalent to a corregimiento, or municipality.
The nine provinces are Bocas del Toro, Chiriqui, Cocle, Colon, Darien, Herrera, Los Santos, Panama and Veraguas. The three provincial level comarcas are Embera, Kuna Yala and Ngobe-Bugle. The two comarcas which are subordinate to a province are the Kuna de Madugandi, which is part of the province of Panama, and the Kuna de Wargandi, which is part of the province of Darien.
BOCAS DEL TORO PROVINCE

Bocas del Toro is located within the western portion of Panama on the border with Costa Rica. It is made up of several large islands and encompasses approximately 200 square miles. It is about an hour away from Panama City by plane, and 10-12 hours by car or bus.
The capital city, also called Bocas del Toro, is located on Isla Colon has recently become a popular tourist destination, but much of the province remains relatively untouched by tourism. Bocas provides many excellent locations for bird watching, snorkeling, diving, fishing and relaxing on a deserted beach. The people living in the capital are generally friendly, easy going and speak English.
Bocas del Toro is home to many species of endangered birds, manatees, fresh water turtles and the poison dart frog that is only found in this area. Ninety-five percent of La Amistad National Park lies within Bocas del Toro, as does Bastimentos National Park, both of which are a great place to observe the birds and wildlife native to this area.
CHIRIQUI PROVINCE

Chiriqui Province is located in the western region of Panama. It is bordered to the north by Bocas del Toro Province, to the west by Costa Rica, to the east by the Veraguas Province, and to the south by the Pacific Ocean. It encompases mountains, rolling hills, highlands and coastal plains. The average temperature in Chiriquí is 61 to 77 degrees Fahrenheit year round.
The capital of Chiriqui province is David, which is the third largest city in Panama. David serves as an agricultural and cultural center for the thriving cattle industry of this area. Chiriqui has often been compared to Switzerland due to the temperature, geography and architecture of the highland farms and homes. Chiriqui is also famous for its coffee plantations, as well as oranges and strawberries.
The highlands of Chiriqui are volcanic in origin, and include the towns of Boquete, Volcan and Cerro Punta. The highest mountain in the area is Baru Volcano, with an altitude of 11,400 feet. Chiriqui is rich in wildlife, and this area is the home of the Quetzal, a colorful species of tropical bird. The best time to spot these magnificent birds is from February to May, during their breeding season.
The Ngobe-Bugle are Panama’s most numerous indigenous peoples and the majority live in small communities or villages in the Chiriqui highlands. They are Panama’s second most famous tribe, following the Kuna of the San Blas Islands. The Ngobe-Bugle are noted for their “chacara”, a type of vibrant, colorful bag woven from plant fiber by the women of the tribe.
A small portion of La Amistad National Park lies within the province of Chiriqui, with the rest within Bocas Del Toro Province and extending into Costa Rica. Museums in this area include the Museum of the History and Art of Jose de Obaldia and the Museum of the History of San Pablo.
COCLE PROVINCE

Cocle Province is one of Panama’s central provinces, and is located on Panama’s southern coast, near the provinces of Panama, Colon, Veraguas and Herrera. It is about 1 ½ hours by car from Panama City. Cocle is primarily an agricultural area, but is fast developing into a popular tourist destination. Cocle provides produce to much of the country of Panama, and is most famous for the production of tomatoes and sugar. The capital of Cocle is Penonome, which is located on the Chiriqui river in central Cocle.
El Valle de Anton
One area worth visiting is El Valle de Anton, a beautiful and exotic valley which has become a popular tourist attraction. It is the only place in the country where you can find the square trees, and is one of the best places to find the famous golden frogs. Here you can also go hiking, rappelling, bird watching, horseback riding, or bicycling. There is also the Nispero zoo and a botanical garden. Another feature of this area is the local market, which is held on the weekends and is known as one of the best in the country.
Cocle encompasses many sites of archeological importance, with significant artifacts being recovered from burial sites and ruins throughout the region. Two important sites are the El Cano archeological site, and Sitio Conte, which was the location of the first major find. Cocle artisans were known for their pottery, featuring colorful bird, animal and human decorations.
Tourist Attractions
Parks and museums located in the province of Cocle include the Museum of the History and Traditions of Penonome, The Archeological Park of El Cano, The Museum of Salt and Sugar, The Museum of the Valley of Anton and El Cope National Park.
COLON PROVINCE

 

Colon Province extends along the Caribbean coast of Panama on it’s northern side, and Panama Province and Cocle Province along the southern side. The capital of Colon province is Colon city, which is located at the entrance to the Panama Canal on the Caribbean side. Colon city includes a new cruise ship terminal, and is also famous for it’s Free Zone. The city of Colon remains essentially an industrial area with few tourist attractions, but renovations have been undertaken and some of Colon’s most notable architecture has already been restored.
The province of Colon is also famous for the port city of Portobelo, which was named by Christopher Columbus in 1502. The name Portobelo means “beautiful harbor”, and the city has a rich cultural and historical background. There are two Spanish forts to visit in Portobelo, The Fort of San Lorenzo and the Santiago de Gloria Fort. Portobelo National Park also lies within Colon Province, approximately 1 ½ hours from Panama City.
DARIEN PROVINCE

Darien province is at the eastern end of Panama, sharing a border with the country of Colombia. This province is the largest in Panama. It is rugged, sparsely populated, and offers few amenities for tourists. It is covered by steep mountains, rivers, jungles and beautiful beaches. The largest rivers in this area the Tuira and the Chucunaque rivers. The capital of Darien, La Palma, is located where the Tuira River empties into the Bay of San Miguel. Darien Province is the last safe home for many endangered species and is considered one of the most complete tropical ecosystems that can be found in the Americas.
Darien is perhaps best known for its magnificent forests and the great diversity of flora and fauna that lives there. The Darien National Park makes up most of the southern end of the province, and covers almost 1.5 million acres. This area also includes what is known as The Darién Gap, which is a large swath of undeveloped swampland and forest separating Panama and Colombia. The Pan American highway terminates in the town of Yaviza, and beyond here the only mode of transportation is by boat. This is where the only interruption in the Pan-American Highway is located.
The native population of the province of Darien is primarily made up of the Embera and Wounnan tribes. These peoples continue to live much as they did thousands of years ago. They engage mainly in sustainable agriculture, hunting, and fishing. Crafts produced in this area include beautiful woodcarvings and woven baskets.
On April 6, 2006, the U.S. Department of State consular information sheet on Panama advised U.S. citizens not to travel to the Darien Province. The restricted area encompasses the Darien National Park as well as privately owned nature reserves and tourist resorts. While no incidents have occurred at these resorts, U.S. citizens, other foreign nationals and Panamanian citizens have been the victims of violent crime, kidnapping and murder in this general area. There is also the absence of reliable communications and medical infrastructure in the region, which makes travel in this area potentially hazardous. Moreover, all around the Panama-Colombia border area the presence of Colombian terrorist groups, drug traffickers and other criminals is common, adding danger to travelers. In addition, the Center for Disease Control recommends anti-malarial medication if you are traveling to remote areas of the Darien Province.
HERRERA PROVINCE

 

 

Herrera Province is a small province located on what is called the Azuero Peninsula. It is bordered by Cocle, Los Santos and Veraguas, and touches on the Pacific Ocean. Herrera is mainly agricultural, with few tourist attractions. The interior of the province is mostly farmland, cattle pasture, and towns. The province of Herrera ranks third in the production of sugarcane in Panama. Panama’s most famous alcoholic drink, “seco” is made from sugarcane and is also produced in Herrera.
The capital of Herrera is Chitre, which is located near the coast. Other important cities in Herrera are Parita, Ocu, Las Minas, Los Pozos and Santa Maria. The province is famous for its festivities during Carnival, especially in Chitre, Parita and Ocu. Chitre’s carnival is one of the most popular in Panama, but those in Ocu have risen in prominence in recent years.
The artisans of Herrera are particularly known for their clay pottery, which can be bought along the roads and streets of Chitre. There are many examples of Spanish colonial architecture in Chitre, including The Cathedral of San Juan Bautista and the Herrera Museum. The Sarigua National Park, which is a unique desert like region, is also located in the province of Herrera. The Museum of Colonial Religious Art of the Church of Santo Domingo of Parita is a museum located in the town of Parita.
LOS SANTOS PROVINCE


Los Santos Province is located on the Azuero Peninsula, bordering on Herrera Province and Veraguas Province. It is approximately a 4 to 5 hour drive from Panama City. It is divided into 7 districts. The capital city is Las Tablas, a small town that is thought of as the center of Carnival in Panama. It is famous for its carnival celebrations, as well as the Festival Nacional de la Pollera, and the Festival of the Patron Santa Librada. Las Tablas is a very traditional Spanish town with a rich colonial history. It features a central plaza that is surrounded by historic churches and government buildings.
Los Santos Province has approximately 125 miles of coastline, with many well-renowned beaches, such as El Arenal, Destiladeros, Las Almendras, El Toro, and Punta Mala in the district of Pedasi, and Los Uveritos, which is near Las Tablas. Playa Venado, which is located between the districts of Pedasi and Tonosi, is popular with surfers and several surfing competitions have been held here. There are also beaches on the island of Isla Iguana, which is known for its blue water and black sand. The island is 25 minutes by boat from Pedasí. Surfing and snorkeling are some of the most popular activities among visiting tourists.
Two parks are located within Los Santos Province, Cerro Hoya National Park and Isla Iguana Wildlife Refuge. Museums located within Los Santos include the Museum of Nationality, the Museum Belisario Porras and the Musuem Manuel F. Zarate. Other attractions in the area include an archeological site called the Sitio Arqueologico Cerro Juan Diaz, the Church of San Antanacio and the Church of Santa Librada.
PANAMA PROVINCE

 

Panama Province is located on the Pacific side of Panama, bordering on the provinces of Darien, San Blas, Colon and Cocle. The capital of this province is Panama City, which is also the capital of the country of Panama. The province has a long coastline, which includes the beaches of Playa Gorgona, Playa Coronado, Playa San Carlos and Punta Chame Beach. The islands off the coast of Panama province include Isla Toboga and Isla Contadora.
Tourist Attractions
Although most information on the Panama Province focuses on Panama City itself, there are many other attractions in the area. There are several national parks located within this province, including the Parque Metropolitano, Altos De Campana National Park, Chagres National Park, Las Cruces Trail National Park, and Soberania National Park.
Bridges

 

The two main bridges, the Bridge of the Americas and Centennial Bridge, that span the Panama Canal and connect North and South America are also located in the province of Panama.
VERAGUAS PROVINCE


Veraguas Province is located in central Panama, and is the only province with both Caribbean and Pacific coastlines. The capital of Veraguas is Santiago, which is the fourth largest city in Panama. The town of San Francisco De La Montana is close to Santiago, and here you can find a gorgeous church with baroque style architecture dating back to the beginning of the XVIII century. The province of Veraguas also encompasses spectacular mountain terrain along the Cordillera Central that rises as it continues into Chiriqui Province. Veraguas Province offers tourists and visitors close contact with nature, while exploring it’s rainforests, mountains, beaches and islands where there are more than 200 varieties of orchids, more than 400 species of birds, as well as a diversity of mammals, reptiles and insects.
Veraguas includes several islands including Cebaco, Isla Jicaron and Isla Gobernadora. The largest is Isla Coiba, which includes Coiba National Park. This park has the second largest coral reef in the Central-Eastern Pacific Ocean, and is one of the largest marine parks in the world. Isla Coiba also has beautiful beaches such as Playa Damas and Playa Blanca. Other parks in Veraguas include Santa Fe National, Yeguada Lagoon Forest Reserve and Montuoso Forest Reserve.
In addition to its mountains and jungles, Veraguas also offers beautiful beaches, such as Playa Santa Catalina, Playa Mariato, Malena and Torio, which provide great opportunities for recreation, surfing and fishing. In particular, Playa Santa Catalina is well known throughout the world, especially in the surfing community. 
THE 3 PANAMA COMARCAS

EMBERA COMARCA

 

Embera Comarca in Panama is made up of two non-contiguous districts surrounded by the Darien Province. This comarca is extremely remote, and there are no roads that go to these areas, which are home to some 17,000 people, mostly Embera with a Wounaan minority.
The Embera and Wounaan tribes share a cultural past, as both were formerly known as the Choco because they migrated from the Choco province of Columbia in the late 18th century. These tribes continue to share a similar culture, but speak distinct languages.
The Embera and Wounaan are both accomplished artisans and produce elaborate and detailed tagus carvings from seeds of the Tagua tree. In addition, the basket weaving of the Embera and Wounaan is gaining an international reputation, and these beautiful baskets have been sold at North American art markets.
KUNA YALA COMARCA

Kuna Yala comarca is inhabited by the Kuna indigenous people. The name means “Kuna-land” or “Kuna mountain” in the Kuna language. The area was formerly known as San Blas. This area is about a 20 minute plane ride from Panama City, and flights are available to several of the islands. The San Blas islands are one of the ports of call for several cruise lines as well.
Kuna Yala comarca has an area of 924 square miles and a population of 36,487 people (2004). The comarca consists of a strip of land stretching 232 miles along the Caribbean coast of Panama, bordering Colombia and the Darien Province. The San Blas Islands, an archipelago of over 360 islands, runs along the coast. About 36 of the islands are inhabited by Kuna communities. An additional 13 communities are located on the mainland coast, for a total of 49 communities.
Tourism is a force in the Kuna economy. There are several Kuna-run hotels in the archipelago offering ecotours, fishing, snorkeling, and touring of nearby villages. There is virtually no significant development in this area, so it is surrounded by some of the oldest coral reefs in the world, and offer wonderful diving and snorkeling opportunities.
The Kuna Yala women are particularly known for their colorful Mola, which are woven fabric panels often featuring geometric designs, fish and animals.  
NGOBE-BUGLE COMARCA

 
Ngobe-Bugle Comarca of Panama is made up of portions of Chiriqui Province, Veraguas Province and Bocas del Toro Province. It is inhabited by the Ngobe-Bugle (formerly Guaymi), which are Panama’s largest Indigenous group with around 164,000 members. They were once known as fierce warriors, who wore an ornament called the Chaquira. The Chaquira remains a symbol of their culture, but is now sophisticated hand-beaded jewelry that is a source of income for the tribe.

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