On the ocean with a private beach entrance provides gourmet dining and tropical drinks.
Isla Taboga is part of an archipelago 20 km (12 miles) south of Panama City. The largest of the island chain, Isla Taboga (571 hectares; population 1,500) dots the Pacific side of the Panama Canal and boasts a rich diversity of tropical flora and a history marked by international influences.
Isla Taboga sits in close proximity to Isla Morro, which is roughly one square hectare and at low tide connects to Taboga's main beach, Playa Restinga. The bay these islands share once served as a harbor for ships, and the islands themselves provided a strategic location to settle. There was an abundant supply of fresh water, worshippers could pray in the second oldest church in the hemisphere, and those doing business in Panama City could easily anchor and take smaller boats to the mainland.
Taboga was first inhabited by Indians, who lived in thatch huts and fished for a livelihood. The island's original name was “Aboga,” which originated from the Indian word meaning “an abundance of fish.”
Taboga's earliest inhabitants were virtually eliminated during the Spanish conquest. Vasco Nuñez de Balboa was credited with discovering Taboga and Morro in 1513. That year, the Spaniards sailed to the island to establish a settlement, killing or enslaving the Indians and stealing their gold.
Throughout their conquests, the Spaniards continued colonizing Taboga and were a dominating presence until 1549, when Panama freed its Indian slaves and a number of them chose to make Taboga their home. A fort was built on Isla Morro to protect Taboga and its important bay during this period.
Pirates, including the infamous Henry Morgan and Francis Drake, frequented the island, using the harbor as a base to attack Spanish ships and the town itself, or simply as a place to catch their breath and stock up on supplies between raids.
Many travelers heading to the west coasts of North or South America used Taboga and Morro as a resting point until ships were leaving for their final destinations. A number of companies, mostly British and apparently some Dutch, offered a full set of tourist services on Isla Morro, including a small theater and a boat repair shipyard.
Isla Taboga played an important role in France's visionary lead in constructing the Panama Canal. The Canal's French administration built a 50-bed sanatorium on Taboga, later known as Aspinwall, for ailing and convalescing workers who contracted yellow fever or malaria. Those who died were buried on Morro.