Panama's Las Perlas Islands, 45 mi/70 km south of Panama City in the Gulf of Panama, have some of the finest white-sand beaches in the country, while the offshore waters are a breeding habitat for various species of whales. Few of the islands in the chain are inhabited, and only three are developed for tourism.
Contadora has a selection of resort hotels (one with golf and tennis) and vacation homes owned by wealthy Panamanians. It has nice beaches—including one for nudists—and the fishing and diving are good in the crystal clear waters offshore. You can fly to Contadora from Panama City.
The largest island, San Jose, was once used by the U.S. military for target practice. Today trails permit more peaceful pursuits in search of wildlife such as deer and monkeys, while diamond-dust beaches and offshore reefs prove perfect for lazing in a hammock or for snorkeling to discover the gems of the underwater world.
As with much of Panama's semipristine coast, Isla Vivero is being developed, with a Jack Nicklaus-designed 18-hole golf course, deluxe hotels and condominiums. http://www.viverosresort.com.
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