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I spent a week exploring the islands of Bocas Del Toro, Panama in May 2015. Bocas is an archipelago on the north-east coast of Panama, easily accessible from Panama or Costa Rica. I opted to fly into San Jose, Costa Rica for the cheaper flights.
From San Jose, grab a bus at the main terminal to Almirante (I had to transfer in Limon, but you may be able to find a direct bus). The journey also includes crossing the border, but it was one of the easiest border experiences I had in Central America. From Almirante, you can catch a water taxi to the main town of Bocas for a couple of dollars. In typical Central American fashion, the boats don’t really have a closing time but we took ours at sunset and I got the impression it was the last one, so plan to get get there before dusk!
I loved my time in Bocas, here are my recommendations of 10 fun experience to have there(all accessible from the main town!)
From Bocas town you can catch a bus or taxi to Starfish beach, which is not a deceiving name! The beach is flooded with big, colorful starfish. Grab your snorkel and spend the day relaxing on the beach and swimming with starfish.
Yes, this is exactly what it sounds like. An island full of cute, sleepy, smiling sloths! Boat tours run from Bocas Town daily. Of course they don’t guarantee you will see a sloth, but I hadn’t met anyone who didn’t. After all, where are the sloths going to go?
Rent an ATV
If you are staying on Isla Colon (the main island) you will need an ATV to see most of it as the road ends at a certain point and it becomes lush, dense jungle. However, you should rent with Flying Pirates as they own and maintain the trails. We didn’t know this and rented from another ATV company in town and then ended up getting blocked at a certain point. We were able to access it by paying a fee to the guy who owns flying pirates, but just save yourself the hassle and go through them from the beginning. He owns a bar near where the trails start and it’s actually a great place to hang out – with floating beds over the water and a parrot!
On the trails, we found amazing swimming spots, old ruins, and red frogs! It was so much fun driving through the Jungle and a great way to see the island.
Go Snorkeling (day & night!)
Snorkeling tours run daily from the main town and the water is beauuutiful. However My favorite snorkeling experience was at night, because you can see bioluminescent plankton!! Unfortunately my camera wasn’t able to capture this, but it was an amazing experience seeing the ocean light up and I highly recommend it!
On this tour, you will take a boat through a small river in the jungle to a cave entrance. Inside the cave you will have the opportunity to jump off a ledge into cave water (very refreshing)!
Relax on Pristine Beaches
Head over to one of the uninhabited islands in the archipelago for a relaxing and private beach day. I recommend Isla Zapatilla; the water is insanely blue and the beaches are pristine. Don’t miss your boat home!
On our way to Zapitilla island we spotted Dolphins jumping in the water. Bocas provides an awesome opportunity to see these magical creatures in the wild.
This town is a backpackers favorite for a reason. Bocas notoriously ranks as one of the top 5 party destination in Central America. Grab a boat for $1 to Aqua Lounge where most nights are ladies night. Booze up and dance all night long.