Isla Contadora (or Contadora Island) is a part of The Pearl Islands located in the Gulf of Panama. Contadora means "the one that counts." It received this name because the Spanish came here to count the pearls that they harvested from the other islands in the archipelago. The island is very remote and is known for its beautiful beaches, which are never overcrowded. While there, we felt like we were roaming around the island by ourselves with little sightings of other tourists or people that live on the island.
If you're thinking about visiting Isla Contadora, there are only two ways to get there from Panama City. You can get there by ferry or plane. If you choose the ferry route, it will take 1 hour and 30 minutes, costing $90 for a round-trip ticket aboard the Sea Las Perlas. It goes to Contadora daily, leaving early at 7:30 a.m and returning from Contadora early in the afternoon around 3:30 p.m. You're only allowed to bring one piece of luggage, and you must have your passport to board.
Or you can take the route that I chose, which was to fly to Isla Contadora by plane. We used the airline Air Panama since it was a more convenient option for us. The flight is only 25 minutes plus, it only cost a little more than the ferry for $104 round-trip. It is a smaller plane, and it only seats ten people, that's including the two pilots flying the plane.
Getting around the Isla Contadora can be a challenge if you don't set up some form of transportation before you go. There are no Taxis or Uber's on this small island. On our day trip to the island, we found the best way to get around the island was by golf cart. We booked in advance a rental from Coral Dreams. The cost of renting the golf cart for the day is only $40. It was easy to access the business because as soon as we landed, we could see the building from the airstrip and were able to walk right over to their center to pick up our golf cart.
Our reasoning for visiting Isla Contadora was because we wanted to have a beach day. While there are up to seven beaches to enjoy, but we only had the opportunity to visit three of the beaches on the island. We had a chance to lounge on Playa Cacique for a few hours at a beach resort called Mar & Oro. We purchased a day pass that included a welcome drink, lunch, beach chairs, and umbrella, and a Wi-Fi connection. The day pass will cost $35 per person for the day. All beaches are considered public on Isla Contadora, so you don't have to take the route that we did in getting a day pass. But, I will say that it was beneficial for us, considering we went to the island with limited items. Going to Cacique beach was our first stop, as it's known as the best beach on the island. Perfect for snorkeling as there were a ton on fish in the water to see.
Our next stop was Playa Larga, as we ventured there for a short period. This beach is near an abandoned resort and an old shipwrecked boat that is on the beach. When we went, people were cleaning up the old resort and one other family strolling the beach, but there weren't very many other people there. Getting to Playa Larga involved a bumpy ride on our golf cart since the roads were unpaved. We had to maneuver through tall grass, mud, and trees.
After visiting Playa Larga for a short time, our last stop was Galeon Beach. This is the beach that is not far from the airstrip and also where the ferry will dock for drop off's and pick up's. It's a much smaller beach but, we decided to hang out here for a little while before taking our flight back to Panama City.
I was glad that we took the time to visit the island of Isla Contadora. I preferred this over the frequently visited island of Tabago (read that here). I would recommend that if you choose to visit the island to plan and know exactly what you want to do while there. It just will cut down on any frustration since you will end up there for a good chunk of your day. It's a small island, and you want to make sure to bring all the things you will need for the day.