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Pearl Islands - Panama.

Pearl Islands - Islas de Las Perlas Panama

A virtual pirate’s treasure of lush green islands, sandy shores, blue green water, and cozy covers lays only 47km(40miles) or 15 minutes by plane, from panama City. The Archipelago de Las Perlas is made up of more than 220 islands and islets, only 90 of which are named. These islands first gained notoriety in 1513 within days of Vasco Nuñez de Balboa’s discovery of the “South Sea” or Pacific Ocean. It is said that he encountered a group of Indians resplendent in pearls paddling peral encrusted boats who told him of the islands and their rich pearl beds. Although he never actually went to the islands, he named them “Islas de Las Perlas” (Pearl Islands) and claimed them for the King of Spain.


As a result of the notations in Balboa’s log and his report to the king, the archipelago was soon replete with adventurers, pirates, and plunderers in search of measure. In the centuries that followed it became a well known pirate haven not only because of its great pearls, but also because of the many back bays and hidden coves which were covered pirate hideouts. The pearl industry itself endured until 1938 when a severe red tide devastated the beds.

Whales in Pearl Islands - Islas de Las Perlas Panama

Some of the world’s finest pearls have com from these pristine waters, the most notable being the 31 ct. pearl, “La Peregrina”. It is one of the most celebrated and historic pearls in the world. After its discovery in the mid 16th century, “La Peregrina” was presented to King Phillip II of Spain who gave it to his wife Queen Mary I ( Mary Tudor). It has also belonged to the Bonapartes of France, and the British Marquis of Abercom. It was purchased in 1969 for $37,000 by actor Richard Burton as a birthday present to his wife, Elizabeth Taylor. There are many interesting anecdotes related to “La Peregrina’s” wanderings, as over the years it has been mysteriously lost and found on several occasions.
A few years after Elizabeth Taylor acquired “La Peregrina”, she lost it. After a frantic search, the precious gem was found in her dog’s mouth.

Pearl Islands Beach - Panama

Today the pearl beds are recoveing; 68 years after their devastation pearls are once again being found. But now these waters are better known for their white sandy beaches, world class fishing, great coral reefsm and impressive marine life and wildlife. It is quite common to see whales and other fantastic sea life, and the area is considered one of the best spots in the hemisphere for fisherman and divers in search of big and rare fish.
In 2003, the “Pearl Islands” were chosen for the popular United States reality TV show “Survivor” and “Survivor All-Stars”, and the entire world was introduced to its beauty and rich history.
The main islands in this archipelago are Contadora, Isla San Jose, and Isla Del Rey. There are also a number of five star developments appearing on and projected for some of the other surrounding islands.

Pearl Islands - Islas de Las Perlas Panama

Isla Contadora is currently the most developed and visited island in the archipelago. It is just 1.2 square kilometers in size making it easy to explore on foot. It has a total of 12 beaches which are mostly unoccupied except for special dates and major holidays. It has two full service resort hotels, and lovely rental villas available for pleasant stays. Air Panama offers convenient daily flights.

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Last Modified March 6, 2008