Without a doubt another highlight of my Central American adventure, the beautiful Bocas del Toro. Bocas del Toro or “Bocas” to those of us who know her well, is a magical place. Having spent two months through the Caribbean coast of Central America I was no stranger to the magic of turquoise blue water. But couple that with Panamanian rainforest, white sandy beaches, beautiful Panamanian people and island life where you boat in from island to island, it truly takes your breath away. After arriving from Costa Rica by bus and then by boat, Bocas does simply that, take your breath away.
Bocas had been on my must see list, but I also decided to stay a while longer and attend one of the better spanish schools in Central America, Habla Ya. I go into detail about Habla Ya and finding the best language school here. I was fortunate that I didn’t have to do much planning organising while in Bocas, Habla Ya did all that for me, from my accommodation to all my social outings, Habla Ya had me covered.
Things to do and see in Bocas
Isla Colon – the main island
- Surf – but only certain times of the year will you actually have surf. In May when I was there the ocean was flat!
- Diving – Bocas has some average diving. The visibility isn’t always the greatest, but there’s some interesting sealife to be seen, some of which includes barracuda, stingrays and dolphins. I dove with La Buga Dive Centre – great people, good times! Bocas is also known to be a cheap place to learn to dive.
- Boat tours – There are a number of travel agents on the island who will set up boat trips for you.
- Biking – grab a bike and ride around the island to other beaches on the north and eastern shore of the island
- Spot turtles – A local conservation groups takes people out to see the loggerhead turtles coming in to nest. Nesting season happens between May to September. After years of disturbance, fewer and fewer turtles are coming back. We didn’t see any turtles the night I went out, however our fee of $10 went straight back to turtle conservation. Go see the little yellow hut in the park for details on turtle tours.
- Learn Spanish with Habla Ya – read about my experience here
- Explore the surrounding islands
Isla Carenero – can be seen from Isla Colon
- Aqua Lounge – a popular place to stay for backpackers. Also a nice little getaway if you are staying on Isla Colon. Aqua Lounge is built on stilts over the water and takes advantage of its waterfront property with its pools, rope swings and aquatic trampoline!
- Red frog beach – Red frog beach is popular as it has waves, unlike many beaches in Bocas. The local strawberry poison-dart frog should be avoided for obvious reasons.
The Blue Coconut
For an afternoon of great food, snorkelling, cocktails and even lemon meringue pie – grab a boat and go to the blue coconut. The Canadian run establishment is built over the water on stilts and has some incredible views. Coming soon, accommodation! Definitely worth the 10 – 15 minute boat trip.
- Oreba Chocolate tour – It is definitely worth taking an afternoon trip to the Oreba Chocolate tour. For about $25 you will be boated to the indigenous community of Ngobe. You’ll walk through the villages, learn about the culture and then learn about chocolate! You’ll walk through the cacoa plantations, see the chocolate making process and even get to sample. If you are lucky (like me) you may even see a sloth while walking through the plantation. Book with a local travel agent on the island.
Things to note
- It rains a lot in Bocas – make sure you bring a rain coat or umbrella
- Panama uses the US dollar.
- A boat ride between the islands will cost $1-2.
- Getting to Bocas is easy from Puerto Viejo in Costa Rica – catching a bus to the border and then a taxi to the river and then a boat in to Bocas.