Isla Canas
Explore Isla Canas

On Isla Canas you are almost guaranteed to see wild sea turtles, but especially during the main egg-laying season between July and November. It is on this beautiful 14km long island and its main beach where five of the world's eight species of sea turtles come to lay eggs. There are many nights during this season 100 or more turtles spawn on the beach. But the reproductive antics climax in "arribadas" ("arrivals"), when over 20,000 turtles hit the beach in just two or three nights to lay their eggs. No one knows the best time to come to see the turtles ... most of the "arribadas" happen in October, but it can be as late as November or it can begin as early as April or May.

Isla de Canas lies west of Pedasi, Playa Venado and the town of Canas, an island off the southern coast of the Azuero peinsula. The 254km2 big protective area, from which 4/5 lay under water, is surrounded by a 16 km long mangrove area between the estuary mouths of the Canas and Tonosi rivers. It is a safe environment for various wild birds. The sugarcane-covered island is hardly populated - only about 900 people live on the island and the community has been there since the 1920s, brought from local towns to protect the turtles and the eggs.

Once you arrive after a short boat ride to the north side of the island, the main beach is on the opposite site, only a 5 minute walk away. You can find long, warm waves curling up on the sand, palm trees loaded with coconuts, lots of bananas on the trees and depending on the season, watermelons in the fields.

At night the lagoons start to glow. Billions of microscopic small dinoflagellates produce a spooky light when they are alarmed. Due to the closeness to the rivers there are crocodiles. Therefore stay away from swimming.

Good to know
Isla Canas is managed cooperatively by ANAM and the local community. This community exists mainly of the turtle egg sales and has created a nursery program: 1.5km of protected land on the beach means that about 15,000 nests are left untouched. The rest of the remaining nests and their eggs are given to those who work with the program for profit.

Isla Canas Video

Where to stay?

If you come to the island to see the sea turtles you have to stay the night as they are only around at night. There are only two accommodations:

1. Mama Jita's Hostal y Restaurante
Call ahead to make arrangements for a boat to take you through the mangroves and to the island. She doesn't speak much English. Those with cars can park overnight at the covered car port on the mainland. Bring insect repellent, mosquito net, a camera, and a flashlight.
phone 6882-9695
costs $15 per night
meals $3 each

2. On your way towards the beach you'll see a yellow house on your left. Neri Perez rents two bare rooms in an unattractive concrete structure, just behind her house. Each room has four beds and comes with a private bath.

phone 6918-3204
costs $5 per person, with A/C $10 per person

An alternative is to bring a tent, but high tide makes the beach a bad campsite. Either way bring a mosquito net and insect repellent.

Where to eat?

There is a limited amounts of restaurants on the island. You can choose between a place which is located where the boat lets you off. Ask for Fulvilla, he is the cook and serves whatever they have. Usually you can choice between beef, pork or some sort of seafood.

phone 6971-2957
costs US$2.50-4, including rice and a small salad
open 6 AM - 10 PM

Or go to Mama Jita's Hostal y Restaurante. She is an excellent cook and uses local produce, fish, and poultry. The meals she serves are $3 each for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

How to get to the island?

The island is only separated from the mainland by a dense mangrove swamp. The easiest transportation is to take a taxi from Pedasi (US$20-25 each way). There is also a bus from Las Tablas toward Tonosi, just get off at the entrance to the dirt road for the port. It is a 3km walk along the road. 3 buses a day are leaving Las Tablas directly and go to the port: at 6, 10 AM and 2 PM, and returning at 7:30, 11:45 AM and 3 PM. Note: All these buses pass through the town of Canas. It is best to check with the bus drivers in Las Tablas for the latest and most up to date schedule. Panama is know for its unpredicatable changes. Anyways, once reaching the pier, find a boat that will take you over. The rides takes about 10 minutes to pass through a mangrove channel.
If it is low tide, walk alongside the boat.

Island admission
Tourist US$10
Panamanians US$4

Visitors Information
ANAM office
organizes tours
open MO - FR 8 AM - 4 PM
located in the middle of the island
phone 994-7313

You can also book a local tour guide on the island at the only US$10-15.

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