Paradise Off the Coast of Panama
Just 12 miles off the coast of Panama City, Isla Taboga is a tranquil tropical respite from the bustle of the rapidly growing metropolis. Hop on the ferry from Amador Causeway, take the less-than-an-hour scenic trip through the Bay of Panama to the small one-road island littered with beach shacks and leisure-seeking day-trippers. Before the tourists arrived, Isla Taboga was a Spanish settlement, it has famously harbored pirates and conquistadors, and was a base for United States military when they were guarding the Canal. These days, the island is a sanctuary for brown pelicans, a thousand residents and a few daily boat loads of sand-and-sun loving tourists. Hire a boat and a fishing guide for the day. Lobsters, mackerel, pompano, clams, shark and sea cucumber are all common in these waters. Once you’re satisfied with your catch, bring it on shore to one of the bright primary-colored huts on the beach, and let one of the locals prepare it for a small fee. Out of a meager beachside kitchen, Aida Rodriguez cooked me an amazing meal of fried fish—seasoned with onion, garlic, cilantro and curry powder—and braised lobster served with twice-fried green bananas and curried rice. If Aida was cooking fish for me all of the time, there’s not a fish I wouldn’t want to eat.