Getting Lost on the Pearls: Taboga Island, Part I

Welcome to Taboga! One of the 250 islands making up the Pearl Archipelago.

Welcome to Taboga! One of the 250 islands making up the Pearl Archipelago.

It was Thursday morning and I woke up even before the crack of dawn. Instantly my mind was racing. This was not at all assisted by a huge sweat all over my body. I kicked the covers off. Well before 5:50 am, when my first alarm was due, I could already hear water running in the unit above us, it was time for someone to wake up, and apparently me, as well. I laid in bed contemplating going or not.. then after a 15 minute psych out, I decided that, of course I was going! Was there ever a doubt in my mind? Adventure time!

The Town of Taboga

The Town of Taboga

We had attempted to go to Taboga the previous weekend, but tickets had sold out. It is one island in the archipelago that are the Pearl Islands, 250, varying in sizes, populations and activities. Back in the day, these islands were the last pit stop for Spanish conquistadors, taking inventory of the booty they had collected before returning to Spain.

Because Panama City is a metropolitan location with active waterways used for ships passing through the canal, the water is not the cleanest and what beaches they have lay undisturbed, hugging the city and its growing business culture. We were told that Taboga, which could be just a 30 minute ferry ride away, was the best spot for swimming and beach activities nearby.

Up at 6 am, and out of the house by 630, I made my own pit stop before hailing a cab, to pet my favorite local kitty. I named him Baby Crippy, for his crippled back leg, which is longer than the rest and is somewhat dragged when he walks. He is sweet, shy and smaller than the rest. This may be because of age or inability to protect himself and access to food. It’s a dog eat dog world, even for cats.

The line for the tickets...

The line for the tickets…

The ferry was located on the Amador Causeway, a long road that stretches into the ocean, providing a road to restaurants, a museums and the marina. During the week you can catch a ferry at 8am there and back at 430pm. Just enough to get a taste.

Although I arrived well before 7am, there were many others already waiting at the station. Bags, coolers and boxes were lined up at the gate, with their owners scattered along the premises, drinking coffee and eating their breakfasts, everyone waiting for the ticket window to open.

15 minutes after the window should have been up and running, anxious patrons started dissecting the price quotes, comparing one way with round trip costs. We were buzzing with excitement to get our golden ticket to the magical island of Taboga!

Finally, the ticket window opened, I got mine and felt very calm. I was going to make it this time!

Sculpture from Italy located in the center of town.

Sculpture from Italy located in the center of town.


The boat was full of local people going to the island to celebrate the day of the patron Saint Carmen. Legend says that when pirates came to Taboga, they were met by a huge army, led by a beautiful woman. Face to face with this beauty, the pirates were terrorized by her image and fled back to their ship. The Toboganos believe it was Saint Carmen that saved their island from the attack. Now every July 16th the patron saint blesses the fleet in Taboga Bay and local people come out for the celebration.

My plan was as usual, too complicated and ambitious for the time constraints. I wanted to do a hike to the famous Three Crosses (little did I know, there were two cross locations on the island; one, was the single cross, and second was the 3 crosses point), go for a swim, and enjoy a light lunch or at least a beer.

A fisherman's boat in the marina upon arrival at Taboga. Fishing is the way of life here.

A fisherman’s boat in the marina upon arrival at Taboga. Fishing is the way of life here.


Chewy and his two dogs.

Chewy and his two dogs.

On my walk through town I met a local man named Chewy. He was originally from Mexico but grew up in Ventura, CA. Now, Taboga had been his home for the last 8 years. He told me I had hiking legs and I told him they were actually dancer legs, but I was up for a hike on this island. He informed me of a great shortcut I could take to the Three Crosses, where I would be rewarded with a beautiful view and meditation spot.

This shortcut was clearly not used, at least not recently, not by the locals, or by any adventurous soul to arrive here. The path was covered in dead, shriveled up leaves. Sounds of shuffling and movement on either side of the path only added to the excitement and my slight fear. Little did I know it was about to skyrocket. Just as I was getting into the hike, I noticed it, a spider web near my feet, just inches ahead of me. As I looked higher, I noticed another; much bigger spider web, and then I saw IT. A huge spider. It had created a web to guard its other web, this spider was not only smart, but it wasn’t kidding around.  Well, I thought, this is it. This is my test. And for a moment, I really thought I would do it. I needed to squeeze in between one small spider web at my feet and huge spider and its web, above me. It was not impossible, but so goddamn scary. I was freaking out, practically near tears as I inched toward the open space, my screaming and cursing only getting louder. This must have frightened the spider, as it made it’s way from the center spot to the most bottom location on the web. I don’t know if it was just timing or he was preparing to attack. I was not going to take the chance.



Then I heard a rustling in the leaves, I looked to my right, thinking it was a tarantula. But no! I saw the most adorable little black frog with green stripes. “Oh, its just a cute little frog,” I thought. I had yet to find out those are the local “Poison Dart Frogs.” Literally, poisonous, because they eat ants that have poison in them and excrete that poison through their sweat. Locals had been using these frogs for poisonous arrows for generations. The irony, being scared of a spider, not knowing if it was poisonous, and to be comforted by an adorable frog, that was actually, very deadly. Welcome to my funny life! I know, we have to share the world with all of its creatures. Turns out, that is very hard for me to do, especially with the creepy, crawling kind. I left it alone, as much as I hate spiders, I never want to kill a beautiful home that I know it had worked endlessly to perfect. It just wouldn’t be fair. I hope that spider is grateful, I am too.

Well, this is where I will disappoint you all. I did not face my fear. I got the hell out of there! I knew there had to be another way up there, and that was the way I wanted to go. Forget the shortcut, I just want to live and have my sanity, too.

My words of wisdom; Take the road less travelled but not abandoned. Abandoned roads are that for a reason and might have been taken over by pirates. In this case, spiders!

short video in the jungle:


Have you been to Taboga Island before? Let me know in the comments below!

If you have any questions about my trip or tips for setting up your future journey, feel free to email!

[email protected] 🙂