Cover Story

Bocas del Toro

Much to do in a tropical island paradise

By Kimberly Hall

Main Street in  Bocas Town
Main Street in Bocas Town as seen from the water.

Bocas del Toro is an exciting nature destination and Panama's Caribbean paradise. It is the north westernmost province of Panama and is home to the Bocas del Toro Archipelago, pristine islands against a a backdrop of a vast forested mountain range. Visiting "Bocas" is magical for its untouched nature, unique Caribbean style and fun outdoor activities.

Boating, fishing, surfing, snorkeling, scuba diving or beachcombing are some of the activities available. A mix of Ngobe Indians, Afro Antillean and Spanish settlers make up the Bocas del Toro culture. This unique mix can be seen in the art, food, architecture and cultural traditions of the province.

Dolphins jump in Almirante Bay, much to the joy of tourists.

The big attraction of Bocas is to be on or in the water. With excellent underwater vision, the reefs, protected inside the archipelago, are a scuba diving and snorkeling mecca. Peppermint shrimp, arrow crabs, bristle starfish, bristelworms can be seen by the thousands along the reefs at Cristobal Light, Mangrove Point, Big Baight, and The Garden. The large variety of sponges attracts scientists from all over the world. Reefs range from a depth of 10 to 60 feet.

The dolphin tour is another favorite. Locals share their personal knowledge of dolphin swimming areas to bring tourists up close and personal with nature. For bird-watchers, an entire island, fittingly named Bird Island, is a wildlife reserve and bird sanctuary.

There is also night life in Bocas Town, the "capital" of the islands. There are bars galore and even a dance hall where locals and tourists dance the night away together. Quiet tropical evenings in front of the sea can also be found at one of the many fine restaurants in the area. Those who visit Bocas del Toro always want to come back, again and again.

Bocas Map

How to get there

To get to Bocas by plane fly Aeroperlas ( or Air Panama ( from Albrook Airport in Panama City. To reach Bocas del Toro from Panama City by car take the Interamerican Highway up to the turn to Gualaca (404 Km). Turn to the right and go to the end of the road to Chiriqui Grande (95 Km) and then, in Punta Peña, take the road to Almirante. Taking a bus to Bocas costs $20 from the National Transport Terminal adjacent to Albrook Mall. The road trip is an all-day affair.