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Panama City is a culturally rich metropolis, but if you’re looking for a change of pace and some gorgeous tropical scenery, you have to visit the stunning islands that are accessible from Panama. It’s the perfect way to go if you’re tiring of the touristy attractions and run-of-the-mill tours tat take you to the places everyone’s ticked off their must-see list. For a breath of fresh air, here are the best islands to visit while staying in Panama City.
The San Blas Islands
Although many people think that this island is virtually unreachable by car because of blockades and other safety-related issues, that’s fairly inaccurate. You can drive east from Panama City and take a small boat ride to reach the San Blas Islands of the Caribbean in as little as 2 hours. People really like visiting this extensive cluster of 378 islands because they are so off the beaten path and run by the indigenous Kuna as opposed to the Panama government. Handmade thatch roof huts make your trip an earthy one and you can sail, snorkel, dive, fish, and explore the islands on foot for a truly unique and tropical eco-tourism experience you just can’t get in the city. They also have some of the most amazing and quiet beaches in all of Panama, so if you really just want to lay back and relax in the sun, this is a great place to do it.
Isla de Coiba
The drive from Panama City to Isla de Coiba is lengthy, but SO worth it. The six hour drive will get you acquainted with the jungle and tropical sights along the road as you make your way to this 500 square kilometer island in the Pacific Ocean where you can enjoy white sandy beaches, hiking, amazing island cuisine, and other amazing activities that supercharge your Panama experience with flare. If you’re all about the marine life, you can enjoy the underwater world by snorkeling or going on supervised dives with trained staff, and the more athletic individuals will love taking part in an impromptu game of soccer or beach volleyball with a few friends and some of the locals.
If you’re not so enamored with sitting in a hot vehicle without air conditioning for a few hours, you’ll be in love with Taboga Island, which is in the Pacific Ocean and a mere 20 km from Panama City in the Gulf of Panama. Xplora Panama Tours can arrange your accommodations and tour of the island so you can hit all of the best spots for eco-tourism activities like snorkeling, hiking, and diving, or you just sit back and watch all of the fun from the beaches, which are booming on weekends and quieter on the weekdays. If you’re looking for some good eats, there are many great restaurants and vendors who have local fare for you to sample, so you won’t go hungry, and the sunset is amazing from the beach.
The Pearl Islands
A little ways further from Panama City in the Gulf of Panama are the Pearl Islands. This cluster of 200 small islands is approximately 50 km from Panama City with Contadora Island being base camp for your adventures. The higher rated hotel in the area is Hacienda del Mar, which boasts the utmost in jungle-inspired, rustic accommodations with spectacular ocean views anyone would be excited to wake up to and a gym, private beaches, and a refreshing infinity pool to sip pina coladas from during your off time from the tours and other nature driven activities you can enjoy on and in the Pacific Ocean.