Panama is located in Central America, bordering both the Caribbean Sea and the Pacific Ocean, between Colombia and Costa Rica. This unique geographical position had blessed Panama with no natural disasters such as hurricanes (due to the protection of South America), or destructive earthquakes, which plague other Central and North American neighbors. The country of Panama covers 29,761 square miles, which is an area smaller than South Carolina. More than 25 percent of Panama's territory is protected by 14 Panama National Parks and nature preserves, including the rainforests of the Parque Metropolitano which is a short 10 minute drive from Panama City. The tropical rainforest of the Darien Province is surpassed in size only by the Amazon basin, and is the second largest rainforest in the western hemisphere.
The Republic of Panama includes more than 1000 islands. The white sandy beaches of San Blas and the rich culture of the Kuna Indians are one of the best kept secrets of the Caribbean. Bocas del Toro, next to the Costa Rican border provides another set of islands with exuberant vegetation and the only marine park in the area. The mountains of Chiriqui Province are a perfect place to enjoy the flight of the Quetzal in the middle of the cloud forest. The Azuero peninsula is the birth place of Panamanian folklore as well as the site of one of the best beaches for surfing. The rich West Indian culture of the province of Colón can be seen in their dances and cuisine. The rainforest of Darién is home to the Emberá and Wounaan communities, as well as an impressive amount of native species of animals, birds, insects and plants. The area around Gamboa, half an hour from Panama City, has set the record for bird identifications for 20 years.