Portobelo: Historical and Cultural Treasure of Panama

Portobelo, nestling on Panama’s Caribbean coast, is a small town with a big past. Founded by the Spanish in 1597, this pearl of a port played a key role in colonial history and is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Surrounded by lush forests and idyllic beaches, Portobelo offers a wealth of discoveries for travellers in search of history, culture and nature.


A Dive into History

Fort San Jerónimo, Portobelo, province of Colón (Visit Panama)

Fort San Jerónimo, Portobelo, province of Colón (Visit Panama)

The story of Portobelo is worthy of an adventure novel. Imagine Spanish galleons filled with gold and silver, impregnable fortresses and pirates desperate to steal the treasures. The ruins of San Lorenzo, San Jerónimo, San Fernando, Santiago de la Gloria and many others bear witness to this era. Rusty cannons and stone walls are reminders of the epic battles fought here.

The Church of San Felipe, with its statue of the Black Christ, is another of the city’s highlights. Every October, thousands of pilgrims flock here to celebrate the Festival of the Black Christ, one of Panama’s most important religious festivals. It’s a highlight of local life, full of devotion and tradition.


Portobelo Today: A Breath of Culture and Nature

Congo dance at Portobelo (Visit Panama)

Congo dance at Portobelo (Visit Panama)

Today, Portobelo is more than just a museum town. It is a vibrant place, where Afro-Panamanian culture is celebrated with pride. The descendants of African slaves have preserved their traditions, and this is evident in the dances, music and rituals. The Centre de la Culture Congo is the ideal place to discover this cultural wealth through shows and interactive workshops.

For those who prefer nature, Portobelo is surrounded by natural wonders. The white sandy beaches, such as Playa Blanca and Isla Mamey, are little paradises. Isla Mamey, in particular, is a perfect spot for snorkelling, with its coral reefs and multicoloured fish.


Outdoor Adventures

National Parc de Portobelo (Visit Panama)

Boats in Venas azules, Portobelo National Park, Colón (Visit Panama)

Adventurers will find plenty to do in the area around Portobelo. Hiking trails wind through dense forests and offer breathtaking views over the bay. The Tres Hermanas waterfall is a real hidden treasure, where you can cool off in natural pools surrounded by lush vegetation.

Scuba diving fans won’t be disappointed either. Portobelo National Park offers incredible diving sites. The clear waters and coral reefs are teeming with marine life, offering unforgettable experiences.


Preservation and Heritage

Portobelo (Visit Panama)

Portobelo (Visit Panama)

Portobelo values its status as a World Heritage Site and considerable efforts are being made to preserve its historical and natural treasures. Visitors are invited to respect these precious places and to participate responsibly in their conservation.




Portobelo is a journey back in time and a plunge into culture and nature. Whether you’re a history buff, a culture lover or an adventurer, this small town in Panama has something for everyone. Come and explore Portobelo and let yourself be enchanted by its unique charm!




Find out more about Panama? Read our article: The San Blas Islands, an unspoilt paradise in Panama


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