Isla Iguana is an exceptional stop on the way around Punta Mala if you are going up north to Marina Buenaventura, Marina Vista Mar or Panama City.
We went here a couple of times, always when the northerlies were not blowing very hard. The anchorage is somewhat protected from southerly ground swell by the Azuero Peninsula and a bit by the Island itself from northerly windswell.
Anchorage is in deep water of minimum 12 m MLW. When it gets shallower, there is live coral and you don’t want to drop your anchor there.
We anchored on the southern end of the long beach.
Snorkeling is very good, the water is clear and you will find a lot of wildlife. Among others, saw Angel Fish, Turtles and even White Tip Sharks.
Before you go to Isla Iguana, register as a visitor a couple of days in advance (more info below). Upon arrival, head to the admin building on the northern end of the long beach where you check in. You will need the email confirmation and your IDs.
Then you can either relax at the beach or stroll around the island. Check the visitors center with some large information posters about the wildlife and sites to visit on Isla Iguana.
If you arrive early, you will see a lot of hermit crabs and red crabs. And, as the name of the island suggests, iguanas.
On the eastern side of Isla Iguana is a smaller beach where you can also snorkel, so don’t forget to bring your gear on the short walk.
To enter the island, you need a permit as Isla Iguana is a national park in Panama and protected area. You can easily obtain it by sending an email to MiAMBIENTE, firstname.lastname@example.org , with a minimum of 72 hours in advance.
Each person must write their name, ID, age, nationality and contact information. As soon as the information is received, the entity sends an email with the confirmation of the reservation.
Isla Iguana’s carrying capacity is 300 people per day. Of which, 100 are administered by the Ministry of Environment and the remaining 200 by the tourist services of El Arenal beach, main departure point to Isla Iguana.
The working hours at the checkpoint in Arenal Beach to Iguana Island are from 8:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. on Sundays. – 12:00 p.m. on weekdays and from 7:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. on weekends.
However, tourists who make reservations are advised that if they arrive after 10:00 a.m., they will lose their space. This is due to the fact that regularly at that time the required load capacity of the boats has already been met.
The Isla Iguana Wildlife Refuge protects a 53-hectare island covered by dry tropical forests, surrounded by more than 40 hectares of coral reefs, formed by 17 species of reef-building corals.
Its waters are inhabited by more than 347 species of fish and are visited by humpback whales to give birth and teach their young to dive. The island’s coral reefs, along with the mangroves of the mainland coast and the coastal upwelling, support artisanal fisheries on which more than 200 families in the area depend. It is also an important seabird nesting site and you will see birds flying over the island all day.
The following picture is a 360 degree panoramic, aerial picture taken with our drone. You can use your mouse to move around in the picture.
We hope this helps when you are approaching the sailboat anchorage in Isla Iguana in Panama.