Portobelo National Park is located within Colon Province. It is made up of 86,000 acres, 20% of which are marine areas. It protects both coral reef communities and coastal forest. This coastline includes important stretches of coral reefs, mangrove swamps, coastal lagoons and beautiful beaches, where every year four species of marine turtle, including the threatened hawksbill, come to nest. Within the park is one of the more beautiful natural harbors of all Caribbean, the bay of Portobelo. The fortifications that are conserved surrounding the cove were named by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site in 1980. This means that the bay of Portobelo has been included on the list maintained by the international World Heritage Program administered by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization World Heritage Committee, whose goal is to preserve sites of outstanding cultural or natural importance to the common heritage of humankind.
The park is located approximately 1 ½ hours from Panama City, and includes about 44 miles of beach front between the Bay of San Cristóbal to the north, and the Bay of Good luck to the south. It encompasses the city of San Felipe de Portobelo, who gives name to the protected area, was founded on May 20, 1597 by D. Francisco Valverde. The city reached it’s high point in the middle of the 17th century when it became the place in which all the wealth coming from many South American countries was concentrated. The fort of San Fernando, the Trench, the fort of Santiago and the castle of San Felipe, are preserved in the Historical Monumental Set of Portobelo. The governments of Panama and Spain have recently collaborated to restore the old House of Customs, one of the main colonial constructions of this historical city.