Taboga Island: Panama City’s Favorite Beach Getaway

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"Taboga Island: Panama City’s Favorite Beach Getaway".

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Taboga Island: Panama City’s Favorite Beach Getaway

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Every time someone in Panama City mentioned Taboga to me, I thought they were mispronouncing the popular island of the coast of Trinidad. When I found out that Taboga actually referred to a small island 45 minutes from Panama City, I was excited to check it out for myself and escape the hot and bustling city for a day at the beach. Thus, $14 lighter and a roundtrip ticket later, I embarked on the 10am ferry to Taboga (you can buy your ticket for the Calypso Ferry at the Amador Causeway, at Mi Playita, close to Mi Ranchito Restaurant) with a crowd of beachgoers one Saturday morning.

Although there is a faster and more expensive ferry that gets you to Tabogo quicker, the slow ride allowed me time to take it the view of the ships coming into the Panama Bay to cross the famous canal, and the resplendent Panama City skyline. As we approached Taboga, the small island shimmered peacefully with pastel-colored buildings resting atop a lush green mountainside. The small town of San Pedro faces a golden-sand beach dotted with umbrellas and families enjoying a break from the city.

Beach with tourists under umbrellas in Taboga, Panama

The island, originally named Isla de San Pedro by Spanish explorers in the 16th century was, the first port connecting the Pacific Ocean to the “New World”. Its current name derives from the indigenous word aboga meaning fish. Rather than head right to the beach the moment I exited the ferry, I made a detour into the town, still called San Pedro, to explore. With no cars in sight on the narrow, cobblestone roads, a pair of sneakers and golf carts were the only means of transportation in the tiny town.

This is the closest thing to a road in Taboga...

Taboga was truly a quiet beachtown with just the sound of the waves to accompany my stroll. At the center of the town was the Iglesia San Pedro, the second oldest church in the Americas. Above the main entrance, a statue of the island’s patron saint, Virgen del Carmen, welcomes visitors inside to admire the colonial architecture or simply rest your weary feet.

San Pedro Church in Taboga

My stomach growled as the noonday sun began beating down on me and the smell of lunch being prepared around town wafted out of the windows. I headed to the unassuming patio restaurants that sits alongside the main road and walked around until I found one that had what I wanted for the price I wanted. As I sat and waited, the air filled with the smell of seasoned fish being fried and patacones being sliced and prepared just right for my meal. I ate like a queen for just $8 before continuing my explorations.

Aside from the beach, Taboga is a favorite destination for hikers. Dirt replaced the cobblestone path as I hiked to the Cerro de la Cruz. This trail is marked by a 20-foot-high wooden cross that dates back to the founding of the island in the 16th century. Ironically, this symbol of peace was use the site of artillery practice by the US Navy in the 1940s. The trail continued on to the highest peak on Isla Taboga—Cerro Vigia. From almost 1,200 feet atop the island, the panoramic views of the Pacific Ocean, Bridge of the Gods, and surrounding islands is simply stunning. I stopped to take it all in.

View from the top of Cerro de la Cruz in Taboga

I hiked back down to join the rest of the tourist on the beach. I’d barely dropped my things onto my beach blanket before running into the cool water in my swimsuit and washing off the sweat from my hike. After all, what is a beach day that doesn’t end with either your toes in the sand or floating above the water gazing at endless blue skies?

Visitor enjoying the beach of Taboga in Panama

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Search our blog if you're visiting Panama! From must do's, where to party or eat, to which beaches and hiking trails you shouldn't miss, you'll find great insider info about Bocas del Toro, Panama City and Boquete, as well as Panamanian culture, customs and traditions, and certainly tips and advice for learning Spanish while in our country! We've been writing about all things Panama for over 10 years and nothing beats local knowledge from the locals themselves.


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