taboga island blog

Local Insight: Hunting Pacific Land Crabs on Taboga Island, Panama


This is Crab Hunting Season on Taboga Island in Panama…. sound unusual? well it is an island pass time that locals love. They love it because it is fun, competitive and they get to catch one of their favorite delicacies! Pacific Land Crab: Cardisoma armatum a red, orange, and purple Taboga favorite.


The hunt takes place at night as soon as the rainy season starts as the crabs exit the rainforest jungle. Islanders scramble around the hills and at the jungle edge armed with buckets, flashlights and sticks.


Once their buckets are full the crabs are taken home to meet their steamy fate in pots of boiling water or reversely straight to the freezer for future use.

We will do more research to get the special Tabogan Recipe: Guacho de Cangrejo and post it here.

We did speak to a young boy yesterday who decided to keep one of the beautiful crabs as an unusual pet – perhaps he is a budding vegetarian?


Following is a photo of a Female Land Crab – our staff tells us they are the most delicious and you can tell by their underside which is flat.

If you don’t want to keep the crabs as pets, here is a delicious Rice with Crab recipe from Isla Taboga.


* 7 land crabs, cleaned, segmented, fat removed
* 1 tablespoon Vegetable Oil or Corn Oil
* 1 White Onion or Yellow Onion, finely diced
* 3 cloves garlic chopped
* 1 green pepper chopped
* 1 stalk celery, chopped
* 4 stalks Panamanian culantro (tastes similar to cilantro) chopped
* salt to taste
* 1 1/2 teaspoons fresh Ground Black Pepper
* 1/4 – 1/2 Scotch Bonnet Pepper, finely chopped with or w/out seeds (optional)
* 1/2 cup Tomato Paste
* 1 packet Caldo Rico
* 1 packet/cube Shrimp consume
* 1 cube chicken broth
* 5 cups hot water
* 2 cups parboiled long-grain rice or 2 1/2 cups long-grain rice
* 1 small can of tomato paste

1. Wash live crabs under the tap using a toothbrush to wash sand from under band and from between toes until completely clean.
2. Turn crab with eyes away, upside down, slipping a blunt knife (a butter knife is ideal) between the shell’s seam,push upward to separate the crab’s shell in two.
3. Be careful not to push the knife too far (the gall sac is in the direct path of the knife!).
4. Pull apart.
5. Scoop the fat from both sides of the shell into a bowl using the knife or a spoon.
6. Discard the empty half shell, band, mouth, gills and all other remaining internal organs, leaving behind the toes.
7. Break the two segments in half by holding each half securely and snapping apart.
8. This can also be done by chopping the segment with a cleaver.
9. Wash the toe segments under the tap and put them in the bowl with the fat.
10. This process is to be repeated until each crab is processed.
11. Place a large pot over medium high heat, adding the vegetable/corn oil.
12. Allow the oil to heat until a drop of water sizzles when dripped in the oil.
13. Add Onion, celery, garlic, green pepper, salt, black pepper, seasoned salt, Scotch bonnet and stir – save a tablespoon of each vegetable for the refrito (see end of recipe).
14. Saute ingredients until Onion is transparent, stirring constantly, about 3 to five minutes.
15. Add crab fat and segments, saute, stirring constantly until fat is liquid, about 7 minutes.
16. Add tomato paste, stir ingredients together for another 5 minutes.
17. Add water.
18. Stir ingredients with the water, taste, adjust salt to taste, bring to a slow simmer.
19. Gently pour rice into pot, stirring slowly to ensure even distribution of the rice in the liquid.
20. Turn heat down to low and cover pot with a tight-fitting lid to prevent steam from escaping.

** While the guacho is cooking, make a “refrito” with the vegetables and tomato paste. Put a big tablespoonful of “refrito” on top of each serving of guacho.

21. Cook for about 20–25 minutes or until all of the liquid is absorbed.
22. Do not lift lid while cooking.
23. Turn heat off and let rice stand covered for 5 minutes or until liquid is absorbed.
24. Fluff and serve hot with a glass of cold, crisp Sauvignon Blanc.



* 1 pound crab meat
* 6 – 8 cleaned crab backs
* 3 tbsp butter
* 1 cup mixed diced onion, green pepper & garlic
* 1 cup chopped tomatoes
* 1/8 cup chopped culantro
* 1/4 or less scotch bonnet pepper(if desired)
* 1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
* 1/4 – 1/2 cup mashed potato
* Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
* Unseasoned dry bread crumbs

Preheat broiler to 450 degrees F. Melt butter in a sauté pan over medium-high heat. Add onions, tomatoes, pepper and garlic. Sauté 3 to 5 minutes or until vegetables are wilted. Add lump crabmeat, culantro and Worcestershire Sauce blending well into the vegetables seasonings. Once crabmeat is thoroughly heated, season to taste using salt and black pepper. Remove sauté pan from heat and stir in approximately 1/4 – 1/2 cup mashed potato. Blend well, then stuff the crab shells with the meat mixture. Top the crabs with bread crumbs and brown under a pre-heated broiler. Serve with a cocktail or tartar sauce.



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