One of the country's oldest towns, San Pedro was founded in 1524, though its whitewashed church is the only surviving structure from the colonial era; folks here claim it is the second-oldest still-operating church in the Americas. The conquistador Francisco Pizarro embarked from Taboga in 1530 on his voyage to crush the Inca Empire, and it remained an important port until the 20th century. Because of the extreme variation of Panama's Pacific tides, ships were unable to moor near the coast of Panama, so the deep bay on Taboga's eastern shore was the perfect alternative. The Spanish built a fortress on Taboga in an attempt to defend the bay from pirates, the Pacific Steamship Company was based there during the 19th century, and the French built a sanatorium on the island during their attempt to build a canal. Upon completion of the canal, with its various docks and marinas, Taboga became what it is today, a sleepy fishing village that wakes up on weekends and holidays, when visitors from
the capital arrive en masse.
There are few vehicles on the island, and most of its streets resemble extra-wide sidewalks. The main road runs along the town beach, Playa Honda, which lines a small bay holding dozens of fishing boats. Many of the bougainvillea-lined streets pass shrines to the Virgen del Carmen, considered the protector of fishermen throughout Latin America, who is celebrated every July 16 here.
Isla Taboga, Panama