The Uninhabited Cays
The loveliest and most unspoiled islands in the archipelago are fairly remote, and they can be difficult to visit unless one has access to a yacht. There are no accommodations on these remote cays.
The Cayos Holandéses are the best known of the many gorgeous uninhabited and lightly populated islands toward the western end of the archipelago. They are 15 kilometers north of the mainland, farther offshore than any others in the archipelago.
Yachts like to hang out here, as do snorkelers. The coral in some areas is beautiful, though even out here the waters have been overfished and the coral damaged.
To the west of the Holandéses, and closer to the Porvenir area, are the also lovely Cayos Chichime, the Cayos Limónes, and, farther south, the Cayos Los Grullos.
Cayos Coco Bandero
About 40 minutes east of the Holandéses by large motorboat (the smallest thing one should be in this far out ) are the Cayos Coco Bandero (Ordupuquip in Kuna). It’s a pristine group of more than a half dozen islets that’s rarely visited by anyone other than yachties. It’s stunningly beautiful out here.
A Spanish galleon supposedly sank around this area, but neither the ship nor the gold have ever been found. There’s also a modern-day wreck, a cargo ship, that’s lodged upright on the nearby reef. It makes for quite a haunting sight. The waters are calm, protected by the same reef that snagged the ship, making it an appealing spot for snorkelers.
Getting to Cayos Holandéses and Cayos Coco Bandero
The Cayos Holandéses are accessible by boat from the Porvenir, Río Sidra, and the Corazón de Jesús/Narganá areas, but it’s quite a haul on open sea that can turn rough. Coco Bandero is much closer to Corazón de Jesús/Narganá.
No hotels offer a visit to the more distant of these island groups as part of their standard packages, but they may be able to arrange a trip for an extra fee. Do not attempt the trip without a life jacket.
Most visitors will be content with exploring islands closer to where they’re staying.
The cost of a boat trip obviously depends on where you’re coming from and how many islands you want to explore. From El Porvenir, for instance, the trip to the Cayos Holandéses is several hundred dollars. For those who can afford it, a far better way to explore this area is by private yacht.
© William Friar from Moon Panama, 3rd Edition