10 best things to do in Bocas del Toro

Discover Bocas del Toro.

The 10 best things to do in Bocas del Toro

Bocas del Toro is …different! Located in the high northwest close to the Costa Rican border in the Caribbean Sea, above all this place exudes a very relaxed and extraordinary charm. Everything takes place in and around the water. Known for its backpacker vibe, the islands have much to offer for surfers, nature enthusiasts, beach lovers and adventurers. From simple backpacker hostels to extraordinary jungle lodges or waterfront bungalows, the choice is yours in Bocas. Depending on what you’re looking for, you can choose to stay on the busier main island of Colon or on one of the smaller laid-back islands. Don’t worry if you can’t decide. Thanks to the water cabs, you can easily get around between the islands. I explored three different islands in the archipelago. Here are the 10 best things to do in Bocas del Toro.

ISLA COLON

#1 Experience the famous nightlife right at the waterfront in Bocas Town

Colorful houses, surfers with boards under their arms, music coming from the many waterfront bars. Bocas Town on the main island of Isla Colon is the busiest place in the archipelago. You will find a lot of restaurants, little stores, surf shops and relaxed bars. The place is also known for its nightlife. In Bocas Town you can just stroll through the streets, go shopping, and hang out in one of the many bars with water access enjoying a cool drink or go for a little dance.

#2 Observe the starfish from close proximity at the beautiful Starfish Beach

As the name suggests, you are likely to find many starfish on this beach. From Bocas Town you can take a local minibus that will take you to the north of the island near the beach. The remaining distance is a super nice walk along the shore. The beach itself is super nice. Just make sure to check the holiday season in Panama in advance. When we visited, the place was very crowded. So keep an eye on that and, as always, it’s advisable to set off early as the beach is very popular. Important: never touch the starfish or even lift them out of the water. Most of the time they can be seen very well from above the water surface – alternatively pack a diving mask and observe the starfish up close.

#3 Enjoy a relaxed beach day at Playa Bluff

Playa Bluff is a beautiful beach located on the east side of the island. Especially because of the waves, the beach is particularly popular with surfers. Depending on the wave situation, the beach is thus not necessarily suitable for swimming and bathing. But even without a surfboard, you can spend a relaxing day at the beach, soak up the sun, walk along the water and eat something delicious in one of the small beach bars or in the restaurant overlooking the sea. If you want to escape the sun for a while, you will find enough shady palm trees.

ISLA SOLARTE

#4 Stay in the jungle of Panama in the exceptional Bambuda Lodge

I visited Isla Solarte only because of the extraordinary Bambuda Lodge. I had seen the lodge in a video before the trip and it was clear that this place was on my list. The Bambuda Lodge is beautifully built on a hillside in the jungle on Isla Solarte and has an absolutely incredible view of the ocean from the restaurant and pool area. The chefs whip up delicious meals that make it really hard to choose on a dish. In the evenings, activities like quiz nights are offered and at night you fall asleep to the sound of the jungle. The Bambuda Lodge is a magical place with a super relaxed atmosphere and special community. Definitely one of the highlights of our trip. Don’t miss out on that experience!

#5 Go hiking in the jungle up to the Hospital Point

From the Bambuda Lodge you can take a jungle hike to a small beach on the northern tip of the island. The hike is easy to moderately difficult and just plain fun. We enjoyed exploring the lush green island while listening to the sounds of the jungle. If you’re observant, you’ll probably spot some of the famous tiny red frogs on your way. The hike leads to a small, but beautiful, pristine and secluded beach. A dip in the cool water is the best reward after the hike and will give you the momentum you need for the way back. Don’t forget to rent rubber boots at the lodge, as it can get muddy in some parts of the hike.

#6 Dare to ride the 150 ft water slide of the Bambuda Lodge

The giant yellow water slide is the first thing you will see when you arrive on the island by water cab. It leads from the upper main area of the lodge in 150 ft directly into the sea. Enjoy the ride! Make sure to get enough water running on the slide beforehand!

#7 Explore Bocas del Toro by Stand-Up Paddle

Rent boards at the lodge and try a round of stand-up paddling around the island! This way you can see the island from a different perspective and get some exercise in at the same time.

#8 Dive into the history of the Bambuda Lodge

You will find a few books scattered around the property, in which the owners give an insight into the history of the lodge. I could not take my eyes off of this book! The story of the two founders is inspiring and probably the best reading material for your stay at Bambuda Lodge. Don’t forget to look up every now and then and enjoy this incomparable view. 

ISLA BASTIMIENTOS

#9 Explore the Isla Bastimientos Marine National Park

Wild is the word that best describes Bastimientos in my eyes. Wild in the sense of: wild and untouched nature. The marine national park of Isla Bastimientos encloses most of the island and is home to numerous plant and animal species. Surrounded by mangrove forests, even the water cab ride to Bastimientos is a highlight. If you’re lucky, you might spot a sloth in the intertwined mangroves. Did you know that sloths are extremely good swimmers?

#10 Spend a beach day at the beautiful Red Frog Beach

Isla Bastimientos is best known for the Red Frog Beach, which is named after the tiny red frogs in this region. You can reach the south side of the island by water cab. From here you cross a beautiful jungle path that leads you to Red Frog Beach. The environment is just so untouched and pristine. It is therefore worth taking a walk along the beach. At the viewpoint Mirador Publico de Red Frog you also get a great view over the bay. 

How to get to Bocas del Toro and continue your travels to Panama City or Boquete

These 10 best things to do in Bocas del Toro will make your stay in northern Panama unforgettable. From here you can travel further south and explore the green highlands of Panama in and around Boquete. To do so, take the ferry from Bocas Town to Almirante. From here a bus will take you to David and from David another bus to Boquete. Alternatively, you can take a night bus from Almirante to Panama City. If you have more time and plan a longer trip, you can also plan an onward journey from Bocas to Costa Rica.

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