Panama is home to over 1,000 islands. Some of them are small and inhabitable, some are huge and offer great potential for tourism. So, which are the best and most popular islands in Panama?
We’re sure to find out in this article. We will take a look at six areas in total, spanning both the Caribbean & Pacific coast, from East to West. We will talk about the islands’ location & vegetation, history, culture, activities and more.
So without further ado, let’s jump right in and discover the best islands in Panama:
The San Blas Islands are a collection of nearly 400 small Caribbean islands located off the eastern coast of Panama. The region is recognized for its vibrant coral reefs, clear turquoise waters, and white sandy beaches. Some may even call San Blas the “Bahamas of Panama”.
The islands are home to the indigenous Guna Yala people, who offer visitors a glimpse into their unique culture and history. Protecing both the natural environment as well as the heritage of its native people, Panama has made staying in the San Blas Archipelago an authentic and unforgettable experience.
When it comes to adventuring, the San Blas Islands offer a variety of activities. This includes snorkeling, island hopping and exploring local villages. Also, the islands are a sanctuary for a diverse range of wildlife. There are many species of tropical fish, sea turtles and exotic birds to be found.
With its unspoiled beauty and authentic cultural experience, the San Blas Islands are truly a unique destination for you to check out. Escape the hustle and bustle of city life for a moment, and take the time to relax on a white sandy beach here in San Blas Panama!
2. Isla Colon, Bocas del Toro
Isla Colón is the largest and most visited island in the Bocas del Toro Archipelago. It is located on the western side of Panama’s Caribbean coast, near the Costa Rican border. Known for its stunning beaches, vibrant nightlife and diverse ecosystem, Isla Colon offers the perfect blend of nature and culture.
The town of Bocas del Toro, often simply referred to as “Bocas Town,” is at the heart of the main island. Its colorful Caribbean-style buildings and over the water homes give Bocas Town a truly unique flair. With its bustling local markets, lively restaurants and bars, Bocas Town is the area’s cultural epicenter. When looking at Bocas’ success story over the past decades, Isla Colon Real Estate is a great investment opportunity into Panama’s expanding tourism sector.
In Bocas, water taxis are the most common mode of transport. They help connecting Isla Colón with other islands in the archipelago and offer direct access to the mainland of Bocas del Toro.
Nature lovers will find much to enjoy on Isla Colón. From Starfish Beach and Bluff Beach all the way to Drago Beach in the North, Isla Colon’s environment is truly stunning! Besides its pristine beaches, lush rainforests and turquoise waters, visitors can also enjoy various outdoor activities and water sports like surfing or kayaking.
3. Isla Bastimentos, Bocas del Toro
Also located in the Bocas del Toro Archipelago of Panama, Isla Bastimentos is a vibrant island paradise with a true off-grid feeling. It’s known for its untouched landscapes and rich marine life – providing a unique, natural playground for visitors to explore.
The island’s crowning jewel is Bastimentos National Marine Park, one of the first marine parks in Panama. It is also home to some endangered species like the sea turtle and manatee. The park also includes beautiful Red Frog Beach, named for the tiny red frogs that can be found in the surrounding rainforest.
Bastimentos Town, or ‘Old Bank’ as it’s locally known, is a rustic and colorful Caribbean village. Here, you can immerse yourself in the local culture and food, and learn about the indigenous Ngäbe-Buglé community.
Away from the beaches, visitors can explore the island’s interior. Miles of hiking trails crisscross the island, leading you through dense jungle to hidden coves and secluded beaches.
Water sports are a major attraction on Bastimentos Island as well. With many opportunities for snorkeling, scuba diving and surfing, there’s plenty to experience! When looking for a place to spend your next vacation or build an AirBnB to rent out. Bocas del Toro is the perfect location to to so! Owning Real Estate in Bocas del Toro is both a great investment choice as well as a guarantee for spectacular holidays!
4. Isla Coiba & The Coiba National Park
Isla Coiba is located in the Gulf of Chiriqui off the Pacific coast of Panama. It is a mesmerizing island teeming with unparalleled biodiversity. Once a penal colony, the island is now a UNESCO World Heritage site and attracts visitors with its spectacular biodiversity.
Spanning an impressive 503 square kilometers, it’s the largest island in Central America. The island, along with 38 smaller surrounding ones, forms the Coiba National Park. The park is best known for its pristine beaches, dense rainforests and an abundance in marine life. It’s even called the ‘Galapagos of Central America’ by some.
Being isolated for about a century has widely contributed to the preservation of its most precious habitats. The island’s untouched forests are home to a diverse range of flora and fauna, including several endemic species like the Coiba Island howler monkey and the Coiba Agouti.
Underwater, Isla Coiba doesn’t disappoint either. It’s a paradise for snorkeling, with one of the largest coral reefs on the Pacific coast of the Americas! When diving, you can expect to see an array of marine life, including humpback whales, hammerhead sharks, sea turtles, and tropical fish.
You can also visit the ruins of the old prison, which operated from 1919 to 2004 and learn about the island’s intriguing history.
5. The Pearl Islands – Luxury Tourism In Panama
Located in the Gulf of Panama, the Pearl Islands consist of nearly 200 islands and islets. The largest of these, Isla Contadora, and Isla del Rey, are the most developed and visited by tourists. The islands also gained fame as the setting for multiple seasons of the popular reality show “Survivor”.
The islands’ name derives from the abundant amount of pearls that were discovered here during the Spanish colonial era. Isla Contadora was once the counting house for these pearls before they were then shipped to Spain.
Today, the Pearl Islands are known for their beautiful landscapes and high-end hotels, making them a true haven for tourists. Visitors can enjoy a range of activities such as snorkeling, scuba diving and fishing – or take a relaxing sunbath by the beach.
The islands’ marine life includes dolphins, whales and a multitude of tropical fish. But bird watchers will find the islands fascinating as well. They are a nesting site for a large number of seabird species, and it’s not uncommon to see frigatebirds, brown pelicans, and various types of gulls soaring above.
The Pearl Islands manage to maintain a sense of tranquility and seclusion, perfect for those seeking a peaceful retreat. This place is perfect for everything from a luxury holiday to your next adventure!
6. Isla Taboga – The Perfect Weekend Trip
Also known as the “Island of Flowers,” Isla Taboga is situated in the Gulf of Panama, just 12 miles from Panama City.
It offers a picturesque retreat from city life, while being less than an hour away from Panama City. The island is teeming with tropical flora, which bursts into colorful blooms in season, hence the nickname “Island of Flowers”.
Taboga Island boasts a rich history dating back over 500 years. It served as a refuge for the famous explorer Francisco Pizarro in the 16th century and later played a strategic role as a base for the Pacific fleet during World War II.
The island’s main village, San Pedro, is home to the second oldest church in the western hemisphere, the Church of San Pedro. It absolutely is a must-visit for history fans and people interested in Panamnian culture. A climb up the island’s highest peak, Cerro de la Cruz, rewards visitors with breathtaking views of PTY’s skyline and the vast Pacific Ocean.
The island’s beaches are its primary attraction though, with Playa Restinga being the most popular. Its warm, clear waters are perfect for swimming and snorkeling. Also, from January to April, humpback and killer whales can be spotted off the coast, offering an unforgettable sight.
With a relaxed pace of life, beautiful beaches, and a fascinating history, Isla Taboga offers a perfect day-trip destination for those visiting Panama City! Whether you’re a history enthusiast, a beach lover, or a nature admirer, Isla Taboga has something for everyone.
7. Time To Discover Panama’s Best Islands Yourself!
From the rich cultural heritage of the Guna Yala people in the San Blas archipelago to the aquatic wildlife of Isla Coiba, there’s something for everyone in Panama. No matter if in the Caribbean or the Pacific, Panama has plenty of beautiful islands to offer!
In Bocas del Toro, you can dive in the bay of Isla Bastimentos or discover the vibrant lifestyle of Isla Colón and Bocas Town.
If you’re seeking luxury on the other hand, the Pearl Islands and the Ritz-Carlton Reserve will provide you an unforgettable experience.
And don’t forget the peaceful Isla Taboga, just a short boat ride away from Panama City! These Panamanian islands offer unforgettable experiences and are definitely worth a visit.
For further articles about Panama, check out our blog section and stay up to date!
And for questions or inquiries, feel free to contact us anytime.
How many islands are there in Panama?
In total, Panama has over 1,000 islands. Some of them are in the Pacific, some in the Caribbean. While most islands tend to be smaller and in private ownershipt, there are some larger islands that have gained popularity as holiday or even retirement destinations. These include all of the 9 islands in the Bocas del Toro archipelago, the San Blas Islands, Isla Coiba, Taboga Island, the Pearl Islands and others.
What's the best island for snorkeling?
While Bocas del Toro offers beautifully colored, clean waters and a healthy dolphin population, there is one location that is even better for snorkerling: San Blas.
San Blas remains to have the cleanest and most pristine landscapes in all Panama, with extra emphasis on keeing the islands and their marine ecosystems intact. It has become the go-to destination for divers and snorkelers in Panama.
How easy is it to access islands in Panama?
Depending on the island you are interested in, there's a couple of ways to get to them. While Taboga Island, the Pearl Islands and others are heavily focused on tourism and offer ferry rides to Panama City and back, some islands are a bit harder to reach.
For some, you may need a boat of your own, or a helicopter if you prefer to do so.
What's the biggest island in Panama?
The biggest single island in Panama is Isla Coiba. While some island groups may be larger in total area, Isla Coiba has the biggest land mass of one single island in Panama.
How do I build a house on an island in Panama?
Building a house on an island can be complicated. Getting all the raw materials to the building site, shipping construction tools etc. can be a complex task. You also need skilled workers on your construction site, so make sure to hire a well respected contractor to do the work for you!
When it comes to the build itself, most materials like wood and concrete will have to be shipped. Building ahome on an island will also impact the size of your structure. Getting large cranes to a distant island can be tough, and options can be limited. So plan carefully and always conduct thorough research yourself!
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