The Mariato District was born in 2001. Until that point, the region had been part of the Veraguas Province, in western Panama. The region holds the distinction of having the most southerly point in Panama. Mariato is a largely rural district, with a small population of under 7,000 spread out throughout the region. Llano del Catival is the biggest town, with a population of just under 3,000 people.
Historically seen as something as a backwater, Mariato is starting to appear on the radar as a tourist and expat destination. It’s easy to see why. Mariato has miles and miles of unspoiled, and largely empty beaches, ideal for surfing, swimming, and exploring the array of marine wildlife that calls this secluded stretch of Panama home.
From August to September four different species of turtle arrive to lay their eggs. During October and November the eggs hatch and the tiny turtles make their way into the ocean. The locals are very protective of the turtles, and volunteers ensure as many as possible make it to the sea, keeping them away from natural predators, and stray dogs.
As if the turtles wasn’t enough, the region also boasts the chance to see Humpback Whales. Every year, the whales arrive in Panama’s tropical waters to mate and nurse their newborn calves. Boats take tours out to visit the whales throughout the season, offering a chance to see these spectacular creatures up-close.
Mariato is a great place for birdwatching. Many of Panama’s rarest, and most colorful species are here, including various hummingbirds, macaws, warblers, and of course the Keel-billed Toucan. Nearby Coiba Island, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The island used to be a prison site and is now a national park. Since the prison closed, nature has reclaimed the island, while manta rays and hammerhead sharks patrol the nearby reefs.