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Bocas del Toro

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Central America : Panama : Caribbean West : Bocas del Toro
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Bocas del Toro is the capital of the province of the same name in Panama.

Get in

  • 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

The town is located on Isla Colon and you ll need to take a boat to access it. Boats departs frequently from the towns of Almirante and Changuinola. If you re coming from the costa rican border it is faster to take the boat in Changuinola (7 US$), if you re coming from David, it will be cheaper to take the boat from Almirante (4 US$).

  • 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 (4 US$).
  • The cheapest way is probably going with the chicken bus (leaves every hour/1 US$) to Changuinola, take a regular bus to Almirante (~1,50 / one hour) and the 4 US$ boat to the island.

By plane

There are several flights into Bocas from Panama City. AirPanama flies from the capital twice a day everyday (45 mins $80), and Aeroperlas does the same thing at the same price.

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.

Get around

Bocas town is small enough to walk all over. If you need a ride, cabs are plentiful and usually only cost 50 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

Do

  • Scuba

There are two major scuba operators in Bocas town, Bocas Water Sports and Starfleet Scuba. The offer identical dive options at the same price ($50/two tanks, all equipment included), with the same types of boats. The diving may not be adventurous enough for seasoned divers as most of the dives are fairly shallow (15-20 meters) and the wildlife not as rich as some of the more mainstream Caribbean dive destinations. There is also another scuba operator on Isla Bastimentos, The Dutch Pirate.

Buy

  • Laundry (Don Chicho), (2 houses left of Heike hostel). 3.50 USD a load.

Eat

  • El Ultimo Refugio, [1]. 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. '
  • Om Cafe (Indian food), Avenue E and Calle 2 (upstairs from the surf shop). 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.

Drink

  • 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.

Sleep

  • 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.
  • Calipso Hostel, (507) 7579848, [2]. 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.
  • Try Mondo Taito or Heike twin hostels in the town. Dorm beds are available from $10 and are clean with fans and shared bathrooms. Nice friendly hostels. Run by a group of American ex-pats who are very knowledgable and friendly. 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, [3]. Brand new chilled out place 40m from the perty hostels. 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, $24 for a double private
  • Hotel Angela, [4]. 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.
  • Punta Caracol, [5]. 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.
  • Hacienda del Toro, (On Isla San Cristobal, 15 min by boat from Bocas Town). Swimming 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, [6]. 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.
  • Dolphin Bay Hideaway, Dolphin Bay (Bocas del Toro), (507) 6417 7351, [7]. 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.
  • Aqua Lounge. A great hostel & bar built on the water. Fantastic set up and friendly staff. $10USD per night.

Get out

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