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Panamas Taboga Island. Located only 30 minutes by boat from Panama City, Taboga Island has a rich history that goes back to the time of the “conquistadores”. Pizarro set off from here to conquer Peru; swashbuckling pirates roamed its coast; the artist Paul Gauguin made it his home here for a while; and half the steamship trade of the Pacific West Coast once was based on the island. Now it beckons visitors to enjoy its sun, beaches and good food.
Taboga Express Fast Ferry, departs from the Balboa Yacht Club on the Amador Causeway, Monday to Friday at 8:00 a.m., 9.30 a.m., 11.00 a.m. and 3:00 p.m. and at weekends at the same times with an additional departure at 4: 30 p.m. Calypso Ferry lso leaves from La Playita in Amador everyday.
This volcanic island located in the Gulf of Panama is the local playground for city dwellers who want to avoid driving for hours to get to the beach. Discovered in the 16th century it was originally named Isla de San Pedro by the Spanish explorer, Vasco Núñez de Balboa. Its current name derives from an Indian word “aboga” (“many fish”), which is evident if you take a peek from its pier where funny looking spiny puffer fish and schools of tiny sharks can be seen.
The small town of San Pedro was founded in 1524 by Hernando de Luque, dean of the Panama cathedral. The town church of the same name is claimed to be the second-oldest church in the hemisphere.
The island is famous for its beautiful beaches, clear waters, soft sands, and wildlife refuge. The islanders are very environmentally aware and local fishermen protect the turtles’ nests from predators and tourists alike, building a barrier around them.
In addition to its beaches, the island has trails for hiking to its highest points, including Cerro Vigía and Cerro de la Cruz. The latter is a hill located south of the town, topped with a huge cross. Boat tours for fishing, whale watching, snorkeling, and sightseeing are available, and hiking and nature tours are also popular. There are plans to open a zip-line over Taboga´s lush forest in the next few months.
Taboga, also known as the island of the flowers, has a number of small hotels such as Cerrito Tropical, a small bed & breakfast; Vereda Tropical, a colorful hotel near the pier; the Mundis hotel, close to the church square and Agua Sol Villa, located on the water with a private beach entry from the hotel’s ocean deck.
Cerrito Tropical opened 12 years ago as a small bed and breakfast. Now it has seven rooms, which include three vacation apartments and a dormitory for six people. Most rooms have queen beds and the owners will cook for their guests on the evening of their arrival. Breakfast is served every day.
A new addition to Cerrito Tropical is the Calaloo Beach Restaurant & Bar, located in front of the beach near the Taboga School. It offers breakfast, lunch, dinner and a delightful dessert menu. The bar serves rum-based cocktails.
Groups are frequently accommodated and the Cerrito has day-tour packages with beach umbrella and chairs plus a complete lunch included. They can arrange tours on the island, also fishing in Contadora or around Taboga as well as walking, birdwatching and hiking tours. For more information visit www.cerritotropicalpanama.com.
Vereda Tropical is well known for its colorful flowers that adorn its terrace and restaurant which has a magnificent view of the Pacific Ocean. The restaurant is opened daily from 7:30 a.m. to 9:00 pm and serves breakfast, lunch and dinner. The eatery is famous for its sea bass in coconut sauce, seafood casserole (cazuela) and the delicious sea bass ceviche. Do not forget to taste the house cocktails prepared with rum or seco (Panama’s national tipple) and the refreshing sangria. For more information visit www.hotelveredatropical.com.
The Mundi hotel located close to the church square, just after the island’s policlinic, has 15 rooms with private bathrooms and Cable TV. It offers transport to the beaches and town. Its restaurant speciality is seafood, especially snapper and sea bass. Try the incredible Doña Aurora seafood soup, and the sea bass ceviche. For information 6429-4803.
The Mundi is also a restaurant with two branches one at ten meters from the entrance to the pier and another one at the side of the Lookout restaurant. It also specializes in seafood. The place is comfortable and friendly with spectacular sea views. The owner will personally tend your needs. Try the clams in garlic sauce and the ceviche as a starter. For information call 6390-3997.
Agua Sol Villa a Bed & Breakfast establishment features two spacious and comfortable double rooms with balconies and a suite with a large balcony only five meters above sea level. overlooking the sea which can accommodate four to eight people. Rates include breakfast American-style. The rooms have wifi, hot water and fans. There is a bar which offers happy hour. Towels and snorkeling equipment are available. For more information visit www.aguasolvilla.com.
Taboga is a great place to explore with plenty to do if you go with your family or by yourself. The locals are friendly, always at hand to give advice about the best places to swim and eat. To find out about Taboga Express schedules and rates visit www.tabogaexpress.com