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Pearl Islands

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The Pearl Islands (Spanish: Archipielago de las Perlas) are a region in the Pacific ocean off the coast of Panama. Made famous as the site for three seasons of the reality television show Survivor, the archipelago is a combination of beautiful islands with pristine virgin forest and sandy white beaches. Contadora Island is the most developed one, with a paved airstrip and 2 high-end Resorts and many private houses.


Rich in history and natural beauty native Indians inhabited these Islands until 16th century Spanish Conquistadors came in search of fortune, glory, and the archipelagos coveted pearls. During this period legend says Isla Contadora or "Counting Island" became the central point where pearls from around the region were sent to be counted, registered, and prepared for transit over the isthmus and finally shipped to Spain. The archipelago has also served as a haven for Pirates. from which they would stage daring assaults on the treasure laden Spanish Fleet, returning to the islands sanctuary to divide and stash their plunder.

Get in[edit]

By plane[edit]

Commercial flights are available to Contadora Island just 45 minutes and many charter boats operations run from Panama City where the islands are just 1:30 hrs away. AirPanama [4] provides daily service to Contadora Island RT $84

By boat[edit]

There are two ferry services that provide direct access to Contadora Island from Panama City. Calling to verify space and service availability is a good idea for both services.

The first service is run by Sea Las Perlas [5]. This ferry leaves from Balboa Yacht Club on the Causeway at 7am, and returns from Playa Galeon on Contadora Island at 3pm, every day. The journey takes about two hours, and is $45 USD each way, although if you return to Panama City the same day and buy your return ticket in advance, the total fare is only $75.

The second service is run by Ferry Las Perlas [6]. This ferry leaves from the dock at the Trump Ocean Club at 8am, and returns from Playa Galeon at 3:30pm, every day. The journey takes about two hours, and is $57 USD one way, or $95 for a round trip. This ferry also stops at Saboga Island en route, with the same fare to disembark there rather than Contadora.

Get around[edit]

Private yacht charters are offered from Panama City to the Pearl Islands. Once you coordinate one of these charters, you will be able to cruise around the entire archipelago. This will give you freedom to go on island explorations, photo safaris, sport fishing trips in a very comfortable and complete manner.


It is possible to walk around Contadora Island, although it might take a while if you really want to see the whole island. Most of the hotels and beaches are within 10 to 15 minutes' walk from the ferry landing, though, so most people get by just fine.


You can rent a 4x4 on Contadora island, and much of the island is reachable by paved roads. Most hotels will offer this service, or you could arrange it from the visitors' information center when you arrive off the ferry. As noted in the Walking section, it is hardly a necessity, but it makes it easier to see the island quickly, and get snacks, drinks, and fruit from the one market on the island. Price was $60/day in September 2013, including gas. You're technically not allowed to drive it on the beaches; doing so could result in a large "cleaning fee."

See[edit][add listing]

  • On Contadora Island's largest beach, Playa Larga, there is an old, rusting ship laid up on the far end of the beach. That, combined with the presence of the ruined and abandoned Hotel Contadora Resort right on the beach makes the whole experience rather eerie, although the beach itself is very nice.

Do[edit][add listing]

  • Fishing is amazing around all of these islands. Mahi mahi, wahoo, yellow tail tuna, sailfish and marlin are commonly found on the surface waters while red snapper, mero, corvina, roosterfish and bojala can be found on the ocean bottom.
  • Beaches. There are at least four beaches around Contadora Island that are open to the public. The beach the ferry arrives at stays the busiest (and is the only beach with any kind of services, some of which only operate around ferry arrival/departure times) while the other three can be anywhere from quiet to completely deserted. It is quite nice if you're looking to escape the crowds, but the absence of any other people can become unnerving if you stay into the early evening.
  • Whale Watching is available from Contadora and probably the other islands.

Buy[edit][add listing]

  • Fab Safaris (Fab Safaris), [1]. Sailing charters and day trips around the Pearl islands on a 45 foot catamaran.  edit
  • Panama Experience Sailing Tours (Panama Experience Sailing Tours), (Balboa Yacht Club), (+507) 63922736, [2]. 8-5. Panama sailing tours with the best and safest boat. Panama Canal Tour, Pearl Islands, Sunset Sailing Tour, Adventure Sailing Tours, USA/EU managed  edit

Eat[edit][add listing]

Drink[edit][add listing]

Sleep[edit][add listing]

  • Contadora Island Inn, 507-6699-4614, [3]. $75+ USD.  edit

Stay safe[edit]

Get out[edit]

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