Cerro Azul is a hilly area of natural secondary forest and streams, located just 45 minutes drive from Panama City, bordering the Parque Nacional Chagres, the largest national park in the country and of great importance as part of the hydrographic basin of the Panama Canal. In Altos de Cerro Azul, we find the Vista Mares Peak at 950 meters above sea level which offers views of both the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans on a clear day.
Six kilometers up the road we find the Cerro Jefe Forest Reserve a very old and hence very special area, as you will find twisted, dwarfed and windswept trees: hence its name of “Elfin forest”. Being very often surrounded by thick mist, this forest is also called a “cloud forest”. This is now a protected area and considered important to the health of the Panama Canal as the streams that run through Cerro Azul are the headwaters to the Chagres river, which in turn provides about 40% of the enormous amount of water that is needed to run the canal, and all the drinking water consumed in the cities of Panama and Colon, where 50 % of the population lives.
Cerro Azul is a very relaxing place to stay: its ideal temperature all year round varies between 17 – 24 degrees centigrades, its fresh air and the lushness of its nature are completed by the tranquillity of the surroundings and some splendid birdwatching. Indeed, this area is popular with birders, who come looking for foothill species : it harbors many sought-after species including violet-capped hummingbirds, honeycreepers, woodcreepers and tanagers. Here, you will have a chance to spot the Yellow-eared Toucanet, the White-ruffed Manakin, Orange-bellied Trogon, and Harpy Eagles among many others.
Calle Maipo Trail in Altos de Cerro Azul is a favourite with birders, and it’s a good place to spot Song Wren and Spotted Antbirds, among many others. Some birdwatchers have spotted 70 species there in just as few hours. Nearby is a small lake known as Goofy lake, providing further opportunities for bird-watching.
The area’s wildlife is also very rich. Home to endemic salamanders (Bolitoglossa schirodactyla and Bolitoglossa cuna), it also hosts white-faced capuchin, foxes, red spider monkey, ant-eater, sloth, agouti, peccary and the jaguar.