Oceans

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Panama is the only country in the world where the sun rises over the Pacific.

 

An S shaped strip of land approximately 775 kilometers/ 465 miles long and between 50 - 177 kilometers/ 30 - 106 miles wide, the Isthmus of Panama rose out of the sea approximately 3 million years ago and is considered to be one of the most important geologic events in the past 60 million years, as it not only connected North and South America, and thus the migration of humans and animal species, but it also separated and thus altered the major ocean currents of both the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans.

The Pacific is extremely shallow along the Pacific Plate in both the Gulf of Panama and the Gulf of Chiriqui, near Costa Rica. As a result, wide mud flats extend out for perhaps 40 miles as soil is deposited in these underwater alluvial plains by the massive river systems along the coast. This is essential in providing nutrients to the varied sea life, starting with the smaller fish and shrimp that depend on the extensive system of mangroves to breed and nest, which become food all along the chain right up to the great whales that come through Panama during their long yearly migrations from north to south. The shallow topography also results in a drastic tidal variation in the Pacific - approximately 16 feet from high to low tide.

The Pacific is home to as many as 1,000 islands, including the Pearl Islands located 30 miles south of Panama City in the Bay of Panama. Named for the abundance of pearls once found there, the area is now growing as a tourist destination, with a small number of high end residential and vacation resorts being developed. Access is both by boat and small plane, and even though the pearl oysters are all but gone, the proximity of the island not only to the city but also to the incredible fishing grounds at the edge of the Pacific Tectonic Plate, in front of Pinas Bay, make it an incredible natural resource. 

The Atlantic Ocean reaches Panama's north coast in the name of the Caribean Sea. Unlike the extensive tidal variation of the Pacific, that of the Caribean is on average about 3 to 5 feet. The water of the Caribean is a much clearer turquoise blue, and while not boasting the incredible big game fishing of the Pacific, there is not shortage of fish nor reefs. The mostly calm waters are full of islands that are best explored by boat, and can even be visited in extended sea kayak touring trips, especially the area of San Blas, which is part of the 'Comarca' or territory of the Indigenous Kuna peoples. 

The Caribean coast is much more sparsely populated than the Pacific, in part due to a significant lack of infrastructure. There are currently only two paved roads that reach to the Caribean, one from Panama City to Colon and the other from Chiriqui Province over the Bocas del Toro.

Once in Colon, there is a road heading east along the coast through the area referred to as 'Costa Arriba' or upper coast, that terminates just past Nombre de Dios, near the Kuna Yala. Not far past Portobello, the port where the Spanish stored, counted, taxed and shipped out the gold and other precious items to Spain, is the beautiful little island of Isla Grande. A five minute ride by boat, Isla Grande is a relaxing paradise reminiscent of any small Caribean port of call.

Heading west over the canal is 'Costa Abajo' or Lower Coast. This road extends only a short distance, of about 60 miles along narrow winding coastal roads. Plans are currently under way to extend this road all the way to Veraguas Province where it will meet up with a road coming over from Santiago, through the beautiful mountain town of Santa Fe. As a result of these plans, the price of land along the Caribean has skyrocketed in recent years.

 
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