Pearl Islands are an archipelago of numerous small, beautiful islands
in the Pacific Ocean just a 15 minute flight from Panama City. At the
moment, tourism and visitors are concentrated almost entirely on the
medium sized island of Contadora, though there are plans to develop and
build holiday homes on various other islands, most of which are
currently uninhabited. The beaches are white sand, and the islands have
a laid back lifestyle, ideal for a few nights relaxation.
Pearl Islands Hotels
- a large all inclusive hotel in front of one of Contadora's largest
beaches - Playa Larga. Most rooms have a fine beach view. There are
various restaurants within a ten minute walk.
Punta Galleon Hotel Resort
- another large beach front hotel. Punta Galleon's beach (Playa
Galleon) is not as beautiful as that Hotel Contadora' and the hotels
decor a little tacky and tired. There are various restaurants within a
five minute walk.
- the third of Contadora Island's beach front hotels, Villa Romantica
is much smaller with approximately ten rooms, and the beach is one of
the best on the island (Playa Cacique). I'm told it's been recently
Perla Real Inn - an excellent small bed and breakfast in the South of the island, see our full review of the Perla Real on our blog.
Contadora Island Inn
- one of the best value options on the island, the Contadora Island Inn
is a house converted into a bed and breakfast hotel and is located
almost next door to the Perla Real. The beaches are a five to thirty
minute walk away, while the nearest restaurant is at Villa Romantica
some five to ten minute walk away. There are other restaurants at the
far end of the island, but it's about twenty minutes walk.
- this is the cheapest option on the island at $45 per night. Rooms are
basic but clean, and include a small kitchen and porch with hammock.
The main drawback is the location - beaches, restaurants and just about
anything is over ten minutes walk away.
Hacienda del Mar
- an intimate upmarket luxury hotel located on the private island of
San Jose. The staff are excellent, and Hacienda del Mar is easy to get
to, though the island does apparently have rather a lot of biting
Pearl Islands Boat Tours
Pearl Islands was were the Survivor TV series was filmed, and various
boat tours can show you exactly where the programme was made. The
organised boat tours typically visit a few deserted islands with
beautiful beaches, plus offer opportunities for some excellent
snorkelling. A shared half day boat tour costs $35 per person,
alternatively a full day catarmaran trip costs $60. Those averse to
sharing the deserted islands with other tourists on one of these group
tours can always charter a private boat for $25 per hour. You'll
discover that the most beautiful beaches aren't on Contadora Island -
you need to travel a little to find them.
Contadora Island's Beaches
activities on Contadora Island include hiring a golf cart or bicycle to
explore the islands numerous beaches, including one of Panama's few
nudist beaches (Playa de las Suecas). At low tide, there are some
lovely coastal walks possible over the shorelines rocky outcrops - walk
round the coast South from Villa Romantica's beach (Playa Caqique) to
discover some beautiful luxury beachfront homes owned by Panama's rich
folk, plus some empty beaches only accessible at low tide such as Playa
Camaron, Playa Roca and Playa Dimaggio. Contadora Island's most
beautiful beach is Playa Ejecutiva, easily accessible on the Northern
coast of the island.
Practical Contadora Island Travel Information
Island has no bank, though both Visa and Mastercard are accepted at
most hotels. Contadora has a couple of small supermarkets, plus a small
are regular flights to Contadora Island from Panama City with both
Aeroperlas and Air Panama at a cost of $100 return. It might also be
possible to arrange to travel by boat from Panama City to Contadora
Island, at a cost of $60 return, but the service in infrequent and has
no schedules - contact Hotel Contadora for information and advice.
with much of Panama's Pacific Coastline (indeed all of Latin America's
Pacific coast), whale watching can be organised during the months of
June to September.
Pearl Islands have a lovely sunny climate, but the heat is not overly
oppressive. The peak tourism season is from December to April, which
co-incides with the dry season in which there are next to no mosquitos
or biting insects on Contadora island. The rainy season is from May to
The Pearl Islands Litter Problem
flight from Panama City to the Pearl Islands you will see from your
plane what a beautiful archipelago paradise it is. Sadly, the islands
are becoming rather spoilt by the presence of an excessive amount of
litter on the beaches. The proximity to the major shipping lane of the
Panama Canal, plus the lack of respect on behalf of visiting rich kid
Panamanian tourists who irresponsibly dump litter as well as
antisocially blare out music from their cruise boats (from what we
witnessed) means that many of the beaches throughout the Pearl Islands
are very seriously blighted by litter. The fact that there seems to be
no governmental nor communal will to address the problem does not help.
Hotels such as Villa Romantica make no attempt to clear the excessive
amounts of litter in front of them for example. An increase in tourism
will only lead to further litter, and this is a real problem that the
Pearl Islands will need to address if it hopes to become a major
international travel destination as planned.