Colón is located on the Caribbean Sea coast of Panama, the region was initially called Aspinwall by the Americans, mostly travelling to California for the gold rush in the late 1800s, the Hispanic community called it Colón in honour of Christopher Columbus. The region was initially founded on Manzinillo Island, but now stretches comprehensively beyond that area. Colón is one of the, if not the most, vital ports in the entire Caribbean Sea.
It is the second largest city in Panama, and incorporates the Colón Free Trade Zone, which was established in 1948 and houses over 2,400 companies trading in a variety of imported consumer goods. This trade free zone is the second largest in the world.
Close to Colón along the Chagres River one will find the fortress ruin originally built in 1595 Fort San Lorenzo, which has a great view of the river mouth, as it exits to the sea. The Chagres National Park is situated on the eastern side of the canal and has a surface area of 300,000 acres. Originally created to protect the indigenous rainforest and rivers that run into the canal – this in turn has a positive effect on canal operations, as well as water supply to the cities of Colón and La Chorrera. The Chagre River makes an ideal rafting venue, whilst water skiing and swimming can be done in the Alajuela Lake. Truly an eco tourism destination one has the opportunity of camping at various venues, and viewing hundreds of bird species. One can visit the villages of the indigenous Embera-Wounan tribe who live in the park, observing their age old preserved way of living.
Historical reference to the area pertains to the fact that the Spanish conquerors used two routes namely Camino de Cruces and Camino Real for carrying their gold. These routes were the precursors to the modern Panama Canal route.