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How Narrow Is Panama?

The Atlantic and Pacific oceans are separated by thousands of miles of land in much of North America, but in Central America, there are a few places where you can see the world’s two largest oceans at the same time. One such place is the summit of Volcán Barú in Panama, a country that is only 50 miles (80.5 km) wide. If you make the long, steep, and strenuous trek up Volcán Barú on a clear day, you can see both the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea, which is technically a sea in the Atlantic Ocean.

Oceans near and far:

  • At 11,398 feet (3,474 m), Volcán Barú is the 14th highest peak in Central America. Although it is located in the tropics, temperatures high on the volcano can drop below freezing, and two people have died of hypothermia there.

  • You can also see both bodies of water in nearby Costa Rica, if you climb Irazú Volcano, an 11,260-foot (3,432 m) peak -- and if there’s no cloud cover, which is rare.

  • In contrast to the coastal areas of narrow Central America, the Western Hemisphere's most landlocked point is the tiny town of Allen, South Dakota. Allen is 1,025 miles (1,650 km) away from both the Atlantic and the Pacific oceans.

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