Panama is the southernmost country of North America. It borders Costa Rica to the west and Colombia to the east, and the Caribbean Sea to the north and the Pacific Ocean to the south.
Explored by Columbus in 1502 and by Balboa in 1513, Panama was the principal shipping point to and from South and Central America in colonial days. In 1821, when Central America revolted against Spain, Panama joined Colombia, which had already declared its independence. Panama proclaimed its independence with U.S. backing in 1903.