19km (12 miles) from Panama City, in the Bay of Panama

Isla Taboga, known as the "Island of Flowers" for its lush bougainvillea, hibiscus, and jasmine, isn't a destination with adventurous offerings; instead, it's a place to escape the streets of Panama City, enjoy the fresh sea breeze, get a little beach time in, and enjoy a lazy lunch. The island is only 19km (12 miles) off the coast, and the ferry ride here provides passengers with a dazzling view of Panama City and ships waiting to transit the canal. The drowsy, charming village here is a nice place to stroll; you'll find a couple of restaurants and hotels, but really this is a very low-key excursion and best as a day-trip. If your Panama travel plans include a beach destination such as Bocas or the San Blas Peninsula, skip Isla Taboga. But if you've got a lot of time in Panama City and are looking for a quick excursion, this is a do-it-yourself trip that doesn't require a tour operator or a lot of advance planning -- just show up at the ferry dock and head over.

Isla Taboga is one of the most important historical sites in Panama. The village was founded in 1524, and later conquistador Francisco Pizarro pushed off from here on his way to conquer Peru. During the 17th century, the island became the haunt of pirates in search of treasure, and in the 19th century it was a port for the Pacific Steamship Navigation Company, which brought over hundreds of Irish, whose Anglo-Saxon names can be seen on gravestones here. The United States even used Isla Taboga as a training ground for military practice during World War II. Today the village is home to about 1,000 residents.