If we’re being completely honest here, we weren’t as enchanted by Bocas del Toro, Panama as the guidebooks predicted we would be. The Caribbean archipelago consists primarily of nine islands, two national parks, and a variety of wildlife. By all descriptions, the tropical paradise should have completely lured us in.
We liked it. It’s difficult not to like somewhere with beautiful islands and great food and a chilled out Caribbean vibe. But Bocas del Toro is extremely touristy, and many of the area attractions just didn’t seem worth the hype. Like, a visit to Dolphin Bay consisted of four boats of tourists waiting around for two dolphins that would eventually make a brief appearance. In contrast, our boat ride to Corcovado National Park saw pods of dolphins playfully following our boat. Bocas del Toro lacked that wild, natural feel to it.
Though we weren’t completely enamored by Bocas del Toro, we did enjoy our time there. And had we not been spoiled from two months of exploring Costa Rica’s best beaches and wildlife, perhaps we would have seen what so many other travelers see.
Here’s a glimpse of our trip. What do you think?
Doesn’t get more waterfront than that!
- Bocas del Toro: where the main transport is boat.
Take a water taxi out here for some of Bocas’ best surfing, but be sure to bring your own surfboard!
Red Frog Beach
Quick! Grab your camera- this is the only shot you’re getting!
Now THIS is more like it!
So walk around the island 3 times.
Take the cross island path.
Grab the magic conch and….
There it is! A serene sea of blue just for you.
- There’s lots to see under the sea…
- And up in the air! One guess as to what you’ll find here…
Yup, nothing but angry birds.
We hired a private water taxi to take us out to Starfish Beach before the other tourists woke up. The few extra dollars was definitely worth it!
Arriving in Bocas del Toro
If coming from Costa Rica, you’ll likely take a shuttle from Puerto Viejo to Almirante, then boat from Almirante to Bocas. Cost is around $25. The trip takes 2.5 hours +, depending upon time spent at the border.
There are also a variety of buses and shuttles servicing the border of Costa Rica and Panama.
Bocas Town is where you’ll find the majority of budget accommodation and guesthouses. We stayed at the Palma Royale, a slightly more expensive option, but easily boasting the best view in all of Bocas Town.
There’s a fantastic Wine and Tapas Lounge located on the main street. It was the only truly memorable place we dined during our stay.
Other than surfing, the main attraction at Bocas is to take an island tour. It is easy to arrange tours on the main road or at most hotels. Everyone offers the same three packages, so there is no use in really ‘shopping around’. Most tours are around $20-$30 for a half-day of island hopping and snorkeling.
Have you been to Bocas del Toro before? What was your impression?