Veraguas is the only province that extends to both the Caribbean and Pacific coastlines. Its capital city, Santiago, is
the fourth largest city in Panama and the commercial center of Panama’s agricultural lowlands. Nearby is the town of San Francisco de la Montana, famous for its gorgeous church with baroque architecture, dating back to the beginning of the eighteenth century.
Veraguas also encompasses the Cordillera Central, Panama’s Central Mountain Range, with spectacular highland terrain, continuing westward into Chiriqui. Veraguas offers close contact with nature, where visitors can explore rainforests, mountains, beaches and islands, which boast more than 200 varieties of orchids, more than 400 species of birds, as well as an impressive diversity of mammals, reptiles and insects. Within the boundaries of Veraguas, you will also find Panama’s most famous (or rather, infamous) island, Isla Coiba, for many years a dreaded prison colony that closed in 2002. Now the island is the center of Panama’s largest marine national park with approximately 75% of the land covered by ancient stands of forest. Coiba is home to rare plant species endemic to the island and tree species that have disappeared from the mainland due to deforestation.
The waters surrounding the island are teaming with marine life and here lies one of the largest coral reefs on the Pacific coast of the Americas. Coiba is also the beginning of the underwater mountain range that includes Costa Rica’s Cocos Islands and Ecuador’s Galapagos Islands, making for an incredibly unique dive experience. Other smaller islands off Veraguas’ coast include Cebaco, Jicaron and Gobernadora.
Onshore, you will find the Santa Fe National Park, Yeguada Lagoon Forest Reserve and the Montuoso Forest Reserve.
In addition to the islands, mountains and jungles, Veraguas also has some beautiful beaches. Its most famous beach,
Santa Catalina, is known throughout the world among the surfing community, and is the starting point for exploring
Coiba and the surrounding waters. This area provides great recreational opportunities not only for surfing and scuba
diving but also for world-class deep-sea fishing.
Santiago, the provincial capital, is a growing city and logical stopping point for travelers. Buses stop here for food and facilities on their routes between David and Panama City, and the highway is lined with franchises and small businesses. A huge new hotel and convention center and the expansion of existing enterprises bode well for the future of Veraguas.
Provincial capital: Santiago
Area: 11,239.4 Km2 / 6,983 mile²
Population: 226,991 inhabitants (2010)
Principal industry: Agriculture (Corn, Sugarcane, Rice), Timber, Tourism
Distance from Panama City to Santiago: 154 miles / 249km
Main areas of development: Santa Catalina, Santiago
Airport: Airstrips in Santiago and on Isla Coiba with capability for charter flights