Bocas del Toro is an archipelago in the north of Panama, near the border with Costa Rica† It is a special part of the Caribbean where the atmosphere is very pleasant. A place where the jungle and sea meet and where time seems to stand still. Take at least a week to discover Bocas del Toro, and be aware that you don't want to stay here forever 😉
Colon main island
When you travel to Bocas del Toro you will probably arrive first on the main island of Colon. This is also the most touristic island with a large amount of accommodations, restaurants and bars. It is also known as 'Bocas Town'. Besides the lively center you naturally come to Colon for the beautiful nature and pristine beaches. What can you do during your visit to Colon?
Exploring the Island
A wonderful way to explore the island is by bicycle, so you can see everything at your own pace. Bicycles can be rented on every street corner for an average daily price of 10 euros. Tip: Take a bike ride to Playa Bluff, you will then follow a beautiful route along the coast and through the jungle.
Surf around Bocas del Toro
Bocas del Toro is an ideal surf spot for both beginners and advanced surfers. There are many coves and different beaches where you can fully enjoy the waves. These surf spots can be found both around Colon and the surrounding islands.
Snorkeling and diving
If you are lucky with the season you will find crystal clear sea in Bocas del Toro where you can snorkel and dive beautifully. Unfortunately we visited Panama during the rainy season, so the water was not clear enough for this.
Did it rain all day long? No, definitely not. A few times a day there was a downpour, for the rest we could just enjoy the islands.
It is possible to see bioluminescence in Bocas del Toro. This is the phenomenon whereby organisms in the sea emit light through movement. When you swim in the dark, the organisms will light up making it seem like you are surrounded by hundreds of lights. You can book a bioluminescence tour from Colon.
Island Hopping in Bocas del Toro
Each island has its own unique character, so it is recommended to visit several islands. From Bocas Town you can easily take the water taxi to one of the surrounding islands. We visited the following islands during our visit to Bocas del Toro.
Isla Solarte is a small island where you mainly come for the peace and quiet and the impressive nature. There are only a limited number of accommodations on this island, we stayed in Bamboo Lodge† This is by far the best hostel I've ever been to. It has a great view, a restaurant where they serve delicious meals, a swimming pool, jungle trails and a slide that ends in the sea. What does a man want more?
We went to Bastimentos to visit the bat cave. Before you reach the cave you have to take a 30 minute walk through the tropical rainforest and mangrove forests, where we spotted our first sloth! Once you have arrived at the cave, walk/swim/climb through it and come face to face with the thousands of cave inhabitants: bats. A very cool experience!
From Bocas Town we also made a day trip to the island of Zapatilla, an idyllic place with snow-white beaches and clear water. You can compare the beaches here with the San Blas Islands, which are located south of Panama City. With a bit of luck you will also spot dolphins on the way to Zapatilla.
How do you get to Bocas del Toro?
To go from the mainland to Bocas del Toro, travel to the boarding point Almirante. When you come from Panama City, it is best to take the night bus. If you come from David or Boquete, it is also possible to reach Almirante with a local bus.
Are you traveling through Costa Rica? Then there is also a bus connection from Puerto Viejo. All in all Bocas del Toro is well served by public transport, the only drawback is that it takes a while. Once in Almirante, take the water taxi to Bocas del Toro.
Would you rather spend less time on the trip to Bocas del Toro? Then you can also fly from Panama City to Bocas Town for about 100 euros.
Once you have arrived in Bocas del Toro you will mainly use the water taxis, which makes it easy to go island hopping. There are also taxis and buses on the main island of Colon, but I personally recommend renting a bicycle.