A Guide to Bocas del Toro, Panama
A Guide to Bocas del Toro, Panama
Because a place is touristy, does that mean it should be avoided? Not necessarily. We were warned that Bocas del Toro is over run by tourists and, therefore, over rated.
Yes, Bocas hosts many tourists but its for good reason, the islands are beautiful! And luckily, you can choose your own level of quiet depending on which island you stay on. We encourage you to spend a few days in Bocas, keeping in mind our tips below to stay on budget and avoid the tourist traps.
When done right, Bocas del Toro means days lounging on white sand beaches, watching surfers and scarfing down cheap, delicious seafood.
Bocas del Toro is an archipelago of islands off the Caribbean coast of northern Panama. It’s known for its wild beaches, untamed islands, and perfect surf.
Expect inflates prices as the area is common on the “Gringo Trail” of Central America but don’t let this keep you away. Bocas is absolutely beautiful and there are plenty of opportunities to find your own private stretch of beach.
*Option 1: Fly into Bocas del Toro. For around $100-125 one way on AirPanama, you can fly from Panama City to Boca’s main island, Isla Colon.
*Option 2: Overnight bus from Panama City (10-11 hours) or David/Boquete (4-5 hours).
*Option 3: Bus from Costa Rica. You can easily take a bus to Bocas from San Jose, Cahuita, or Puerto Viejo.
Isla Colon– Most visitors choose to stay on Isla Colon, the main island, and home of Bocas Town. This is where most hostels, hotels, and AirBnBs are located. If you choose to stay on the outskirts of town, you will need a bike ($5/day) to get around. Or a taxi ride to “downtown” is about $1 per person.
Isla Bastimentos– This is the 2nd most popular island. Being the home of Wizard Beach and Red Frog Beach, Bastimentos boasts an incredible amount of natural beauty. AirBnB has the best accommodations, like this jungle bungalow!
Isla Solarte / Isla Cristobal – These two islands are more remote, with only a few accommodations. Check out AirBnB for the best places!
Playa de Estrella on Isla Colon was our favorite spot! Clear, warm water full of starfish!
Bike to Playa Bluff and watch surfers along the way. The ride to the beach takes over 40 minutes and is quite bumpy. Stop at Playa Paunch and grab a beer to hydrate.
Surfing lessons– Mono Loco Surf School is run by a super chill, awesome guy. (And he makes AMAZING tacos). $50 for a full day of lessons.
Tour the Islands– Boats are around $5-10 for a ride to Bastimentos with wild beaches:
Bocas is full of restaurants but we were disappointed in a majority of the food and the prices. Here are our favorites:
Hungry Monkey– THESE TACOS WERE INSANELY GOOD. We went there THREE times. Tacos: Chicken satay, octopus, brisket, seared tuna. $3.50 for heaven in a tortilla.
Capitan Caribe– Good burgers (for Bocas) at a reasonable price. It took forever to get our food but we left satisfied.
Cafe del Mar– This is THE spot for breakfast (or lunch). Cafe del Mar offers up delicious pancakes, omelets, and burritos with your morning coffee.
Honorable mention: Om Cafe – We didn’t get a chance to try Om Cafe, as it was closed while we were visiting. However, the reviews are glowing and I’m a sucker for good curry and large portion sizes.
–Don’t buy drinks- Drinks are pricey and usually watered down. We bought beers for $0.85 and rum for $9 at the local market.
–Do make a meal at your hostel- If you’re able, make yourself at least one meal a day. Try the fruit- its cheap and delicious!
–Do barter- This should be a given but barter for everything! You might get turned down, but we saved a few bucks off taxis, souvenirs, and shuttles this way.
–Don’t pay for unnecessary tours- We did Playa Estrella for $9 per person. We didn’t think going on a dolphin cruise for an extra $15 was worth it.
Have you been to Bocas del Toro? What was your favorite activity?