Bocas Del Toro, Panama

 

Pocket Travel Guide: Bocas del Toro

Neighborhoods: There are three main areas to stay in Bocas del Toro. Isla de Colon, Isla Carenero, and Isla Bastimentos. You can get a different experience if you stay at any of these parts of Bocas, just depending what you want.

-Isla de Colon: Where the party is at and most of the restaurants, bars, and stores. There are places to stay in town and on the water that are very affordable. The town is definitely a fun place to be at night, but we preferred to stay in a quieter environment. By far our favorite place to stay in on Isla Colon is Tesoro Escondido. It's a bit of a drive away from town on a dirt road on the way to Bluff Beach, but completely worth it. The Eco Lodge is surrounded by trees and beautiful beaches and a short walk to many surf spots. 

-Isla Carenero: Definitely the sleepier Island of Bocas. We enjoyed our time spent on this island in an adorable above-water bungalow at Careening Cay Resort. BEWARE! We read numerous warnings of the mosquitos on this island and didn't take the precautions we should have. This island does have a lot more mosquitoes and No-see-ums, called (chitres) than the other islands. Bug sprays don't necessarily help, so at dusk and in the evening, wear pants or a long skirt to avoid the experience I had.

-Bastimentos: This island is has a Rasta feel to it and feels like you're miles away from Panama. Most of the locals on this island speak a Creole English. This is a cool island to stay on if you want to be slightly removed. We enjoyed staying here for 4 nights then were ready to move onto the next. The thing that stood out to us on this island though was the food!! There's quite a few little restaurants on this island that had some of the best food we've had on the trip.

Lodging: 

-Careening Cay Resort: This awesome little resort has the most adorable over water bungalows with private bathroom and AC for a decent price. It's a short walk to the surf breaks and beautiful beaches on the other side of Carenaro and 2 minute boat ride to Isla Colon. They also have a great restaurant with an incredible view for the sunset. Oh, and an insane happy hour with pretty stiff margaritas! 

-Tesoro Escondido: A surfer's dream AND your girlfriend's paradise. Rooms for $45-55/night with incredible views, walking distance to some of the best surf breaks and beaches on the island, and cook your own meals in the kitchen. It is a bit out of the way from any restaurants and the town so it's best to buy groceries and cook meals or get dinner while you're out before you head back for the night.

-The Firefly: We didn't get a chance to stay here, because they were completely booked for a few months, but we had the chance to hang at the boutique hotel and really want to stay our next trip to Bocas. This upscale boutique hotel is by far the coolest place on Bastimentos. It's on the pricier side for a night's stay (and worth it) so if you're on a budget and can't afford it, just stop in for a cocktail, dinner, or yoga on their deck.

 -Tio Toms: We stayed at Tio Toms our first few nights in Bocas and have no complaints. It's a room over the water with private bathroom, windows, a fan, mosquito net, and that's about it. It's very basic but if you're looking for a budget stay, it's a good option for about $35/night. The food from their kitchen is surprisingly really good too! 

Food/Drink:

Try the street food. The empanadas are the best (if they're fresh) and steak kabobs too for $1-3.

-Raw Fusion: This place has probably some of the best sushi rolls we've had on the entire trip. They have an awesome happy hour from 3-5pm that CAN'T BE MISSED! (Drinks=2-for-1, Food=$5/roll)

-Taco Surf: This is definitely one of the most popular spots on Isla Colon for a reason. Really good tacos, bowls and burritos for a good price AND scrumptious cocktails made this place one of our favorite places on the trip. Get the Ginger Margarita!!! (Drinks=$5, Food=$3-10)

-Paki Point: A nice place to lay out on the beach road to get a smoothie and wait while your boyfriend surfs. (Drinks=$5-10)

-Bocas Brewery: A cool local brewery that makes their own beer. Nice to stop in for a drink on the way back from the beach. (Drinks=$5)

-Om Cafe: A little pricey for a dinner in Panama, but worth it. Go here if you're craving Indian food! (Drinks=$3-7, Food=$10-15)

-Coco Hill: Some of the best vegetarian food we've had in a long time! They only use organic products and grow all the produce in their garden so the menu varies. Definitely a must on Bastimentos! Plus the view is incredible. (Food=$8-12)

-Chavela: Best burgers on Bastimentos and only $5! Also amazing fish and Pina Coladas. (Drinks $5-8, $5-10)

-Ciao Pizza: Best pizza in Bocas! It's out of the way, so best to go on your way back to town from the beach. Although it may take a while to get your food, it's completely worth it. All of the pizza is wood fired pizza and melts in your mouth. Get the house made hummus while you wait too! And watch out for the families of monkeys overhead! (Drinks=$3-5, Food=$8-15)

-Selina Hostel: Probably the most popular place to drink for the young backpacker crowd on Isla Colon. Good cocktails, live music sometimes, and a nice atmosphere for a sunset. (Drinks $3-7)

Transportation: Boat taxis from island to island are about $2-3/person each way and more at night $5+. Once you're on land, you can walk to most destinations on all of the islands with the exception to the beaches towards Playa Bluff. You'll need to take a truck taxi which will cost you about $7.50 from Bocas Town. There's a Bocas-Playa Bluff shuttle that leaves from the town square for $3.50 a seat. Renting bikes on Isla Colon is also a cheap option.

Activities: Surfing, obviously, is one of the main attractions in Bocas del Toro. On Isla Colon: Bluff: powerful, consistent beachbreak close to shore. Paunch: Right/Left reefbreak. Dumpers: Shallow Left reefbreak. Tiger Tails: Righthander reefbreak  Isla Carenero: Carenero Lefts: Lefthander reefbreak