Only 20 km from Panama City, and nicknamed the island of flowers, Taboga Island is truly a charmer, and a must for anyone visiting the country. There are several different ferry companies taking you from the port in Amador to Taboga and back; for my last visit there I took the Calypso ferry departing at 9:30 a.m which is only $20 round trip. It’s a thirty minute ride passing next to enormous cargo ships that are on their way to the Atlantic Ocean through the Panama Canal. Quicker than you realize, you arrive at Taboga Island: colorful, friendly, and truly relaxing.
When I was kid, I frequented Taboga with my family a lot; its proximity to the city really makes it the perfect weekend getaway. However, if you’ve only got a day to spend, Taboga is also perfect since its area is under 5 square miles. (Happy Tiki tip: try to avoid Sundays and weekends/holidays in general if you can, some of the beaches can get really crowded!) The houses in Taboga are colorful with bougainvilleas growing against their walls, the restaurants got great music going on, and locals are really nice to visitors.
We arrived at Taboga at 10 am on a Sunday, and walked around for a little until we found the perfect beach for a quick dip. Around noon, we headed to Calaloo Beach Fishbar & Grill where I ordered corvina a la criolla with patacones. Corvina is basically the most popular fish species in the tropics; the criolla sauce is made of tomatoes, onions and several spices. Patacones are fried plantain slices, which I dip in ketchup, but many people eat them alone with a pinch of salt. I had a freshly squeezed lemonade to drink and thought to myself: the beach, the warm breeze, the sun shinning, the tropical food… this must be the place.
Taboga was discovered in the 16th century by Vasco Nuñez de Balboa, the Spanish explorer credited with being the first European to see the Pacific Ocean. The island was baptized as “The Island of San Pedro”, a name which did not last long as indigenous people referred to it as aboga (land of many fish). Nowadays, fishing continues to be the top activity in Taboga – its abundance of fish is one of the reasons why I avoid spending too much time in the water. I have seen manta rays and jelly fish several times, and the water tends to be cooler than other beaches in Panama. Instead of heading back in the ocean with my the rest of my group, I opted to spend the afternoon walking around the island and taking pictures of all the colors of Taboga.