L 'Bocas del Toro archipelago was our second 4-day stopover on our Panama tour. We were there from 30. December 2018 to 3. January 2019. It was a wonderful stay in the heart of the wilderness that we loved!
Bocas del Toro Archipelago
BULL'S MUNDE is one of the 3 main archipelagos that make up Panama. Located on the border of COSTA RICA, this filming location in Koh-Lanta breathes the Caribbean.
This archipelago extends over 400 km². The main islands are: Isla Colon, Isla Solarte, Isla San Cristobal, Isla Pastores, Isla Zapatillas, Isla Loma Partida, Isla Popa, Cayo Roldan, Cayo Agua and Isla Bastimentos. The latter is home to a 13 hectare National Marine Park.
Here is the map of the Bocas del Toro archipelago :
Why go to Bocas del Toro?
With a pristine nature, I can confirm that Bocas del Toro is a true jewel of the Caribbean. This is definitely my favorite in Panama.
Indeed, this archipelago offers tourists who love wild white sand beaches, turquoise waters, colorful reefs, waves popular with surfers from all over the world, fishing areas, diving sites, mangroves and forests. tropical. It is home to sloths, howler monkeys, endemic frogs, raccoons, ocelots, panthers, parrots, toucans . The variety of exotic animals, birds, aquatic fauna and corals is impressive and found in few places in the world. Bocas del Toro looks like some places in Costa Rica, as it is the last refuge for many endangered species.
But unlike Costa Rica, Panama and Bocas del Toro in particular is much less touristy. We had the opportunity to walk in tropical forests without ever meeting a single tourist!
On the other hand, there are frequent encounters with animals in their natural environment (see photos below).
How to get to Bocas del Toro?
AIR PANAMA offers daily morning and afternoon flights to Bocas del Toro from Albrook Airport in Panama City. Adventurers who have time can get there by bus (leaves Albrook bus station at 7am) or by car from Panama City or from David to the port of Almirante. From there water cabs with BOCAS MARINE TOURS or TAXI 25 go half an hour towards Bocas del Toro.
For those who want to keep their rental car, a ferry provides sea transportation every morning except Monday.
To save time and put it simply, I preferred to choose the plane.
So fromSan Blas ArchipelagoWe left for Panama City to catch the Air Panama – Bocas del Toro flight to Albrook Airport.
8H00 Collective sea transfer to Gartí
9H00 transfer in collective 4X4 for the trip on the road airport San Blas – Albrook
12H00 arrival at the airport. Our flight from Panama to Bocas del Toro was scheduled to leave at 2:30 pm.
There, bad surprise: we experience a delay. And from hour to hour we learn that we will not take off before 8 pm .
Finally, it is at 20:30 that we finally take off for Bocas del Toro. We will have spent 8 hours at the airport… I am not a complainer, but here I can tell you that I was angry because we lost the whole day and evening in transportation and waiting!
21h30 Arrival in Bocas del Toro and cab to Playa Bluff, where we had reserved the hotel.
22h00 Installation in our hotel
Where to sleep in Bocas del Toro?
Finding cheap hotel in Bocas del Toro is quite difficult. In fact, there are many islands in this archipelago with, for the most part, a very varied hotel offer, ranging from the resident's room to the excellent luxury hotel.
I had booked a chalet in the northeast of Colon Island in jungle belly
This complex is located 3 minutes walk from the beach beach cliff on the edge of the jungle, as the name suggests. This accommodation was the cheapest (75 € per night) compared to the other hotels I found. In addition, it seemed quiet and its location was perfect to enjoy nature, the beach, trips to the other islands, in short, it was ideal! Check out this hotel at Booking
But with this type of accommodation you have to prepare your meals, plan your purchases . and after staying at San Blas in the rudimentary comfort of the cabins, I didn't want to cook. So I changed my mind and preferred a good, comfortable hotel with breakfast. It was a little more expensive (105 € per night), but I do not regret it because the hotel Playa Bluff-Lodge that I finally decided was too good!
With an outdoor pool, it is very well located in La Gruta, north of the city of Bocas del Toro, in the heart of the jungle and right by the sea! Our room has free wifi, a large ceiling fan, a nice bathroom and a beautiful terrace with rattan lounge overlooking a tropical garden.
From Playa Bluff Lodge we go directly on foot to the forest to observe the animals (sloths, monkeys, toucans, birds of prey…). You should know that the beach is one of the most beautiful in the archipelago because of its wild side. But you can not swim there because of the huge and dangerous waves. On the other hand it is a paradise for surfers!
You can also take the bus (see schedules opposite). The bus stop is right in front of the hotel and the bus takes approx. 30 minutes to get to the village.
From the village you can make excursions to the different islands of the archipelago.
What to eat in Bocas del Toro?
Rice is the staple (sometimes with coconut or a pea flavored with guandu) and accompanies almost all dishes with patacon (banana pancakes). We eat a lot of fish, especially corvina (a kind of sea bass), centollo (crab), lobster and lobster, but also ceviche (raw fish marinated in lime juice). Tropical fruits (mangos, papayas, pineapples . ) are delicious!
The hotel restaurant next to us (the Hummingbird Restaurant) offered typical or international dishes at prices between 8 and 15 USD.
What to do in Bocas del Toro?
The archipelago consists of islands surrounded by mangroves and crystal clear waters. The main activities are of course with water sports (surfing, snorkeling, diving . ) or connected to the pleasure of the beaches (see my article, the most beautiful beaches of Bocas) del Toro). Interesting and exotic activities in the heart of the tropical forest (biking, hiking, quad biking, wildlife watching).
Excursions in Bocas del Toro
In the village of Bocas del Toro you are spoiled for choice in excursions. Near the pier are dozens of water cab agencies that offer many tours that you can book locally. Count between 30 and 40 USD per day without the meal. See examples below:
We tested the Total Adventure Tour below, but were a bit disappointed. In fact, we didn't see any dolphins in the Bay of Dolphins and the snorkeling place was not great. Since food was not included, we were left in front of a single restaurant (tourist trap) where we ate a very average dish for 15 USD! Besides, we had no explanation, no comment during the whole tour.
The only positive point remains the trip toZapatilla Island This is a small wonder (see photos below).
In addition, the Canyon Bastimentos Sky Zipline Canopy Tour (6987-8661) is an adventure that offers 7 lines of water cabs that depart from the port at $5/person.
Jungle Tours offers off the beaten path excursions with a naturalist guide from Bastimentos: www.amazingjungletours.com
The Oreba Chocolate Tour (6649-1457) or a visit to Green Acres Cacao Farm (6716-4422) should be included in this tour. Here's how to learn more about growing cacao from seed to turning it into chocolate.
Finca Los Monos offers guided tours in a 10 hectare botanical garden: Bird watching, half day tours can be booked there.
Jungle or beach walks can be arranged. Contact the Bluff Beach Retreat Hotel (6677-8867) or Panala Horseback Adventures (6905-9659).
For boating, fishing, snorkeling or scuba diving, you can call the Bocas Dive Center at 757-9737.