Bocas del Toro
Bocas del Toro is located in the northwest of the Panamanian Caribbean, and has 7 main islands, 52 cays and more than 200 small islands. The archipelago separates Almirante Bay and the Chiriqui Lagoon from the Caribbean open sea.
Thanks to its proximity to the Costa Rican border and being the most popular beach destination in Panama, Bocas del Toro attracts thousands of travelers every day from different parts of the world.
Bocas del Toro has approximately 8,000 inhabitants of diverse cultures: Spanish, indigenous, Afro-Antillean immigrants from the West Indies, mostly English speakers, as well as Germans and North Americans.
Isla Colon: It is the main island and the largest in the archipelago, also called “Bocas Town”, which is the regional capital. It has its own airport with flights arriving from Panama City, David and Costa Rica.
The most important street economically speaking, is Third Street, on the main road of the island, where commercial activity is concentrated during the day and at night. It is here you can find excellent nightlife places such as: Bar La Iguana, Munchies, OM Cafe, the restaurant Buena Vista and El Pirata.
El Pirata is the oldest and best known restaurant in Bocas del Toro. With its terrace on the water and an incredible view towards the neighboring islands, it continues to impress its visitors, offering delicious local and international food.
Bluff Beach, lends itself to activities such as ATV excursions, hiking, biking and horse tours. During the turtle nesting season it is possible to observe them during the night. If you like adventure, you should visit the cave called “La Gruta” where you can observe bats and other animals that do not exist anywhere else in the area.
Starfish Beach offers a tranquil place to swim and enjoy the starfish that live here. This beach is protected and has no waves making it person for relaxing and enjoying the water. You can take tours to this beach as well as taking the bus from the center of town to Boca del Drago. From there you can walk to Starfish Beach or take a boat.
Carenero Island: This island is very small, but very popular due to its natural beauty and its proximity to Isla Colon. It has its own gas station and a supermarket, but it is totally free of concrete roads and therefore of cars. Isla Carenero offers several lodging options (hostels, hotels and cabins on the water) as well as delicious restaurants, such as Bibi’s on the Beach, Cosmic Crab, Receta Michela and Leaf Eaters. The rumberos will also find popular bars, such as Aqua Lounge.
Bastimentos Island: A large island with 52 km2, some of its beaches are part of the Bastimentos Island National Marine Park. In the north of this island is Playa Primera (Wizard), Playa Segunda (Red Frog Beach), Long Beach and Polo Beach. All these beaches are very attractive for surf lovers.
At Red Frog Beach, you can find the Zipline Canopy tour, which offers a good dose of adrenaline for those who love heights and speed. Red Frog is the most tourist and accessible beach in Bastimentos, since it has its own pier and easy path to reach the beach. You will also find several restaurants and bars of all kinds, where you can enjoy a very cold beer on the beach and with a little luck you can see the little red dart frog.
Cayos Zapatillas: Located in the National Marine Park of Isla Bastimentos, Cayos Zapatillas is one of the most important attractions in Bocas del Toro. You cannot miss a visit to these jewels of the Panamanian Caribbean. The Zapatillas Keys are two small mangrove islands surrounded by palm trees and white sand beaches. Zapatilla 1 is an environmental study base and Zapatilla 2 is the island where tourists visit. Cayos Zapatillas are important nesting site for sea turtles and also an important site for corals and marine life.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is the weather like?
The climate in Bocas del Toro is tropical, with temperatures between 70° to 90° F (20° – 32° C), there are no hurricanes, it rains more frequently at night or early in the morning. Afternoons are generally sunny; Since we are in the tropics, it tends to rain a lot, but this does not mean that activities cannot be done, even sometimes the surf is much better and the summer heat is always felt.
The sunniest and hottest months are September and October. They are perfect months to practice diving, bathe in any beach of the archipelago and get to know more distant places such as Escudo de Veraguas and Kusapin.
We advise you to bring sunscreen, a swimsuit and good vibes.
How to get to Bocas del Toro?
Bocas del Toro is accessible from Panama City, David or from Costa Rica. Bocas del Toro Airport is located on Isla Colón (BOC). You can fly with the local airline Air Panama, the flight lasts only 40 minutes and our hotel is only a few steps from the airport. You can also take a bus to Almirante and then take a boat to Isla Colón. Buses leave from the Terminal de Buses in Albrook and take around 10 hours to get to Almirante.
The buses leave the Albrook terminal every day at 7:00 p.m., 7:30 p.m. and 8:00 p.m. and arrive at Almirante at approximately 6:00 a.m. or at 7:30 a.m., tickets can be purchased directly at the Terminal de Transportes in Albrook.
The schedule of the water taxis to and from Almirante and Isla Colón, is from 6:00 a.m. and the duration of the trip is approximately 30 minutes.
In Costa Rica there are buses from San José to Sixaola (border town), or Changuinola (Panamanian side). There is also a private transportation service (Caribe Shuttle) that operates from Puerto Viejo, Cahuita, Manzanillo in Costa Rica to Almirante.
Can you pay with credit cards? How is the situation with ATMs?
Almost all businesses in downtown Bocas Town accept credit cards such as Visa and MasterCard. Hotels, restaurants and some tours accept cards, although it is a good idea to always have cash on you to pay for boats, buses, taxis and for tips.
There are 4 ATMs in Bocas Town, three are located in the Banco Nacional just a block from our hotel and the other is located in front of a supermarket in the center of Bocas Town on the main street.
What activities can I do in Bocas del Toro and what are the best times to practice them?
Bocas del Toro is one of the main surf destinations in Panama. You can find waves to learn and waves for world-class surfers. Places like Punta de Carenero, Paunch, Playa Bluff and Playa Wizard are some of the most popular places to practice this sport. Punta de Carenero is easy to reach from a taxi boat, although beaches like Bluff and Paunch offer shelters like restaurants for people who don’t surf while others do. The best months to surf are December to March and then from July to August.
With 95% of the Caribbean coral found in Bocas del Toro, this destination is an excellent place to practice snorkeling and diving. The best months to practice are September and October, however you can always find good conditions during most of the year. There are many options of diving schools in Bocas and some of the most popular places to practice it are Coral Garden, the Sunken Ship, Witches Rock, the caves of Polo Beach and Tiger Rock.