Home Central America Best Places To Visit At Bocas Del Toro

Best Places To Visit At Bocas Del Toro

by ElenaSergeeva

Bocas Del Toro is one of Panama’s most visited parts of the country for good reason. There are lots of exciting things to do at this gorgeous group of islands and although it seems small, I can guarantee you will never be bored here. This island district in Panama consists of 5 main islands which includes the main island Colon Island along with Isla Bastimentos, Isla Solarta, Carenero Island and Isla Cristobal.

These are all at a very close distance from each other and easily accessible by ferry if you want to go to any of them. The two most popular islands are Colon Island and Isla Bastimentos. 

I visited both of these islands and most of the places to see are on them two.

The thing I enjoyed the most about coming here was the overall tropical Caribbean vibe which was both mellow and energizing at the same time. The main town of Bocas is small and chilled out. 

You can find some small shops there, a few hotels and numerous tasty eateries. I recommend Buena Vista and Octo (open:  Monday to Saturday | 5pm to 10pm), a Caribbean grill restaurant that only serves walk-ins. We had a few spectacular dishes one evening, – try the octopus its definitely a must.

I spent most of my time visiting a number of the popular tourist attractions and these are outside of Bocas Town. However, it is definitely a relaxing place to spend your time and I could have spent much longer there on a vacation-style trip. From Bocas Town, you can catch a boat to one of the nearby islands where there are plenty of interesting places to explore including Red Frog Beach where yes, there are real red frogs that live there!

Bocas Del Toro is a very interesting and fun place which does require some background information before going to make your time worthwhile. 

In this guide, I will answer all the common questions before arriving and explain the very best places to visit in not just the main tourist island of Colon, but also in the surrounding islands too.

So without further ado, here are the best things to do in Bocas Del Toro!

Best Places To Visit At Bocas Del Toro – A Comprehensive Guide To The Island District Paradise

1. How To Get There
2. Getting Around
3. My Experience and What I Did At The Islands

4. A Brief History of Bocas Del Toro

5. When You Should Visit Bocas Del Toro

6. Best Places To Visit At Colon Island

  • Starfish Beach
  • Playa Bluff Beach
  • Plastic Bottle Village
  • The Luis Russell Mural

7. Best Places To Visit At Isla Bastimentos

  • Red Frog Beach
  • Nivida Bat Cave
  • Isla Bastimentos National Marine Park
  • Wizard Beach
  • See A Chocolate Farm

8. Places To Visit On The Other Islands While In Bocas Del Toro

  • Bird Island
  • Hospital Point

9. What Is In The Pirate Ship?

10. Additional Activities To Do With Friends and Family

11. Bocas Del Toro As A Digital Nomad Hotspot

12. How To Book A Group Tour
13. FAQ’s

14. Conclusion

1. How To Get There

Bocas Del Toros is a group of separate islands from the mainland of Panama so you will have to get there either by boat or by plane. The easiest option will of course be to get a plane there which will stop at the airport in Bocas Town. I got a flight to Bocas Town with Air Panama and it took an hour in total from Panama City.

Air Panama connects Panama City with Bocas del Toro

A plane flight from the capital with cost you anywhere from $80-$100 which is more expensive than a boat taxi. The benefit is that flying directly from Panama City saves you having to travel all the way to Almirante first and you can go straight to the town from the airport instead.

If you do want to get a boat taxi, you will need to either get a flight to Almirante or get the bus there which will take up to 9 hours. 

Flying over Bocas del Toro

I would recommend getting a plane directly there from Tocumen Airport which is the main airport in Panama City. 

This is a much easier option and it saves a lot of unnecessary hassle.

2. Getting Around

Scooter Rental Price for One Day: $45 at Moovit Scooter Rental
Scooter Rental Price for Three Days: $120 at Moovit Scooter Rental

Ebike Rental Price: $40 per day with Bocas Ebikes

Boat Taxi Price from Colon Island to the neighboring islands: $5

There are multiple ways of both getting around each of the islands that you are visiting and getting to the separate islands in the first place. In terms of getting around Colon Island, there are lots of electric bike rental places in the town as well as scooter rental places.

If you haven’t rode a scooter before and aren’t experienced, I would advise getting an electric bike instead because you have less chance of getting into an accident. The prices here are much higher than most of the countries I have rented scooters in before so expect to pay a considerable amount for a day or more.

E-bikes and scooters are almost the same price, so you aren’t losing any value with either option that you pick. It just depends on which one you want to rent.

For traveling to each of the separate individual islands, you will need to take a boat taxi for each one. These are typically cheap as listed above and it only takes 7 minutes there and back from Bocas Town to Bastimentos island.

Boat taxis from Bocas Town to the other neighboring islands are the same price there and back so you can choose which of the islands you want to get a boat taxi to.

3. My Experience and What I Did At The Islands

I arrived in Bocas Town after taking a flight from Panama City. I was very impressed by the vibe of the town and I had a sense I was going to really enjoy my time here no matter what I did. This was from the tropical feel that it gave me. We had our first meal at Buena Vista where a charming local welcomed us with some fine Caribbean tunes.

After our meal, I headed back to my hotel which was unique in the fact that it is a dive hotel. I can’t say I’ve stayed in one before and it was an experience like no other. The town is quite compact therefore everything is in walking distance here.

I had a wonderful sleep there and woke up to views outside my window of the ocean in the distance. To start the day, I ate an energizing breakfast with pineapple, banana and papaya fruits along with some granola and yogurt to top it off at Buena Vista.

After eating, we took a water taxi from Bocas Town to Bastimentos Island eager to see the Red Frog beach passing through a coast lined with mangroves.

The water taxi was faster than I thought and it is a great little journey to do while on the Caribbean sea.

Bastimentos Island was great fun and I got to see the most significant thing there which was the Red Frog Beach. Unfortunately, the red frogs weren’t roaming around the beach as I initially expected but that was probably a good thing because they are poisonous. 

Although they don’t physically attack humans, touching the poison on its skin would make you sick and it wouldn’t be a pretty experience at all. If you want to see them, I suggest going to the forest part which is south of the beach. 

They are supposed to be in that forest area and they often live in groups so once you find one you will usually see the other ones close to it.

I ended my trip back at Bocas Town where I spoke to some friendly locals and saw the incredible Luis Russell mural which has a lot of history linked to it from a famous jazz musician. This musician became successful at an early age in life and by the time of his death had become an icon in the country of Panama as a whole. 

The most significant part about him was the fact that he was born and raised in Bocas Del Toro.

4. A Brief History of Bocas Del Toro

Although a relatively small group of islands, Bocas Del Toro has a pretty fascinating history including both the trade that has gone on there and how it came to be the place that it is today.

It is famously known for being discovered by Christopher Colombus in the 16th century. He originally stopped off at the islands to repair his ships that had broken. After stopping here and becoming more familiar with the area, he named many of the islands himself including Colon Island . This still keeps its name today as the most popular island out of all of them.

A few centuries later, the group of islands would become a haven for pirates. These pirates also used it as a stop-off point to repair their ships in the same way that Colombus did. 

The pirate element is not only an interesting part of the island’s history, but it also makes sense as to why pirates ships have great significance to Bocas Del Toro in general. There is a rumour that buried pirate treasure also exists around the islands although no one has found it yet.

In the 19th century, wealthy aristocrats from Jamaica and other British possessions arrived at the island.

 They mainly did this to avoid taxes among several other things and brought with them slaves from both the USA and nearby Colombian islands. The slaves were used to cultivate mainly bananas, cacao, sarsaparilla, coconut and sugar cane.

Banana plantations

The main town of Bocas Del Toro (although small) became the third most significant city in all of Panama because of the booming banana industry which thrived at the town. After slavery was abolished here, the slave owners left the slaves on the island and these slaves became inhabitants who learned to survive through both farming and fishing.

The banana industry at Bocas Del Toro is still strong to this day as the island exports large quantities of bananas each year.

5. When You Should Visit Bocas Del Toro

It is best to visit this group of islands when it is dry season to make the most out of your trip. Considering a large majority of the things to do here take place outdoors, visiting during the dry months of February until May is most likely the best idea.

 This is because these months are dry but at the same time not scorching hot. It is also very unlikely to rain too so you get the best of both worlds. If you are going to Boca Del Toro with surfing in mind, opt for the December and January months instead.

You could also go from June until August which are known for being surfing months on the islands.

The reason for this is because the sea is rougher during this time which creates more challenging waves. 

The island mostly has nice weather all year round so you don’t need to worry too much about it raining during your trip. We visited the island in November, and it did rain quite heavily on several occasions.

6. Best Places To Visit While In Colon Island

Being the central tourist point out of all the islands at Bocas Del Toro, Colon Island also has some of the most interesting places to visit. You are not likely to be bored here at all and there are several spots which are more than worthy of your time.

Here are some of the best places to see:

Starfish Beach

As the name goes, Starfish beach is a beach that you will want to go to if you are a fan of starfish.

 Not only is the water absolutely gorgeous here but there are so many starfish scattered along the ocean that they are hard to miss. This adds to the personality of the beach along with the fact that there isn’t that much sand which is different from the others.

It also gives a greater incentive to go for a swim in the water because of the possibility of finding a starfish or two. These are easy to find if you have a look around in the water. You should be able to find them close to the ocean floor as that is the place that starfish tend to enjoy.

It is also important to mention that this beach is far from Bocas Town and it will take 40-50 minutes to get there by car or scooter. For this reason, it is a good idea to plan an itinerary for the day so you can see some other places either on the way or the way back.

You can see the planned itinerary that I made and took below if it makes it easier for you.

Playa Bluff Beach

Playa Bluff beach is another quiet and secluded gem paradise located in the north-east section of the island. You honestly can’t get much more Caribbean than this with the gorgeous rows of palm trees which stand behind the golden colored sand which stretches all the way down the side of the beach.

This is the largest beach you can find on Colon Island and it is 3 miles in length. 

For this reason alone, it is worth visiting to enjoy the spaciousness that it has to offer. This is a common favorite beach and it becomes especially busy during surfing season due to the large waves which only the most experienced surfers try to conquer.

During the drier months, you can expect less people to be at Playa Bluff and you can enjoy soaking in some rays or tucking into some good Panamanian food from one of the restaurants on the beach.

Although it is a 30-minute drive from Bocas Town, you are bound to enjoy the journey across the coasted road on the east of the island.

Plastic Bottle Village

Opening Times (6 days a week except Sunday): 10AM-12PM, 1-4PM

Entrance Fee: Free although a donation of $20 is suggested

For interesting and fascinating places to see at Colon Island, Plastic Bottle Village tops the list and it is breath-taking how this place became what it is today. This village was formed from plastic bottles by a Canadian man named Robert Bezeau who designed it with over 1 million plastic bottles that he personally collected.

The bottle village has 120 homes inside of it that are made from plastic and a huge castle-like structure which is nothing short of impressive considering this guy built it himself.  This is an underrated attraction and I am surprised I didn’t know more about it before coming here.

The Plastic Bottle Village is very close to Bocas Town and it shouldn’t take longer than 10 minutes to get there by car or scooter.

The Luis Russell Mural

The Luis Russell Mural is not only an impressive piece of art which can be seen in Bocas Town, but there is also a much deeper story behind its existence that is largely untold. 

The mural was created as both a cultural landmark and a symbol of history for Bocas Del Toro.

Luis Russell was born in Bocas Town and became a successful musician at an early age in Panama. This led him to traveling to America while still in his teens and he went on to become extremely successful. Panamanians are very proud of his accomplishments and especially the locals of Bocas town where he grew up.

He passed away in New York during the 1960s and this mural was created so that locals could always keep him in their hearts. Interestingly enough, this mural wasn’t created until 2021 so it is a recent addition to the town.

This makes it an even more significant part of the island to visit, and I knew that I had to see it personally on my trip to Colon Island.

7. Best Places To Visit At Isla Bastimentos

If you are planning on visiting any of the neighboring islands to Colon Island, the second most recommended and popular island is Isla Bastimentos. I did come here myself with the intention of seeing the Red Frog Beach but there is more to Bastimentos than just this.

Here is a list of some highly recommended places that are more than worthy of your time:

Red Frog Beach

The number one place I would recommend coming to while in Isla Bastimentos must be the Red Frog Beach. It isn’t just interesting because of the fun name, the beach itself has appealing crystal blue waters that you can’t help but jump in.

 In my opinion, Red Frog beach has the nicest water out of all the beaches you can see at Bocas Del Toro.

I could go as far to say that it has some of the most impressive water I have seen on any beach during my travels. 

If you want to, head south of the beach towards the forest area where you will find the red frogs that the beach is originally named after. 

There is also the Red Frog Beach Resort in close distance if you want to go to a relaxing place for a drink.

Nivida Bat Cave

Ever seen a bat up-close and personal? 

Well, here is your chance while visiting Isla Bastimentos. The Nivida Bat Cave is home to a large number of bats and you can get a tour around the cave too. A tour is the safest way to see them I imagine and it is best to get a tour if you are going here. 

I couldn’t imagine wandering through the cave by myself and it is probably dangerous to do!

Although there are supposedly other bat caves in the area, this bat cave is rated as the best one so I would recommend going to this one if you do want to visit a bat cave. You will be taken through the cave on foot and be given a flashlight so you can see everything around you because it is dark inside.

Isla Bastimentos National Marine Park

Entrance Fee: $10

A staple part of Isla Bastimentos is the national marine park that they have there.

 It is extremely large covering a whopping 32,000+ acres in total and almost all of this space is water. The main activity you can do here besides swimming in all the refreshing and natural water is snorkelling.

This is a good way of exploring the marine park for yourself and you never know what you might find if you keep your eyes peeled. 

Maybe a turtle or other ocean dwelling creatures? You will have to find this out for yourself.

While on the topic of animals, the national marine park at Isla Bastimentos is also home to a wide range of them including some interesting reptiles and birds that you might be able to spot.

Considering you can spend as much time as you want here during the day, I would say it is worth the $10 entrance fee.

Wizard Beach

If you’ve not already enjoyed your fair share of beaches here, Wizard Beach is one you should include onto your list. You are guaranteed to not see many people here and it gives you that isolated beach experience that many travelers crave.

This is because of the difficult pathway to get to the beach which is only accessed by a jungle path.

However, if you are the adventurous type then you should find it worth the journey. This beach is considered to be a natural beauty by many so the difficult entrance path might be worth the walk for you.

See A Chocolate Farm

Up In The Hill Website for booking a tour click here

La Loma Website for booking a tour: click here.

There is not only one chocolate farm at Isla Bastimentos, but two of them and they are both highly rated places to go. The most visited one is known as Up In The Hill. This company offer chocolate tours where they show you the entire chocolate creating process from beginning to end. 

The second option is a chocolate farm with the added element of a jungle lodge which you can stay at the same place. This is known as La Loma and the bungalows look very impressive in addition to the fact they also offer chocolate tours.

8. Places To Visit On The Other Islands While In Bocas Del Toro

If you find the time to visit some new places in Bocas Del Toro, these two options are also special in their own way:

Bird Island

Bird island is a tiny and separate island from Bocas Del Toro and is the only place in Panama where you can see the red-billed chough. Besides this special bird, it is named bird island for a reason and the birds which are around here are plentiful making it a great place for bird spotters.

 For more information on bird island, visit their website here.

Hospital Point

Hospital Point is located on the north of Solarte Island which is a separate island to Colon Island although it is still a part of Bocas Del Toro. 

This is a good place to visit if you are a fan of snorkelling and diving although it has a nice little beach there too. If you are going snorkelling, expect to find a range of underwater creatures including crabs, eels and even lionfish.

To get to Hospital Point, it is a good idea to hire a water taxi unless you book a day tour which includes it as one of the stops.

9. What Is In The Pirate Ship? (Black Magic)

Taboga Pirate Experience Price: $45 for Adults, $30 for children every Saturday

Pirate Tour Price: $35 Adults, $25 for children every two Sundays

Although it is reasonably unknown, there is a pirate-style ship which operates around the island. I managed to spot this in the water although I wasn’t too sure what it was at the time or what it was used for. This special pirate ship is known as Black Magic and it is actually a party boat that hosts parties as it sails across the ocean.

If you catch it when it is taking off, you will probably see a bunch of people drinking on it along with some loud party tunes blasting out.  Although I didn’t go on it myself, it looks like lots of fun and it is cheap for kids which makes it family friendly. 

The boat is apparently 110 feet in length and you can enjoy a drink or two while you are cruising around!

Another thing that the Black Magic boat offers is pirate tours where you can see a lot of interesting sights with your family.

For more information on what it is all about , click here.

10. Additional Activities To Do With Friends And Family

A guide to Bocas Del Toro wouldn’t quite be complete without adding in some extra activities that you can do with your friends and family. Here are some things which I would try if I was on the islands for a few extra days:

Learn How To Surf

Surf Lesson Price for half a day: $60

Surf Lesson Price for full day: $110

Surfboard Rental: $20 per session

Bocas Del Toro is not just a surfing destination for the experts out there, it is also beginner-friendly with the help of a guide. There are several surf schools on the island which will teach you everything you need to know for reasonable prices.

 I would firstly like to mention that throughout my travels, I have noticed that there are cheaper and more beginner-friendly places to learn surfing than Bocas Del Toro. One of these would be Bali, Indonesia which has incredibly cheap prices considering how experienced the instructors are. 

However, many of the companies around Bocas Town do seem very professional so it might be worth the higher price tag.

The surf prices listed above are for La Buga Dive and Surf  and you must book two lessons. These lessons can be for two half days or two full days. I would recommend two full days so you can learn the most from the lessons.

Go Scuba Diving

Full Scuba Diver Course Price: $265

Another fun way of living your Caribbean island trip to the fullest is by testing the waters and going scuba diving.

 Of course, this doesn’t cost anything if you just want to find a spot and see what you can find with your own equipment. This saves the hassle of having to find a place which organises lessons and going through that process.

However, scuba diving lessons are also offered around the island too and you’ll be able to find some good prices with a quick look around. Scuba diving in general is fun to do with friends and I have done it in several countries in my past travels!

11. Bocas Del Toro As A Digital Nomad Hotspot

 If you make most of your income online, you will be pleased to know that Bocas Del Toro is becoming more popular as a digital nomad hotspot. Although it isn’t quite up there with other places in the world such as Chiang Mai Thailand or Bali Indonesia, the digital nomad community is definitely growing there.

For this reason, if you are a digital nomad and you plan on staying here for a long time, it is always nice to connect with other like-minded people. This is a website where you can do that.

12. How To Book A Group Tour

There are lots of different websites out there which offer full group tours for varying lengths of time. 

This could be anything from a single day trip to multiple days in a row depending on the activities that you want to do.

I am a big fan of group tours when traveling in general so I like to get them when I can. 

My trip to Bocas Del Toro was particularly short so I didn’t see the need to book one, but if you are planning on staying here for multiple days it is probably good idea to go on one.

 In this way, you can see everything there is to see and learn more from experienced people.

Two good local tour companies are Kawi Voyage and Caribe Fun Tours which are both known for offering multiple tours with fun activities.

 13. FAQ’s

1. What Is The Right Amount Of Time To Spend In Bocas Del Toro?

This will depend on your own personal plans and what you want to do while you are visiting. Bocas Del Toro is a very relaxing place to be and there are so many beaches that you could easily spend a month chilling out and soaking it all in. However, I understand that not everyone has that amount of time so you could probably see everything in 3-4 days.

I only stayed here for a couple of nights, and I feel like I got the full experience of what life is all about here. It doesn’t take long to see everything, and you could easily visit most of the tourist attractions alone in 2-3 days.

2. Is It Possible To Rent A Car On The Islands?

Unlike many popular island destinations around the world, you can’t rent a car here. 

Of course, you still have the option of renting a scooter or a bicycle here with the additional option of an ebike. 

This pretty much renders the need for a car unnecessary and you don’t need one to get around the islands here

3. Is English Spoken In Bocas Del Toro?

Although the native language is Spanish, most people including the locals that live here speak English. 

For this reason, you don’t have to worry about speaking fluent Spanish. However, like visiting any other country in the world, it is nice to speak a few Spanish words with the locals here and they will appreciate it.

Otherwise, don’t worry about using google translate because they will understand you.

4. Where Else In Panama Would You Recommend Visiting?

Out of all the places in Panama, these islands are up there as a place I would come back to. Besides these Caribbean islands, I have also been to Panama City which I think is an important experience that everyone must have if they are going to Panama.

If you are interested in going to Panama City, you can find my full guide on my website where I explain everything you need to know including the best places I would recommend going to. Read: How to Spend Two Days in Panama City: First Time Visitors Guide

14. Conclusion

Whether you are coming for a relaxing vacation or an itinerary packed-full of activities, Bocas Del Toro is a fabulous place to visit for either of those reasons. 

It was my first real experience of any Caribbean island, and it did not disappoint me in the slightest bit. I would come back for the beautiful beaches and gorgeous white sands alone which so many of them had. 

Above everything else, remember to visit the Red Frog Beach while you are here because of its cultural importance and the clear water there is amazing!

I hope you enjoyed this guide on the islands of Bocas Del Toro and the best places to visit.

No matter what you want to do while at these beautiful islands, you sure can find it with the wide range of activities that goes on here.

Make sure to bookmark this page the next time you are in Panama to stay informed and enjoy your experience to the fullest!

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