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 (where you’ll land if you’re flying into Bocas) and Isla Bastimentos—both are just 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: There is only one bank/ATM located on Isla Colón. 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. Expect simple island life here!
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 a rain jacket!
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 a 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.
Where to Stay in Bocas Del Toro
Bocas Del Toro refers to a large area, but it’s easy to get around by taxi, water taxi, and bike if you’re in town! If it’s your first time visiting Bocas, I recommend staying in Bocas Town or on Isla Bastimentos—you’ll find so much to do, great shops and restaurants.
Here are the best places to stay in Bocas Del Toro!
La Loma Jungle Lodge was one of the most incredible accommodation experiences in all my travels. It is an award-winning eco-lodge located on a remote tropical rainforest island in the Bocas del Toro archipelago—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 treehouse. It’s truly a one-of-a-kind experience!
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. Read about my experience here.
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 one of the nicest options—so spend the extra cash to get a sea view room. It’s also within walking distance of shops and restaurants.
This beautiful “micro-hotel” has just two rooms, right on the water! It’s the perfect secluded getaway in Bocas Town, with delicious food, and an over-the-water patio. Gorgeous!
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.
There are a TON of beautiful VRBO rentals in Bocas Del Toro too! Rent your own over-the-water bungalow, relax, and explore Bocas.
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 Twin Fin and Calipso Bocas Town B&B.
Where to Eat in Bocas Del Toro
There are some local dishes you HAVE to try when visiting Panama and Bocas. You’ll definitely see guacho on the menu—it is a slightly soupy rice dish filled with vegetables, yucca, and protein (usually meat or seafood). Another popular dish is a soup called sancocho, filled with vegetables and chicken, served with a side of rice. With the proximity to the ocean, you can also expect lots of fresh seafood and ceviche!
Here are the best restaurants to try in Bocas Del Toro!
OctoCaribbean, Latin, Seafood
Serving up Caribbean and Panamanian dishes, this is a laid-back spot, perfect for a bite and a beer! I highly recommend any of the seafood dishes, as it’s caught locally and served fresh daily—and of course, you have to try the grilled octopus!
Bocas BlendedSmoothies, Cafe
A cute cafe on the north side of Isla Colon, this renovated bus, turned café, for healthy wraps, smoothies, and salads, was one of my favorite spots during my trip.
Open for breakfast, lunch, or brunch, Leaf Eaters has awesome views, great service, and delicious food options! You can take a short water taxi over from Bocas Town, making it a unique experience. There are solid vegan and vegetarian options as well!
The Firefly (Isla Bastimentos)Tapas, Caribbean, Asian
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. Make a reservation ahead of time!
La Loma Jungle Lodge & Chocolate Farm (Isla Bastimentos)Farm to Table
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.
What to Do in Bocas Del Toro
When in Bocas, you have to get in or on the water! I got scuba diving certified in Bocas, and there are lots of beautiful dive sites. There are also great snorkeling and surf spots, if that’s your kind of thing. Besides water sports, there are a lot of opportunities to get into nature, explore local farms, and of course, eat and drink to your heart’s content!
Here are the top things to do in Bocas Del Toro!
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.