Isla Grande is so popular and so loved by Panamanians, that to the local residents in and around Panama City, it is known simply as “The Island.” Is it possible to love something too much? With all things natural balance is key and Isla Grande may in fact be loved a little too much.
Isla Grande is actually inside the Portobelo National Park. It is a quick five minute ride in one of the faster boats which taxi from the town of La Guaira on Panama’s main land. The island itself is inhabited by a village of around 300 people who live off of fishing and tourism, working in hotels like Bananas Isla Grande and the local B&B’s. Additionally, some find work as gardeners and house services in the many weekend residents used by Panamanians. Most of Isla Grande is covered by jungle and is surrounded by coral reefs. Isla Grande is a favorite tourist destination for Panamanians and during the holiday times the island receives hundreds of visitors who fill the small beaches and the narrow roads of the village.
Where is Isla Grande Panama?
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Isla Grande spent most of the 20th century relatively isolated and visited only by adventurous. There is a story that the French ambassador bought a house in La Guaira many years ago and that precipitated the arrival of many French people in the area. ‘Gringo’ Soldiers also discovered Isla Grande and started coming here when it was relatively unknown. Once the major highway from Panama City was constructed tourists began to arrive en masse.
Isla Grande is very quiet during the week and some even spend a lovely night camping on the beach. But on weekends and holidays 1000’s of local and foreign tourists swarm the island. With so many people in such a small space there are not many places to escape so, this is not the place to find tranquility. But if you are into a party, this is your spot.
To some the main village on Isla Grande is not so great, It can be quite crowded in a place where you can normally walk from one end to another in ten minutes. The island experienced its initial tourism boom and now residents have accepted the fate of being discovered. However, like most of Panama the people are accepting and remain very friendly.
Fresh water comes from wella and is safe to drink. All of the electricity comes from the main land.
You can walk around the Isla Grande, to visit the islands to the north. However, there are very sharp rocks and stones so it is advisable to wear boots or diving booties.
The island is about 1660 meters from the main land so in the event of an emergency one could swim to shore in fact the area has been ideal for swimming competitions and there have been triathlons held here in the past. The sea water is clean and clear, except in case where windy weather might stir things up. The sand and beaches on Isla Grande tend to be a greyish white. Towards the western side of the island is La Punta, which is the only real sand beach left in Isla Grande. Here you will find a small shop that sells beer and cheap food to the visiting tourists.
You can also find refreshments at ‘The Memory of My Fathers’, a quiet place with cold beer and a restaurant. The Tropical Island Restaurant Bar is a weekend disco with dance floor for lively entertainment and partying late into the night.
There is no tower or signal here for cell phones but there is a public telephone on Isla Grande (tel 507- 448-2189).