Isla Coiba: Undeveloped Paradise
Isla Coiba is Panama’s largest island in Panama. Located about 30 miles from the mainland and about 200 miles from Panama City, Isla Coiba is a nature and wildlife preserve. The island is filled with tropical rain forests and off shore lies the second largest reef in that part of the world. The area surrounding Isla Coiba is a huge marine park encompassing more than 2700 square kilometers.
Excavations on Isla Coiba indicate that the island was once home to various pre-Columbian tribes. After Spanish explorers arrived in 1512, these tribes disappeared, either driven to other islands or by death. In 1919, the island became a penal colony, still one of the island’s prime functions. The Coiba National Park was incorporated in 1992 and UNESCO named the area a World Heritage Site shortly thereafter.
Sportsfishing off Isla Coiba
Some of the best sportsfishing in the world is found off the coast of Isla Coiba. The area’s unique currents make this area a prime feeding ground for marlin, swordfish, and sailfish as well as a host of smaller fish. The underground caves and reefs also attract red snapper, grouper, and amberjack. Fishing from the shoreline can also yield excellent results here. Roosterfish cruise along the Coiba coastline as do blue marlin. The variety of fish in Isla Coiba is outstanding, and you never know what you are going to catch next. A variety of fishing charter operators offer visitors multi-day tours to Isla Coiba. Accommodations and meals are generally taken on board the vessel.
Snorkeling and Diving off Isla Coiba
The remote island of Coiba has been relatively undiscovered by divers. The pristine waters and the large coral reef here attract more than 200 species of reef and game fish, including king angels, blennies, puffers, and moray eels. Five to seven day dive packages are available from several operators, with accommodations and meals on board the dive vessel and include daily dives.
Visiting Isla Coiba
Visitors can reach Isla Coiba by taking a plane or a car to Santiago from Panama City. From Santiago, one must take a 25 km drive to Puerto Mutis, a coastal community. There, visitors can take boat to Coiba Island. The boat trip takes between two and six hours, depending on the weather. Because Coiba is still a working penal colony, visitors must get permission to visit the island. This can be obtained by applying to Directorate of Penal Correction and from the National Environmental Authority. The island is still very primitive (that is most of its appeal) and there are very few accommodations or services on the island.
Visiting Isla Coiba is worth the trek. The beaches there are unpopulated and covered in a fine, white powdery sand. The island’s beaches are also popular with sea turtles who use them as a nesting ground between April and October. If you’re looking for something different, an area untouched by modern tourism, consider a trip to pristine Isla Coiba and the Coiba National Park there. You’ll be rewarded with some of the most scenic natural beauty in the world as well as abundant wildlife and marine life.