Pearl Islands “Las Perlas”
There’s a coconut-strewn beach with your name on it in the Pearl Islands (Archipiélago de las Perlas), a cluster of some 200 islands about 80km (50 miles) southeast of Panama City. The islands were named for the bounty of pearls found there – many are unnamed, and most are uninhabited, so this is the real desert island deal.
Isla del Rey is the largest island, but smaller Isla Contadora is the most developed and popular island for visitors. Contadora is Spanish for book-keeper and this is where the Conquistadors reportedly took inventory of their looted treasures before carting it all off to Spain.
These elegant islands enjoyed a glittering past as a home to the rich and famous. During its heyday, the likes of Elizabeth Taylor, Christian Dior and John Wayne visited and partied here. It’s not the worst place to “survive” even today, as the TV show Survivor proved when it was filmed on the islands in 2003.
The best things to do in the Pearl Islands
On Isla Contadora, there are over a dozen beaches and plenty of high-end places to eat, play and stay – but there are no cars, so visitors and locals whiz around in golf carts.
Activities abound. You can learn to sail, peek at the marine life below the surface on snorkeling or dive trips, or spot whales offshore during mating season from July to October. As well as the beaches on lovely Isla Contradora, Isla Viveros and Isla Saboga are popular for catching a few golden rays. The latter is also a prime location for jungle hikes, windsurfing and traipsing along near-deserted beach