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Taboga Island

Isla Taboga, or the Island of Flowers, is a volcanic island characterized by rich tropical plant life, as well as beautiful beaches and soft sand. Located on the Pacific side of the country in the Gulf of Panama, this majestic island is a short 20 kilometers from the capital, making it the best one-day getaway from Panama City. 

Take in the beauty of the island by starting your trip with a hike to one of Isla Taboga’s highest points, Cerro Vigia or Cerro de la Cruz. Next, explore the colorful and historic Spanish-founded town, which is also home to the second oldest church in the Western hemisphere. After all that exploration, take a load off at one of the laid-back Taboga Island beaches, or grab a drink at one of the quaint beach bars nearby. 

Getting There 

Daily ferries are available from Panama City to Taboga Island, and most of them depart from the Amador Causeway. The ferry takes just 30 minutes, and once you get to the island, you’ll be able to get around on foot.

Taboga Island is only 12 nautical miles from Panama City. The route is really beautiful, since it starts from the Amador Causeway. There are two boats that do the journey. Taboga Express Fast Ferry has two catamarans that can reach the island in just 30 minutes. Calypso also has two ferries, Queen and Princess, which are older double-decker boats, reaching the island in 45 minutes. Both have established schedules, making the trip several times per day. It is important that visitors carry their identity card or passport. During the trajectory you can see Panama City, the BioMuseo and all the ships waiting to cross the Panama Canal.

Once you get to the Island of Taboga you will see a picturesque town full of colorful houses on a hill. This town is known as the town of San Pedro, which has approximately 1,000 inhabitants. There are very few cars on the island, most people walk or use golf carts to reach the 256 homes. In the center of town is the square, which has the second oldest church in the hemisphere founded by Hernando de Luque in 1524.

Taboga was discovered by Vasco Nuñez de Balboa in 1513 and in 1519 Pedro Arias de Avila arrived. In 1524, Francisco Pizarro (for Peru) and Diego de Almagro (for Chile) left the Island of Taboga on expeditions of conquest. The island was also visited by pirates like Henry Morgan and Hawkings.

During the construction of the canal by the French, Taboga Island was the home of Paul Gauguin. Other notable buildings are the house of the Panamanian painter, Roberto Lewis (1874-1949) and the Panamanian avant-garde writer, Rogelio Sinan (1902-1994).

What to do in Taboga Island?

Most will spend the day on the island, however there are hotel options in Taboga, as well as restaurant for those who want to complement their trip to Panama City. The main beach is called Playa La Restinga which is connected through a sand bar, at low tide, with another small island called El Morro de Taboga. Colorful umbrellas are rented on the sand and drinks are sold. Snorkeling equipment can be rented. On weekends and holidays the beach is quite crowded, while it is quiet during the week.

It is possible to go fishing around Taboga Island with a local panga boat. The current name of the island is derived from the indigenous word aboga, which means ‘abundance of fish’. Adventurers can choose to climb Cerro de la Cruz along a 5.2-kilometer trail. The reward is the view of the skyscrapers of Panama City and the boats. You can also find a bunker used by the Americans during WWII.