Three million years ago the Isthmus of Panama was created. Until then North and South America were divided by sea. It was the biggest and reportedly the most significant geological event in 60 million years. Prior to that date as the Earth's plates had begun to join the Pearl Islands were created and they emerged from the sea. On Contadora Island and other islands in the group pre-Columbian artifacts have been found. The biggest island is Isla del Rey where more than fifteen pre-Columbian recognised archeological sites of the “Cuevas” and “Cocle” cultures have been identified. However none of the original population remain.
The islands were first occupied by Indians who were (with their leader Terarequí) wiped out within two years of the islands' discovery by the Spanish. Spaniard Vasco Nunez de Balboa named the islands Pearl Islands on his discovery of them in 1513 due to the many pearls which were found there. Another Spaniard, Gaspar de Morales, exterminated 20 local Indian chiefs not long after and gave them to his dogs to tear to pieces. The Spaniards then needed workers to harvest pearls and imported slave labour in the 16th century from Africa whose descendants now live on the islands, particularly del Rey.
The Islands were frequently used by pirates in the years that followed and were relatively undisturbed until the 1960s and 1970s when the building of the resort on Contadora took place to which the Shah of Iran retreated in 1979.
The beaches are cristal water and clear sand. The sea around is spectacular, with many species of marine animals such as whales, dolphins and turtles among them. Fishing is a popular activity in this area for residents and visitors.
Some of the world's most recognized pearls are formed in oysters found near the hundreds of islands of Las Perlas Archipelago.
The islands, mostly, are uninhabited except for a few communities of fishers and only some islands have tourist facilities. See the menu next to the details