Bocas del Toro is a province in Panama that includes an island archipelago. What we commonly refer to as Bocas del Toro is actually a group of islands. The city most typically referred to as Bocas del Toro, or Bocas Town, is located on Isla Colón. The two most popular islands for tourism are Isla Colón and Isla Bastimentos and are a quick $1 water taxi trip apart.
I spent nearly a month in Bocas del Toro discovering the best these islands have to offer. These tips will help you plan your trip; whether you’re looking for a volunteer experience or a surfer’s paradise.
What to Expect in Bocas del Toro
- Language: The official language is Spanish, but English is widely spoken.
- Currency: The American dollar is used as currency ($)
- Credit Cards and Banks: Bring as much cash as you can and don’t forget your debit card. Don’t expect to use a credit card for everyday purchases. There is only one bank/ATM in Bocas located on Isla Colón.
- Climate: A tropical climate with consistently warm temperatures and rain all year long.
Rainy season: Bocas receives large amounts of rain all year long.
Dry season: There is no predictable dry season.
Where to Stay in Bocas del Toro
There are accommodation options for all budgets and all types of travelers; whether you’re backpacking or honeymooning!
Budget Accommodation in Bocas del Toro
– Isla Colón –
- Mondo Taitu: Dorms & privates, kitchen, free pancake breakfast, Wi-Fi. Prices range from $11-$13 per night. Mondo Taitu is well-known for its crazy nightlife. If you’re looking for a good time, this is the best hostel to stay at.
- Hostel Heike: Dorms, kitchen, free coffee & pancake breakfast, Wi-Fi. Prices range from $10-$11 per night. Hostel Heike is a great value and is the most centrally located.
- Casa Verde: Dorms & privates, kitchen, café, Wi-Fi. Prices range from $11-$14 per night. Casa Verde was my favorite hostel on the island. Even if you aren’t a guest, be sure to come enjoy a hammock on the waterfront deck.
- Bocas Bound Hostel: Restaurant, kitchen, Wi-Fi. Prices range from $10-$11 per night. Bocas Bound is located within walking distance of Red Frog beach on Isla Bastimentos.
- Palmar Tent Lodge: Palmar Tent Lodge offers accommodation for all budgets; from dorm-style tends to private safari-style tents. Located just a few steps from Red Frog beach, this is a unique and very special spot to spend your time in Bocas.
- La Loma Jungle Lodge & Chocolate Farm: The La Loma Jungle Lodge was one of the most incredible accommodation experiences in all my travels. Your stay includes breakfast, lunch and dinner grown organically and prepared by local chefs. Tour the cacao farm, take a trip to the beach or take a hike on the property. At night, you’ll fall asleep above the jungle canopies in your very own luxury tree house.
– Isla Bastimentos –
The Best of Bocas Accommodation:
– Isla Bastimentos –
What to Do in Bocas del Toro
There are all sorts of activities in Bocas del Toro. You can scuba dive, surf, soak up the sun or take a tour.
- Take Spanish Classes: I had an awesome experience taking Spanish lessons at Habla Ya. Whether you’re a beginner, have experience, want private lessons, or want to enroll in a full language program, there’s something for everyone.
- Cacao Plantation Eco-Tour: Habla Ya also offers an array of tours. I went on the Oreba Chocolate Tour and spent the day learning about the production of cacao in Bocas and had the opportunity to buy some chocolate to bring home.
- Visit the Basti Bat Caves: The bat caves on Isla Bastimentos are a fun and exciting day trip. On the boat ride to the caves, we even saw a few sloths! I went with Milton, a local guide dedicated to the conservation of the caves. Please visit responsibly and book a tour with Milton.
- Scuba Dive with La Buga: Get your PADI Dive Certification or try a night dive. I got my Open Water Diving Cert with La Buga and highly recommend them!
- Volunteer with Give & Surf: Give back to the local community and lend a hand to the Bahia Honda Community with Give & Surf. Get more volunteer information here.
- Visit Old Bank: Old Bank is an Afro-Caribbean community located on Isla Bastimentos. Escape the tourism of Isla Colón and enjoy the colorful old wooden buildings and flavors of the West Indies.
- Surf: Bocas is well-known as a great surf destination. Take a surf lesson as a beginner or get barreled at Bluffs if you’re an experienced surfer. Check out more info: Bocas surf spots
- Be a Beach Bum: There are more than a few beaches to relax on in the Bocas del Toro archipelago. Snorkel, work on your bronze and sip a fresh coconut! Check out the best beaches in Bocas.
Where to Eat in Bocas del Toro
I found some of the BEST spots in Bocas that more than satisfied my culinary cravings. There are fresh-island flavors and international spices just waiting to be tasted!
– Isla Colón –
- Bocas Blended: My favorite spot on the island was Bocas Blended. Stop by this renovated bus turned café for healthy wraps, smoothies, and salads. They even have a 2 for 1 wrappy hour! ($4-$8)
- Om Café: Om Café was my favorite dinner spot on Isla Colón. If you’re a vegetarian or like spicy food, Om is a must (Closed Wednesday & Thursday)
- Casa Verde: Casa Verde is both a hostel and waterfront café. It has delicious breakfast burritos, veggie burgers and fruit smoothies. You can even enjoy your food from a hammock! ($4-$8)
- The Firefly: Tucked behind Old Bank is The Firefly– a true gastronomic gem. I had a romantic friend-date here on my last night in Bocas. Listen to waves crashing on the shore and enjoy fantastic food and classic Caribbean cocktails beneath a starlit sky. (Reservations required)
- Palmar Tent Lodge: Palmar serves up some yummy food and Saturdays here are not to be missed! Pizzas are baked in an Earth oven pizza right on the beach! ($6-$10)
- La Loma Lodge: Just as my stay here was one of the best in all of my travels, I also enjoyed one of the best meals of my life at La Loma. Meals are cooked by local chefs using fresh ingredients grown locally. You must be a guest to dine here and there are only 4 tree houses, so book well in advance and treat yourself to the best that Bocas has to offer. (Lodge guests only)
– Old Bank (Isla Bastimentos) –
– Isla Bastimentos –