Isla Contadora, the ultimate one-day beach getaway from Panama City

As you may know, we’re notorious lastminute travellers. A good flight deal at the right time is all we need to take action. Our trip to Panama City (the capital of Panama and not the Floridian beach destination) was no exception. It didn’t’ leave me that much room for planning, though. Still, I managed to squeeze in enough time to go over all sightseeing options. What surprised me, was the fact that it’s hard to find a beach in the City. Luckily, the hotel we stayed at, the InterContinental Miramar Panama, has the largest pool of all hotels in town. They also offer a concierge service so I felt confident that we would find that wonderful one-day beach getaway from Panama City we were looking for.

CosmopoliClan having fun in the pool of the InterContinental Miramar in Panama City, Panama

The options for a one-day beach getaway from Panama City

InterContinental Miramar Panama‘s concierge Lara is very knowledgeable. She explained how the Pacific waters never get the same azure blue shade like the Caribbean islands. Unfortunately it takes several hours to reach the Caribbean islands from Panama’s capital. And we arrived just after the Zika outbreak on that side of the country. She therefore suggested some one-day beach getaways on the Pacific side that are easier to reach, like Isla Taboga and the Islas de las Perlas. These Pearl Islands are located a little further off-shore and therefore offer the clearest waters around. Isla Contadora was her favorite one.

We could reach the island by ferry or by plane. Yes, even though the island is pretty small, only about 1,4 km² or about 0,5 mi², it has its own little airport. 🙂

Isla Contadora used to be the place where oyster pearls from surrounding waters were counted and sold to the Spaniards. That’s how it got its name: ‘contador’ means  ‘one who counts’.

How to get to Isla Contadora from Panama City

We decided to take Lara’s advice and booked the ferry a couple of days in advance. We also purchased a day-pass for a hotel at Playa Cacique so that beach chairs, parasols and lunch were provided as well. This package cost us $115 (($90 for the ferry and $25 for the day pass) per adult and $70 per kid over 4 (ferry only). In spite of not having booked the day-pass for the kids, they actually did receive a chair and lunch.

Interior view of the ferry from Panama City to Isla Contadora

The ferry left at 7.30 am but we had to be at the ticket desk at 7 am, plenty of time to do a tour of security checks – there’s no escaping in Panama! Fortunately the hotel offered breakfast from 6 am onwards so we could leave in a good mood arount 6.40 am. The passage took 1,5 hours so we were happy to enjoy the comfort of the modern ferry. It was busy but that was to be expected during the carnival holiday period, in which all Panamenians are off work. Some foreign passengers were heavily packed, looking forward to spending several days on the island.

Map of Isla Contadora, one of the Las Perlas islands near Panama City, Panama

We quickly saw the first islands appearing on the horizon. Because the ferry can’t moor on the island, we had to transfer to a fishing boat that dropped us off a few meters from the beach so that we had to pass to the water to reach the shore. A golfcart and driver were waiting for us and in no time we found ourselves on the west side of the island. The arrival in the hotel was somewhat chaotic but after about 15 minutes we had claimed our spot on the beach. The official start of our one-day beach getaway from Panama City!

Two sisters in rashguard at the beach of Isla Contadora, the ultimate one-day beach getaway from Panama City

Isla Contadora’s Playa Cacique

The girls were thrilled with their beach day ahead and considered it a nice change after their exploration of the Panama canal and Gamboa rainforest. They were over the moon when they arrived at the beach and rushed to get to the water.

Two sisters in the shallow waters of Isla Contadora, the ultimate one-day beach getaway from Panama City, picture taken from the water with a view of the beach

Two sisters in the shallow waters of Isla Contadora, the ultimate one-day beach getaway from Panama City, picture taken from the water with a view of the beach

Two sisters holding hands in the surf at Isla Contadora, the ultimate one-day beach getaway from Panama City

Two sisters holding hands in the surf at Isla Contadora, the ultimate one-day beach getaway from Panama City

Lunch at a Playa Cacique hotel on Isla Contadora, the ultimate one-day beach getaway from Panama City

Lunch at a Playa Cacique hotel on Isla Contadora, the ultimate one-day beach getaway from Panama City

Two sisters holding hands in the shallow waters of Isla Contadora, the ultimate one-day beach getaway from Panama City

Two sisters holding hands in the shallow waters of Isla Contadora, the ultimate one-day beach getaway from Panama City

Two sisters running from the waves at Isla Contadora, the ultimate one-day beach getaway from Panama City

Two sisters running from the waves at Isla Contadora, the ultimate one-day beach getaway from Panama City

What we didn’t expect, was to find all these yachts and small boats to anchor here nor the quads that came to deliver them. Then again, it couldn’t spoil the fun. We enjoyed lunch at the hotel restaurant. It appeared to be included in the package we booked.

Two smiling sisters in rasguard jumping for the waves at Isla Contadora, the ultimate one-day beach getaway from Panama City

Two sisters enjoying the surf at the beach of Isla Contadora, the ultimate one-day beach getaway from Panama CityPlaya Cacique offered a very generous stretch of powdery sand in the morning that got smaller by the hour. And as the beach became narrower, it became more peaceful. The water is calm and shallow, just perfect for families with young children. It’s very clear too, just like Lara ensured it would be.

Crystal clear waters at Isla Contadora, the ultimate one-day beach getaway from Panama City

Time to return… already?

The downside of such an arrangement is that you can not decide for yourself when the fun is over. Because the ferry would leave at 3.30 pm, we said goodbye to this beautiful stretch of beach about an hour before. This one-day beach getaway from Panama City had come to and end way too early if you ask us! If only we could have lingered a bit longer!

CosmopoliDad ready to board the ferry from Isla Contadora to Panama CityView from the ferry leaving Isla Contadora, one of the Las Perlas islands near Panama City, Panama

The waves had become somewhat fiercer making the short transfer with the fishing boat onto the ferry quite adventurous to say the least. 🙂 Once we had secured out spot on the boat it became clear how intensely the girls had been enjoying their time in the surf.

Little girl sound asleep in the ferry from Isla Contadora, the ultimate one-day beach getaway from Panama City
Little girl sound asleep in the ferry from Isla Contadora, the ultimate one-day beach getaway from Panama City

Your one-day beach getaway from Panama City?

What a great country to visit, Panama! Have you been on a Pacific beach getaway from Panama City? If so, what is your island of choice? Or have you been to the San Blás islands on the Caribbean side? Oh, how we’d love to go there! Tell us all about your experience!

The beach of Isla Contadora, the ultimate one-day beach getaway from Panama City

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Disclosure: This article contains affiliate links to all mentioned family-friendly luxury resorts in the Mediterranean. For more information, visit the Disclaimer page. Pricing references and information about the family-friendly luxury resorts mentioned correct at the time of original publishing 

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