Panama // The Panama Canal and Colón Province //

Isla Grande

Some 12km northeast along the coast from Portobelo, a side road branches off left and runs a few kilometres to the tiny village of La Guaira. Here lanchas provide transport to ISLA GRANDE, a short 300m hop from the mainland. A hugely popular weekend resort for residents of Colón and Panama City, topped by a rickety 200-year-old lighthouse, the island has become rather spoilt by unchecked development and the gradually receding beach, but it’s a pleasant enough day-trip if you’re killing time in Portobelo or Puerto Lindo waiting for a boat to Colombia.

Isla Grande fills up at weekends, and peaks during national holidays; during the week it is so quiet you can struggle to find a place open to serve you food. The only real sand beach, known as “La Punta”, is around the island to the southwest, and you’ll need to pay US$3 to use most of it (entry gives you access to Hotel Isla Grande’s showers and lounge chairs). Around to the east by Sister Moon you’ll find a reef break that’s good for surfing. There’s also some snorkelling round the northern part of the island by the Bananas Village Resort.

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