This was once a jungled mountaintop overlooking the Chagres River Valley, which was flooded, beginning in 1907, by Lake Gatún as part of the Panama Canal. Evolutionarily isolated and protected since 1923, Barro Colorado is now an island and popular natural park, managed along with five protected peninsulas by the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute.
Among the world's first neo-tropical rainforest preserves, it annually hosts hundreds of scientists and thousands of travelers who make the short trip from Panama City. Day trippers enjoy a guided hike through the much-studied secondary growth forest, learn more about this rare ecosystem that's currently home to more than 400 species of bird and 120 mammals, including five types of monkey.
Tours are limited and must be arranged through the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute (SRTI) or approved operators; make reservations well in advance.
Boats leave the port of Gamboa, 38km (22mi) north of Panama City, at 7:15am Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday, and 8am Saturday and Sunday; returning at 3:40pm weekdays, 2:30pm weekends.