A former pirate refuge, this island in the Panamanian Pacific is a true and genuine tourist paradise, only half an hour away from Panama City.
It is such a short distance, barely 12 kilometers. Yet, once you pass the hustle and bustle of Panama City into the quaint and peaceful Taboga island, it almost feels like you are travelling into a whole new world. This island rests on the Panama bay Waters and possesses both magnificent beaches as well as a serene and captivating town. It also owns a rich history, mostly due to the passage of various cultures through its territory and the very diverse uses that were assigned to it throughout its history.
Taboga Island, photo by Editorpana – Own work, CC BY 3.0
In 1510, only 18 years after Cristóbal Colón’s arrival on American soil, the Spanish colonizers established themselves in Santa María del Darién. From there would Vasco Núñez de Balboa’s expedition begin. An expedition that would later arrive at the Pacific Ocean.
After arriving at the Pacific Ocean and populating the Perlas archipielago, the logical consequence was to arrive at Taboga island, this was due to it’s shores’ very close proximity. The island’s original name was San Pedro, and its current name comes from the indigenous word aboga, meaning ‘abundance of fish’. The church at Taboga island is the second oldesdt church founded in Latin America. The expedition that led to the conquest of Peru left from Taboga.
Throughout the centuries that followed, the island was constantly visited as a meeting point between seekers of pearls and other marine riches. Pirates were also frequent visitors. In 1671, Henry Morgan destroyed the original city of Panama and directed his troops to Taboga.
Taboga is also known as the place where famous William Dampier and John Hawkins took refuge, as well as others who sought out goods and supplies.
The port of Panama
Many years later, during the years 1849 and 1850 Taboga island became Panama’s port. It had a 100 meter long shipyard where boats were repaired. The port complex had warehouses, docks, houses, offices, workshops, a hospital and a cemetery. Even to this day, you can still find traces of those long gone buildings. Its period of greatest prosperity was during the gold rush in California, because the island was a definitive stop in the route for many of the travelers.
In 1887, the post-impressionist French painter, Paul Gauguin, visited it seeking out tranquility and natural landscapes to paint. He was there for a few months and from Taboga he left, first for Martinique and then to Tahiti, where he ended up establishing himself.
Paul Gaugin, Self-portrait, 1888, Museo van Gogh, Ámsterdam. WikiCommons
Today, Taboga is a place dedicated primarily to tourism. Its splendid beaches, its landscapes overflowing with flowers, the rich maritime life that calls the island’s waters home, the exciting hiking, the nautical sports, the whale watching; everything works as a great attraction for the traveler who does not want to be too far away from the capital.
In regards to the hotels that the island offers, we must highlight a very unique place. At the top of the island there is a spectacular hotel, called Villa Caprichosa. It is a beautiful villa with incredible views of the island and spaces that function as both shelters and perfect antidotes against the noise and bustle of the town. The villa’s interior design was made by the very famous Diane Burn, chosen by Architectural Digest as one of the TOP 100 Designers of 2010. Recognized internationally for her work in Rome, Paris, San Francisco, New York and Porto Ercole, her exquisite work appears in multiple books and specialized design releases.
Villa Caprichosa was built on a hill and offers several terraces on its three levels. But in addition, it has a magnificent restaurant, called La Vista (The View), and as its name in Spanish suggests, asides from an excellent gastronomic offer, it will provide you with one of the most spectacular views of the island of Taboga.
To get to Taboga
We suggest that you use the ferry, that makes the trip from Panama City.
There are 5 trips per day.
The trip takes approximately 30 minutes.
You can get more information at firstname.lastname@example.org
*Featured image by Larish Julio