Locals will tell you it is the last frontier or the final hidden paradise in Panama. Escudo de Veraguas means ‘The Shield of Veraguas’ and it is one of the most amazing locations in Central America. It is home to the elusive three-toed pygmy sloth, which at times swims in the crystal clear waters of the mangroves in this tropical island oasis.
In this article, I will share the following topics with you about my experience of Escudo de Veraguas:
- How to get to Escudo de Veraguas
- What you will need
- My personal experience and photos
- How to organize your own tour guide/tour
- Costs and fees
- When it is possible to visit Isla Escudo de Veraguas
HOW TO GET TO ESCUDO DE VERAGUAS
Escudo Veraguas is a small island in the Caribbean Sea above the mainland of Panama. Reaching Isla Escudo de Veraguas by yourself is a challenge but not impossible. You will need to arrive in Chiriqui Grande and from that small town, you will take a boat for two hours to Isla Escudo de Veraguas.
Buses and public transport will take you all the way in near Chiriqui Grande (you may need a small taxi for the last part of the journey to the port). You would then need to take the private boat to Escudo de Veraguas.
It is possible to do this journey DIY but because it is quite hard logistically and expensive, almost every tourist who visits does so in an organized trip. At this stage that is actually a good outcome as the trip leader can monitor the actions, and garbage disposal and is responsible for running a safe trip. To hire the boat and the driver is $375 per day approximately.
However, on a tour, you will pay approximately $200 USD for two days, which includes food, camping equipment, and transport from Panama City. There are a number of different tours offering different prices and equipment. I went with my friend, Jerry Moreno (@jerryfit), who runs the tours. Jerry is an indigenous guide from Chiriqui, who now works as a tour guide out of Valle Anton and Panama City.
ISLA ESCUDO DE VERAGUAS MAP LOCATION
WHAT WILL YOU NEED ON ISLA ESCUDO DE VERAGUAS
Your tour guide will provide you with a tent, camping equipment, cooking equipment, food, and water. There is no electricity, wifi, phone service, or any technology in Isla Escudo de Veraguas. There is no running water, toilets, or amenities. There are no hotels on Isla Escudo de Veraguas. The only people there are the locals. You will need to pack the following:
- A rain jacket
- Snorkel Gear (your guide may have this)
- Power Bank
- Toilet paper
MY CAMPING TRIP TO ISLA ESCUDO DE VERAGUAS
Isla Escudo Veraguas was a dream destination of mine for a while. However, it is quite difficult to organize all the logistics. Finally, I was able to join a trip with Jerry Moreno who has become one of my good friends. He is a local, indigenous guide who lives in El Valle de Anton and Panama City. He speaks English and knows hundreds of awesome adventure spots across Panama.
Our trip began in Panama City where we began the long van journey to Chiriqui Grande. This part of the trip wasn’t my favorite as we tried to get some sleep on the overnight drive. We arrived in Chiriqui Grande just before 8 am on Saturday and jumped in the boats by 9 am and the real trip began.
The journey to Isla Escudo de Veraguas is a two-hour boat trip but we made two stops along the way. The first stop was an incredible island called Isla Tiburon with white sand, crystal clear water, and a small hill covered in palm trees. I guess you could say this was paradise before ‘the’ paradise.
After our pitstop in Paradise, we headed for lunch at a small island called Isla Tobobe about an hour away from Isla Escudo de Veraguas. For $7.50 we had lobster, coconut rice, and salad. Fish, patacones, and octopus were also available. This was organized as part of our group ahead of time. Considering we were out in the middle of nowhere, this meal was sensational.
Finally, after the pitstop and the lunch break, we headed on toward Isla Escudo de Veraguas. This trip involves a lot of transit but you just have to bear with it knowing that you are en route to an amazing, remote island worth the effort. We arrived at Isla Escudo de Veraguas at about 4 pm and began to set up our camping area.
Our tour included tents, inflatable mattresses, and sleeping bags. The temperature overnight was hot so I can suggest that you might not even need to bring a jacket at all as we were never cold even during the night. The area we were camping in is maintained by several locals who machete all the plants to keep the camping area flat and have a campfire area set up for cooking. That is about the extent of the facilities. The bathroom is in the jungle, and you need to bring all of your own water.
During the night a nest of 100 baby turtles hatched and we watched them hustle their way toward the ocean. It was an amazing experience and I hope a few of the turtles survive to grow old in the Caribbean Sea!
By the time we finished setting everything up, we headed out for a short adventure by walking along the coast and waiting for the sunset to slowly spread some purple tones across the beaches. There’s something magical about wandering around an island with no technology, no major civilization, roads, cars, hotels, or big construction. The entire trip around Isla Escudo de Veraguas had an adventurous vibe to it. You can tell this is a corner of the earth and even of Panama that is seen by a lucky few.
That night we cooked our dinner on the campfire, had a few drinks, and settled into our tents. A huge storm rattled us overnight, which made for an interesting sleep but that’s camping! Nothing could dampen the mood for what we had planned on our full day of exploration around Isla Escudo de Veraguas.
After a quick breakfast of cereals, pineapple, and papaya we were energized and ready to go explore. We piled into the boats and headed along the coast. On this day we would do an entire lap around Isla Escudo de Veraguas. This is the best way to see the island as the inside is a dense jungle as you will see in the drone photos below. The coast of the island has some interesting cliff formations with smooth rock walls jutting down into the blue ocean. The jungle overflows off the island in all sections with green plants literally growing on the side of the cliffs.
Our first stop was at a tiny beach inside a huge cave. The boats dropped us inside and then let us explore and take in the grandeur of the location. Above the cave trees and vines covered the roof. One tree is even growing out sideways from the cave. It really is such a raw place and this island is more or less untouched.
After exploring the cave we continued to circle the island, taking in all of the beautiful beaches. One thing we kept noticing was the white signposts, which are signaling a turtle nest below. It’s awesome to see initiatives like this in place. Isla Escudo de Veraguas and its inhabitants both people and animals need to be protected before mass tourism causes a problem if this location continues to grow in popularity. Sustainable tours with knowledgeable guides, conservation programs, and visitor number limits are a few of the systems that will need to be implemented as the popularity increases.
Our next and final stop for the day is in the amazing mangrove area of Isla Escudo de Veraguas. This is the part of the island I was most excited to see. Normally mangroves can be in muddy water but on this island, the salt-water rivers that run inland are crystal clear. Drinking water clear! The rivers wind in and out with lots of small islets just off the shore. It is from the air that you can truly appreciate how amazing this mangrove system is.
Drone Notice: You do need a permit for drones or cameras IF you are using them for commercial purposes. However, even if you are not using the drone for commercial purposes, I have heard sometimes people have been asked not to fly the drone as the local authorities find it hard to tell what is commercial or not and the drone tends to make people assume it is commercial as it is quite new technology. Many of the other tours were asking me to pay for a drone permit but I investigated and found out that because I am not a commercial shooter I didn’t need one. I just needed to communicate that with the local authorities and prove it as such. Luckily, because Jerry is a local, I was able to easily communicate that and of course, I am true to my word and don’t sell any images from places that require a commercial license.
Our boat parked in the midst of the mangroves and we hung out there for about 1.5 hours. Snorkels are an awesome idea for this area but drones are better!
After hanging out in the mangrove area we went back and packed up our tents and gear, which had dried out after the crazy storm the night before. All that was left now was the boat drift back. We broke up the journey with another great lunch at Tobobe Island before heading back to Chiriqui Grande. We left at 5 pm and made it back to El Valle de Anton at around 1 am to conclude an epic adventure.
WHEN CAN YOU VISIT ISLA ESCUDO DE VERAGUAS
Due to the weather and waves, you can only visit Isla Escudo De Veraguas between March and November.
HOW TO BOOK YOUR TOUR
Isla Escudo Veraguas was a dream destination of mine for a while. However, it is quite difficult to organize all the logistics. Finally, I was able to join a trip with Jerry Moreno who has become one of my good friends. He is a local, indigenous guide who lives in El Valle de Anton and Panama City. He speaks English and knows hundreds of awesome adventure spots across Panama. Below is a photo of Jerry and me outside Bodhi Hostel where we both stayed for over a month as we explored Cocle. The guy is a champion.
ADVENTURE BAG FROM ISLA ESCUDO DE VERAGUAS IN PANAMA
(This bag was half the trash from our group of 15 and half the trash we picked up along the beach and campsite. However, this region was very clean and it was just general polystyrene and other stuff washed up not many bottles and things that campers had left behind!) This is an adventure bag. It is full of trash. Every time I go on an adventure I collect one adventure bag full of trash. It’s my small way of saying thanks to mother nature for allowing me to enjoy her beautiful creations. If we have time to go on an adventure we have time to collect an adventure bag on the way back out of the trail once we have enjoyed the waterfall, the hike, or the beach. Adventure hard!