Isla Grande is a popular
place in Panama because of its seclusion,
and beauty. People from all places come
to the island to enjoy the water, snorkling,
fishing, listening to the sea and skinny
dipping(at night mostly).The island's
name does not really reflect it's size,
but in comparison to the other islands
that surround it, it is the biggest
The present population,
of afrocolonial origin, can be traced
back to the period of massive forced
migrations, specially from the regions
of Guinea and the Congos, from where
they take their name ¨Congos¨.
Believers in magic, they still practice
a rhythmic dance with its contagious
drumbeat. You can visit as well the
cathedral of the Black Christ, credited
for numerous miracles.
On your way to the island
you will pass the historic town of portobelo,
founded 400 years ago by the Spanish
conquistadores and where Sir Francis
Drake, the famous corsair, met his death.
I remember, during the
80's, coming to Isla Grande was not
really a pleasant drive because the
roads were dirt roads and during the
raining season, they would simply be
deformed with water accumulation everywhere.
The right vehicle to use would be 4x4's
only. Nowadays, the road is mmade of
asphalt and the wave roads and 1000%
better. After passing Maria Chiquita's
beach and Portobelo, your next and final
stop is at "La Guaira".
La Guaira is where you
leave your vehicle or tour bus, and
then hop on a boat to ride across to
the island. Expect to pay 2 dollars
per day for parking. While your at it,
touch the water. Some of the best snorkling
happens right there in between Isla
Grande and La Guaira. Don't worry, your
ride is very short lived because it
only lasts less than 10 minutes.
The best lodgin in the
island is at Bananas Resort. The resort
is marketed internationally and strives
to provide accomodations, service and
entertainment for its patrons. It is
located in the west of the island calle
"La Punta". The Island also
has other cabana type lodging that you
can stay at. See below for more information
In front of the hotel
is the only place of the island that
has a measurable sandy extension that
is open to the public and it is a great
place to sunbathe and meet other people.
This is also where I think most of the
skinny dipping happens. :)
On the East of the island,
on it's highest point, there is a lighthouse,
designed and constructed by the french
to complement the canal they were building
back in the late 1800's. Their version
of the canal ended up a failure after
mismanagement and the malaria took down
most of the people hired for the construction.
The original light that sat atop was
designed by none other that Gustav Eiffel
himself. It now is located at the Panama
Canal Museum with a replacement
now in the tower.
A walk to the lighhouse
is sort of a small expedition that takes
from the village, around a rocky beachfront
frequented by surfers when the swell
is happening, and up the hill where
it seats. The hill has steps to help
your climb. Once up there the view of
the Atlantic Ocean is magnificent as
the wind hits you and you are able to
look at the waves splash of the rocks
below. It is a very liberating and romantic
place as well.
There are small restaurants
that you will stumble upon as you walk
thru the town in Isla Grande. Seafood
is, of course, fresh as the islanders
fish lobster, crab and fish for the
restaurants. I once tood the opportunity
to fish at "El Cristo Negro",
a statue of Christ that seats in the
waters in front of the town, and I was
surprise to get a small barracuda that
didn't really put up a strong fight.
Although I was really surprised at how
sharp it's teeth were, what really blew
me was how delicious it turned out to
be after I had the restaurant owner
cook it for me. It was delicious.
If you are a vegetarian,
talk to the restaurant owners to see
what they can fix up for you because
most of the plates are gear towards
non-vegetarians. Plantains, "patacones",
coconut flavored rice, a small lettuce
and tomatoes salad, meats, seafood are
what most plates have. If you want to
have a more plentyfull menu with more
varieties go to the resort.
Cholita:. Tel. (507)-232-4561.
in front of the Cristo Negro. (507)-448-2964.
Cabañas Candy Rose:
(507)448-2947 / 6656-6917.
Hotel Aguamarina Eco Lodge:
Hotel Sister Moon: (507)
226-9861 / 674-1473.
Bananas Resort: (507)263-9510
Ask locals if you are
looking for a house to rent.