Bocas del Toro, an archipelago in a bay named Chiriqui, is a Panama Caribbean heaven. The bay has an array of coral reefs, mangroves, lush trees and white sands with abundant marine life. Bocas has vital nesting beaches for Green, Leatherback, Hawksbill and Loggerhead Marine turtles. Poison dart frogs have also made Bocas del Toro islands their habitat; each island has their color of frogs. There’s a mix of indigenous and Antillean cultures bestowing Bocas del Toro with diverse ethnic food and music.
Bocas Town is on an Island named Colon, in regards to Christopher Columbus’s 1502 landing. Colonial houses lining the coast and open streets manifest this rural town’s Caribbean charm. People leave Bocas Town smiling with memories of reggae and the taste of rice and beans cooked in coconut milk.
Boca del Drago, on the far side of Colon Island, flaunts a stunning beach with clear water sprinkled by starfish at the beach known as Playa Estrella or Starfish Beach. Bluff Beach, a surfing and sunbathing spot north of Bocas Town, has turtles nesting over golden sands. Some surfers warn of Bluff Beach waves breaking near coral close to shore, so surf with care. Red Frog Beach at Isla Bastimentos is close to the spectacular Red Frog Beach Resort. It is s stunning beach where you will get the chance to spot wildlife including the red dart frogs this beach is named after. Cayos Zapatillas has pristine and stunning beaches and since it has no accommodations to speak of, is a popular day trip from Isla Colon. The island is about a one hour boat ride away.
Diving and snorkeling through coral reefs like those near Hospital Point and eating fresh fish in town are obvious reasons for being at Bocas del Toro. Bocas Town traffic is scarce making scooters and mountain bikes an excellent means to explore. On foot, hikers will find wildlife on trails along beaches, lagoons, jungles, and mangroves.
Given the calm nature of the waters, swimming and paddle boarding are other popular activities you can indulge in at Bocas.
For a quiet stay, go to Bastimentos: Isla Colon is the most popular island in the group, but it is also a known party place. Stay at Red Frog Beach if you are up for a more quiet stay.
Rent a bike for the day: You won’t have to rely on buses or overpriced taxis and can explore the island on your own pace.
The dry months: The driest months are October, January, and March. But keep in mind that the Caribbean weather is not always predictable.
Many hotels, restaurants, and water taxis are found the walking distance from Bocas Town airstrip. Those who access by land from Costa Rica are suggested to take a water taxi from Changuinola to get here.
Isla Colon especially has some amazing restaurants to choose from. Just a simple wander around Bocas town will open up a wide array of options to you. One of the top-rated restaurants and bars is Capitan Caribe Bocas del Toro. Their cuisine varies from Latin to fusion and vegetarian friendly options. El Refugio Ultimo is a great place for those who love seafood but vegetarian and vegan options are also available.
Where to stay
Hotel Bocas del Toro has a charming and authentic feel to it. The perfect place the relax on the enchanting islands. One of the most famous resorts on Bocas as well as in Panama, however, is Red Frog Beach Resort. The resort is well known for its eco-friendly methods and helping the local indigenous communities.
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