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Located just off the west coast of Panama City, only one hour by ferry, Taboga Island is one of Panama's most frequently visited tourist destinations. Founded in the XVI Century by Spaniard Sancho Clavija, the island's original name was "Aboga", which means "an abundance of fish". The island became a very important location, as it was frequently used as a loading and unloading port, in particular for the North American and English fleets which used the island as a base for their operations. Taboga Island itself is surrounded by several other islands, including Isla Taboguilla, Isla Urava, and Isla El Morro.
Clean and quiet, Taboga Island contains a network of well maintained paths, many of which are lined with colorful orchids in a variety of colors; this is most evident on the main path which runs parallel along the beach front. Small eateries and grocery stores line the main path, where you can purchase soft drinks and a variety of food dishes. The roads are narrow, and were not designed to accommodate automobiles; there are very few vehicles on the island.
Aside from the network of trails that crisscross along the water's edge, there are two trails of importance on the island for hikers.
The primary trail, known as Cerro de las Tres Cruces, takes you all the way to the top of Taboga Island where you'll find an observation area (mirador) offering panoramic views of Taboga Island, the neighboring islands, and on a clear day Panama City, El Amador and the Bridge of the Americas. As well, you'll see numerous species of sea birds gliding and resting along the southern side (coastal region) of the island where the Taboga Island Wildlife Refuge is located; between the months of December - July this area serves as a safe refuge for reproduction purposes. The hike to the top can last approximately 1 - 1.5 hour(s) depending on your physical condition and interest in the local flora and fauna. Virtually the entire trail is uphill with some small sections that flatten out momentarily. The trail is more like a road, wide enough for vehicle traffic and well maintained. There is very little if any canopy cover along the trail and depending on the time of year you make the journey the vegetation can be somewhat sparse. The southern portion of the island is much more sparse than the northern part, all of which is clearly visible from the observation area. Blue Morpho butterflies, small lizards and a host of different bird species can all be observed while hiking up the trail.
The second trail, which is also part of the Refuge, is a much shorter trail and leads to the southern section of the island. It is much narrower than the Cerro de las Tres Cruces trail and has unfortunately become the chosen area on the island to dispose of garbage. The trail itself is lined with tons of trash ranging from ovens, refrigerators, stoves, bicycles, etc. It surprising that a trail within the boundaries of a Wildlife Refuge could be utilized for such purposes. Unless you want to witness the garbage for yourself it makes more sense to spend your time on the Cerro de las Tres Cruces trail.
Both trails begin just a short 10-15 hike from town where the cement trail ends and the dirt road begins. Just follow the main trail out of town until they fork. Turn right for the Cerro de las Tres Cruces trail and left for the garbage trail.
Some of the island's interesting attractions are the Church of San Pedro, Museum, and altar honoring the Christ of Buga, which contains a small garden exhibiting a profusion of flowers in different colors and species. On the back side of the island lies the Taboga Island Wildlife Reserve, containing various species of sea birds that use the island as a refuge for their reproduction during the months of December-July.
Kayaking, swimming, snorkeling and scuba diving can be enjoyed. Some boats can be rented for those interested in viewing the island from a distance.
Getting to Taboga Island