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Bocas del Toro

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Bocas del Toro is the capital of the province of the same name in the Caribbean West of Panama. This city is located on Isla Colon.

Get in[edit]

  • There are two routes into Bocas del Toro Province, one over the lush, jagged mountains from Chiriqui, the other from the Caribbean coast of Costa Rica. Buses travel both of these routes. If you are traveling from Costa Rica, take the bus to the border.

By bus and boat[edit]

The town is located on Isla Colon and you ll need to take a boat to access it. Boats depart frequently from the town of Almirante (6 US$).

  • From the border in Panama (closes at 5 pm Panamenian Time!) you can take a 10 US mini bus to Almirante and a 25 minutes boat from there to Bocas del Toro (town) (6 US$). You will have to pay a $3 entry fee. If you don't have a flight out of Panama and you are not traveling in via Caribe Shuttle you will be forced to buy a $14 bus ticket from Changuinola to San Jose. Many travellers continue south and sail to Colombia. Many travellers make online flight reservations out of Panama City and print them off before being asked to submit payment.
  • From San Jose Airport and San Jose & Alajuela Hotels to Bocas del Toro Easy Ride Shuttle Services offers daily trips at 06.30 am shuttle will make a lunch breaj in Puerto Viejo for 1 hours and continue to Bocas del Toro . Service includes Ground Transportation and taxi boat from Almirante to Bocas Town. From Bocas del Toro boat leaves from Taxi 25 office at 08.00 am and goes directly to San Jose and Alajuela Hotels also drop off at SJO airport rate is $69 each way per person.
  • The cheapest way is probably going with the chicken bus (leaves every hour/1 US$) to Changuinola, take a regular bus to Almirante ($1.45 as of Sep, 2014) (one hour) and the 6 US$ boat to the island.
  • From Puerto Viejo, Caribbean Tours runs a shuttle service that includes transport all the way to Bocas del Toro town. It departs Puerto Viejo (or Cahuita, Punta uva or Manzanillos) around 8:00am and includes hotel pickup and a van to the border. After you cross, there is a waiting van on the Panama side to Almirante, then the boat to Bocas del Toro, arriving about 1:00pm Panama time. Price is $25-30, and it can be booked at some travel agencies in Pueto Viejo or at the Caribbean Tours office near the bus station.
  • From panama city, Taxi 25 offers direct buses to/from Almirante. Price is $28. From there, take a boat to Bocas del Toro.

By plane[edit]

There are several flights into Bocas from Panama City. AirPanama flies from the capital twice a day everyday (50 mins $160/$230 after tax and fees, each way.) *** As of March 1, 2012, Aeroperlas has suspended operations, so Air Panama is the only option.

Nature Air flies from San Jose, Costa Rica to Bocas del Toro 4 times per week. The cost is $110 each way plus $26 international departure fee and $12 for a Panamanian entry stamp. With taxes and fuel surcharges the actual fare exceeds $250.

Get around[edit]

Bocas town is small enough to walk all over. If you need a ride, cabs are plentiful and usually only cost 60 cents or so to get around town.

Bicycle rentals run approximately $2/hr or $10/day. The roads are flat and in good repair, which makes getting around on a bike very easy.

Scooters can be rented for approximately $70/day.

See[edit][add listing]

Do[edit][add listing]

Scuba diving

Yet a popular travel destination, Bocas del Toro is still mainly unknown as dive destination. However, it offers a great diversity of aquatic life around its islands. Due to calm conditions and highly competitive pricing, Bocas is amongst the most ideal places to participate in scuba education!

There are four scuba operators in Bocas town, Bocas Water Sports, Starfleet Scuba, La Buga Dive & Surf and Dutch Pirate. They offer identical dive options at the same price ($70/two tanks, all equipment included), with the same types of boats.

Stafleet is under suspension by Padi until August 13, 2012. http://www.padi.com/scuba/about-padi/quality-management/consumer-alerts/suspended-members/

La Buga Dive & Surf [1] is a 5* PADI dive center, which also provides surf lessons and rents boards, kayaks and stand up paddle boards. Besides, the waterfront restaurant La Buguita Ocean Lounge is enclosed and offers divers and surfers a 10% discount on breakfast and lunch options.

There is also another scuba operator on Isla Bastimentos, scuba6diving. They do not hire contract dive masters. All dives are lead by the owner. Scuba 6 is the only shop in Bocas with all five star reviews on Trip Advisor.


Surfing

Bocas del Toro is a perfect choice if you are planning to go surfing in Panama. It offers a wide range of easily assessable surf spots for different levels of experience. November to April are considered to be peak season, as well as summertime. There are two excellent beginner spots to start your surf experience, e.g. Black Rock, Carenero and Wizard Beach, Bastimentos Island. Besides there are several spots for experienced surfers around the islands and Bocas del Toro also hosts (inter)national surf competitions.


FIshing

Fishing in Bocas Del Toro can be great. The key is to go out with the right captain as there is many scam artists waiting to rip people off. The best captain in town by far is know as "ET". ET lives next door to the supermarket on the Island Carranero. In order to get a hold of him, ask around town or knock on his door as he is quite friendly and eager to fish. ET offers two types of trips bottom fishing and trolling. The trolling trip's catch is made up of mostly small yellowfin tuna, wahoo, dolphin and other great eating pelagics. The bottom fish trips target mostly snappers and groupers and is a great way to fill your fridge with tasty fish!

Buy[edit][add listing]

  • Laundry (Don Chicho), (2 houses left of Heike hostel). 3.50 USD a load.  edit
  • Laundry (Olga), (2 houses next to the atm). 5 USD.  edit

Eat[edit][add listing]

  • El Ultimo Refugio, [2]. offers waterside dining on Avenida Sur, just down the street from the Ferry dock. Cuisine includes fresh seafood as well as variations on Norte Americano style dishes such as pork meatloaf. $35+ for two, including drinks.  edit'
  • Om Cafe (Indian food), Avenue E and Calle 2 (upstairs from the surf shop), [3]. Breakfast really shines here with the wide variety of juice blends and shakes they offer, plus a very unique eggs vindaloo dish that is a must try. $30 for two, with drinks.  edit
  • La Ballena. Gourmet pizzas and European wines by the glass, which you'll pay dearly for. This may be the most expensive restaurant in all of Bocas town. The pizzas are large with generous toppings, and come in many interesting variations. Wine selection is impressive, though expensive. $40+ for two.  edit
  • Bongo's Cafe, (On the main strip). Popular bar/restaurant run by a charming Cuban woman named Giselle (known around the island simply as "La Cubana") who also happens to be the liason between the public and the police. The seafood soup (Sopa de Mariscos) served there is simply delicious and Bongo's seems to be the only restaurant that freshly squeezes the fruit right in front of you. With all this and attentive staff, Bongo's Cafe is a real gem.  edit
  • Ositos Grill, Calle G (Next to Hawaii Supermarket), 67744973, [4]. 4pm to 11pm. Take out(for now) grilled food, specializing in jerk chicken, choripan, beef ribs and pulled pork pizza and nachos. 4$-12$.  edit
  • Olga's Cafe. Local cuisine consisting of rice, beans, salad of the day and your choice of meat, the "filete de pollo" is the best. It is located two blocks down the street from the bank. Olga is the owner/cook and she treats her customers as if they were her children. Olga's is one of the cheapest and most filling meals in town with meals costing between 5 and 7 US dollars.  edit

Drink[edit][add listing]

  • Barco Hundido. A disco, built on a wooden deck, above the water with a wrecked/sunken ship under the water just beyond the deck, illuminated by bright lights. Probably one of the better bars in town, and the one that most of the town winds up at by the end of the night.  edit
  • The Firefly, [5]. Great waterfront restaurant. Few many options based on what's in season but it is always delicious and fantastic drinks. Outside on a nice deck right next to the ocean. They also have a few rooms for rent  edit
  • Aqua Lounge. A waterfront hostel/bar, this place is crazy on wednesday and friday nights, often times with partying/drinking until sunrise. Aqua lounge is located on the island of Carranero which is a 1 minute water taxi ride across the channel from Bocas Town. Taxi rides are 1 dollar and drinks range from 1.50$-5.00$. The music is loud and often times consists of a lot of reggae and dancehall. Aqua Lounge also has rooms to rent.  edit

Sleep[edit][add listing]

  • Playa Tortuga Hotel and Beach Resort, Bocas del Toro, Panama (Playa Tortuga Hotel), +507-757-9050 (), [6]. checkin: 3 pm; checkout: noon. . Playa Tortuga features an inviting hotel location surrounded by natural beauty, coral reefs and calm waters ideal for snorkeling. The property offers guests beachfront setting for convenient and enjoyable activities with private pier for tours to the nearby island paradise of Bocas del Toro, where tropical beauty and nature abound. Dolphin and turtle watching tours, snorkeling, fishing, and other tours are available to Playa Tortuga guests starting from our private pier. Playa Tortuga has 117 comfortable room accommodations, each with a balcony and ocean view. Guests may choose from standard rooms, junior suites and large grand suites, all offering a contemporary décor, modern amenities and a soothing tropical atmosphere. The hotel offers two exciting restaurants with diverse culinary menus. Savor the flavor of bocatorian and international dishes in Naguas Restaurant and in the Restaurant Bar Baula located at the end of our private pier over the ocean. US$99+.  edit
  • Gran Kahuna. On the main street, a brightly colored new hostel (opened April 2008) that is much more tranquilo than the rest of the hostels. It may cost a bit more ($10-12) but worth it. Great attention to detail and really nice guys who are happy to let you (attempt) to practice talking with them in Spanish. One of the guys is named Fabio, he's pretty cool. The other guy had a pretty raspy voice, but was also cool.  edit
  • Tungara Hostel, (507) 7579864, [7]. On the main street offers excellent dorms and private rooms. Rooms are clean with a/c and private bathroom. A shared kitchen, internet and cheap tours are available. The place is run by an extremely friendly and helpful lady.  edit
  • Try Mondo Taito or Heike twin hostels in the town. Dorm beds are available from $10 with kinda gross shared bathrooms. Run by a group of American ex-pats. They don´t take advance bookings, it is very noisy, not all that clean and not located on the water, but if you are up for a party you will probably have a great time. Cheap spanish lessons available.
  • Hostelluego, Avenue G (One block beyone Mondo Taito), 507-6711-8634, [8]. Brand new chilled out place 40m from the perty hostels. Very nice and clean, all new furniture, TV, beds, very safe. Nice chill out area, Free Laptops, Wifi, pancake breakfast and all rooms A/C. $10 per person dorm, $30 for a double private, prices are higher in peak season  edit
  • Hotel Angela, [9]. Run by Claudio, a US expat from California. The hotel is clean and safe, located a block off the main avenue and away from traffic noise. The hotel also has its own restaurant and bar over the water. Happy hour from 3:30 to 5:30 means 2 for 1 drinks. The staff are extremely courteous and friendly.  edit
  • Punta Caracol, [10]. A hotel of overwater bungalows a 15 minute boat ride from Bocas town. Nine bungalows sit on stilts over the water, and wrap around verandas give each bungalow direct access to the water. Rates start at $285/night in the low season for the smallest bungalow, and run up to $600+ for the largest bungalow in the high season. Rates include breakfast and dinner. Excursions can be arranged with the front desk.  edit
  • Hacienda del Toro, (On Isla San Cristobal, 15 min by boat from Bocas Town), [11].  editSwimming pool,Rest/Bar,horse stable with well trained horses for jungle tours. Deluxe Cottage Rental for $150 a night for 2. Includes breakfast and transportation . 2 nights minimum.
  • Tropical Suites, Calle Primera (Bocas Town), (011)(507) 757 9081, [12]. checkin: Flexible; checkout: Flexible. Tropical Suites is located in Bocas Town on the waterfront. All activities are literally all around you. The 16 large Suites have a complete kitchen, breakfast bar, a large Jacuzzi and balconies. Excursions can be arranged with the reception. Boats can be moored at the hotel docks. Rates start at $ 140,--/night, including breakfast and free WiFi internet, with promotional discounts during the season. Extra special deals are available for longer stays, weekly or monthly.  edit
  • Dolphin Bay Hideaway, Dolphin Bay (Bocas del Toro), (507) 6417 7351, [13]. Our small Bed and Breakfast is located on the shores of Dolphin Bay on the Island of San Cristobal, about 20 minute boat ride from Bocas town. It is a very quite and secluded hideaway offering personalized service. With only 3 beautifully decorated rooms guests will feel as if visiting a friends house more so then a hotel. We'll help you plan your daily custom tours if you want to visit the nearby islands and beaches for snorkeling, beach combing or hiking. Meals are prepared using the freshest seafood, fruits and vegetables and are an excellent value. Room rates start at $115 and they include full breakfast and transportation to and from Bocas town.  edit
  • Aqua Lounge. A great hostel & bar built on the water. Fantastic set up and friendly staff. $10USD per night.  edit
  • Hostel Hansi. checkout: 11:00. Extremely clean German-run hostel with fans in every room. Some rooms also have a balcony. Spacious kitchen facilities and plenty of room in the fridge. The focus is on a family-orientated hostel, rather than a backpacker hangout centered around a bar. Free Wifi. Use of facilities after the checkout incurs a $2 surcharge. $25 double.  edit
  • Hotel Olas, calle 6ta (Take a left out of the launch dock, keep with the road as it curves right. Pass a small playground, the hotel is on the left.), +5077579930, [14]. checkin: 13:00; checkout: 12:00. Hotel built in 2004. Clean, spacious rooms fitted with AC, wiFi, private hot showers,TV and balconies. Waterfront bar below. BIcycles Kayaks and snorkelling equipment for rent. Various island tours and expeditions can be arranged. Cake and coffee offered every morning.great deck with hammacs to chill out.good location. $40-60 Double Rooms, High Season 48-68.  edit
  • Casa Verde, [15]. Water Front Hostel. 11.  edit
  • Heikes. checkout: 11. Heikes is a nice hostel in the town, right next to several shops, surf schools and tour operators. Dorm beds are available for $10 and you´ll have to share your dorm only with three other people. Individual lockers and ventilators present. This hostel has also free internet access and a free pancacke breakfast (all you can eat!). The highlight is definetly the great terrace on the roof top, where you can chill, drink, relax in a hammock or meet some nice people. Bathrooms are pretty clean, although the water is not too hot. All in all a good stay in Bocas del Toro. But keep in mind, that it´s located in the town and not near the beach. 10.  edit
  • Urraca Private Island, Isla Popa (Bocas Del Toro), (507)66682027, [16]. It is the perfect place for a family getaway or for romance – a place to relax and enjoy the island lifestyle. The Islands are protected by coral reef and are surrounded by turquoise and fluorescent ocean waters. From 40 minutes Boat ride of Bocas town, our 4 small bungalows taking panoramic views of Cayo's Zapatillas, We offer 3 different package the price start at 150$. Complimentary for all packages: Cayuco - traditional Ngobe dug out canoes Snorkel equipment Wooden Rafts Urracaprivateisland@gmail.com  edit
  • Hospedaje Alexandra, Calle 4ta (Isla Colon, quiet street one block from Bocas Marine Port.), 507 - 6601 - 0638, [17]. Family-owned and operated, each room has a private bathroom, towels, A/C, closet, and TV. Great for couples, solo travelers, and families. Cafe Alexandra next door offers breakfast, lunch, and medicinal tea. A one minute walk from Bocas Marine Port - just walk away from the water-front one block to Calle 4ta - turn right - we are two doors past the pirate head.  edit

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