Some 20km off the coast and about an hour away by boat, tiny ISLA TABOGA is one of the most popular retreats for Panama City residents, who come here to enjoy the island’s clear waters, peaceful atmosphere and verdant beauty. Known as the “Island of Flowers” for the innumerable fragrant blooms that decorate its village and forested slopes, Taboga gets very busy at weekends, particularly during the summer, but is usually quiet during the week.
Taboga’s one fishing village is very picturesque, with narrow streets, whitewashed houses and dozens of gardens filled with bougainvillea and hibiscus. Most visitors head straight for a section of beach, either right in front of the village or in front of the defunct Hotel Taboga, to the right of the pier as you disembark. The water is calmer here and the view of Panama City is magnificent, though the rubbish that frequently washes up on the beach is unsightly.
Behind the village, forested slopes rise to the 300m peak of Cerro Vigía, where a viewing platform on top of an old US military bunker offers spectacular 360-degree views. It’s about an hour’s climb through the forest to the mirador – follow the path some 100m up behind the church until you find a sign marked “Sendero de los Tres Cruces”, beyond which the trail is easy to follow. It’s a great area for spotting poison dart frogs and tarantulas, especially after some rain. The other side of the island is home to one of the largest brown pelican breeding colonies in the world and, together with the neighbouring island of Urabá, forms a protected wildlife refuge.