Named for the large black-lipped pearl oysters once abundant in its waters, the Archipiélago de las Perlas comprises 39 islands and more than 100 unnamed (and mostly uninhabited) islets, each surrounded by postcard-worthy white-sand beaches and turquoise waters. Home to the palatial mansions of the rich and powerful, Isla Contadora is the best known island (though Isla del Rey is by far the largest). Popular US TV show Survivor filmed three seasons (2003–05) on several islands in the chain and versions in other languages continue to film here.
Visitors mostly head to four islands: Isla Contadora, the most accessible, developed and touristed; Isla San José, the site of an exclusive resort; and neighboring Islas Casaya and Casayeta, frequented by shoppers in search of pearls. Uninhabited islets offer ample opportunity for independent exploration, especially if you have a sense of adventure and the help of a local guide.