What’s Doing In Bocas Del Toro
Bocas Del Toro is a sleepy surfer town located in the Northwestern region of Panama on the Caribbean side. It is comprised of nine main islands and many smaller ones with no development. All Panamanians regard Bocas Del Toro as the place to relax and enjoy the beaches, water, and people. A few days here will serve you well and provides for a nice break from the hustle and bustle of Panama City.
In Bocas Del Toro, relaxation and slow days are the norm. To fill the time, try these.
Red Frog Beach- One of the best beaches in the region and is easily accessible. Hop a water taxi from Isla Colon and enjoy the 10-minute ride. Your driver will take you to the harbor on the western side. The entire island, as is much of Panama, is a nature reserve, so you will pay $3.00 for admittance. It is well worth it, as the stroll to Red Frog Beach across the island to the east provides jungle views with several sloths and other cool creatures. The beach is equally impressive with perfect water temperature and some of the finest sand I have felt anywhere. Spending a full day here is certainly doable.
La Buga– A restaurant on the main island of Isla Colon. Since it’s hard to find good food in Bocas Del Toro, once you locate something that works, stick with it. The food at La Buga is ok, but the location is what makes it ideal. Sip on freshly prepared lemon-grass and Cachaca (sugar cane liquor) cocktails all day while on the restaurant’s dock and enjoy the surfer chicks (and dudes) returning after a rough day on the waves. And, if you’re up to it, Bocas Del Toro’s best dive excursion company is right next door.
Charter a boat– The same boats you will take for general transport will take you out on any excursion of your liking. For $50.00-$100.00 person, a taxi with a driver and guide can be had for the entire day. This is a great way to venture away from the usual tourist spots and explore some more remote areas of Bocas Del Toro. Bring along beer or liquor for the journey if you feel so inclined. No need to get food, your driver will take you to one of many water front restaurants on neighboring islands.
Super Gourmet- A local market that caters to those who want either a taste of home, or fresh local items. Touted as a “cool Caribbean market” it is just that. Offering patrons freshly prepared deli items, cool drinks, and local artisan chocolates and other hand-made, well crafted food items, this is a great place to stop for lunch and enjoy it on the patio or stock up on snacks for Red Frog Beach.
Bocas Del Toro is a very casual town with no major developments. The majority of lodging options cater to the region’s main clientele, namely surfers. Hostels are the norm, so do not expect a St. Regis or Four Seasons. There are several more comfortable options, including the Hotel Palma Royal.
Bocas Del Toro, although remote, is easy to reach. You can either make the 8-10 hour drive from Panama City, which is not recommended unless you are the adventurous type and have time to spare, or, you can hop a quick 50 min flight from Panama City’s regional airport, Albrook (PAC). I chose the latter and flew via prop plane with Air Panama. You can also fly via Aeroperlas.
Flying into Bocas Del Toro lands you right in town as the airport is extremely small and conveniently situated. Depending on where you are staying (resort versus one of many surfer hostels) you may have a hotel car waiting for you. If not, simply following the crowd will serve you well. A short 10-minute walk puts you in the center of the island town where all the hotels, restaurants, and shops are located. From there, ask anyone for guidance to your hotel. Of note- there are taxis on the island, but unless you have several large bags, there’s no need to use this service. You can walk anywhere in 10 minutes or less.
To get around Bocas Del Toro and its many islands, you will have to use a water taxi service. Any driver will take you anywhere for a price, but don’t give in. If you are going to a common area, travel with a boat that has other passengers and it should cost between $3.00and $5.00.