The Archipelago of Las Perlas is 40 nautical miles from Panama City. Las Perlas is mainly inhabited by small fishing communities and is made up of about 250 different islands - larger ones include Isla San José and Isla del Rey. Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute (STRI) and environmental authorities in Panama are trying to conserve the humpback whale in the Las Perlas archipelago, which has been made a Marine Corridor in Panama. The fishing community is interested now in whale conservation in order to grow whale watching tourism as a sustainable business.
First settled by the Spanish in the 16th century, thousands of pearls were found here including the 31 carat, 400 year old Pelegrina pearl owned by Elizabeth Taylor today. Previous owners included the Queen of Spain, a French Emperor and an English Queen.
Local whale conservation organization Fundación Yubarta
has carried an evaluation of whale life in the Las Perlas archipelago in Panama.
In an area of 760 sq. km. 68 whales were observed during 23 hours of navigation,
32 of which were monitored over a 12-hour period. Of special importance was
the sighting of females with young and the detection of songs. This shows that
Las Perlas is used for breeding by the whales.
Various Tour Operators run Whale Watching Trips to the Las Perlas Islands
Hacienda del Mar is on an exclusive private island, Isla San Jose,the largest privately owned island on the Pacific Coast of the Americas with 50 private beaches with pristine waters and white sand beaches. The setting and island scenery is some of the best anywhere and care is taken to do everything right for guests. Sportfishing, diving and snorkeling and all terrain vehicle tours and rainforest hikes are some of the activities.
Contadora, the best known island in the archipelago, has an all inclusive resort The Contadora Resort and several smaller beach hotels It is also home to the rich and famous. Wealthy Panamanians and others have homes here and it is the place the Shah of Iran chose to live in exile after his overthrow in 1979.
San Jose Island offers eco tours with abundant wildlife due to the rich vegetation and the fresh water from many spring fed rivers. As it is a private island with no native human population, the island is unspoiled due to the restriction of all hunting for many years. With a population of over 3,000 wild pigs, large quantities of deer, black and green iguanas, agoutis, parrot and giant pigeons. In fact, there are over 100 species of birds on San Jose Island and neighboring waters. The beaches are used by many sea turtles for the purpose of nesting and laying of their eggs. A Sea Turtles Conservation Program releases over 100 sea turtles annually which they raise from birth. Humpback whales can often be seen right from the beach.