Bocas del Toro

Words simply cannot describe the feeling that comes from visiting the island chain of Bocas del Toro.  It is unusual to find a location that manages to such a primitive, provocative and memorable atmosphere, it enchants visitors with its incredibly diverse vegetation and its old-world customs.  It really is a biology enthusiast’s dream.

Right now is a great time for a vacation on the islands.  Take a step back in time and lose yourself, there are hundreds of amazing places to savor.  Bocas del Toro is a beautiful place to discover, with abundant tropical plant life and perfect water for scuba diving and snorkeling in the remarkable Caribbean sea.  The natural beauty of the islands is spectacular and the population is made up of an incredibly diverse mix of races and ethnicities, including Western Caribe, Latinos and foreign immigrants.  Bocas del Toro is more than just a charming archipelago from another time, it is a positive lesson in living in harmony and respect for everyone.  Come to Bocas del Toro, interesting and charming, enticing beyond description.  When you return home, it will be with irreplaceable memories of a land lost in time.

Visit the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute, the only branch of the Smithsonian not located in the United States, and discover the native treasures of the Bocas.  Take a look at the satellite photos of the islands and decide where to go while you’re visiting.

Rent an ATV, take a picnic lunch and investigate secluded lagoons and remote beaches.  There are guided tours through dense tropical forests where you can catch a glimpse of the sun through the trees and observe the wildlife that thrives there.  Iguanas, toucans, sloths, frog and various species of primates all live on Bocas del Toro.

If horses aren’t your thing, you can rent a bicycle and pedal through quaint streets and get to know the people of the Bocas and listen to their stories of days of yore.  You may hear stories of pirates and secret treasures, stories of trade that sprang up around the banana farms, even stories that have been handed down from generation to generation of how Christopher Columbus discovered and names the islands.

Perhaps you’d rather enjoy the deep blue Caribbean Sea.  Snorkel through brightly colored coral reefs and enjoy the magnificence of the sea life that dwells within it.  Vibrantly shimmering fish flit by looking for something to eat and a place to hide.  Go even deeper and get certified as a diver by some of the most experienced dive instructors for low prices.  Then you can meet some of the most unbelievable occupants of the sea, such as dolphins sting rays, octopi and maybe even a shark.

If you prefer to stay on the water’s surface, grab a board and head out to catch some waves.  Beginner or pro, the waves at Bocas del Toro are superb.  You might also float through the mangroves in a kayak or canoe, or take a boat tour to see beautiful unoccupied parks.

Scientists believe the area may contain the largest collection of known caves in Central America.  The caves are filled with fresh water, intriguing rock formations and colonies.  Take a tour of the caves and then trek through the jungle to see the cacao and coconut trees, then go see how the islanders make chocolate and coconut using the freshest ingredients in the world.  While you’re out, pick up some beautiful artisan crafts from the Ngobe Buglé Indians wearing traditional dress.

When the sun goes down, don’t miss the vividly colorful sunset over the Caribbean sea.  Then, when the stars come out, be sure to watch the giant sea turtles that have travelled thousands of miles come to land to deposit their eggs in the sandy beaches where they themselves were hatched.

Appreciate contemporary art from both local and foreign artists in both galleries and restaurants.  Savor some of the most unique flavors from around the globe, or some of the freshest seafood, slow-cooked coconut rice and appetizing Panamanian food at your choice of many local cafés run by local people.

Once you’ve fueled up with some enticing local food, enjoy some nightlife and dance through the night at one of Bocas del Toro’s legendary bars, where the spotlight is on music of all variety.  Learn to merengue and salsa to classic Panamanian music, or be swept away by dancehall, reggae, roots or culture.  Get back to your room just in time for the sun to rise on another day of adventure and tranquility.