7 Fun & Affordable Activities In Bocas Del Toro, Panama
December 13, 2019
If you’re planning on visiting Bocas del Toro, I can already tell you that you’re in for an adventure. From spotting dolphins in the wild to exploring deserted islands: Bocas del Toro has a lot more activities to offer than just baking in the sun on a tropical beach (although there’s plenty of opportunities for that, too).
Bocas del qué? Before I get into the guide, I’ll quickly catch you up on everything you need to know, in case you’ve never heard of this place before. Bocas del Toro is both a province of Panama as well as the main town of Isla Colón (Bocas Town). However, it usually refers to the entire island group on the northwest coast (the Bocas del Toro Archipelago). The archipelago consists out of hundreds of small, Caribbean islands, most of them uninhabited. Isla Colón (Columbus himself explored the area around the year 1500) is the one with the most inhabitants and it’s where you’ll find all of the hotels, restaurants and other touristy things.
I spent a week in a little tent on the main island (check out my diary entry & daily routine). Since there are SO many things to do, it can be a bit overwhelming to choose an activity, as you obviously have no clue yet what’s worth your time and money (if you come unprepared like me, that is). Therefore, I’ve put together a guide for you about the most fun and affordable activities in Bocas del Toro!
The Most FUN & Affordable Activities in Bocas Del Toro!
1. TAKE A TAXI BOAT TO ISLA BASTIMENTOS
On our first day we had no idea yet what we wanted to do! It was already too late to book a proper tour, so we decided to explore the nearest and cheapest destination, Isla Bastimentos. It ended up being a really fun and relaxed trip!
After 15 minutes on a taxi boat, which is already an experience in itself, we arrived. The first thing we saw were some little kids fishing on the dock, using chicken as bait. Only in the Caribbean! We quickly realised that the ‘front’ of the island was a very limited area. Swimming was possible, but the bit of sand that was there could hardly be called a beach. It’s also not the place to hike, as you’ll soon be stopped by impenetrable jungle.
There was a nice relaxing atmosphere though, very different than the hustle and bustle of Isla Colón. We found a cute place to have some drinks and enjoyed the amazing ocean view. The sky was dark and it started raining when we left, but this only added to the adventure! I would say this is the perfect laidback activity to get into the swing of things at the start of your trip.
Price: $4 boat (return)
2. VISIT RED FROG BEACH
Exploring Red Frog Beach was definitely my favourite activity out of all of them! In fact, I dedicated an entire blog post to this amazing place. I was sceptical at first, because the boat ride was $10 + there was a $5 entrance fee. But wow, did it exceed my expectations! Red Frog Beach may be the prettiest beach I’ve ever seen in my life and I’m not exaggerating this time.
Price: $10 boat (return) + $5 park entrance
3. BIKE AROUND ISLA COLÓN
We were lucky enough to get free bikes from our Airbnb, but you can rent them pretty much anywhere on the island! I much preferred biking instead of walking around town, as you get a bit of a breeze (it does get very hot) and obviously it’s a lot quicker. The beach closest to Isla Colón isn’t the best for swimming, but it’s the perfect place to chill out in the shade. You can also visit Playa Bluff (about a 40 min. bike ride), which I now regret skipping, because it looks pretty gorgeous. Or, if your fitness levels allow it, you can bike all the way to Playa Estrella. Although that would probably take about 1h30 and you can take the bus, just saying.
Price: 5-10$ for bikes
4. WATCH THE SUNSET OVER THE BAY
Finding the perfect place to watch the sunset may be a little tricky, but the view is definitely worth it. If your hotel doesn’t have sea view, head to the beach or have dinner in one of the many waterfront restaurants. I’m telling you, when the sun sets the sky on fire and the water becomes really quiet, it’s like you’re at the edge of the world. Magical!
5. GO ON A TOUR TO ISLA ZAPATILLA
I don’t think you can escape tour companies plaguing you the minute you set foot on Isla Colón… Of course, they all offer the most spectacular sights for the best prices. We usually try to get to places by ourselves, but in this case it was simply not possible, unless you have your own sail boat (one day…). Eventually, we booked a tour for $30 that promised us lots of amazing experiences. Unfortunately, I did not feel like I got what I payed for. To give you an example: they made it seem like we would see dolphins jump out of the water right in front of our eyes, but we only saw them VERY briefly from very far away. Still pretty cool to witness, but keep in mind that these tour companies aren’t afraid to exaggerate.
Luckily, Isla Zapatilla almost made up for all of it. This tiny tropical island was without a doubt the highlight of my trip. Once again, I felt like I’d stumbled into a Pirates of the Caribbean movie, specifically into the scene where Jack and Lizzie are stuck on a deserted island (no rum to be found though). If you’re looking to save money, I’d suggest booking a tour that goes directly to Isla Zapatilla (I’ve heard you can get there for about 20-25$)! Still a little pricy, but I believe it’s worth it, and if you’ve never been on a deserted island before, this is your chance!
Price: from 20$
6. HIKE AROUND BOCAS DEL DRAGO
I love when you’re planning a trip somewhere and are completely focused on the destination, but then the way there ends up being just as wonderful. This happened when we took the bus to visit Playa Estrella. They dropped us off in a place called Bocas del Drago, from which it was still a 20 minute walk to the beach. What a beautiful hiking path! Expect many tall, swaying palm trees next to a calm sea in every shade of green and turquoise.
Price: $5 bus (return)
7. SPOT STARFISH AT PLAYA ESTRELLA
Playa Estrella (or Starfish Beach) is such a unique place! As the name suggest, starfish are scattered across the sand in knee-deep water, so you can spot them really well. You’ll see people carefully treading through the water, peering into the sand, trying to spot the biggest one. It’s really cool, but please do not touch them. I’ve heard that there are less starfish each year because so many tourists pick them up to take pictures, causing them to die 🙁
Price: $5 bus (return)
I hope my list of activities gave you some inspiration if you’re planning to go to Bocas Del Toro! And if not, I hope you’ve enjoyed reading what I was up to when I was there 🙂 Either way, let me know what you think in the comments!
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