Panama City is a very interesting city geographically. It’s not a big city in terms of size. At 106 square miles, it’s smaller than my home town of Tampa, Florida. In that relatively small space, it’s got a lot of diversity. There are highly developed areas of massive skyscrapers, and only a few kilometers away, there are dense jungles and parkland. One such jungle oasis in the middle of the city is Parque Natural Metropolitano, which is home to good hikes and ever better views. While hiking the park takes a little bit of work, when you get to the top, the views of Panama City are amazing, and well worth the hike. Along the way, you’ll get to see a lot of pretty scenery and some cool animals, all while getting a good workout.
To enter Parque Natural Metropolitano, you do so by first visiting the visitors center and buying yourself an entrance ticket. The park costs $1 for Panamanian Residents, and $4 for Visitors. It is open daily until 4:30PM, but that seems to be the entrance time cutoff, not the “finish your hike” time. We didn’t finish ours until almost 5:30PM, and there were others who were still going up as we were going down. Parque Metropolitano has 5 trails, and you can find a map of the trails and their difficulty here. Most of the trails are described as “moderate” difficulty, which I think is accurate. These hikes won’t be challenging for advanced hikers, but they are not the same as walking along the Cinta Costera either. They are short trails, but expect a lot of steep ascents and descents. Your legs will definitely get a workout. For the purposes of this article, I will be discussing the Mono Titi and El Roble Trails.
To get to the Mono Titi Trail (where the lookout and the great views are located), you need to first take the El Roble trail. To get to the El Roble trail, you exit the visitors center and walk all the way to the back of the field to the furthest back trail. Then you will see an opening where the trail begins. This is a very easy trail, and is flat most of the way. The highlight of this trail is the turtle pond called Laguna Pond. Towards the beginning of the trail is a pond where a few dozen turtles have been introduced there by the park, and they now call it their home. The turtles are active and will often come out of the water right up to where you are to eat a leaf or some other food. When we got to the pond, a group already there was feeding them chips (which I’m pretty sure you’re not supposed to do), which caused a lot of them to come right up to us.
Along the rest of the path, you’ll see a few other cool items. In addition to the greenery, there are some cool old remains of structures, as well as a couple of old helicopter parts along the trail. There’s also a good chance that you will run into some more wildlife. On a prior visit to the park, we saw a sloth, and on this trip, we got to see monkeys swinging through the trees. Here are some pictures from the rest of this trail.
Once you complete the El Roble Trail, you’ll come out to an in-between area before the beginning of the next trail. Here there will be a guard station a bathroom, and some picnic tables. Here is where we were also able to spot a neque hanging out (it’s an animal similar to a rabbit).
From there, we headed up the path to begin the Mono Titi trail. This trail is a lot harder then the El Roble trail. While only a little over a kilometer long, this trail is pretty much constantly uphill on a pretty steep incline, so it feels like it’s a lot longer. Several times along the way we thought about giving up and going back (we’re out of shape, and were lugging around heavy camera gear), but we kept powering through, and are very glad that we did. The trail starts of with “El Castillo (the castle),” which sounds a lot cooler than it is. We were expecting something that looked like a castle, but instead it was just an abandoned building with a kinda cool gate.
After the castle, we continued onwards and upwards, up the steep path through the Mono Titi trail. Despite having the word monkey in the name of the trail, we didn’t see any more of them on this path. The greenery is really dense along this path though, and we got to see a bunch of very cool sites along the way. About halfway up, there is a rest/viewing area with benches, that gives you a nice view into the jungle portion of the park.
As you continue your way up the mountain, you will see a sign for “El Mirador (the lookout)” that will let you know you are close to the top. Walk up one more steep hill, and you’ve reached your destination! The Mirador is truly worth the hike. You get what I consider to be the best views of Panama City. I used to think that the best views were found at Cerro Ancon, but I think Parque Metropolitano’s views are better. The Mirador has two sections, a low one and a high one, both of which are large clearings with park benches and unobstructed views of the city below. You can access the top of the Mirador by either climbing up a set of narrow stone steps from the lower Mirador, or before you reach the lower one, turn right and take a path up to the top one. The top has better views, but the views from both are different and worthy of viewing. Anyway, I’ve talked up the views enough on this post, so here they are!
To head back, you can either walk back down the Mono Titi trail the way you came, or you can take the La Cienaguita trail back and it will let you out at the same place as the Mono Titi trail would. We just choose to walk the Mono Titi trail back, so I can’t give you any reviews on how the other trail is. Maybe next time. We ended up spending about 3 hours in the park, taking our time as we made our walk. Overall it was a great way for the two of us to spend $5 ($4 for me and $1 for my wife), and enjoy the best views in Panama City.
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