Off the northeast coast of Panama lays the islands of Bocas Del Toro, a popular destination in the country. With 10 main islands, some of which are quite commercialized and modern, you’ll find tons of things to do here whether you want to just relax, be adventurous or let your wild side come out.
You can spend your days laying at the beach, snorkeling, island hopping, partying and enjoying island paradise.
If you’re wondering what are some of the things to do at Bocas, we spent three days on the main island, Isla Colon which you can watch in our video or read about below.
Bocas del Toro
Bocas town is on the most southern tip of the island and is usually where everybody uses as their anchor destination. There are all types of hotels, hostels, upscale restaurants, bars, tours, bike rentals, and tour companies on the island that will keep anybody busy.
Walk down the street and you’ll encounter five guys on bikes asking you if you’ve already visited Playa Estrella (Starfish beach).
There are plenty of things to do on the islands but the most popular activities are the boat tours to the various islands.
The boat tours are pretty cheap, around $20 a person. Basically you hire a local to take you around to the islands and you can pick which ones you want to go to.
For example, one package will take you to Red Frog Beach, Starfish Beach and Dolphin Bay, or Starfish beach, Dolphin Bay and Boca del Drago. We decided to go to Starfish Beach, Bird Island and Boca del Drago. We found our hotel, took a shower and promptly got ready to go.
Playa Estrella is actually on Isla Colon on the west side of the island but they take you there by boat. There are a few restaurants and a bar on this beach where you can sit back and enjoy a drink. If you walk further up north, you will find tons of beautiful sea stars in the water.
After we spent a couple hours there they took us to Boca del Drago. It’s actually just around the corner from Starfish Beach but they take you on a boat too. The water is pretty nice to bathe in but there’s a lot of seaweed on the bottom which always freaks me out!
We ordered lunch and then headed out to Isla de Pajaros, one island we had both been wanting to see for a long time.
Isla de Pájaros (Swan’s Cay) is a gorgeous island that kind of appears out of nowhere as you’re boating along the ocean. Many different species of birds live on the island, including the Red-Billed Tropic Bird which makes this island their only home in the Caribbean.
You can see birds swooping in and out of their nests hunting for fish and hear them from far away. You can also find brown boobys, the brown pelican, gulls and many other species of birds. They all call this 70 meter long island home and live in harmony.
Everyone on the boat was scrambling to get pictures of the birds and because our driver kept rotating the boat around, I thought we were going to flip at one point. You could tell that this was the highlight of the trip for everybody, including the completely wasted man sitting next to me yelling crazy things at the birds in Spanish.
Bocas del Drago
Afterwards, they took us back to Bocas del Drago to have lunch and hang out for the rest of the afternoon. There is one restaurant on the island and even though we had ordered before we left, it took forever to get our food. They gave big portions but the service was terrible and we had to send back our veggie plate, I found a bunch of hairs. Not exactly what you want to eat after an already long day.
After a sad lunch, we just lounged around and relaxed on the beach. By that time, Yeison and I were getting super sleepy and I was ready for a nap. The sun was out and shining so the heat was making me even more tired.
We hit the hay pretty early that night considering neither of us slept much on the bus ride the night before. But luckily for us, it was a beautiful day the next day and we decided to take a boat to Red Frog Beach on Isla Bastimentos. You can take a connection for $7 round trip and they have various drop off and pick up times from Isla Colon.
Red Frog Beach
The boat ride to Isla Bastimentos was beautiful and the island itself seemed nice too. There’s one hotel, lots of trails and a restaurant on this island but we stayed at the beach.
The waves were pretty strong and full of seaweed but we still had fun diving under and riding out the waves. You can also rent surfboards, kayaks, boogie boards or go on a canopy tour.
We walked around the island a bit but were disappointed to see so much garbage on the beaches. This inspired us to start our Trash in Paradise section on our blog because it was pretty terrible. That combined with all the mosquitoes and bugs around (I should have brought stronger repellent), we weren’t exactly impressed with the island.
When we got back to Isla Colon, we walked around town for the rest of the day and ate at a delicious Italian restaurant.
Life in Bocas Town
The nightlife in Bocas is pretty active. Some hostels had parties, there was live music in the park and a couple bars were packed. The town itself is fairly modern with buildings everywhere, paved roads and lots of cars.
During the day we walked around town and I especially enjoyed watching all the boats go out and the local kids having fun.
Easy to travel on a budget in Bocas
Depending on your budget and your standards, you can find all kinds of lodging on the island. There are no 5 star all inclusive resorts but you can find beautiful hotels (most expensive around $350 a night), decent hotels and hostels.
We stayed at a cheap hotel called Cayos Zapatillos for $20 a night (no AC) for a private room for two people. We didn’t book beforehand, we found it when we got there. They had good service and a nice shower, but the room had a weird smell though for $20 a night I can’t complain at all.
The best thing was the tasty and cheap bakery across the street. Bocas del Toro is like a backpacker’s heaven with lots of cheap food, cheap transportation, inexpensive things to do and it’s really easy to meet people. We met a lot of people who were just visiting Bocas del Toro but ended up staying up 3 weeks or more.
Though it wasn’t exactly the paradise I had expected, nor did it quite live up to the hype I heard, it was a nice way to end our Panama trip.
Looking for another island in Panama? Check out the San Blas Islands!
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