There is no place quite like Bocas del Toro Panama. It boasts a magical Caribbean creole culture that’s different from mainland Panama. It’s culture, food, and even the language are all unique to the islands.
The Bocas del Toro archipelago consists of hundreds of small islands that people live on. Locals travel back and forth to the big islands and mainland using their small boats like commuter cars.
Here, water taxis are a way of life. In fact, some villas and homes stand-alone out in the shallow waters over the reef and can only be reached by boat. You can hop from island to island for just a few dollars per boat ride.
Isla Colon is considered the main island. It is home to the main town of the islands Bocas del Toro, generally referred to as Bocas Town. It’s here that you’ll find restaurants, bars, and shops, along with plenty of vendors selling tours and adventure activities.
Each island has its own vibe and unique offering of activities. An array of endless adventures can be found riding the water taxis to the different areas of Bocas del Toro.
If you’re looking for an adventurous yet affordable island vacation where you can meet people from all over the world, this is the place to be.
Here are 11 Incredible Things to Do in Bocas del Toro to ensure you have an amazing time in the islands.
Where is Bocas del Toro?
Bocas del Toro is a chain of islands and a slice of mainland located in Panama’s northwest side very close to Costa Rica’s southern Caribbean border. The province is made up of several large islands including Isla Colon Isla Bastimento, Isla Solarte, Isla Cristobal, Cayo de Agua, and Isla Popa.
How to get to Bocas del Toro?
If you’re coming to Bocas del Toro from Panama City, I recommend flying. Flights to Bocas del toro are about 45 minutes and cost less than $100.
If you’re in Costa Rica, a popular route is to come from Puerto Viejo to Bocas del Toro. The easiest way is via a shuttle service that will also assist you with the border crossing. The cost of the shuttle is about $34.
If you will be coming from San Jose, Costa Rica, the fastest route is to fly. The flight will be about 1 hour and will cost about $150.
If you will be coming from Boquete, the easiest route will also be via a shuttle service. You can book a shuttle reservation with Hello Travel Panama. The cost is $30 and the trip will take about 4 hours.
Finally, if you’re coming from the San Blas Islands, you’ll need to make your way back to Panama City, then catch a 1-hour flight from there.
Things to do in Bocas del Toro
1. Red Frog Beach
One of the main reasons that Bocas del Toro should be on your travel list is Isla Bastimentos. Isla Bastimentos is a beautiful island with roughly 62 square kilometers of land. Despite the size of the island, less than two-thousand people live there.
Red Frog Beach is a must-see when visiting Bocas del Toro. This white sand beach is situated between soft waves of clear water and dense jungle, loaded with exotic flora and fauna. The beach gets its name from the abundance of strawberry dart frogs, but you’ll also find monkeys, sloths, iguanas, and macaws in the area.
You can grab a bite to eat at Nachyo Mamma’s Taco Bar and a cocktail at the jungle lounge when you need a break from the waves.
If you’re looking for a little more adventure during your visit I recommend booking a zip line tour as well. Bocas del Toro zip-lining excursions are located just outside of Red Frog Beach. They offer zip line tours three times a day and cost about $55 USD. Each tour lasts about two hours and includes at least 7 different zip lines.
This experience was quite the adventure and I was fortunate to be placed with a really fun group of people. If you’re traveling solo this is a great way to meet people.
3. National Marine Park
If you want the chance to hang out with monkeys and cute three-toed sloths, Bastimentos has protected over 32 acres that make up Marine National Park. While you’re here, you’ll also have the opportunity to snorkel over some of the best-preserved coral reefs in Central America.
As mentioned above, some of the best snorkeling and can be found in Bocas del Toro. The archipelago itself keeps the waters inside of the islands nice and calm. When it hasn’t been raining for a few days and visibility is good, the conditions for snorkeling can be perfect. Warm clear water over beautifully colored corals make for quite the experience. Even snorkeling you are likely to spot sea turtles, anglefish, butterflyfish, lobster and shrimp.
Full-day snorkeling trips cost about $50, but you can find shorter snorkeling tours for as little as $17.
5. Scuba Diving
If you want to get SCUBA certified, why not do it in the beautiful calm waters of Bocas del Toro? The diving courses at Bocas Dive Center are very popular and have received excellent reviews from past travelers. They even offer freediving courses if you’d like to take your snorkeling to the next level!
Diving courses offered by Bocas Dive Center are extremely affordable. They offer a Discover Scuba Diving course for $105 which lasts about half a day. If you’d like to get certified, you can take their 2-day Scuba Diver course for just $280.
6. World-Class Surfing
While many have not have heard of Bocas del Toro, chances are that if you’re an avid surfer, you have. The various islands and underwater reef structure allows for big waves no matter what direction the swell is coming from.
There are two surf seasons, December through April and July through the end of August. Even when there are quite a few people on vacation in Bocas del Toro, there are so many island breaks to choose from that you’ll always be able to find an uncrowded spot to catch some waves.
If you’re still learning or are just not that good yet, Black Rock Point is the place to start. It’s conveniently located on Isla Carenero, between the main island (Isla Colon) and Isla Bastimento. This spot is perfect for beginners or those trying to step up to the next level. The wave breaks over the reef, but don’t worry, it’s deep!
If you are an experienced surfer check out Carenero Point Break on Isla Carenero. You can also try Paunch and Playa Buff on Isla Colon.
If you are new to the sport, there are a host of fantastic surf schools where you can find affordable lessons and surf rentals. One such place to check out is Mono Loco Surf School who offer lessons for about $50 per day.
7. Spanish Language Classes
If you’re looking for an educational opportunity and you’ve been wanting to learn Spanish, consider participating in a Spanish language immersion course. Bocas del Toro is a great place to kick-start your Spanish skills.
There are several Spanish immersion courses where you can spend a couple of hours each day getting formal instruction. When class is over, you can practice what you’ve learned by exploring Bocas Town and interacting with the locals.
8. Starfish Beach
Starfish Beach is another of my favorite things to do in Bocas del Toro. The beach is exactly as described, a beach full of beautiful red starfish. It’s a fun and unique experience to be able to swim with all the starfish here. Aside from the starfish, it’s also just a beautiful beach and a great place to spend an afternoon swimming and floating around in the waves.
You can find starfish beach on the opposite end of the main island from Bocas Town. By taxi, it will take about 35 minutes to reach and will cost $30. The more affordable option is to take the Boca del Drago bus from the park, which also takes about 35 minutes but costs only $5. The bus leaves from Bocas Town every 2 hours beginning at 6:00 a.m. The last bus to return to Bocas Town from Starfish Beach is at 5:00 p.m.
9. Bike around the island
One of the easiest and most affordable ways to get around the islands, especially the main island, is by bicycle. There are dozens of bike shops all around Bocas del Toro, so you’ll have no trouble finding a bike. Also, many of the hotels and resorts on the islands offer bikes to their guests.
The going rate for bike rentals in Bocas del Toro is about $5 per day.
10. Bluff Beach
Bluff Beach is another super popular beach on the main island. This beach is beautiful, like most of the beaches in Bocas, but this one can get quite crowded. So if you’re looking to meet other travelers and socialize, then this would be the beach for you.
11. Bocas Yoga
If you love yoga or are just looking to stay in shape on your vacation, consider taking a class at Bocas Yoga. They are open daily except for Fridays and Sundays and each class is only $6. They are located on the main island in Bocas Town.
After reading this, I hope that your curiosity and adventurous spirit has been sparked by this magical Caribbean destination. If you do decide to visit Bocas del Toro, the best time of year is from December to July if you’d like to avoid the rainy season.
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Eden FitePart-time Traveler | Dog Lover | Avoider of Crowds
I help people use their vacation days to see the world.