Taboga Walking Tour
One of the pleasant ways to spend time on Taboga is to enjoy the numerous paths, some of which require hours to complete.
One of the island’s hikes is titled “Three Crosses Hill” or “Cerro de las Tres Cruces”, which can take about two hours; this path leads you up the mountain to 3 crosses and if you choose to hike through the jungle to make the connection to the main road you can end up at the Mirador with a spectacular panoramic view of Isla Morro, the Panama Canal, Panama City and the coastline.
Walk from the left of the pier to the main village. Santa Rosa de Lima, the first saint of this hemisphere, was conceived in Taboga. According to Taboga lore, the young girl´s parents had lived in a charming house on the beach.
The road forks after 75m or so; you will want to take the high way. After a few more paces you will come to the Church of San Pedro, in front of which is a simple square. This unassuming church was founded in 1550 and is the second oldest church in the western Hemisphere. Inside is a handsome altar and lovely artwork. Nearby is the home of Rogelio Sinán, renowned Panamanian writer. Taboga Island has also inspired numerous Panamanian artists such as: Demetrio Fabrega, composor of the song Taboga and the Panamanian painter Roberto Lewis.
Farther along you will come to a statue of the island’s patroness, Nuestra Senora del Carmen (our lady of Carmen, patron saint of Taboga). Every July 16 she is honored by a water festival: she is carried upon the shoulders of followers to the oceanside, placed upon a boat and ferried around the island, followed by a procession including boats of all types and sizes from yachts to pangas, (the flat-bottom canoes used by the fishermen), all beautifully decorated for the occasion with the occupants singing praises to their patron saint. Following the procession, the rest of the day is one of rejoicing when seemingly everyone enjoys games, typical food & dancing.
According to Taboga lore, many years ago, a pirate ship attempted to attack the island and as the invaders neared the beach, an enormous army headed by a beautiful woman appeared, ready to meet the onset. The pirates were terrorized by the vision and fled back to their boat. One who did make it to the beach was even more mortified when he learned that there was no such army, much less a beautiful woman leading it. To this day, Taboganos are convinced that it was the Virgin of El Carmen who saved them.
Continuing on, you’ll note a cross upon Cerro de la Cruz, the large hill just ahead of you. It was placed here by the Spaniards in the 16th century. The US Navy used the hillside just below it for target practice during WWII. The road leaves the residential area and the incline increases as it passes along some of the plants that earned Taboga the nickname ‘Island of Flowers’. Hibiscus, bougainvillea, oleander, and jasmine on the island explode in color most of the year. During a morning stroll, you can hear and see the many birds that nest and feed among the flowers. Look for wild lemon, orange trees and orchids hidden among the rainforest.
After 2km of this now strenuous and woodsy walk, the road forks one last time near the mountain top. To the left is an abandoned bunker used by the US troops during WWII. When you stand amid the thick concrete walls it doesn’t seem like the war was so long ago. Climb atop the bunkers for views of ships in the bay waiting for their turn to enter the canal; skyscrapers of Panama City; nearby islands; forested coastline; and the Pacific Ocean.
If you look below and to the right of the old cross, you’ll see a white and brown pile of rubble among the thickening vegetation. It’s the ruins of a Spanish cannon emplacement put there 300 years ago to protect the island from pirates. The green and blue water below offers decent diving. Not visible from land but tucked into the cliff are two caves where Indian artifacts have been found. Up the road from the bunkers, on the road’s less traveled branch, are a radar installation and the island’s secondary electrical plant; they are off limits to the public.