If there is one place in Panama that breathes history, it is definitely Portobelo. Even though it now seems like a placid bay town, with just a few houses nestled between the shore and the bushes, the ruins of various fortresses give away the importance that this place had in the past…
Portobelo Bay was discovered by Christopher Columbus on his fourth journey, done aboard the Santa María, on November 2nd of the year 1502. This place caught Columbus’ attention with its natural ambiance, incomparable beauty and safety. For this reason he christened it with the name Porto Bello (beautiful port).
Tours and Festivals
-The Pollera Conga Festival
-Hiking -Local crafts on the town plaza
-Artisanal fishing and snorkel diving
-Kayak rides on the bay and rivers
-Stroll through the historical town and its customs building and forts
-Watch the afternoon from the San Fernando Fort hill
-Visit the San Felipe and Black Christ of Portobelo church
This array of Historic Monuments includes various places to visit. One of the most renowned is the Customs or Accounts office, built between 1630 and 1634, which served multiple purposes during Colonial times as a warehouse, tax office, Governor’s residence, Royal Box deposit, among others. Today, tourists can find here a museum that exhibits items from the Spanish Conquest era and other historical audio and video galleries. Visitors are charmed by the architecture as much as by the exposed artifacts.
Another tourist option is to take a tour of all the ruins of former defense structures, such as the Santiago de la Gloria Fort, Santiago Fort, San Felipe Fort, San Fernando Fort, the San Jerónimo Castle, the Santiago Battery, the Santiago Stronghold and the Tres Cruces Bastion.
In the Customs Building Museum you can also hire a guide to visit all these forts and get a deeper knowledge of the defense system developed by the Spaniards.