The Caribbean West region of Panama includes all of Bocas del Toro province and Ngöbe-Buglé province as well as the northern portion of Veruguas province.
Bocas del Toro Province is centered around the water. Much of the hinterland of this Province is difficult to access.
Hispanic influence in Bocas del Toro Province is weaker and much more recent than in the rest of Panama. The native Ngöbe and Buglé people still make up a large portion of the population. Descendants of 19th century immigrants from Jamaica make up another large segment of the the population of the Province. These two cultures plus Hispanics from other parts of Panama all give the Province a lively cultural diversity.
English is widely spoken along much of the Central American coast, and Panama is no exception. The locals of Bocas del Toro are descendants of West Africans caught in the slave trade and speak English. One might also notice the mixture of several tongues in the Creole that the natives speak amongst themselves. As in the rest of Central America, note that English is more spoken on the Caribbean side than the Pacific side.
From the border in Panama (closes at 6 pm Panamenian Time and 5 pm Costa Rica time as there is a time difference!) you can take a 10 US mini bus to Almirante and a 25 minutes boat from there to Bocas town (4 US$).
Take a local Bus to Changuinola and a taxi to the docks and then the 1 hour / 7 US$ boat to Bocas del Toro (town) or a Minibus for 5 US from the border straight to the docks of Changuinola. As of 11/08 the water taxi route has been closed. As of May of 09 there has been no word on reopening this route. All water taxi service is from Almirante.
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 Bocas del Toro (town)
True to the history of the region, the food of Bocas del Toro has a lot more Caribbean influence than the rest of Panama. For one thing, you will find coconut used a lot more here than in other parts of Panama. While there are places you can find more traditional food (platos típicos), for the most part the majority of restaurants have American style dishes (pastas, pizza, sandwiches, etc...).
Local beers include Balboa, Panama, and Atlas.
Look at local guides for accommodation listings.