While not really a fan of the TV series “Survivor”, I had been aware that one seasons episodes (2003) had been filmed on one of the obscure islands off the coast of Panama known as the Pearl Islands. Ive been on a lifetime quest to find “my piece of paradise” so any destination that includes sun, sand and palm trees, definately palm trees, immediately registers on my radar. It took a few years but I finally found myself on a boat to Contadora Island, the possibly the most well known of the Pearl Islands right off the coast of Panama City, except a two hour ferry (humans only) boat ride to the South.
Expectations were high for visiting this reserve of the well heeled even though the day was overcast upon departure. The trip was made on The Sea Las Perlas from a dock in the Amador area of Panama city. Prudence compelled me to travel on outdoor seats at the rear of the ship. Ive been around boating enough to know for both seasickness and emergency survival, outdoors is the place to be. The trip was uneventful but long. There is no dock on Contadora so when the ferry arrives you must transfer onto a local “water taxi”, a term for a motley fleet of unstanble, shallow boats operated by locals that will take you the short ride to the beach. No people with impaired mobility should consider the trip. Be prepared for getting your feet, knees and maybe more wet (zip lock bags are a travellers best friend) leaving the “taxi” now slightly beached on shore for disembarkment.
The once well kept ferry beach Playa Galeon was looking decidedly shabby while the adjacent once lovely Point Hotel, sadly, was closed and in disrepair apparently due to a lease holder dispute. As the tour package we purchased included lunch and several hours on the beach we were met by staff of Gerald’s Restaurant and B&B and taken by golfcart to order our lunch (for delivery later on the beach as take out) before being dropped off at a nearby public beach. Sad looking but functional beach chairs and umbrellas awaited our arrival and we staked out our space for the day. The beach, once owned by a jailed drug czar, was adjacent to his crumbling compound. No services such as water or facilities were available yet the beach slowly filled with locals and day trippers.
After lunch was served in styrofoam takeaway boxes, we ventured to the restaurant for the restroom and started an hourlong walk to explore the small island. It was a very hot day so the walk was difficult and though we covered about half the island, there wasnt much to see as the few resorts were a distance from the main “roads” and inaccessible. It seemed a pleasant enough, if run down place, sure to evoke “cabin fever” after a few days unless you brought your own friends and entertainment. Accessibility to water was rumored to be a big problem.
When it was time to leave the island, chaos reigned at the alleged “ferry terminal” which was nothing more than a folding table under a shabby covered patio. The return ferry left more than an hour late and it was more than a bit frightening as we raced dark and forboding clouds for the entire high speed mad dash to the mainland. We managed to arrive at the dock unscathed and thankfully finally to our hotel as our driver was there to meet us in spite of the considerable delay. Had I finally found my piece of paradise? Let’s just say, I’m still looking.
Review: Activity Contadora Island Day Trip by Boat
Visited: July 30, 2016
More Information: ContadoraIslandTours.com