The highlights of Bocas del Toro in four days
Alexandra’s Note: There will be many articles about Panama waiting for our readers in the very near future. I will be writing in great detail about immigration to Panama and the use of private Panamanian funds and companies. And no doubt, some of our readers and clients will want to come to Panama. Therefore, for those who are interested not only in coming to Panama for business reasons, but also to combine business trip with a useful insight into Panama, Olga Gutierrez, owner of a Panamanian travel company – Ocean2Ocean, will write about vacation and traveling in Panama. Olga’s first article is about the most beautiful place in Panama – Bocas del Toro. If you are planning a trip to Panama and looking for a professional Russian-speaking guide, contact Olga Gutierrez:
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There are probably few places left on Earth like Bocas del Toro. It seems that time moves here, the clock beats off minute by minute, like in any other place on our planet, but these minutes flow away smoothly, as if to the sounds of Antilles music or waves rolling in. No one cares about time in Bocas del Toro, and this is my number one discovery. Forget about schedules, punctuality, and sluggishness, relax and enjoy the sluggish pace of life in Bocas del Toro.
How to spend another day in Bocas? A detailed guide is at your service:
Get up at 08:00 – 08:30, have breakfast and head to the islands. I recommend for the first introduction, taking an excursion to Bird Island, Sea Star Beach and Boca del Drago. You can not take the tour, but rent a boat privately (approx. $125 – $150 for the whole day), take a cab to Bocas del Drago and take the boat there. There are daily excursions from Bocas Town and from the Playa Tortuga Hotel, where I stayed, for $25.00 per person. In my opinion this is the most convenient option.
Bird Island is the most beautiful place in Bocas del Toro. You won’t believe your eyes – it’s like going on an expedition and seeing an uncharted land with primitive animals. It feels like this! Rocks, vines, palm trees, white birds with long tails, lots of nests with white fluffy chicks, clear emerald water, tunnels in the rocks. It’s a landscape from an adventure movie, to say the least. But in Bocas del Toro, it’s real! It is in this place that you realize that it is better to preserve this beauty than to build hundreds of luxurious resorts, and let Bocas remain semi-wild forever, but pristine and real.
The next point is Boca del Drago – a nice place: yellow sand, beautiful water, palm trees, restaurants, souvenirs – that’s basically all. And the next place is much more interesting – the beach of sea stars. From Boca del Drago you can reach it on foot, along the shore, in 10-15 minutes, or by boat, for $3 per person (if you came by cab and do not want to swim to the Bird Island, but only to sail to the beach of sea stars). There is a narrow beach with yellow thin sand, the clearest sea, and on the sandy bottom dozens of starfish. The beach is landscaped. There are restaurants and cafes, rent catamarans, kayaks and sun loungers. Stars need to look for, sometimes they are on the sidelines, away from the tourists. Starfish are living creatures, but frivolous tourists who pull them out of the water for super photos, they are really scary. Be humane and responsible – don’t pull starfish out of the water. If you overexpose them a little too much, they will die. That’s the naturalist in me talking right now.
Bathing and lunch will take all day. To eat in Bokas, of course, should be fish or sea products. They are the freshest here. Prices – very democratic, portions – large. Fish, shrimp, jumbo shrimp from $13.00. Lobsters are around $25.00.
Back at the hotel, freshen up, relax, and afterwards I recommend you go for a walk to Bocas Town, the main town in the islands, located on Colón Island. I am assuming you have chosen a hotel on the island of Colon. If you stay on another island, then you won’t be able to get to the town at night. Bocas Town is a small town – 9 streets across and 7 streets along, the central park named after Simon Bolivar. Simon Bolivar, there is also the town hall and commerce. Of the local souvenirs, I recommend hammocks and all sorts of “rostomanski” jewelry made from stones, shells, bones. I bought myself the most beautiful large seashell. There are plenty of places to eat in Bocas Town – from cheap fast-food joints (for surfers and budget backpackers), to beachfront restaurants with interesting menus. Bocas del Toro has no luxurious, elegant restaurants, but it has a mix of culinary traditions and a wealth of flavors.
For dinner, I recommend two restaurants: The Reef and The Pirate. Both are on the main promenade or Calle 1. At The Reef, the seafood soup, red snapper (snapper), “the reef” salad and the signature pasta with octopus, shrimp and lobster are terrific.
It’s safe to walk late in Bocas Town. Cabs around town are 60 cents per person and to the Playa Tortuga Hotel are $2.00 per person. If you decide to dance, the best local disco for many years, is considered “El Barco Hundido” on the same Calle 1.
A lot of people in Bocas del Toro speak English, but most of the local dialect “guari-guari,” a mixture of English, Guaymi, Spanish and Antillean dialects. This is due to the fact that the population of Bocas are Indians mixed with natives of the Antilles.
Day two. Colón Island. Bocas Town.
Today I suggest you focus on Bocas Town, that is, on Colón Island. It is difficult to see in detail the colorful houses with their carved windows and balconies while walking around the town at night. You must come here during the day, so to speak, to get into its spirit and mood. You can rent a bike or a moped and go to the beach “Bluff” – a long, beautiful beach, with golden sand. It is the most popular place for surfers. By the way, there are surfing lessons on the island ($45.00 per day). Another option for a walk is the private botanical garden “Finca Los Monos”, which is more appropriately called “Tropical” rather than “Botanical” garden. This is a truly heavenly place – colorful flowers, palm trees, 100-year-old trees, strange birds and even monkeys. The park has a magnificent view of the sea. There is also a pool to refresh yourself after your walk.
Day three. Bastimentos Island.
Here’s another super fun option for you – the neighboring island of Bastimentos has a great canopy tour. It is not just stretched ropes, which you fly from tree to tree, some parts include obstacles and mazes, in other words – complete immersion in the image of Tarzan, and all this in the entourage of the wild forest of the reserve Bastimentos.
Bastimentos in general is an interesting place, there are beautiful canals among the mangroves. The water is so clear that at the bottom you can see starfish, scallops and cucumbers, oysters and bright orange-red coral on the roots of mangrove bushes. The reserve does not occupy the entire island. There are also private homes, hotels, luxury cottage village Red Frog Villas, where you can rent a villa with all amenities. On the island of Bastimentos several beaches, the most famous “Red Frog” and “Playa Larga”. Red Frog – a beach with a character – the sea is calm, and then the waves roll up so that the water to go only daredevil-surfers. There are cottages and bungalows, and even luxury tents, with all the amenities on Bastimentos Island. You can just bask on the beach or, like me, climb the jungle in search of the outlandish microscopic red frog.
And something else interesting – on the island of Bastimentos live Guaymí Indians, who grow cacao and produce natural chocolate. One such settlement – plantation can be accessed, it is called “Oreba”. Tour to Oreba must be booked in advance in Bocas Town.
Day four. Zapatillas Islands, Coral Cay, Dolphin Bay.
If you think you’ve seen everything, you’ve clearly underestimated Bocas del Toro. Once again, you’ll have to enlist the help of local boaters and travel agencies and head to the Zapatillas Islands, Coral Reef, and Dolphin Bay. The Zapatillas Islands offer white sand and a gentle sea. Karey turtles come to these islands to lay their eggs, so walk carefully on the beach (that’s my inner naturalist talking again). In principle, all the nests are marked with sticks and ribbons, but still do not want to step on the eggs with little skull ashats. In short, watch your step. Coral Cape is a unique place. In Bocas del Toro you can see more than 50 species of coral out of 70 species that inhabit the Caribbean Sea. So do not be lazy, snorkel and dive, look at the underwater beauty. Diving in Bocas is also available, but not in Coral Cay, where it is not deep at all, but in Almirante Bay. In the lagoons of the coral reef, seated several restaurants on the water, which are fed on traditional Antilles cuisine shrimp, octopus, lobster, on the side served rice in coconut milk, “patacones” – fried bananas and salad. All for an average of $16. Dolphin Bay is the place to feel like a kid, and with eyes burning with excitement, with a smile from ear to ear, watching all of us beloved dolphins.
After such a program, in principle, you can already say that you have got to know Bocas del Toro. And then, you don’t have to leave right away. In Bocas there are many options for accommodation. You can rent inexpensive accommodation for a couple of weeks to a month, completely relax and forget, learn Spanish in the local language school for foreigners. You can go sailing, fishing, learning to hold on the wave, do yoga, diving. You can volunteer at local schools if you want to.
Of the hotels, I would recommend Playa Tortuga as the most standard, Tropical Suits as the most traditional, Punta Caracol as the most relaxing, and Laguna Azul as the most exclusive. In any case, hotels in Bocas del Toro is countless, from very cheap hostels to exclusive villas.
And lastly, if you are going to Panama City from Bocas, we would like to recommend the most beautiful route: from Bocas Town to Almirante (by water cab), then take a car or bus to Boquete, visit Baru Volcano, spend some days there, and then take the Pan American Highway to Panama City. Another interesting thing is that you can also take Nature Air from Bocas del Toro to San Jose.
If you have any questions about organizing a business trip to Panama, please send an e-mail to email@example.com.
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