Top Ten List: Bocas Del Toro, Panama
Bocas del Toro might be off the map for some people but is an exciting town on the coast of Panama. It sits on the Mediterranean Sea and the temperature of the water is there to prove it. An amazing town to visit, volunteer in, surf, explore or take a relaxing holiday, Bocas del Toro is definitely a destination you should explore!
- Rent a bike for $3 dollars and bike to Paki Point – Rent a bike in Isla Colon for $3-6 dollars and bike about 20 minutes to an outdoor bar/restaurant at Paki Point. Here you can get a Pina Colada or cerveza and read, relax, sun bathe, surf, or do whatever you please at the restaurant while watching the perfect waves hit the sand. This place is also a wonderful place to surf incase you brought your surfboard or if you didn’t you can rent one here. If you are feeling up for it, you can continue the bike ride another 30 minutes to “The Bluff” where you can also catch some waves or relax at another bar/restaurant. If you are still thirsty you can stop at the local brewery called “Bocas Brewery” and grab a sample on your way back into town.
- Go Surfing – Any level of surfer can surf here from beginner to best in the world. The “drop in” method, which means the water taxi drops you off in the water instead of paddling in from the beach, is very exciting and the water is as warm as bath water. Bocas is a perfect place to learn to surf because you don’t have to fight the waves paddling back out, the water is warm and you are separated from the advanced surfers.If you are an experienced surfer, these waves can be the best in the world, definitely the best in Central America. Many people have come to Bocas to surf and catch the swell. There are plenty of beaches to surf at where you can avoid the beginners and find your own perfect wave. The best thing about Bocas is you can catch some gnarly waves no matter if it is rain or shine.
- Walk to Wizard Beach/Red Frog Beach – This is an easy 20 minute walk from Bastimientos (a short water taxi from main island, Isla Colon) to Wizard Beach, which is a beautiful beach where you can watch surfers and/or surf yourself, you can walk to Red Frog Beach from Wizard where there is a pathway and a resort just on the other side of the peninsula. Be cautious and don’t carry anything valuable with you while walking to the beach, go when it hasn’t rained because it can get quite slippery and muddy. The surf here is extremely powerful so be careful when you paddle out.
- Walk or Boat to Polo Beach– If you want a beach that is secluded and looks like the ideal tropical beach, go to Polo Beach. There are two methods of getting to this beach you either can take a boat or walk. Talking a boat is the easiest way to get here because it takes you around the island but it does costs more. If you walk to Polo Beach you still have to take a water taxi to the entrance and pay a fee but it is less expensive but takes more time. When you get to the beach there is a man named Polo who “lives/owns” the beach. You can buy a coco-loca (coconut with rum) from him for $2-5, while enjoying the peaceful sounds of the ocean and relaxing at this picturesque paradise. Other fun activities to do here are snorkel, swim, go spear fishing or hang a hammock and relax.
- Take a chocolate farm tour at La Loma –This eco lodge is a wonderful place tucked back into the jungle on Bastimientos. The owners are extremely lovely people who are extremely passionate about what they do and sustainability. Take a extremely knowledgeable tour with one of the owners and learn about the cocoa farm and various plants and tree species that live on the island. Try a miracle berry which changes your taste buds for 30 minutes and makes everything that usually taste sour, taste sweet. Grind your own cocoa bean and taste a cocoa seed before its been fermented. After this 2 hour tour you will enjoy one of the best lunches served on the island, that is organic and made with products from the lodge.
- Go to the bat caves – This was such an exciting tour. You are taken to the bat caves by a boat and the local communities leader. The actual tour can be terrifying (if you are scared of bats or darkness) but is definitely worth the experience. You start the tour by boating through the villages and into the jungle all while looking out for sloths, and Cayman (little alligators) in the water. You arrive at the bat cave after a quick 15 minute walk and walk into pitch-blackness with bats that are hanging and flying directly above you. You start treading through neck or shoulder deep water for an hour or so. You also can climb up to 3-4 different waterfalls and pools and the best part is jumping off of them on the way out!
- Have a picnic at Cayo Zapatilla – This island is just the epitome of Bocas del Toro. It has been featured in 19 seasons of Survivor (The TV show) and is still as breathtaking as seen on TV. It is generally about an 45 minute to hour taxi ride, depending how fast your water taxi motor is, to get to this island. Make sure to check the weather report and try to go on a sunny day or else it won’t be quite as enjoyable. Rent a boat and bring some lunch and booze and just enjoy the view, snorkel, take a swim, walk through the jungle in the middle of the island to find yourself on a secluded beach on a different side of the island and just enjoy your time at one of the most beautiful beaches in Bocas del Toro.
- Hit up the happy hour bar crawl scene – In the main town of Isla Colon you can go to happy hour at 3 pm and end at 9 pm. You can make your very own pub crawl and you will have a great and inexpensive time, as long as you know which bars to hit along the way!If you are not too tired from the happy hour pub crawl Bocas is a great town for nightlife. Head over to hostel Selena, the biggest hostel in Central America, for some great music and dancing all while looking out at the stars on the water. Then head to Barca where an open dance club awaits and you can dance the night away to reggae and pop music. Head over to Iguana Bar to get $1 tequila shots and if you are feeling up to it, take a water taxi to Aqua Lounge a bar/club on the water where the are pools, water swings, and diving boards to enjoy the wee hours of the night.
- Go to Starfish Beach – Take about a 45 minute bus ride (on a windy road) for about $5 each way to get to this beach. It is a 5-10 minute walk from the bus stop but it’s extremely peaceful once you get to the beach. Grab a chair on the white sand beach and search for starfish, have some patacones and a couple of cervesas while enjoying the calm bay water. This beach has a lot of huts that sell food, souvenirs and also provide activities to do in the water such as tubing or waterskiing. If you are looking for less of the tourist scene head to the far end of the beach and relax by yourself enjoying the quiet echo of the bay.
- Paddleboard to a sandbar in the middle of the bay of Isla Colon – There is a sandbar in the middle of the bay in Bocas. A fun activity to do one day is rent a standup paddle board for $8 dollars from the hostel Mamallena. Then, take the 10 minute paddle/ride out to the sandbar where you can walk around on in the middle of the ocean. If you are a confident swimmer you can swim the distance to the sandbar but beware of passing water taxis along the way From here it is fun to go snorkeling or just lay down. When you are reading, paddle back and get a beverage at this welcoming hostel while enjoying the amazing view of the colorful house, upbeat music and welcoming people you will meet here in Bocas Del Toro.