With an area of 503 square kilometers, Coiba is the largest island in Central America. Uninhabited apart from the Ranger station, Coiba was separated from continental Panama about 12,000 to 18,000 years ago when sea levels rose.
Plants and animals on the new island became isolated from mainland populations and over the millennia most animals have diverged in appearance and behavior from their mainland counterparts. The island is home to many endemic subspecies, including the Coiba Island Howler monkey, the Coiba Agouti and the Coiba Spinetail. A penal colony was built on the island in 1919 and closed in 2004.
The waters adjacent to the island are teeming with marine life. It is surrounded by one of the largest coral reefs on the Pacific Coast of the Americas. Irregular volcanic substrate with great diversity of marine habitats, from deep water sea mounts, pinnacles and drop-offs,  to shallow coral reefs, rocky shores, beaches, mangroves, estuaries, sand and mud areas.

The island was declared a National Park in 1992.Unesco declared the entire Coiba National Park a “World Heritage Site” in July 2005.

The Gulf of Chiriquí is part of Panama and encompasses the Coiba National Park and the Golfo de Chiriquí National Park. There are dozens of islands in this Gulf. Along with the islands of Coiba National Park, there is also Islas Secas, Islas Ladrones, Isla Parida, Isla Boca Brava, Isla Palenque and Isla Montuosa.
The Gulf of Chiriquí  includes  the famous Hannibal Bank, a reef with 45 meters (150 feet) of water over it, 16 nautical miles away from the next landmass.
The Gulf of Chiriqui and Coiba is one of the most dynamic marine environment in the world. There are dozens species of sharks and hundreds species of fish in these waters.

Whales can be seen in the Gulf of Chiriqui all year round; however, the months from September to November offer the best opportunity to observe some of the largest migratory visitors, the Humpback Whales, normally mother and calf.