There have been several human chapters in the long lifespan of our island in Panama, making ours just one story of many woven into the colorful tapestry of history on Isla Palenque.
Recognized as a privileged location from the earliest days of human settlement in Panama, Isla Palenque was home to an ancient, pre-Columbian community during the years 500-1400 AD, and may have been occupied as long ago as 5,000 BC. Its beauty and mystery made it a sacred site for the most holy of ceremonies, and tribes from all over the region came here to worship. While here, important local tribal chiefs visited, negotiated, and traded with each other, making this the region’s prime center for culture and commerce. By colonial times the ancient community on Isla Palenque had disappeared, leaving only enough clues about their lives to awaken curiosity and provide a sense of the island’s ancient history.
Palenque Means “Sanctuary” — The Colonial Period
The word palenque originally referred to a sanctuary for escaped slaves. During Panama’s Spanish Colonial period, indigenous people and African slaves were indentured to work in the Spanish mines. Those who escaped sought refuge in places fortified with palisades, or palenques. Isla Palenque has been called by that name for as long as maps can ascertain, and so may have harbored escapees during the Colonial period. Perhaps Isla Palenque’s standing as a slave sanctuary was what made the Chiriqui Province Abraham Lincoln’s choice for a colony of freed American slaves. Although those plans were never realized, the island’s reputation as a secluded refuge remains.
A Secluded Jewel — Today
Over the last several hundred years, Isla Palenque let the modern world pass her by, continuing to exist as a secluded preserve for rare primary forest and hundreds of species of plants, flowers, animals, and birds. A pristine oasis of natural beauty, Isla Palenque is now a sanctuary for those who welcome escape from the everyday, from the more confining aspects of conventional living. A journey to Isla Palenque allows you to discover your own sanctuary in an idyllic place unchanged by time. We welcome you to visit Isla Palenque, and become a part of her privileged legacy, weaving your own unique pattern into our vibrantly-hued history.