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Taboga Island, Panama

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Escape The Rush Of Panama City At Isla Taboga

Taboga Island is a volcanic island located in the Gulf of Panama, about 20 km offshore from Panama City. Its name is a derivative from an Indian word meaning “abundance of fish”. Today it is also known as the “Island of Flowers” although has also gone by the name Isla de San Pedro, which was the name given by Spanish explorers.

A small island of 12.1 km2 the population is comfortably under 2000 people. The island is served by a single road, although there are almost no cars. Isla Taboga with people who are looking for a beach close to Panama City. Those on stopover flights can head out to this tropical island for a day before catching the next part of their flight.

Isla Taboga has an interesting history, the western hemisphere’s first saint, Santa Rosa de Lima was conceived on Isla Taboga. The house where her parents lived is still standing today and can be found near to Playa Hondo on the island’s north side. Santa Rosa de Lima found her calling in Peru where she was known for selfless work with the sick and others in need of her help and comfort.

Henry Morgan, the pirate whose name is entwined throughout Panama’s history, plundered Isla Taboga, as well as Panama City. He wasn’t the only pirate drawn to the island, either. Many came, attracted by tales of riches which had been buried on the island throughout the ages. In 1671 Morgan sacked Panama City, and instructed his men to sail to Isla Taboga and steal anything of value. The island was burned to the ground. Later it became a trading point and storehouse for stolen goods. Various excavations and construction projects have turned up treasure, and it is likely that there is much more to find.

Another interesting tale regarding pirates on the island recounts a lone pirate ship attempting to attack the island. However on landing, the pirates were met by a huge army which was led by an ethereal looking woman. The woman’s appearance, and the size of the army, caused the pirates to abandon plans of attack. They turned and headed back to their boat and sailed away as fast as they could. Tabogan folklore dictates that the woman in question was the Virgin del Carman who had protected them. July 16th is commemorated each year as the year when the Virgin del Carman saved the island.

In later years, Isla Taboga played a significant role during the building of the Panama Canal. The French, who started work on the canal, built a 50 bed retreat for the canal workers. The U.S. took over the building when they started work on the canal. After construction was finished, the center became a resort location. It was named Hotel Aspinwall, after the Panama Railroad promoter William Henry Aspinwall whose company built the cross Panama railway which revolutionized the country.

There is a tight-knit expat community here, everybody seems to know everybody else. Hardly suprising when you consider the size of the island. It’s can be reassuring though and lots of the residents particularly enjoy the community atmosphere and safety which comes from having neighbors who know, and look out for each other.

The tropical climate is warm all year making it ideal for taking advantage of the activities you can participate in. Hiking and horseback riding are popular on land, as is using a machete to create your own path through some of the thick jungle which covers the land. There are some sandy beaches to swim on and the water is clear and warm, more like the Caribbean than the Pacific. Scuba diving and sailing are popular, as is fishing.

Cerro Vigía is the highest point on the island and offers a special view over the bay to the towers of Panama City. From here you can see the ocean liners queuing up to pass through the canal against the seemingly endless backdrop of the Pacific Ocean.

As an island, the daily cost of living here is slightly more than in Panama City. Everything has to be delivered by boat and there is a premium to pay for this service. However hospital, gas, and water bills are less than on the mainland. There is no need for a car which also saves money. The lack of malls and different options for entertainment mean that frivolous purchases are almost impossible to make here.

The Cost Of Living In Taboga, Panama

Panama uses the U.S. dollar.

Apartment or House Ownership Budget (for a couple)

ExpenseMonthly CostsNotes
MortgageNot included here as too variable.
HOA FeesThere are no residential communities on the island.
Property Taxes1.75% to 2.1%
TransportationUS$16Round-trip ferry ticket for a Taboga resident.
GasUS$7Tropigas services the island.
ElectricityUS$120Using air conditioning at night.
WaterUS$6Water isn’t potable. You’ll need to prepare or buy drinking water.
Cell PhoneUS$40Basic Tigo plans for two people.
InternetUS$65For a Tigo plan with high-speed internet (600 Mbps) and 217 TV channels.
Cable TVBundled with internet.
Household HelpUS$280For an eight-hour day twice a week. Comes out to US$35 per day.
EntertainmentUS$640Eating out twice a week at a mid-range, local restaurant: US$100.
Local drinks twice a week at a nearby watering hole: US$60.
GroceriesUS$500Shopping at local supermarkets and PriceSmart in Panama City.
Gym MembershipNo gym on the island.
Medical AppointmentUS$1General consult at public clinic.
TOTALUS$1,675Does not include mortgage or property taxes.

Apartment or House Rental Budget (for a couple)

ExpenseMonthly CostsNotes
RentUS$800Unfurnished, two-bedroom, comfortable home.
TransportationUS$16Round-trip ferry ticket for a Taboga resident.
GasUS$7Tropigas services the island.
ElectricityUS$120Using air conditioning at night.
WaterRenters don’t pay for public water.
Cell PhoneUS$40Basic Tigo plans for two people.
InternetUS$65For a Tigo plan with high-speed internet (600 Mbps) and 217 TV channels.
Cable TVBundled with internet.
Household HelpUS$280For a five-hour day twice a week. Comes out to US$35 per day.
EntertainmentUS$640Eating out twice a week at a mid-range, local restaurant: US$100.
Local drinks twice a week at a nearby watering hole: US$60.
GroceriesUS$500Shopping at local supermarkets and PriceSmart in Panama City.
Gym MembershipNo gym on the island.
Medical AppointmentUS$1General consult at public clinic.
TOTALUS$2,469

Penny-Pincher’s Budget (Bare Minimum Costs, For A Couple)

ExpenseCostNotes
RentUS$500Most basic kind of rental.
TransportationUS$16Round-trip ferry ticket for a Taboga resident.
GasUS$7Tropigas services the island.
ElectricityUS$55No air conditioning.
WaterRenters don’t pay for public water.
Cell PhoneUS$40Basic Tigo plans for two people.
InternetUS$53For a Tigo plan with high-speed internet (300 Mbps) and 220 TV channels.
Cable TVBundled with internet.
EntertainmentUS$160Monthly cost for eating out twice a week at an affordable restaurant: US$40
GroceriesUS$350Shopping at local supermarkets, farmer’s markets, and buying all local-brand products in Panama City.
TOTALUS$1,181

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