A Palenque originally referred to a refuge for escaped slaves. During Central America’s colonial period, indigenous Indians were indentured to work in the Spanish mines. Those who escaped sought sanctuary in places they fortified with palisades, or palenques. Isla Palenque has been called by that name for as long as maps can determine, and so may have been used to harbor escapees during the colonial period.
Over the last several hundred years, Isla Palenque let the modern world pass by and has remained a secluded preserve for rare primary forest and hundreds of species of plants, flowers, animals and birds.
According to archeologist Olga F. Linares in her book ADAPTIVE RADIATIONS IN PREHISTORIC PANAMA, Isla Palenque has been a privileged location from the start of human settlement, and was the home of an ancient, pre-Columbian farming community some time during the years 500-1400AD. It may even have been occupied as long ago as 5,000BC. Due to the beauty and mystery of the island, it became a sacred site for the most holy of ceremonies, and tribes from all over the province came here to worship. Important tribal chiefs were known to negotiate and trade with each other, making this the province’s prime center of culture and commerce. By Colonial times this ancient community had vanished, leaving only enough clues about their lives to awaken curiosity and provide a sense of the island's ancient history.
Recently, the island was purchased for development of a new, low-density eco-resort.
From David's Enrique Malek International Airport: Isla Palenque can be accessed by boat from the small fishing village of Boca Chica, just 5 miles from Isla Palenque over water. Boca Chica is less than an hour from David's Enrique Malek International Airport. Alternatively, a five minute car ride from David to the nearby port of Pedregal will enable travelers to board a boat for the 50 minute scenic ride to the island. Construction has begun to expand David's airport to accommodate direct regular flights from the United States and Canada.
There is nothing built on Isla Palenque yet, but once The Resort at Isla Palenque is developed, electric GEM cars and bikes will be available for guests and residents of the resort to get around and still respect the land.
This tropical paradise spans over 400 acres, with 5 miles of coast and over a mile and a half of beaches, ranging in size from a large 4100 foot long crescent shaped beach to idyllic private beaches less than 100 feet long. There are dazzling views of the ocean, zebra-striped volcanic beaches, serene coconut groves and wild rocky outcroppings or rocky ridges covered with primeval trees. In addition to the exceptional quality of its coast, the island is a tranquil home for a vast range of flora and fauna including many variety of bromeliads and orchids. Hundreds of species of plants, flowers, animals and birds make their homes here. Howler monkeys, Jungle cats, iguanas, armadillos, porcupines, tropical squirrels, and colorful frogs also make this special place their home, as do an array of tropical birds, such as parrots, pelicans, frigate birds, hawks, herons and egrets.
Isla Palenque is located off the western Pacific shore of Panama, near the border of Costa Rica. Isla Boca Brava is just to the north, semi-attached to Isla Palenque by a sandy land bridge. Isla Palenque is in the Gulf of Chiriquí (Golfo de Chiriquí), which is considered by savvy sport fishermen as one of the best kept secrets in big game fishing. Also in the Gulf are Coiba National Marine Park  and Islas Secas, both known for world class scuba diving and snorkeling. Isla Palenque's temperatures are fairly consistent year round, with 90 degree temperatures during the day with 70 degree temperatures at night. Isla Palenque, like most of Panama, has a rainy season from May through November and a dry season from December through April.
While there is no place to stay on the island currently, that will soon change when the first phase of The Resort at Isla Palenque  is completed in 2011.