Bocas del Toro Panama
Bocas del Toro, known locally as simply ‘Bocas” has been one of Panama’s top tourist destinations for many years. In the past Bocas had been more of a ‘Back Packer’ destination, popular due to it’s cheap hostel accommodations, great surfing and wild nightlife. But over the past few years more and more ex-pats, particularly adventurous retirees have been calling Bocas home and transforming the community. Cheap accommodations remain as does the incredible surfing and beaches so the back packers or frugal travellers still love to come play in Bocas. However, the island town now has paved roads, an al-inclusive luxury resort and noise by-laws which force the nightclubs ti close down at 11:00 pm. There’s even a strictly enforced ordinance which forbids walking topless in town.
Bocas is part of an archipelago – which means island group. It’s actually a chain or cluster of islands. In an archipelago you will typically find calm waters where fish are abundant and coral reefs often form. This is true in Bocas del Toro and another big reason people come here. Among the islands you will find the calm, aqua blue water of the Caribbean sea. On the numerous islands, many of them uninhabited you can enjoy palm tree lined white sand beaches on the shores while dense rainforest, abundant with wildlife typically packs the interior. Lonely Planet Guide calls the Bocas Archipelago “a biologists fantasy”.
Although there are a few hotels and eco-resorts to be found on some of the smaller islands most of the Bocas Hotels are located in Bocas town, the provincial capital which is located on Isla Colon. The town itself is always a fun place to visit with a very laid back attitude that is reminiscent of it’s Jamaican roots. One surprising aspect to Bocas is the incredible selection and quantity of good restaurants. Outside of Panama City Bocas is the best place in Panama to experience the widest variety of culinary delights.
Historically Bocas was a large part of the United Fruit Company holdings. The Banana trade flourished here and the company created bi-lingual schools to teach the children while their parents worked. As a result Bocas most of the locals speak excellent English. In fact Bocas probably has the largest concentration of english speaking Panamanians in all of Panama.
Bocas is an ideal get-away for – nature seekers, ecotourism, romantic getaways and even active families can find plenty to do in this pristine natural environment.
The most popular things to do while in Bocas include: boat tours to many of the islands for surfing, snorkeling, diving, dolphin watching, rainforest hikes, caving and visting indigenous tribal villages. Bocas is still considered a Mecca for surfers—there are a variety of places that cater to surfers and enough surf spots to please even the most advanced surfer.
The cheaper hostels will provide a bed with clean sheets for as little as $15 a night, ideal for back packers, comfortable mid-range hotels with private bath can be found for $30 up to $80. And there are a few upscale accommodation options including Playa Tortuga Hotel and Beach Resort, which offers all-inclusive packages as well as nightly stays and al-la-carte restaurant service. Playa Tortuga has it’s own private beach and is just 10 minutes taxi ride from downtown Bocas on Isla Colon. Or you can check out one of the best boutique hotels at the world renown romantic experience of Punta Caracol Eco-Resort with their all-natural cabins over the sea and award winning cuisine.