Caribbean Paradise Full of History
Beaches, natural wonders, culture and good people This beautiful province in the Atlantic with historical and cultural richness and invaluable natural treasures, is closer than it seems. And there are three ways to get there, all
Beaches, natural wonders, culture and good people
This beautiful province in the Atlantic with historical and cultural richness and invaluable natural treasures, is closer than it seems. And there are three ways to get there, all fast and efficient. Renting a car is an excellent idea since the province will be available to explore and is only 46 minutes away, using the Panama-Colon highway from Panama City. By bus it takes approximately 1 hour and 15 minutes, leaving the transport terminal and is inexpensive, ticket costs between $ 3.50 – $ 4.00 per trip.
The third way to get to this province is the most fun: on the Trans-isthmian railway. This historic route passes through impressive natural sectors of the Panama Canal that you can only see by opting for this means of transport.
Costa Arriba de Colon
This is the area that receives the highest amount of tourism after the Atlantic area of the Panama Canal. Entering through the town of Sabanitas (20 minutes from the city of Colon), every visitor will find beautiful beaches, forts from the colonial era, as well as Afro-Antillean history and culture.
It is a small historic town on the Atlantic coast of the country, where you can travel back in time while enjoying the warm and crystal clear tropical waters. It has approximately 3,000 inhabitants who have lived there for many years.
In the 16th century, the Spanish conquerors needed a route between the two oceans that would connect Spain with the lands of Bolivia and Peru. The Chagres River assumed that function and soon its mouth was threatened by attacks by pirates and buccaneers. This forced the construction of fortifications to defend it, which were declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1980.
- La Aduana, Portobelo
One of the most important buildings at that time was La Aduana. Built between 1630 and 1634, its structure responded to the Renaissance model, brought by the Spanish to these lands. This building was used as a warehouse, fiscal office, deposit of the royal boxes, residence of the governor and the royal officials. These functions were abolished in 1744, when the city of Portobelo was attacked by the pirate Francis Drake.
- Castle of San Jeronimo, Portobelo
Declared a historical monument of Panama in 1941, it was part of the defense system for transatlantic trade of the Crown of Spain and is an example of the military architecture of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.
- Fort of Santiago
The first fort that stands out when approaching Portobelo is that of Santiago. Built in 1753, 14 years after the attack by the pirate Edward Vernon. Many of its walls were three meters wide and made of blocks of coral, known to the Spanish as reef rock. In these ruins you can find artillery, soldiers’ barracks, watchtowers and half a dozen cannons.
- San Fernando Fort
In 1601 Fort San Felipe and San Diego were built near the mouth of Portobelo Bay, but were destroyed in pirate Edward Vernon’s attack in 1739. Fort San Fernando was built in 1760, on the ruins of these two Forts, with a battery of 14 cannons. Much of it was dismantled to use its rocks in the wave breaker that was built at the entrance of the Atlantic to the Panama Canal.
It is said that in the middle of the 15th century some blacks, mostly from the African nations of Guinea and Congo, rose up and took refuge in the Caribbean jungle. They were known as cimarrones (fugitive slaves, rebels) and from their locations or villages they used the drum to communicate with their brothers in captivity. A way of making fun of the ecclesial structure of the time that told them that if they did not obey the master, the devil would take them. For this reason, the personification of the souls and the devil in the Congo.
The dresses of the Congo people are full of color. The women wear a two-piece skirt, a shirt with “arandina” and a skirt made of scraps of fabrics. They adorn their head with colorful flowers. The men wear their clothing backwards, a coconut bast hat adorned with feathers, shells, mirrors or beads, and paint their faces with charcoal. The Congo dance is performed with bare feet, as a symbol of the black’s relationship with the earth.
Costa Arriba and its Beaches
- The narrow
One of the most popular due to its proximity to the city of Colon (only 12 minutes away). Apart from offering a great day at the beach with the family, you can also practice water sports. There are also facilities for bathing, cabins to spend the night and restaurants with delicious Caribbean meals.
- Chiquita Beach
Its waters are more relaxed than those of La Angosta beach, since depending on the season, you must arrive by 4×4 transport or only by boat. It does not have many amenities, it is just what those looking to be alone and in peace with nature are looking for.
- White beach
Just 30 minutes by boat from Portobelo, it is one of the best known and most visited by national and local tourists. Located on a small island full of nature, you can listen to howler monkeys while bathing in its warm waters. It is surrounded by corals, making it ideal for snorkeling.
- Big Island
Just 15 kilometers from Portobelo and a small boat trip from La Guaira, you will find this island that has become one of the most emblematic places in the Colonense province, for those who seek to swim in its beautiful beaches. Ideal for shallow snorkeling, diving or simply relaxing in the tranquility of the island town.
Costa Abajo de Colón
With the inauguration of the new vehicular bridge in the Atlantic over the Panama Canal, it is easier and faster to get to this secluded area of Colon. Costa Abajo is an area that historically has not been fully developed, but that offers a beach tourism potential and unique natural landscapes. However, there is a historical place that must be visited.
- Fort San Lorenzo
Declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1980, it is located just west of the City of Colon and the Gatun Locks. The San Lorenzo Protected Area extends across 12 thousand hectares (30,000 acres) and includes the San Lorenzo Fort.
The Spanish ruins date back to the 17th century, but the original Fort was built in 1595. Located along a huge cliff near the mouth of the Chagres River, San Lorenzo would fulfill the function of securing trade routes and protecting them from pirates along the Caribbean coast of Panama. The English pirate Sir Francis Drake was the first to attack him in 1596, then Sir Henry Morgan attacked him again in 1671.
San Lorenzo was rebuilt in stone in 1680, but it was destroyed again by the English Admiral Edward Vernon in 1740. However, it was rebuilt again in 1768 and fortifications were added in 1779. This same Fort still stands today.
Things to Do
- Explore Cerro La Gloria, on the circular trail in Portobelo National Park. You must reach the town Nombre de Dios, continue along the road until you see the sign “Cerro La Gloria” on the right. www.panamaface.com
- Get to know the Church of San Felipe, home of the Black Christ of Portobelo. Behind it is the renovated Church of San Juan de Dios, home of the New Museum of the Black Christ, with more than 50 robes donated for the Nazarene festival.
- Travel by train from Panama to Colon and vice versa, on the Panama Railroad. Each trip has a value of $ 25.00 adults, $ 15.00 children (from 2 to 15 2 years old) and $17.50 retirees. www.panarail.com
- Taste the colonense seasoning, in a “Colonense Gastronomic Experience”. Guided tour of five gastronomic locations with tasting included. You will learn how the “Plantain Tart” is prepared. Value $70.00. https://eltripdejenny.contactin.bio/
- Visit Casa Congo, a public space for artisan workshops and local exhibitions. It is also a themed boutique hotel with a restaurant, where Congo art reigns in every corner. Located in front of the Bay of Portobelo. www.casacongo.com
- Tour the “Blue Veins” of Colon. Its turquoise waters enjoy great fame. Among the places that tourists want to know the most is the “Tunnel of Love”, a nearby route in the middle of mangroves. More information on IG: @venasazulespanama