10 Best Zoos & Aquariums in Panama

Updated On October 7, 2023

A trip down to Panama means you will experience lots of nature, outdoor beaches, and wildlife full of wildcats and other animals native to the area.

In order to get a close view of these animals from the land and the sea creatures swimming in the water, you’ll want to visit some of the best zoos and aquariums available in Panama.

Many of these locations offer more events and experiences beyond the traditional viewing exhibits.

Feedings and excursions make these locations a must-do while visiting the country. 

Best Zoos & Aquariums in Panama

If you are not sure which zoos or aquariums to choose from, below are some of the best in the country with lots of visitors each year, and come highly rated. 

1. Summit Botanical Gardens

While it may be on the smaller side, the Summit Botanical Gardens is home to a variety of different paved trails that house small animals and lots of native plants in Panama.

It is a haven for native wildlife, with many of the plants in the area providing appropriate ecosystems for these animals.

Thousands of visitors come to the Summit Botanical Gardens in Panama City as a way to embrace nature in a clean and safe atmosphere.

Lots of tropical birds are found throughout the property, including the Harpy Eagle.

If you visit during the week, it is not uncommon to see a school group, as this location is great for educational field trips of all ages and grade levels.

There are several exhibits that house the native wildcats of Panama, animals that are usually hidden from sight in the wild.

The animals that are on the property have been rescued from situations that put them in danger and they are living out their lives in a sanctuary that is safe. 

2. Punta Culebra Nature Center

While you are in Panama City, make sure you bring your loved ones to the Punta Culebra Nature Center where you can experience a tour full of education about the different animals on the property.

Unlike many zoos, Punta Culebra Nature Center is only open Wednesday through Sunday, from 9 am to 4 pm.

There is a maximum capacity for touring the facility, so you want to get there early and allow your party up to two hours to take in the overall tour of the property.

Kids who visit the park have access to a variety of educational tools to provide further education on the wildlife and coastal marine life of Panama.

The biggest attraction at this zoo is the Frogs of Panama Exhibit, where nearly all the different species are on display for visitors to enjoy.

3. Monkey Island

Located in Panama Lake Gutan is Monkey Island.

This property is a specialized zoo that focuses on the native white-faced monkeys that call this island home.

For many decades, it has been protected, allowing the species to grow and have a place to call their own.

Because these are friendly animals and non-violent, it is safe to take tours to the island.

Thousands of visitors each year book their tour to explore the island for 2-3 hours at a time and get to interact with the animals on the island.

There are two tours a day, so you will need to book your tour in advance and make sure you are on time.

Visitors travel by boat to the island, where they disembark and take a walk through the paved areas.

This is great for families with children and even large school tour groups to enjoy while in Panama. 

4. Gamboa Rainforest Reserve

Sometimes, being directly immersed in the environment is the best way to enjoy the wildlife of an area.

Located in the town of Gamboa is the Rainforest Reserve Resort.

You can stay on the property of this zoo and get to experience some of the most unique experiences with the wildlife in the area.

Any time you step outdoors at the resort, you are met with some of the local wildlife that lives in this rainforest.

The resort is designed to allow visitors to cohabitate with nature in this area.

Direct access to the Panama Canal and Chagres River can be accessed directly from the resort, allowing lots of fun water activities and tours in the area.

Because of the zoo resort’s location, the experiences are endless and much more available than in other locations found throughout Panama.

These experiences are much more luxurious than other options, carrying that resort mentality out on the attached excursions. 

5. Raquel’s Ark

If you want to support a local rescue center with your Airbnb reservation in Panama, you can plan to stay at Rquel’s Ark in Volcan.

The zoo portion of this location is less than an hour to tour, but new animals are added to the exhibits each day.

As a rescue center, this location is meant to rehabilitate these animals and, if possible, release them back into the wild after they have made a full recovery.

Those animals that are not able to return have a safe and spacious home at the rescue zoo that is supported by donations.

Hundreds of donor funds are provided each year to keep this rescue going.

The animals include everything from Two-Toed Slots and Kindajous to Pumas who needed the help of a rescue.

These exhibits are available for guests to enjoy all day on the property. 

6. Safaricks Zoologico

Not your typical zoo, Sararicks Zoologico is a research and rescue facility that has opened the property to the public as a way to gain funding for the services and research happening on the property.

Animals that have been rescued out of the wild and need a safe place to live their lives find a home at Safaricks Zooligico.

On the property are a couple of aviaries for tropical birds that call the local rainforests home.

Enjoy the Safaricks Zooligoco with a guided tour to safely navigate the enclosures and get the most upfront experience with these animals.

In addition to touring the zoo, visitors can take advantage of the beach services after the 1.5-hour tour by adding it to the admission package.

This private beach is a great afternoon experience for families and large groups. 

7. Truchas Bambito

If you are staying in Volcan, Panama, you want to experience local marine life at Truchas Bambito.

This is one of the best local experiences for visitors to the area where activities and exhibits are available all day long.

Unlike many aquariums, there is a fishing experience available for guests who want to see firsthand the marine life that lives in the local waters.

Hundreds of visitors to the area secure admission to this aquarium park through a combination of different experiences.

It is a smaller park, so you can expect to pair it with other activities on that day.

It is one of the most visited places on Volcano and a great way to enjoy interacting with locals in the area for a well-rounded experience. 

8. Gamboa Sloth Sanctuary

Some visitors in Panama want a direct experience with sloths, the beloved animal that takes life at its own pace.

For one hour, you can experience sloths in their natural habitat and get interactions that are not available in zoos anywhere else.

The sloths in this habitat have been rescued and relocated for their safety and protection.

Those that become fully rehabilitated and able to return to the wild are released back into the rainforest. 

9. Coiba Dive Center

For those who want the most natural experience of marine wildlife in both the Atlantic and the Caribbean waters, the Coiba Dive Center offers direct diving experiences where tourists can see local and exotic marine animals directly off the coast.

Located in Santa Catalina, divers are driven about an hour away from the coast into the deep waters of the ocean for a unique experience.

Because these waters are frequented by the Dive Center, they know what to expect from the marine life below and travel patterns to protect divers.

It is important to keep in mind though that some of the more dangerous animals in the ocean can approach the area and divers will need to get out of the water if they are spotted.

Divers are also guided to where they can swim since a certain area is monitored regularly. 

10. Isla Iguana Wildlife Refuge

Not your typical zoo, the Isla Iguana Wildlife Refuge offers tours and true wildlife adventures for visitors who want a more stimulating experience.

This experience will take most of the day, with a boat heading over to the island and then coming back, so be prepared to dedicate several hours to this experience.

The iguanas on this island are protected and have this location to keep the species safe and avoid being marked as endangered.

Some of the activities available include overnight camping, swimming, and fishing.

There are thousands of birds on the island using this location as a safe haven, as well. 

10 Best Zoos & Aquariums in Panama – Summary Table

Zoos & AquariumsPunta Culebra Nature Center
Summit Botanical GardensAv Omar Torrijos Herrera, Summit, Panama
Punta Culebra Nature CenterCalz. de Amador, Panamá, Panama
Monkey Island XFPC+9R4, C. Eusebio A. Morales, Panamá, Panama
Gamboa Rainforest Reserve48G4+4JW, Gamboa, Panama
Raquel's ArkC. 4a Sur, Volcán, Panama
Safaricks ZoologicoMaria Chiquita, Panama
Truchas Bambito418, Paso Ancho, Panama
Gamboa Sloth Sanctuary48G4+HCX, Gamboa, Panama
Coiba Dive CenterCalle Principal, Santa Catalina, Panama
Isla Iguana Wildlife Refuge5 kilometers off the Los Santos Province on the Azuero Peninsula in Panama.

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Frequently Asked Questions

Are there more zoos or aquariums in Panama?

When you visit the country of Panama, you will find more zoo experiences than aquariums, simply because many of the zoos in the area are wildlife rehabilitation centers.

There are only a few aquariums and they are not as large as others in Central or South America.

What is the largest zoo in Panama?

The largest zoo in the country is the Summit Botanical Gardens and Zoo which is great for families and tourists to enjoy.

Including locals, there are thousands of visitors to the area each year.

Will I find exotic animals in Panama that are from other continents?

The zoos in Panama specifically house local wildlife, so you will not find locations with animals from other continents like you would in other countries.

What types of experiences are available at Panama zoos?

Most of the zoos in Panama offer guided tours that help visitors navigate up-close and personal encounters with animals while remaining safe at all times.

It is important to maintain safety for the visitors and the animals who live in these locations, as stress and too much interaction can be damaging.

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