A standard boat tour around Isla Colón includes a stop at lovely Swan’s Cay, a craggy rock that juts out of the ocean north of the island, about a half hour by motorboat from Bocas. It’s so impossibly picturesque that when a friend of mine saw it, he said it looked like it was designed by Disney.
Swan’s Cay is also called Isla de los Pájaros (Bird Island) for reasons that become obvious when you visit it. Most notably, it’s the only known nesting grounds in Panama for the red-billed tropicbird, an elegant white bird with tail feathers about a meter long.
Do not disturb the birds by walking on the island; you can, however, snorkel around it. The current isn’t too strong, but the water can get pretty churned up at times, creating a washing-machine effect that drastically reduces visibility.
The boatman may offer to motor through the narrow cleft in the western crag. It’s possible if the boatman times the waves right. It’s a fun thing to do—you can see crabs scuttling along the rocky walls centimeters from the boat. Go for it if you trust his boating skills.
© William Friar from Moon Panama, 3rd Edition