HISTORY OF THE PEARL ISLAND ARCHIPELAGO AND THEIR GATEWAY ISLAND – CONTADORA ISLAND
The Pearl Island Archipelago sits in shallow Pacific waters off the coast of Panama near Panama City and is made up of a few hundred islands, mostly uninhabited and pristine with refreshing sea breezes and an abundance of bird and marine life.
The Pearl Island Archipelago has a long history dating back to Pre-Colombian times. In 1513, the year Balboa discovered the Pacific, he was told of this chain of islands off the coast where an abundance of saltwater pearls were harvested by the islanders. He named the gateway to these islands, Contadora, and this was where the pearls were catalogued prior to shipment to Spain. With the Spanish conquest of the Americas, the gold from Peru to Spain was routed via the Pacific Ocean and a long pirate history developed which resulted in the sinking of numerous galleons in the Pear Island Archipelago, which have, in more recent years, been found and the gold salvaged. Recently another Galleon has been found and salvage is in process.
CONTADORA ISLAND – GATEWAY TO THE PEARL ISLAND ARCHIPELAGO
Contadora is nestled in sparkling clear turquoise waters in the Gulf of Panama within 15 minutes by daily plane and 1 and a quarter hour by daily ferry from Panama City.
Due to the close proximity to Panama City and the ease of access in the 1960’s and 70’s Contadora became “the island” for the international jet set and a weekend getaway for the Panama elite, with construction of high-end residences. For a period of time Contadora was the home of the exiled Shah of Iran in 1980.
The US TV show “Survivor” found the Pearl Islands so inviting that they filmed three separate series there, an unprecedented total for any one country.
Contadora is the most developed island in the Pearl Island Archipelago with a medical clinic, police force, restaurants, gas station, excellent runway serviced by local airlines, hotels, Bed and Breakfasts, and three mini markets. Today the island is fringed with many second homes of some of the wealthiest and most powerful families of Panama and a small group of expatriates from USA, UK, Germany, Italy, Argentina, Spain and Venezuela. Contadora is experiencing a revival, with the Panamanian government dedicating money to upgrade the existing infrastructure to 21st century standards – the runway and roads have all been resurfaced and a new water system is being installed.
In addition to Contadora, the islands of Viveros, Saboga, Pedro Gonzales, Isla Del Rey, and Isla San Jose are beginning to be developed.