Bocas dek Toro

Paradise Caribbean Islands Bocas del Toro (Panama): How to Get There and What to Do

It is not so easy to decide on the route around Central America: there is too much to see. This is why we were not sure about the Bocas del Toro archipelago when planning the itinerary, but it was a totally right decision to go there. The island is great not just due to its beaches, but also because of the unique flora, fauna, and paradise landscapes.
Bocas del Toro

How to get there

Getting to the island is not so easy. You have to take the night bus from Panama City to go to Almirante, and then take a boat to the main island. We could not buy the tickets for the direct bus to Almirante: first, the ticket office was closed, and then all the tickets were sold out. We had to choose another, more complicated variant of getting to Bocas del Toro: a bus to David with a change to another bus to Almirante there. We arrived in David at 4.30 AM. To remind, David is one of the most dangerous cities in Panama, which is why its bus station was not the most enjoyable place ever. But we did not have to spend a lot of time there: the change to Almirante came really fast. Unlike the Panama City – David bus, the bus to Almirante was old, the AC did not work, and the driver kept opening the windows, which is why it was really cold. We also stopped for a breakfast. When paying at the end of our trip, the driver raised the ticket price suddenly (the locals still paid a different price), but as soon as we expressed our surprise in front of local passengers and the driver, the price went back to normal.
On the arrival, we met a lot of boat agents, greeting us as “Amigo” and offering their services. The boat trip costs 6 dollars; there is also a cheaper ferry available, but it does not commute too often. It took us 30 minutes to get to the island by the boat.
Getting to the island

Caribbean Islands

Caribbean Islands

Here we are, at Bocas del Toro mooring.
Bocas del Toro

Getting back is pretty similar: a boat from Bocas del Toro to Almirante, and then a bus to Panama City or the border with Costa Rica, as in our case. We paid 4 dollars for the boat to the mainland (on some reason it was cheaper that the first ride), 1.75 dollars for Almirante – Changuinola bus, and 1 dollar for the transfer to the border. The direct transfer to the border with Costa Rica is also available for 17 euros from Bocas del Toro or for 10 dollars from Almirante. We spent a night in Almirante hotel Cristobal Colon: 10 dollars per room, very basic, but with clean sheets. Local roosters woke us up early in the morning, but we believe that there was no escape from them in the expensive hotel either. We also had the dinner in the very authentic place.

Where to stay in Bocas del Toro

Looking for the hotels on the island turned out very tiring: they are not cheap, and it is better to book them in advance. We stayed in the center, in Hensi Hotel (Calle 2da, Bocas del Toro) kept by a German, and very clean one. It cost 40 dollars for the room with balcony and AC (which we missed) and 35 dollars for the regular room. We also had food in the corner of Calle 2da by the advice of the hotel manager: a portion of meet with noodles or rice was only 5 dollars. The prices in restaurants started with 10 dollars.

What to do

First of all, we went to Bocas del Drago beach. The mini-buses depart there from the main square at Calle 3ra. The price for the minibuses and the municipal bus are the same – 2.5 dollars, but the minibuses are faster and not that crowded (of course, the municipal buses are not that bad either, they are still better than, say, buses in Africa). Go till the final stop and continue walking along the beach.
Bocas del Drago beach

At first, you will have to walk through the jungle.
Panamian beaches

Bocas del Drago beach

But very soon you will get to see the classics of Carribean beach. Coffee, beer, souvenirs – everything you may want is here.
Beaches in Panama

Bocas del Drago beach

Bocas del Drago beach

But the main thing about this beach is the amount of sea stars. Remember that you should not take them out of the water, otherwise they can die.
sea stars

sea stars

You may see even more of sea stars as well as other animals, including sloths, if you go for a sea tour. This is where we went for the whole coming day, and this was one of the best days in the whole trip.
sloth