Bocas del Toro
Bocas del Toro is a province in Panama that is actually an island archipelago. The destination most typically referred to as Bocas del Toro, or Bocas Town, is located on Isla Colón. I spent nearly a month in Bocas del Toro discovering the best these islands have to offer. My Ultimate Bocas del Toro Travel Guide is packed with travel tips that will help you plan your trip; whether you’re looking for a volunteer experience, an eco-friendly escape or a surfer’s paradise.
What to Expect in Bocas del Toro
Bocas del Toro is famed for its incredible biodiversity and is a popular spot for eco-travelers, backpackers, surfers and scuba divers. The two most popular islands for tourism are Isla Colón and Isla Bastimentos and are a quick $3 water taxi trip apart. Bocas Town is centered around a small stretch of shops, restaurants, hotels and colorful Caribbean clapboard houses. Bocas is all about life in the slow lane. A perfect blend of minimal development and natural beauty, Bocas del Toro is the ultimate island destination for a relaxed, tropical getaway.
Language: The official language is Spanish, but English is widely spoken.
Currency: The American dollar (USD) 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. It’s small, simple island life here!
There is only one bank/ATM located on Isla Colón.
Climate: Bocas del Toro features a tropical rainforest climate with consistently warm temperatures and rain all year long.
Rainy season: Bocas receives large amounts of rain all year long. Pack an Umbrella!!
Dry season: There is no predictable dry season, but the driest months are October, January and March.
Getting Around in Bocas del Toro
If you’re staying in Bocas Town, you can easily walk or cycle everywhere you go.
Cycle: The most common mode of transport in Bocas is bicycle. Bicycle rentals cost about $1 – $2/hr or $5 – $8/day. If you’re planning on staying a while, a used bike can cost anywhere from $30 USD to $75 USD to buy. The island is very flat so it’s easy to bike around. Be sure to lock up your bike to avoid theft!
Water Taxis: Water Taxis connect all the ports and islands together so you can travel between islands. A short water taxi ride can be as cheap as $1. Bocas Town to Bastimentos is about $3. Bocas to Almirante (where you catch the bus to or from Boquete or Panama City) costs about $6.
Taxis: Taxis in Bocas are the traditional yellow color. Most rides around Bocas Town cost under $1. If you arrive by flight at the airport, a taxi to your accommodation should cost between $1-2. If you’re coming to surf, rides to popular surf spots on Isla Colón range from $3 – $10 depending on the distance.
La Loma Jungle Lodge & Chocolate Farm
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. With only 4 rooms, it’s truly one-of-a-kind experience.
Location: Bahia Honda
Price Range: $$$
Palmar Beach Lodge
Palmar Beach Lodge offers accommodation for all budgets; from dorm-style tents to private safari-style tents. Located just a few steps from Red Frog beach, this is a unique and very special spot to spend your time in Bocas.
Location: Isla Bastimentos
Price Range: $
Tropical Suites Hotel
Tropical Suites Hotel is one of the nicest properties in the heart of Bocas town. If you’re looking to stay on Isla Colón, this is likely the nicest option you’ll find– so spend the extra cash to get a sea view room. It’s also walking distance to shops and restaurants.
Location: Isla Colón
Price Range: $-$$
Popa Paradise Beach Resort
For a super secluded stay in Bocas del Toro, head to Isla Popa and stay at Popa Paradise Beach Resort. Popa Paradise is Adults Only (18+) so it’s perfect for honeymooners and couples looking for an “off the grid” romantic experience. Isla Popa is just a 35 minute boat ride from Isla Colón.
Location: Isla Popa
Accommodation: Adults Only
Price Range: $$
Hostels (General Accommodation)
I traveled to Bocas del Toro during my budget backpacking days, so I got to experience the fun and social travel community while staying in various hostels during my month in the islands. While a few of my favorites have closed down since then, some that still maintain a great reputation are Hostel Heike, Aqua Lounge Bar & Hostel, Hostal el Jaguar, and Twin Fin.
Location: Bocas del Toro
Price Range: $
Sea Monkey Overwater Bungalows (AIRBNB)
This expat couple offers two overwater bungalows on Isla Bastimentos with a 180-degree ocean view from the bed and a giant overwater deck with overwater hammock. Talk about dreamy—plus, breakfast is included.
If you’re new to Airbnb, get $40 USD off your first stay here!
Accommodation: Over Water Bungalows
Price Range: $$
Azul Restaurant (Isla Colón)
Fine dining in Bocas del Toro is far and few between, so with a $19.99 6-course tasting menu, Azul Restaurant takes the cake. Good luck finding a less than 5-star review on this place — it’s that good!
Bonus: They even offer a vegetarian tasting menu!
Om Café (Isla Colón)
Om Café was my favorite dinner spot on Isla Colón. If you’re a vegetarian or like spicy food, Om is a must.
Happy Hour: 4-6:30pm
Bocas Blended (Isla Colón)
My favorite spot on the island was Bocas Blended. Stop by this renovated bus turned café for healthy wraps, smoothies, and salads. (Closed Sundays and Mondays)
Helpful Tip: Don’t miss their 2 for 1 wrappy hour! ($4-$8)
La Loma Jungle Lodge & Chocolate Farm
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 one of the best foodie experiences that Bocas has to offer.
The Firefly (Isla Bastimentos)
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.
Helpful Tip: Reservations required
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! Some of the top beaches in Bocas are Starfish Beach (but please don’t lift the sea stars out of the water– it harms them!), Carenero Beach, Red Flog Beach (discourage beach hawkers from showing you red poison dart frogs– someone might come up to you on the beach with a frog asking for money to see them– it harms them!), Cayo Zapatillas, and Costa Azul.
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.
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. You can book your own experience through Habla Ya.
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 on Bocas surf spots.
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.
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.
Scuba Dive with La Buga
Get your PADI Open Water Diver Certification or try a night dive. I got my Open Water Diving Cert with La Buga and highly recommend them!
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.