(This post was written by Cat Fabiano)

I should confess this right away: I love a good pirate story. Winding down the road past Portobelo, Colon, I tried to look past the diablo rojo buses and kids offering to guard your car for fifty cents and imagine the ominous Caribbean coast line, as a hideout for pirates just aching for a chance to come out of hiding from their string of empty islands, to have their chance at Portobelo’s stash of treasure, awaiting it’s trip to Spain.

Portobelo in Colon Panama


Portobelo Fort in Colon, Panama

Portobelo and Isla Mamey

Perhaps I let my imagination run a little wild, but that can happen on the Caribbean. My pirate fantasy was especially brought to life on my last trip to Isla Mamey. Less than two hours from Panama City, Isla Mamey is your Caribbean pirate adventure come true. After passing the aging former fortress of Portobelo, one arrives at Puerto Lindo, the port for boats departing to the island. The local 5 year olds are the only pirates you’ll find these days, waiting to see you off as you catch the boat for your quick ten minute ride over to Isla Mamey. Not well-known by foreigners, Isla Mamey is popular for locals looking to get away for the weekend for a barbecue, picnic, and white sand beach to nap on. Palm trees line the grassy picnic area, perfect for hanging a hammock or just getting some shade.

Isla Mamey Portobelo Colon, Panama

Isla Mamey near Portobelo, Panama

Isla Mamey is uninhabited, so visitors should be prepared to bring your food and rough it a little as there are no facilities on the island. However, the lack of development is what makes the island special. Follow one of the trails around the perimeter and check out the impressive waves crashing against the rocky outside of the island. Bring your snorkel as Isla Mamey is surrounded by beautiful corals, which are home to some equally beautiful exotic fish. If you visit on a weekend during the summer months (December-April), expect to meet some friendly locals with their radios listening to salsa or reggaeton, and firing up their grills (they might even offer you some tasty food if you’re good at making friends!). If you come on a weekday or in the off season, expect to find the island nearly empty, or possibly have it all to yourself!

While I’m glad that Isla Mamey is no longer home to pirates, hiding out before making their siege on Spain’s fortune, it always makes me feel like the history of Panama and its mystery still lingers just off its shores. Of all the lesser-known spots that this tiny country has, Isla Mamey is by far one of my favorites and one I’ll keep going back to, to fire up my imagination and find my hideout.

Ready to get your pirate on?

Book your trip to Isla Mamey! 

Isla Mamey Portobelo Colon, Panama

Shore of Isla Mamey, Portobelo, Panama