Why visit Bocas del Toro?
Bocas del Toro has everything that Panama has to offer: mountains, cloud forests, mangrove-lined coasts, secluded white sand beaches, uninhabited islands, adventure, relaxation, a wealth of biodiversity, and a well-established travel industry. Bocas del Toro is one of Panama’s premier travel destinations, and yet it still manages to remain ‘off-the-beaten-path’.
When should I visit?
Bocas del Toro is a tropical destination and tends to have more rain than other parts of Panama. This is what keep Bocas green and full of life, but our high season (December through March) is wetter than the rest of the year so don’t forget to pack a light rain jacket or a small umbrella. The sea is also rough during these months, which is perfect for surfers, but not so great for divers or beach loungers.
If you’re looking to hit the nightlife in Bocas Town you will want come during the busier season, when you might stumble into live reggae performances, traveling bands, or midnight cruises.
The driest and calmest months of the year are in September and October during Bocas’ low-season, so not only will divers and beach-goers be treated with high visibility and blue skies, but you will also beat the crowds and you might find more bargains in town for hotel rooms and tours. Just be prepared, September and October tend to be the hottest and driest months in Bocas.
What should I take with me?
Make sure to bring a sweater. Even though we are in the Caribbean, you will be surprised as to how chilly it can get on those rainy days. Sunblock, large hats, and long-sleeve shirts will protect you from the sun; Bocas specializes in roasting those visitors who say, “I don’t burn, I just get a tiny bit pink and then it turns into a tan.”
Mosquito repellent is a must. The chitras, tiny little biting flies that pack a wallop, have trouble getting through a layer of coconut oil, so stop by a local store to buy some and shine yourself up before hitting the beaches.
Light rain jackets or umbrellas are very useful to keep the body dry while you walk around or boat around on those misty rainy days. If you are packing super light you could also just carry around a good sturdy plastic bag for any passports, cameras, phones, or other sensitive items and then just get wet as nature intended.
Make sure you pack a good attitude. In the Caribbean, things might take longer to happen, plans may change, rains could park over the islands and make themselves at home, and the ATM, the electricity, the internet, and even the water service could run out on you at times. This is all part of your trip so take it as the material for a good story and you will enjoy your stay a lot more.
Banks? Traveler checks? Credit cards? How should I carry money around Bocas?
There is one bank here and two ATMs. Major credit cards are only accepted in a few restaurants, hotels, and stores. Panama uses the U.S. dollar as its currency, and it’s better to always carry cash around in a safe place, and try and travel with small bills.
How do I arrive to Bocas del Toro?
There are two ways to arrive:
Air Panama from Albrook Airport in Panama City has two flights daily, and will sometimes add more flights during the high season. There are also direct flights from Tocumen Airport several times a week, check with Air Panama for the latest schedule and rates.
Nature Air from Pavas Airport in San Jose, CR flies to Bocas del Toro 3 to 4 times a week depending on the time of year.
From Panama City: There are direct buses from Panama City that leave 2 to 3 times per day from Albrook Terminal and stop at the bus stop in Almirante for $28 per person. From the bus stop in Almirante you will need to take a taxi to the water taxis for about $1 per person and then take a water taxi for about $5 per person to Isla Colon. Don’t forget to bring a decent jacket or blanket; these buses are famous for turning up the AC to the point of refrigeration.
From David, Chiriqui: There are also regular buses that leave from David, Chiriqui about every hour from the bus terminal to the bus stop in Almirante for about $8.50 per person. From the bus stop in Almirante you will need to take a taxi to the water taxis for about $1 per person and then take a water taxi for about $5 per person to Isla Colon.
From San Jose, Costa Rica: The Bocatoreño bus leaves from in front of the Hotel Cocorí in downtown San Jose just half a block (or 50 metros in San Jose speak) from the Alfaro Bus Terminal at 9AM every day. The bus costs $14 per person and takes you to Changuinola. You will have to walk across the Sixaola bridge and pass the immigrations on both the Costa Rican side and the Panamanian side of the border, but you will not have to take you luggage off the bus. From Changuinola you can either take a bus to the water taxis in Almirante for $1.45 per person or you can take a taxi for about $10 – $15 per person. Then take a water taxi for about $5 per person to Isla Colon.
Emergency Contact Numbers:
Ambulance/ Bocas del Toro Hospital: 757 9201
Police: 104 / 757 9217 / 757 9485
Air Panama: 757 9841