The Darién National Park is a natural bridge spanning the two Americas.
In 1972 an area of 700,000 hectares became part of the Alto Darién Protection Forest. In 1980 the area was declared a National Park. In 1983 an area of 859,333 ha became a UNESCO biosphere reserve. The park covers 5,790 km2.
It is located in southernmost Panama in Darién province and its southern boundary extends along 90% of the Panama Colombian border. It lies between the Serranía del Darién range, which parallels the Caribbean Sea 16 km to the northeast, and the Pacific Ocean coast. It is adjacent to the Los Katios National Park in Colombia.
The Darien National Park has a myriad of habitats, ranging from rocky coastlines to sandy beaches to mangroves. The park also has expansive swamps and large areas of tropical forests.
Its most common species include macaw, parrot, and tapirs. The harpy eagle also calls this national park home. It is noted for its incredible genetic value. The park is home to regional endemic species and some that are so rare and endangered that they are on the IUCN Red List. These species include the spotted paca, Guatemalan black howler, night monkey, black-headed spider monkey, jaguar, ocelot, Central American agouti, American crocodile and the capybara.
The park is one of the few examples remaining in the world of a protected area inhabited by humans. To this day two Indian tribes dwell in the park.
Visitors usually fly into El Real, the closest town to the park.
Due to its extreme isolation, the Darién National Park is not very accessible. There are, however, two places where the park is often visited. Santa Cruz de Cana (more simply known as Cana) is one of them. Set in the middle of the park near the eastern slope of Cerro Pirre, Cana is one of Panama's most incredible outdoor areas. It has been called one of the world's ten greatest bird watching spots. There are several trails and a ranger station there.
The second point of access is Pirre Station. This is an ANAM ranger station set on the opposite side of Cerro Pirre. This area has primary forests and an abundance of wildlife, including several types of monkeys, sloths, and many bird species. There are several trails leading away from the ranger station that can be hiked. Travelers can stay in a basic dormitory at the ranger station.
The park is also notable for the Darien Gap, the only break in the Pan-American Highway on its intercontinental path from Argentina to Alaska.