Locals’ gem: Contadora Island, Panama

Our time was limited in Panama City, so we didn’t have time to make it out to Bocas del Toro or any of the other islands that Panama is famous for. But we still wanted to see some beach! We were planning on a day trip to Taboga, but after chatting up a local businessman at the bar of our hotel, the stunning Trump Ocean Club, we changed our plans to Contadora Island. There were very few tourists on the early-morning ferry, which proved to be quite an experience! Supplies are very expensive on the island, so families walked out onto the docks with carts of groceries, toilet paper and rum. We wished we had a few days to relax in paradise!

Our alarm had gone off when it was still dark out, so I slept most of the ferry ride. But I think it took about an hour and a half. A lot of locals spend their weekends on the island, so since we were headed there on a Sunday morning, the ferry was only half-full. It was great: We all stepped across the ramp, climbed onboard, spread out and went right to sleep. When we got to Contadora Island, however, chaos ensued. There was no dock like in the big city! Small boats were sent out to get us. I was dressed for a day at the beach, so I didn’t mind. But I watched in awe as the locals rolled up their pants and hopped in the water, passing suitcases and boxes over their heads like it was nothing!

Contadora Island

There were “a few” more passengers than lifejackets on the ferry!

There were both pluses and minuses to going to a locals’ hot spot. As soon as we landed, the beach cleared out, as everyone made their way to their vacation homes. There really weren’t any tourists at all, and we weren’t sure what to do. We briefly considered taking a ride around the island to see what it offered.

Contadora Island

Rent a “car”?


Then we decided that we didn’t want to waste any time. We were on Contadora Island for a day of sea and surf! The one rental place said their boats were already booked, but we did not take no for an answer. We nicely and politely begged for them to find a local fisherman who wanted to take us around for a few hours. Looking around, all we saw were yachts, so we weren’t sure what our odds were. But after only a few minutes were told we were in luck!

Contadora Island

The water around Contadora Island was filled with yachts like these…

Our knight in shining armor pulled up in the brightest boat in sight!

Contadora Island

Who needs a yacht? We were thrilled with our bright-colored fishing boat!


Contadora Island

And we’re off!

We were so happy being out on the water! Our fearless fisherman guided us through some of the islands before docking on a deserted beach on the island of Chapera.

Contadora Island

Our modest fishing boat floating in the water was the only thing we can see in any direction.


For the next few hours, we did absolutely nothing but play in the soft sand, soak in the sun and swim in the clear water. We didn’t see another soul the whole time we were there. It was a perfect day!

Contadora Island


Contadora Island


For information, schedules and fares for the ferry to and from Panama City and Contadora Island, visit Sea Las Perlas.

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I'm a life-long travel junkie journalist who works hard to find adventure in everyday life after two years of travel and expat living.

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  1. I love your fabulous boat!!! And you girls look fantastic. 🙂 What a gorgeous day. 🙂

  2. I wish I had better photos of it. The guy was hilarious!

  3. Love that you managed to spend a day on a deserted island – guess never taking no for an answer has its benefits!

  4. This looks amazing!!
    Glad you were able to get a boat!!
    Reading your blog makes me realize I really need to travel more! 🙂

  5. I LOVE going to little islands like this. It is so nice to have your own privacy and your own little spot in the sun. Panama has some of the most amazing islands I’ve seen in my life.

  6. Spontaneous plans are usually the best plans.

  7. What an awesome experience! I love hanging out with the locals so if you can find a beach with just the locals and a fisherman to take you around to your own private beach, even better! 🙂

  8. Gorgeous beach and water, must be heaven swimming there!

  9. First of all, LOVE your purple bikini! Adorable.

    Secondly, I fell in love with Panama while there in May, as well. I’m actually posting about it tomorrow. Who knew it would quickly become my favorite Central American country (well, tied with CR, of course)?!

  10. I am so jealous of your trip! This sounds beautiful. I LOVE that pic of the fishing boat. It looks like it is hovering above the water. Great shot!

  11. I love that boat! You can just tell the captain is a happy, laid back guy. The water looks pristine, I am sure the day was perfect.

  12. That water looks beautiful! The only time we’ve ever really been in clear turquoise water was in Thailand, but I’d really love to check out the beaches in Latin and South America.

  13. I think that is the most gorgeous beach I’ve ever seen. I need to plan a trip!

  14. Hotties!! That water is gorgeous. I really need to give Panama another chance.

  15. I just left the sea and thought I had enough for a while. Then I see your photos and immediately want to get back. I love the shot of the front of the yellow boat with that awesome cloud pron in the distance. Very well composed 🙂

  16. What fabulous colours – especially the water! Especially the yellow boat photo!

  17. Thank you, everybody! I love that boat. I have some better shots of the colors, but we’re always sitting there inside it. Some bikini shots just aren’t meant for publication lol.

    Kristin — as long as it’s tied with CR lol.

    Christy — yes, you do!

    Pete — thank you! The cloud was so perfect that I took about a dozen shots, and this was my favorite.

  18. I didn’t see this side of Panama at all, it may just change my mind about the country.

  19. Bocas del Toro is amazing, but you certainly got to see some beautiful blue waters without having to go that far.

  20. That is a beautiful beach, and what a lovely day! Although.. that golf cart looks like a lot of fun 😉

  21. Wow such a beautiful beach…. and deserted too! sounds like paradise

  22. I can’t get over the color of that water!

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