The first time I went to Cala Mia Island Resort could have been back in 2008. I absolutely fell in love with this small hotel in the Gulf of Chiriqui. At that time it had a restaurant with a thatched roof with windows overlooking the Pacific Ocean and a couple of bungalows scattered over the gardens. It was quite simple but luxurious at the same time, which I had not experienced before in Panama.
Recently I went back and I saw how the new owner had made adjustments to improve the level of comfort, since originally it had no air conditioning, hot water or Internet. But at the same time, it was still an ecological hotel using solar panels, local products and employing indigenous Ngöbe-Buglé from the area.
Those who visit should drive to the town of Boca Chica that is a little more than four hours from Panama City or one hour from David and then cross by boat. You can also go by boat through the mangroves from the Port of Pedregal near the David airport in the province of Chiriquí. Air Panama and Copa Airlines have daily flights to the city of David from Panama City.
Gulf of Chiriqui National Marine Park
In 1994, the Gulf of Chiriqui National Marine Park was created to protect 150 square kilometers (58 square miles) of marine systems. This includes 19 coral reefs, mangroves and seagrass beds on 25 islands. Cala Mia Island Resort is on the island of Boca Brava that is not part of the park but still remains virgin.
There are a few hotels in the area which means there are no mass tourism problems. Tour the islands on a boat ride from the resort. The favorites are Gamez, Bolaños and Isla Paridas that have white sand. Most likely, you have a beach exclusively for you. You can go snorkeling or enjoy a picnic among the palm trees. If you go on a romantic plan you can also take a sunset cruise.
Diving and fishing
Cala Mia Island Resort has the only dive center in the Gulf of Chiriqui. As I am certified, I took advantage and went diving in Isla Secas. The visibility was excellent and I could see schools of fish moving with my hand. Some of the reef fish you can see are parrot fish, surgeon fish, Moorish idol and barber fish. We also saw manta rays and turtles.
As I went in July I was able to take advantage of the start of the humpback whale watching season. They come to the warm waters of the Panamanian Pacific Ocean to mate and give birth to their young. We saw five whales that put a show for us swimming in sync.
Fishing in Panama is considered one of the best in the world. We went out to try our luck on a coastal fishing trip. First we catched our bait and then fish. Fish in these waters are abundant since ocean currents converge in Panama creating nutrients and plankton. On the coast you can catch smaller fish such as rooster fish, horse mackerel and snapper. Sport fishing is practiced on the high seas from Isla Seca, Isla Ladrones, to Isla Montuosa and Hannibal Bank. You can catch blue and black marlin, wahoo, tuna, dorado, cubera, amberjack and grouper.
Nature and adventure
You do not need to leave Cala Mia Island Resort to be able to interact with wildlife. Near the giant chessboard lives an anteater that sometimes wanders to the pool. Along the way you will see a stone that says “iguana’s home” where an iguana pokes its head out of a hole.
I am a bird lover and I was able to observe species like common black hawk, hummingbirds and green parrots. There are about 280 species of birds, between local and migratory, on the Island of Boca Brava.
Many of the species are aquatic such as spatulas, ibis and blue heron which you can see on a kayak or stand up paddle (SUP) tour through the mangroves.
You can also go to Isla Cocos, near Isla Secas, which is the second largest colony of frigates after Isla Iguana in Pedasi.
A trail through the rainforest takes you to a viewpoint that offers panoramic views of the Gulf of Chiriquí. This is a good place to see the flora of the area, including cala flowers which give the hotel its name. At dawn and dusk you will hear howler monkeys, which are the loudest land animals. In this path you will be able to see many since they live in packs.
Another fun activity is a horse ride that takes you through paddocks to a viewpoint and then down into the rainforest. It is recommended to do this activity early morning or in the afternoon. The horses are extremely docile which can be a bit boring for a good rider but the ride compensates as you will pass through small rivers and hills.
Cala Mia Island Resort
This resort on the Gulf of Chiriqui has bungalows with terraces that face the beach or the Pacific Ocean. They also have a villa and a beach house that can accommodate up to six people. You can bathe in two beaches, but without a doubt the best is the one in the bay, or in an infinity pool.
The food is spectacular since they use fresh and local ingredients. The main restaurant is Punto Sur where you can eat all three meals.
If you wish, you can also have lunch at Laguna Azul Beach Bar in front of the beach. They have a pizza oven that produces the best pizzas in Panama. They brought a chef from Italy to teach them how to prepare the dough and the sauce. The menu is fixed but there is also a menu of the day for dinner that offers two options of appetizers, main courses and desserts.
If you want to relax you can cross to the spa that is on its own island connected by a suspension bridge. Visiting Cala Mia Island Resort is a revitalizing experience, ideal for recharging your batteries that are drained everyday life.