Isla de Cañas Panama is a narrow, 8-mile (13-km) island on Panama’s Pacific coast, on the southern end of the Azuero Peninsula. In addition to gorgeous beaches and thick tropical forest, you’ll find the lush mangroves that gave the island its name, which means “Island of the Reeds.” The best time of year to visit […]
Isla de Cañas Panama is a narrow, 8-mile (13-km) island on Panama’s Pacific coast, on the southern end of the Azuero Peninsula. In addition to gorgeous beaches and thick tropical forest, you’ll find the lush mangroves that gave the island its name, which means “Island of the Reeds.”
The best time of year to visit depends on your priorities. If you want to see nesting sea turtles, come between September and October. If you prefer to relax on a sunny beach, come during the dry season: December to April. We recommend staying for at least 3 days to enjoy the island to the fullest.
Most of all, Isla de Cañas offers an unparalleled opportunity to spot wildlife and appreciate the beauty of nature. The island is best known for its annual mass migration of sea turtles. Every year between July and November, about 10,000 sea turtles of four different species nest on its beaches and lay their eggs. Due to its sea turtles and diverse bird species, Isla de Cañas was designated an official Wildlife Refuge.
Isla de Cañas is the perfect place to get away from the city and relax in a beautiful natural environment. Let the waves wash your worries away as you sunbathe on the beach. You can also enjoy a variety of water sports. Below, you’ll find our recommendations for things to do in Isla de Cañas, how to get there, and where to stay.
Spot Nesting Sea Turtles
September and October are the best months for sea turtle spotting. To witness the unforgettable sight of sea turtles laying their eggs, venture out onto the beach at night, at high tide. That is when the mother turtles come ashore to build their nests.
For the best experience and the highest chance to actually find sea turtles, we recommend booking a tour with a local operator. On a tour, your guide will be able to take you to the best turtle-watching spots. Some tours, like this one, even offer horse-drawn carriage rides on the beach in the evening. The carriage helps to save your legs, as otherwise you could walk a long way before finding a sea turtle. Plus, it’s pretty romantic.
You can try looking for the turtles on your own, but be aware that bright lights are prohibited near the turtle nesting area. Flashlights, camera flashes, and phones emit light that can scare the turtles away. For their safety, please leave these items behind or in your pocket while on the beach at night.
Go Bird Watching
Birders flock to Panama to see its incredible variety of bird species. The Azuero Peninsula also includes diverse species, including woodpeckers, toucans, and parrots. You can spot these birds and more on a bird watching tour.
Enjoy Beach Activities
You can participate in a variety of beach sports such as snorkeling, diving, surfing, body-boarding, and kayaking. There are even some sand volleyball courts set up on the island. If you’re looking for a more adventurous activity, try ziplining in the forest canopy to see the island from a unique perspective.
Experience the Local Community
In addition to nature and water sports, Isla de Cañas has some lovely rural communities. About 650 people live in the nearby small town of Cañas. Locals are warm and welcoming. You can stay with them and experience everything Isla de Cañas has to offer on this 2-day tour or this day tour.
Isla de Cañas is about halfway between Panama City and David. By car, it takes about 6 hours from Panama City and 5 hours from David. From Panama City, head west on Route 1, the Pan-American Highway. From David, drive east on the same highway. Then, take Route 2 south to Las Tablas. From there, you can take a shortcut to Isla de Cañas on Via Hacia El Carate or arrive by continuing on Route 2 (about 20 minutes more of driving time).
Besides Isla de Cañas, there is a town called Cañas with a port (really just a dock), Puerto de Cañas. Most tours to the island leave from Puerto de Cañas.
You can also get to the island from the town of Cañas by driving west on Route 2 for about 4 miles (6 km). You will see a large green sign on the south side of the highway which indicates the turnoff to Isla de Cañas. It’s only 1.5 miles (2.5 km) from there to the island.
Alternatively, you can arrive to Isla de Cañas by bus. From Panama City, take a direct bus to Las Tablas from the Albrook Bus Terminal for about $10 USD. Then, go to the main square to catch a local bus to Puerto de Cañas, which leave twice daily at 7:00 am and 13:00 pm, for about $4 USD.
In most cases, you can travel between the small towns of the Azuero Peninsula by bus. You just have to be willing to take more than one bus and be patient, as some only leave once or twice per day. For more details about bus transportation in this region, take a look at this couple’s blog.
In the past, Air Panama offered flights between Panama City’s Albrook Airport (PAC) to Pedasi’s airport (PDM). When we searched for these flights, Pedasi did not show up as an option. It’s possible these flights will return in the future. If you are interested in flying, check with Air Panama. Once in Pedasi, you can take a bus to Isla de Cañas.
If you want to stay on the island itself, we recommend these two budget accommodation options:
Other lodging options are in the nearby town of Playa Venao, which has a lovely, popular beach. We recommend:
If you’re planning on spending some time on Isla de Cañas, you’re in for a treat. Enjoy the beach and say hi to the turtles for us!