Soberania National Park
Soberania National Park
4.5
About
Located 15 miles from downtown Panama City, this scenic park features two hiking paths called el Charco in Gamboa and Pipeline Road, both known for excellent birding and wildlife viewing.
Suggested duration
More than 3 hours
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Detailed Reviews: Reviews order informed by descriptiveness of user-identified themes such as cleanliness, atmosphere, general tips and location information.
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4.5
409 reviews
Excellent
237
Very good
110
Average
49
Poor
9
Terrible
4

TravelingSoccerLoon
Saint Paul, MN2,789 contributions
Oct 2021
I visited the portion of Soberania National Park that includes the Panama Rainforest Discovery Center and Pipeline Road. It is about a 30-40 min taxi/Uber from Panama City. The Discovery Center has several trails to hike along with a tower that you can climb that takes you to above the canopy of the jungle and a hummingbird exhibit. Hearing the howler monkeys in the early morning was cool. Ran into a troupe of capuchin monkeys which made the effort and cost of coming out here all worth it but I was a bit disappointed that we didn't see more wildlife. It may have been better had I hired a guide. Pipeline Road in the unpaved road that connects the Discovery center to the main road. It is regarded as one of the premier bird watching areas in Central America. However, you really need to spend the money and hire a guide and come here in the early morning hours to fully experience. Unless you drive yourself, make sure you arrange for your driver to stay so that they can drive you back to the city. There is no cell service or taxis available here. Better yet, invite your driver to join you on the hike as "guides" get in free at the Discovery Center. Also, the 2-mile unpaved Pipeline road that leads to the Discovery Center is an incredibly narrow treacherous drive filled with rocks, potholes and tree branches. I was certain my driver's compact car was going to end up with a flat tire or broken axle. You really should have a SUV with high clearance if driving here.
Written May 24, 2022
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

Rochelle F
Randolph, NJ929 contributions
Jan 2023
We came here with a birding guide early in the morning and saw lots of birds. The park is not Gamboa rainforest resort although that is nearby; it is a large national park with many areas. Saw peccaries, coatis, agouti too. Saw a pootoo which is extemely hard to see. Was really a beautiful hike on the pipeline trail also, although as the morning wore on, the birds start to sleep.
Written March 29, 2023
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

MtRainierDave
66 contributions
Feb 2021 • Couples
Pipeline road is a nice walk through the jungle and you'll likely see howler monkeys and a few birds. Not sure I'd recommend it without a fabulous guide like Jacobo Ortega. We saw nearly 40 bird species in our first hour and nearly 70 overall including 4 kinds of trogon, 3 kinds of toucan, 10 flycatcher species, and more obscure species like antpitta, antbird, and antwren. In a matter of seconds Jacobo would find the bird and have his scope on it for exceptional looks at nearly all of them. He even took photos for me through my cell phone. Sadly, because of the pandemic, we were Jacobos first customers in 10 months but he deserves more. His number is 507 6674-4464 and he speaks good English. Charged my wife and I $100 for a private and spectacular 4-hour birdwatching tour.
Written February 16, 2021
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

Panthera2013
London, UK99 contributions
Sep 2022
We stayed at the Canopy Tower and visited the Soberania National Park every day especially to look for birds. It was absolutely stunning. The Discovery centre here is also a good place to visit. The paths and trails to walk/hike on are well sign posted. It is hot and humid like everywhere else in Panama so dress accordingly and carry water.
Written September 27, 2022
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

Len F
Oregon, WI326 contributions
Feb 2020
After flying into Panama the previous day, wee were happy to get a chance to walk around.
There were plenty of birds and monkeys on display. Especially hummingbirds and howler monkeys.
Be sure to climb the lookout tower for a great view above the canopy.
Written February 22, 2020
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

travelingmike
Hillsboro, Oregon152 contributions
Overview:

This is an easily accessible nature park from Panama' City. There are several entrances, and hikes that can be done. Different animals and birds can be seen. Some of which are monkeys, coatis (looks like a cross between and racoon and anteater.), birds, lizards, snakes and the like. Nice hiking trails. A map can be picked up at the different office locations.

My experience:

I was only able to take one trail. I took the trail closest to Summit biological reserve. I hiked in 4-5 miles and ran across the Camino de las Cruzes, which was the trail the Spainards took to bring gold from the new world back to Spain. I saw all of the animals that I mentioned above. I enjoyed my hike and I believe that if you are a nature lover, you will enjoy the hike, too.

Details:

- You have to pay a fee at the trail head you visit. I believe that I paid $3.50 in January of 2008.
- Bring food and water for there is none around to be purchased.
- Bring mosquito repellent just in case - I did not have a problem though.

Helpful hints:

- You can take the bus from Panama' City to Gamboa. Take a taxi to the SACA bus terminal and then a bus to Gamboa. The cost was 65 cents in January of 2008. This is the bus that the locals take and is an old school bus. You can stop at the office and get a map at the stop right before Summit biological reserve. The trailhead that I took was right after the stop for Summit and before Gamboa. Be advised that the area around the SACA terminal is not that great and would not be a good idea to wander around outside of the terminal.

Please rate my review. Thanks.
Written February 23, 2008
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

Suv Y
London, UK45 contributions
Mar 2015 • Solo
I am an amateur bird watcher and was still a little unclear about what to expect from the park after reading previous comments. So decided to provide as many details as possible.

# Firstly, in my opinion, this park (especially Pipeline Road) is for
- Professional bird watchers = They have the patience and look out for sounds/noises/movements whilst walking to know what kind of bird makes that noise and where to look (undergrowth, top of the trees, branches etc) for it. In most cases they do NOT need a guide for the Pipeline Road.
- Amateur bird watchers = They are learning how to recognise movements of birds and mammals, and are learning the art of patience. If you are an advanced amateur, you may not need a guide and will spot a lot of the wildlife in the park. I am one of these and would have spotted more birds if I had taken a guide, but I don't regret taking one as I saw enough. If you the money and the will, you should get a guide as you will definitely see a lot more birds with a good guide. If not, stopping at any spot for a few minutes and looking out for sounds and movements will definitely reveal the birds/mammals around you.
- Artificial bird watchers = I have coined that term to describe people who would like to see birds in their natural environment but will only spot a bird if someone tells them where to look even if it is sitting above their head (as birds are pretty small/camouflaged). If you are one of those, you NEED a guide.
- Hikers = The park has some most amazing long and short tropical rainforest hikes with little streams and ponds scattered along the route. Since they are not looking for much wildlife, its perfect for them, and there is not much scope to getting lost if you don't venture out too much from the main trail.

# The park is NOT for you if you don't know how to spot birds and are not willing to get a guide.

# Guides are not available at the Pipeline Road (or they weren't when I went). You need to book them in the city. A good guide know the jungle inside out. I saw a group with a guide who came out with a portable speaker and played the bird calls. Miraculously, the bird he played the sound of came and sat close by out of natural curiosity.

# Most people who seem to go just to visit this park (and the surrounding national parks) over a number of days tend to stay in Gamboa, which is the nearest town. I however was staying in Panama City.

# From Panama city you can take a yellow cab up to the start of Pipeline road and the Rainforest Discovery Centre. I spoke to one such cab driver. He said he will charge me $20 to take me there in morning and $20 to come back in evening. Being aware that they may charge me waiting time, I asked him about that. He said he wont wait there, but will come to pick me up later (not everyone will do that). The only way to make sure he comes back is to pay him at the end of the day for both journeys.

# After the above I decided to rent a car anyway as I wanted to go to a few other places. I booked a small hatch with Sixt using a comparison website for a couple of days. When I went to collect the car at around mid day, all there hatchbacks had gone so they gave me a free upgrade to a small 4x4 (lucky). It cost me $50 for the car + gas/petrol.

# The local buses do go from Panama City but only go as far as Gamboa. The Pipeline Road entrance is 5km from Gamboa. The only bus service that goes to Gamboa is CoopSACA (Tel:232.5155), which works on a specific schedule, goes from the Plaza 5 de Mayo and the Gran Terminal Nacional de Transporte in Panama City, by Albrook Mall. But ensure with the bus operator that there will be services going back to the city when you leave the park.

# To work out the location of the park....The park is huge. It starts when you turn left (towards Gamboa) just after the "Radisson Summit Hotel & Golf Panama" and then extends all the way to the Atlantic coast. https://www.google.co.uk/maps/place/Radisson+Summit+Hotel+%26+Golf+Panama/@9.1457296,-79.7062934,12z/data=!4m2!3m1!1s0x0000000000000000:0xb8634d871ca62930

# Once you turn left (towards Gamboa), you will come across several trails that go in the park. You can go into any one of those. At the end of this road lies the "Panama Rainforest Discovery Center" and the start of the Pipeline road. If you look at the map: "https://www.google.co.uk/maps/@9.1241204,-79.7106708,15z" you will see:
- Gamboa lies just after a old single lane wooden bridge.
- After crossing this bridge in Gamboa, you drive along the railway tracks for a mile or two before the road changes from tarmac to offroad. The name of this off-road is "Camino de Oleoducto" on the map and it leads to the entrance of both the Pipeline Road and the Discovery Center.

# Even though its off-road, you can drive in any car (4x4 easily, any other car slowly) up to these entrances. Some cab drivers may only take you to the start of the off road.

# The good is that wildlife starts at the where the road is unpaved. Its about 3 miles from this point to the entrances, so you can walk up too.

# The Pipeline road is part of the national park, is a 17mile long trail and the entrance is minimal under $5. However, the Rainforest Discovery Centre charges foreign nationals $30 in the morning and $20 after 10am. They both are the same forest but the Discovery Centre maintains one of the jungle trails. To me $30 is a bit too steep especially you can see the same forest on Pipeline road for a fraction. I managed to get a ticket for $10 (Panamanian national rate) after a bit of complimenting to the woman at the ticket kiosk. At the short distance from the start is a Centre where they have Humming bird feeding stations (that is pretty much the the only bird you see at the centre) and you can see tens of humming birds to take super close ups of. The only other USP for the discovery centre is the Canopy Tower. You see a lot of birds and monkeys here, who normally stay on top of the trees. A nice 360 view from the tower: https://www.google.co.uk/maps/place/Panama+Rainforest+Discovery+Center/@9.131169,-79.725536,3a,75y,146h,90t/data=!3m5!1e1!3m3!1sc_G695mdAuYAAAQpnTPyLw!2e0!3e11!4m2!3m1!1s0x0000000000000000:0x1ba7c2fa6776ec55

# If you are coming for more than one days, I would suggest going to the Discovery Centre on one of the days, and then exploring the trails within there. The other days you can go to the Pipeline Road.

# The Pipeline Road or the entire Soberania National Park hasnt got an official website. But the Rainforest Discover Centre has cunningly called their website "http://www.pipelineroad.org/" and contains a lot of use info that will help visitors to both the Rainforest Discover Centre and the Pipeline Road.

Lastly, it was a great park that left me wanting to come again, despite two visits I made. Its got everything that you expect from a tropical rainforest and is one of the best national parks I have been to. The opinions above are just my own and may sound silly to some.
Written April 6, 2015
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

Debrahawkins
Saint Martinville, LA206 contributions
May 2014 • Couples
My husband planned this jungle "hike" for is 60th birthday and I did not ask enough questions in advance. When the driver dropped us off at 7:30 am and the guide whips out his machete, I thought I might be in trouble. Three hours later, when we finally reached the "good" road, I knew I was in trouble. Then we still had another 2 hours of hiking on the "good" road (built by the Americans to train Marines for jungle warfare). Five hours of hiking in 90 plus degree weather almost killed me. The only good thing about it was that I survived. I will never again go on a hike without knowing in advance exactly how long and hard it is.
Written May 28, 2014
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

Todd B
Williams, AZ75 contributions
May 2015 • Family
This is a public park so you don't need a guided tour but I hired a service to take my family. It is about a 1/2 hour to 45 minute drive outside of Panama City but not difficult to find. I recommend going as early as possible to sunrise in order to see the most activity of birds and monkeys. I recommend a small pair of binoculars to scan the trees. Also, expect to walk a lot so wear comfortable shoes, wear pants and bring water and bug spray. It might be hot but my family all wore shorts and we got a ton of mosquito bites on our calves. The mosquitoes are fast, sneaky and persistent and it really takes away from the enjoyment if you are getting all bit up. Expect to see and hear howler monkeys, white face monkeys, toucans and much more.
Written May 3, 2015
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

Aleksander Trzebski
Vancouver, Canada171 contributions
Apr 2015 • Couples
My wife and I are big bird photographers. Lugging around 50 pounds of gear, in 32c degree weather is fun for us!:

For the Pipeline Road We went early at 6am. Being greeted by the howler monkeys waking up is an experience you will never forget. This was too early for birds though. We walked around 2km to the second bridge, and we saw most birds and wildlife on the way back. Don't be preoccupied hiking, sitting on a bench, or waiting in an area was a lot more productive than marching through the heat. Stop at places where there is water and wait for the wildlife.

Plantation Road is also Great. Less used and quite different species of birds. Lots of Benches for the first 1.5 kms. Sit on them and wait! Especially if you see ants nearby. Lots of Mot-Mots!

DON't Do Sendero Natural El Charco! Not cleaned at all, the leaves on the ground were 3-4 inches thick (Not great when watching out for snakes), trail bridges destroyed, had to walk through creeks with no clear signage. Was also attacked by bugs! (And we saw NOTHING! )
Written May 1, 2015
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

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