Isla Barro Colorado – Panama

The Isla Barro Colorado is a popular tourist destination in Panama. However, not all its visitors realize that it is a research center too.

Location and How to Get to This Specific Site

The island is located in the center of Gatun Lake. It is in the waterway of the Panama Canal. It can be reached by ferry. There are tour operators that can arrange the trip.

What to See There

The island is filled with different animals and plants. The humid tropical forest encompasses 1,500 hectares (3,000 acres) of rainforest. Five peninsulas around Panama are included in the reserve.

Some of the animals you will see there are the tapir, leaf cutter ants and several types of monkeys. The whiteface capuchin and the spider monkeys are prevalent. If you are lucky, you may also spot the elusive toucan.

A journey to the island will bring you up close with many spiders. There are also crocodiles, poison dart frogs and boa constrictors. You are allowed to take photos of the environment.


Isla Barro Colorado was formed when large portions of Panama became flooded. This occurred during the construction of the Panama Canal in the 1900s. As engineers developed Lake Gatun, a 476 ft peak was isolated.

For a long time, the island was home only to flora and fauna. However, it is now home to scientists working for the Tropical Research Institute (STRI). Its tropical forest is now one of the most studied preserves in the world. Today, the site is connected with other international research groups dedicated to studying the island.


The basic cost is $30. If you purchased a travel tour package, the fares will probably be higher. This is due to the included amenities. Tours are usually handled or in coordination with the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute.

Other Info

Scientists like to do research here because the land has never been affected or influenced by human activity. This makes it possible for researchers to test their theories. Animal camouflage and mimicry are just two of the aspects being studied.

The gas exchange between the atmosphere and forest canopy is also evaluated. If you are interested in researching the site, you just have to apply. One of the things you can learn is the genetic diversity of the species.

The Isla Barro Colorado makes it possible to study the elements that threaten coral reefs. None of this would be possible if the site had not been isolated.