The Pearl Islands (Islas de las Perlas), located on the Pacific side of Panama, are famous for their incredible beauty and an interesting past surrounded by myth and mystery.
This archipelago has 39 islands and 100 islets and is about 20 minutes by plane from Panama City and 90 minutes by boat or ferry. The total surface of all its land combined is 1,165 square kilometers.
The islands were home to Indians who were wiped out within two years of the islands’ discovery by the Spanish. Vasco Nunez de Balboa named the islands “Islas de las Perlas“ (the Pearl Islands) in 1513 due to the abundance of pearls found there.
The Spaniards needed workers to harvest these treasures and thus imported slave labor in the 16th century from Africa. Their descendants still live on the islands, particularly Isla del Rey.
The Islands were frequently used by pirates in the years that followed and were relatively undisturbed until the 1960s and 1970s when the building of the resort on Contadora took place, to which the Shah of Iran retreated in 1979.
Contadora Island, situated at the north of the archipelago, is well known for its tourist and hotel industry. Originally, the island was used by the Spaniards to make the inventories of harvested pearls hence its name Contadora, derived from the Spanish verb “to count.”
Made famous as the site for three seasons of the United States reality television show Survivor, the archipelago is a combination of beautiful islands with pristine virgin forest and sandy white beaches. Currently there are luxury housing developments on Isla Viveros, Saboga and Isla del Rey.
Las Perlas Islands are ideal for deep sea fishing, scuba diving, snorkeling and whale watching.
Other islands that are part of the archipelago are Bayoneta, Pacheca, Mogo, Saboga, Pedro González, San Miguel, Mogo, Gibraleón, Casayeta, Casaya, La Mina, Galera, Viveros, Caña and San Telmo. All of them invite visitors to discover their magic.