Metropolitan Natural Park
The Metropolitan Natural Park (MNP)
The Metropolitan Natural Park (MNP), situated just outside of downtown Panama City, serves as a wonderful retreat for those interested in escaping from the neighboring city; it is the only park in Tropical Latin America with a natural forest located within a metropolitan capital. Encompassing approximately 265 hectares, 192 of which consist of dry lowland Pacific forest, the Metropolitan Natural Park was decreed a park in 1985. Managed by an array of governmental and private institutions including the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute, the Metropolitan Park also shelters plants and animals threatened by extinction. Furthermore, the MNP also serves as an ideal laboratory for tropical research, and is often used by local universities and the Smithsonian Institute.
The park has three main trails, all of which are well maintained and easy to find. The longer, most popular trail “Sendero Cienequita” starts just up the road from the administration office. After a comfortable five minute walk along the principal road, there is a sign pointing to the start of the trail. The first portion of the trail passes through forest, lined with vegetation and a series of climbs and descents. The trail soon breaks out on to a dirt road (Titi Monkey Road), which leads both left and right. In order to reach the “Look Out,” make a left and continue up the road. There are two levels from which to view the surroundings, with the highest point requiring a short climb up a stair case. Both "Look Outs" have chairs for resting, and tables offering a description of those items in your view. At an elevation of 150 meters above sea level, the remainining portion of the park can be seen, as well as Panama City, the Bay, and the Panama Canal, including the Port of Balboa and Miraflores Locks. After retracing the same path for a short distance, this dirt road continues down and around until it meets the principal road where the trail begins. To complete the entire trail one should allocate between 1-2 hours. Another trail which begins just across the street from the administrative office is called “Sendero Momotides,” which is a much shorter trail and offers no vistas. This relatively flat, oval trail can be completed in around one hour. The “Sendero Los Caobos” starts from behind the administrative office and similar to that of “Sendero Memotides,” however, it is longer and not as flat.
The Metropolitan Natural Park, while containing a healthy supply of plant and animal species, should not be viewed as a prime location to view wildlife. While monkeys, iguanas, deer, and numerous bird species have all been reported, they are not very commonly sighted. The park itself is open from 6:00 a.m.-5:30 p.m., however, the administration/welcome office opens at 8:00 a.m.. The phone number is 232-5552. Material is available in both English and Spanish, including maps and informational packets. There is no charge to enter the park, but a small contribution is encouraged before departing.