Gulf of Chiriqui

For those looking for a castaway island paradise, the Gulf of Chiriqui on Panama’s Pacific Coast is strewn with a wealth of palm-fringed islands. Whether you want to laze on white sands, snorkel in crystal-clear waters, meet the bird, marine and wildlife, dive the depths, indulge in a spot of sports fishing, or enjoy a whale watching treat, there’s a desert island adventure to suit all.

Gulf of Chiriqui

South of Panama City, Taboga Island can be visited as a day trip, via a 30-minute ferry ride. Known as the ‘Island of Flowers’, Taboga is named for the beautiful palms, hibiscus and jasmine that cover this magical island, which was once the home of pirates, Spanish Conquistadors, and impressionist painters. It’s a lovely spot to laze on the soft sands and cool off in the clear blue waters. The active can hike up the Cerro de la Cruz trail to enjoy lovely views across the Pacific Ocean.

Slightly further afield, the Pearl Island Archipelago is made up of over 100 islands, many of which remain uninhabited. A short 15-minute flight from the capital, and a former pearl diving site, the islands are a great destination for enjoying beach life, swimming, snorkeling, fishing, diving, and whale watching (July to September). While Isla del Rey is the largest island, Isla Contadora is the most visited and developed. Once frequented by the likes of Elizabeth Taylor, Christian Dior and John Wayne, there are plenty of upscale eateries to complement the castaway vibe.

Many of Panama’s Pacific Islands are found in southwest Panama’s Gulf of Chiriquí. They include Coiba Island, the largest island in both Panama and Central America. Around 75% of the island is covered in untouched primary rainforest, which is home to scarlet macaws, along with several endemic subspecies including the Coiba Agouti, Coiba Spinetail and Coiba Howler Monkey. A penal colony until 2004, the island is now a UNESCO-listed site popular with ecotourists looking to get off the beaten track. 

The island’s impressive biodiversity is evident both above and below the water and the snorkeling and diving in Parque Nacional Coiba is spectacular. Look out for dolphins, sea turtles, huge schools of colorful fish, orcas, and humpback whales (July to September).
Along with superb scuba diving and sport fishing, Coiba also has endless white sand beaches, mangrove forests and coral reef to explore.