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Bocas del Toro, Panama: An Eco-friendly Paradise

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Bocas del Toro, Panama is a group of islands in the Caribbean Sea, located in the north western region of the country. What we love about this archipelago is that there's a lot to see, do, and discover through the many different islets.

The whole area of Bocas del Toro is extremely eco-friendly, and a backpackers paradise. Get in touch with nature and dive into the true beauty that Panama has to offer. 

We're here to share everything you need to known about visiting here, including how to get there, where to stay, and what to expect. Let's jump right in and help you explore all of the best ways to enjoy Bocas del Toro, Panama.

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Where is Bocas del Toro, Panama?

Bocas del Toro archipelago is located off the north east coast of the country of Panama. The area refers to the set of islands that make up the whole area.

where is bocas del toro, Panama

Bocas del Toro is an archipelago off the north east coast of Panama.

How to Get To Bocas Del Toro, Panama

There are two ways of getting into the archipalego of Bocas Del Toro- by land & sea combination, or by air. As you can imagine, flying is a bit more expensive than land & sea, but many people choose this due to the fact that you can get  to Bocas del Toro from Panama City in just 1 hour.

Getting to Bocas del Toro, Panama by Flight

If you decide to get there by plane, it's good to know that Bocas International Airport receives flights from Panama City, David, Changuinola and Costa Rica on a daily basis. If you want to hop on a boat, then the process is a bit more complex.

Getting to Bocas del Toro, Panama by Land & Sea

From Panama City, for example, you will have to take a bus to Almirante. (It's a long trip, around 8 hours, so we recommend an overnight bus). Once in Almirante, you will take a boat from the port (keep in mind that you might arrive very early in the morning).

Some companies have daily boat service between Almirante and Bocas every 30 to 40 minutes, from 6 am to 6:30 pm. But be careful because you will encounter people offering private boats as "the only way" to cross and will try to charge you way more than what the ferry costs. Just go to the main pier and hop on the public ferry.

Getting to Bocas del Toro, Panama from Costa Rica

If you are planning to go to Bocas del Toro from Costa Rica by land, you should go to Changuinola, where you will be able to grab a boat shuttle to Bocas (1 hour) or hop over on a small plane from Changuinola (10 minutes). Bocas Marine & Tours also offers service from Changuinola.

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Main Islands Of Bocas del Toro

The archipelago is big and composed of many islands, so we will mention the most important ones and what to do in each one of them. It's good to know that the main town, also called Bocas del Toro, is located on Isla Colón, making this one the main island.

3 to 4 days is a proper amount of time to be spent here. Some islands can be visited during the day, but some experiences require you to stay overnight. Have in mind that in order to leave the archipelago, you will have to go back to Isla Colón (and not every island has a direct connecting boat to it).

Isla Colon, Bocas del Toro, Panama

Isla Colon, Bocas del Toro

Isla Colón

This is the main Island. Usually, if you come from the main land, you will be taken here. It is also the easiest connection point between all islands. This means you can pretty much go anywhere from here, where if you want to go island hopping from other places, you might not be able to (or might have to pay extra for a private boat).

Explore the Town

Bocas del Toro, Panama is really known for its stunning nature. However, the town of Bocas is worth having a look around. This town actually has some nice streets and cute houses around it. It also has a main plaza and many restaurants and bars.

Something to have in mind, though, is that locals have told us to stay away from street number 6, since it is not very safe. The recommendation is to stay between streets 1 and 4 (As usual, just try to stay safe in general).

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Check Out Bocas del Drago

Bocas del Drago is the perfect stop for enjoying your own slice of paradise! It is located far enough from Bocas del Toro Town to dissuade large groups of tourists from making the trip, making it perfect for those that want to escape the crowds.

Although the water may be a little murky during periods of heavy rain, there are coral reefs near the coast where decent snorkeling can be practiced.

Bocas del Drago beach, Bocas del Toro, Panama

Bocas del Drago is a great place to enjoy a quiet beach in Bocas del Toro.

See Starfish at Playa Estrella

If you like to be fascinated by nature, be prepared. Dozens of giant starfish are concentrated on this unique beach. They are reddish in color and as big as between 20 and 40 centimeters. Although it seems the opposite, they move quite fast, several centimeters per minute.

Please, do not pick them up. Starfish are very sensitive and they can easily get hurt or even die. So please respect nature and enjoy the views from a safe distance.

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Discover Playa Bluff

This is a bit more than just a beautiful beach. It's actually a municipal reserve that is becoming a National Park in the category of Wildlife Refuge. This will allow them to keep the place pristine, without the usual negative influence of uncontrolled development.

Here you can also find 3 native species of sea turtles. They always come back here after a long odyssey through the Caribbean Sea.

Stop at Gruta de la Virgen

On the side of the main road you will find a little path that leads to a statue of The Virgin. What's fascinating about this place is that there's a cave next to The Virgin, and is full of bats.

The greatest spectacle for tourists is the moment they leave the cave. At sunset, you can witness their night feeding with the fruits and insects of the region. Inside the cave there are also many stalactites and stalagmites, due to hundreds of years of water seeping through the ceiling, as well as a small creek running through it.

Gruta de la Virgen Bocas del Toro

Gruta de La Virgin is a hidden gem found right off the side of the highway.

Go Diving

Bocas del Toro, Panama has some amazing spots for diving. There are many companies you can choose from, with agencies throughout Bocas del Toro. We saw La Buga as a nice option that seems worth while checking out.

Party Hard for Filthy Fridays

Have you ever done a bar crawl? If not, it's when you go from bar to bar with a group of strangers, just having a few drinks and a ton of fun. Now imagine if you could do that but with islands instead of bars. Sounds amazing, right?!

Every Friday, Bocas del Toro has an epic island bar crawl called Filthy Fridays. It starts at 11:30 am and goes to 9:00 pm.The ticket includes all transportation, drinks along the way and a T-shirt to take home as a souvenir.

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Visit the Plastic Bottle Village

A study has found that there could be more plastic than fish in the sea by 2050. So a man called Robert Bezeau made an unconventional decision: to build an entire village with plastic bottles.

With more than 1 million plastic bottles collected, this "castle" became a young couple's home. And you can visit it right off of Isla Colon's main road!

Plastic bottle village, Bocas del Toro

The Plastic Bottle Village consists of 1 million plastic bottles!

Isla Bastimentos

Isla Bastimentos is one of the largest islands in Bocas del Toro, Panama. It is a great place to relax and enjoy the beautiful nature that this area has to offer. Here are some of the best things to do in Isla Bastimentos.

Visit Bastimentos Island National Park

A great part of the island of Bastimentos is actually a national park! Covering 13,226-hectares, the area is home to some beautiful beaches, great diving spots, and endangered sea turtles.

Sail to Cayo Zapatilla

Cayos Zapatilla is a group of two uninhabited islands, surrounded by a coral reef. These mangrove islands with rings of fine white sand are surrounded by palm trees  and coral reefs. They are full of marine life, and are a paradise of biodiversity.

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Visit the Old Bank

This is an Afro-Caribbean population native to Bocas del Toro, Panama. They have a dialect known as the "guari-guari", which is a mixture of English, French, and Spanish, that is still heard from the youngest generation to the elderly. 

It is also famous for its gastronomy, since you can get the traditional food of the region such as Rice & Beans with Coconut, Bon, Bragada, Pickled Fish, and Rondón (fish soup).

Check Out Red Frog Beach

This beach can be located in the eastern part of Bastimentos Island. Its name is due to a species of poisonous red frogs that inhabit this beach.

This is also one of Bocas del Toro's best beaches to surf. Thanks to its high waves, it makes an ideal scenario for this sport. But if you advance around 10 meters past the coast, you can find a space with calmer waters in which you can swim peacefully.

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Take a Ride to Wizard Beach

Wizard Beach is a scenic and secluded beach along the northwest coast of Isla Bastimentos. It is an ideal place for sunbathing or surfing. The easiest way to get to Wizard Beach is by water taxi or as part of a boat excursion.

Explore Quebrada de Sal

This humble and small town will show you what life is like for indigenous people in Bocas del Toro, Panama. It is full of traditional houses with thatched roofs on stilts, with natives from the area.

Other Panamanian indigenous groups make their houses in the same style, which incorporate palm leaves and local wood products. The houses are simple but impressive for their workmanship.

Isla Solarte

This small island of only 8 square kilometers, is very close to Bocas del Toro and is a perfect place to disconnect from everything. It is formerly known as "Cayo Nancy", from the time when pirates, merchants and colonizers arrived in this area. 

At one point this island was known for its medical center,  that closed in 1920, and which gave the area its name as Punta Hospital. On the island you can do several hiking trails and enjoy various beaches, as well as snorkel in its southern area.

Spend a Night at Bambuda Lodge

We usually don't recommend specific places because we know there are different types and budgets for a trip. Nevertheless, this place is honestly worth a recommendation.

Bambuda not only has amazing views of the Caribbean sea,  but excellent food to offer, and a 150foot water slide that leads into the sea. It is also a sustainable, eco-friendly lodge, as well as a great budget friendly option!

Bambuda Lodge is 100% off the grid. It runs on its very own solar energy, rainwater catchment, and sustainable waste systems.

If you're going to stay in a beautiful place, how nice is to know that it takes care of the environment? Plus, you can literally walk into a rainforest trail from the lodge. This is definitely a place you don't want to miss out on.

Bambuda Lodge Bocas del Toro
Bambuda Lodge, Bocas del Toro

Bambuda Lodge is an epic hostel with great views, great activities, and even greater prices.

Isla San Cristobal

This island, when it comes to tourism, is ignored most of the time. It lacks valuable forests, but is very rich in marine environments. Probably two of the best reefs are on its shores. The good thing is that its main activity is very popular here in Bocas del Toro.

See Dolphins at Dolphin Bay

Dolphin Bay is the home of bottlenose dolphins almost all year long. It's located next to the eastern side of Cristóbal Island. It’s about 10 km (6 miles) from Colón Island, so if you go by boat it will take you around 20 minutes to get there.

Most boat tours in Bocas del Toro will include a visit to Dolphin Bay. There is a good chance of spotting dolphins, but even if you don’t, it’s still a scenic area.

Isla Carenero

If you are a lover of surfing, this island has a lot to offer you. Some of the best surf spots in the entire archipelago are found here. Furthermore, due to its proximity to the town of Bocas, accessibility to any of these points is very good.

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How to Move Around Bocas del Toro, Panama

Being an archipelago, it's not as easy to get around as just driving everywhere. However, there are plenty of option. Depending on the activity of the day, there are different ways to move around. Let's check out all the ways to get around Bocas del Toro, Panama.

Water Taxi

This will be your main transportation if you're planning on going through several islands. Water Taxis connect all of the ports and islands together to make transportation between each place accessible to all travelers.

There are many companies around. If your accommodation is nearby the water, you might even be able to catch a water taxi the same way you would catch a regular taxi.


Isla Colón has also regular taxis to move around. They aren't very expensive, and they can really help, especially if you want to get to places faster than just walking around.

Local Bus

Certain spots can be reached by public buses as well, such as Bocas del Drago, in Isla Colón. Although they're not very regular with their timetables, they do run every couple of hours.

The good thing is that even if you don't hop on the proper bus stop, you can still catch it anywhere down the road. This is good to know if you're not staying very close to the main park, where buses depart from. 


This is another great option to get around Bocas del Toro, and in our opinion, the best. Renting a scooter is perfect if you want to have the freedom to move around and go to places fast without depending on a bus schedule or paying extra for a taxi to wait for you.

Nearby the port of Isla Colón you can find a few agencies that rent scooters. We got one and used it to go from downtown to Gruta de la Virgen, Bocas del Drago & Playa Estrella.


This is a hybrid between getting fast to places and doing exercise. For as little as $2/ hour or $7/ day you can rent a bicycle. The main roads are paved and in relatively good condition, which makes getting around on a bike very easy. 

For every rental, keep in mind that you will probably have to leave your ID as a security deposit, and that you will also have to lock your rental when you leave it to move around. So ask at your rental place if they can give you a chain and a lock to keep with it.

Scooter in Panama

Renting a scooter is one of the best way to explore the islands of Bocas del Toro, Panama.

Bocas del Toro, Panama is an enormous archipelago, and has so much to offer. There are many more islands  out there, so if you have extra time you can explore even further! While they may not be as accessible via public transportation, locals are always willing to give you a ride to any island for the proper price.

Map of Bocas del Toro

Archipelago of Bocas del Toro, Panama.

The Archipelago of Bocas del Toro, Panama is as vast as it is beautiful. Its diversity makes it attractive for any kind of traveler, and it is super budget friendly. If you're going through Panama, you will have a blast here, and if you're traveling through Central America, check out our guides & tips to make the best out of your trip!

Did you know that Bocas del Toro is just across the border from Costa Rica? Check out our article about the awesome town of Puerto Viejo, that's just right around the corner.

Looking to start planning your trip? Sit back, relax, and let us do the work. We at Scratch Your Mapa are dedicated to having you explore more while spending less. Want to know just how it works? Simply click here for more information.

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