Bocas del Toro, the Seduction of Panama's Caribbean

Bocas del Toro is a stunning archipelago set in the Caribbean sea, that seduces visitors by its combination of exotic marine species, coral reefs and beaches with crystalline turquoise waters. Located in northwestern Panama, next to Costa Rica, it joins nine islands, in addition to two hundred islets and fifty cays. The most popular and trafficked is Colón Island, with the city of Bocas, capital of the province that shares the same name.


It is a picturesque and busy resort. The majority of the buildings, made of wood and brightly colored, lead to a pier with direct access to the sea. Instead of cars, both tourists and locals use boats as the daily mode of transportation. Despite the constant coming and going of boats, the waters are so clear that you can see fish and starfish by just looking from the coast. 

Numerous bars, restaurants and craft shops are concentrated in the few blocks of the central avenue, where a few cars and many bicycles circulate.

Everything is very rustic and natural, very Caribbean. The hotel offering is diverse, with all categories and for all budgets, starting at ten dollars per person. Although Panama has its national currency, the Balboa, the dollar is common currency and legally valid.

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The relationship that Panama has maintained with the United States in the course of its history has been complicated and controversial. It is now shown in cultural and economic influence, and also expressed by the massive presence of U.S. citizens installed in or passing through Bocas, as a mainstream tourist population converts it into a bilingual corner.

How to Arrive

A local airline has hour-long flights from Tocumen International Airport in Panama City. It can also be reached by road. The bus leaves the terminal at Albrook and the journey takes ten hours. Upon arrival at a small and humble town, Almirante, taxi boats are available all day to make the half-hour transfers to Bocas.

In general, visitors use Bocas as a base and from there hire a tour, but it's also possible to sleep on the neighboring islands, like the second largest and quieter island Bastimentos, all with typical hotels that are built on stilts over the sea.


Although each trip has its specialty--watching birds or dolphins, playing water sports like snorkeling, skiing, rowing or sailing--Bocas has a variety of beaches and scenery that can not be missed. The must-see options, at an average cost of $25 each, are Bocas del Drago, Bird Island, Starfish Beach and Bastimentos Island with Red Frog beach and Zapatillas Cay.

Bocas del Drago

It was the first place Christopher Columbus landed on his last voyage to the New World. It is located on the same island as the town of Bocas, but at the opposite end. It has beaches with crystal clear water and trails to take relaxing walks.

Bird Island

This island emerges just a few minutes by boat from Bocas del Drago. Many species of birds that co-habit this island can be observed from the boat, as it is not possible to disembark.

Starfish Beach

Calm and clear waters transparently cover the sea bottom full of starfish of varying sizes; these can not be taken to the surface, or even touched, because they die immediately. A couple of bars brings movement to the beach, with visitors arriving in ships, boats and water taxis.

Red Frog Beach

Located inside the National Marine Park on Bastimentos Island, it is a wild and very beautiful beach, with waves and dense vegetation. Ideal for walking along the coast. A rustic wooden staircase climbs a rocky ridge until coming to a viewpoint with a stupendous view of the sea.

Zapatilla Island

It is part of Bastimentos Marine Park and represents the idealized image of tropical Caribbean paradise, without any construction, Robinson Crusoe style.


The climate in Bocas is tropical with an average annual temperature of 27°. The seasons are measured not by temperature but by rain. The ideal season to travel is during the dry months in February, March and April, and again in September and October. Although paradise is always paradise, even with rain. 

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