Adoration 4 Adventure’s 3 day itinerary for Bocas del Toro, Panama by A4A guest writer, Darrell Whaley.
Just south of the Costa Rican border, on the Caribbean side of Panama, sits a piece of paradise. The province of Bocas del Toro consist of multiple islands and is considered Panama’s top destination. Here you can experience everything from wildlife, beautiful beaches, snorkeling, surfing, and so much more.
On our recent trip through Central America, Chantell and I heard so much about Bocas del Toro from other travelers we came across. Bocas soon was included to our list of places to visit along the way. Although Bocas del Toro has enough to keep you busy for weeks, we elected to stay 4 full days. One of the days we were there, we were rained out, which happens in the rainy season. Because of this, our recommended itinerary is for three days of serene beaches, relaxation, and sloths!
Day 1: Isla Colon
Bocas Town is a perfect hub to explore the area. Set on the southern tip of Isla Colon, the main town of the islands host numerous hotels, bars, and restaurants serving cuisine from around the world. From here it is possible to rent bikes to roam around the island, take a shuttle to one of the many beaches, or a boat taxi to a nearby island.
Starfish Beach (Playa Estrella)
Playa Estrella, known as Starfish Beach, is one of the many beaches on Isla Colon. Easily accessible by local bus or shuttle (we chose the shuttle because it was leaving quicker) to Playa Boca del Drago, it is a 30 minute ride away from Bocas Town. Upon reaching Boca del Drago, walk along the path next to the water and reach the unique Starfish Beach within 20 minutes.
In the banks of the water, not 15 feet from the shore, you will be able to see starfish living in their natural habitat. The clear water makes it possible to see starfish of every color while wading through the ocean. Seeing as these creatures are in their natural habitat, they should be only viewed and not touched. There are many signs posted that do say not to touch the starfish, yet people ignore these signs and endanger the marine life this beach has been named for. If you see this happening, feel free to remind the guests (either in Spanish or English).
It is possible to spend the entire day at Playa Estrella. Lined up and down the beach are restaurants with some offering beach side service including beach chairs with umbrellas. There are also options without any fee, with open space on the sand to lie a towel on and enjoy the view.
Day 2: Tour from Bocas Town
There are multiple tours leaving daily from Bocas Town, each including their own unique destinations. By taking some time to look at all the options that were available, we found the perfect one for us. One of Chantell’s dreams was to see a sloth in the wild, so this was the starting point for us. Luckily, there is a place called Sloth Island nearby Isla Colon and it was included in part of a tour. We ended up finding a tour including Dolphin Bay, Sloth Island, Hollywood Beach, snorkeling at Crawl Cay, and Cayos Zapatilla.
Our first stop at Dolphin Bay began with an up close experience with a number of dolphins. After a short time all of the dolphins left except a mother and her calf, who seemed to be curious about the boats. They both often swam right up next to the boat and even chased us a bit when we were leaving.
Next we cruised through Hollywood Beach. Here you can lean over the side of the boat and see starfish everywhere! Although a brief site to visit, the ocean looked like glass and the view was incredible. On-wards we went to Sloth Island, in hopes of seeing at least one of these rare creatures. Lucky for us, we saw five different sloths. They are truly unique creatures and it is only possible to see them in this area of the world. Since this was the main reason we went on the tour, we were definitely excited.
Once our boat visit around Sloth Island was over, we made our way to Crawl Cay. Snorkeling in Crawl Cay is a good experience to see the local fish and coral life, but don’t expect it to be as brightly colored as the reefs to the north near Honduras and Belize. Snorkeling here can be a bit of a challenge, as fins are not typically allowed due to the shallow waters. The force from kicking with fins could damage the fragile ecosystem of Crawl Cay, so make sure to be cautious when moving around.
Our final stop for the day was Cayos Zapatilla. This small island has one of the most beautiful beaches in the entire region and is the perfect stop off for a packed lunch and afternoon swim. The tour stopped here for nearly two hours giving plenty of time to explore or just relax.
Day 3: Isla Colon
For our last day in Bocas Del Toro, we wanted to go to the east side of Isla Colon. That morning, we hired bikes from a local shop and rode out towards Playa Bluff. Around eight kilometers from Bocas Town, Playa Bluff is known for its intense waves. However there are some days where the water isn’t too strong to swim out in, which we were lucky to have experienced.
Bluff Beach is seven kilometers of beautiful golden sand facing towards the Atlantic Ocean with nothing in its way. At first we had the entire beach to ourselves at Playa Bluff, which was extremely peaceful. Even with the arrival of a family of three within view far down the beach, we still felt rather secluded here. It’s perfectly possible to make a day of Bluff Beach by bringing along food and drinks by bike or even on the shuttle van from downtown.
Sun Havens Apartments and Suites
During our stay in Bocas Town, we stayed at the pleasant Sun Havens Apartments and Suites. Just a short walk away from the docks and main streets, Sun Havens is perfectly situated close to everything, yet far enough away to have a peaceful nights rest. There are multiple options for room sizes, accommodating as little as two people or as large as six.
Our apartment at Sun Havens included many amenities uncommon to the island, such as high speed WiFi and hot water. It also included air conditioning, a large flat screen TV with cable, and a full kitchen which we took advantage of to save on some money. Daily cleaning is available for a nominal fee.
Tomaso, the owner of Sun Havens, was such a hospitable host and a fountain of knowledge on the entire area. He always had the best suggestions on where to go, what to see, and even where to eat. When we first arrived, it had been a long journey with us setting off from San Jose, Costa Rica. Tomaso was waiting for our arrival and quickly showed us to our room to rest up after our long day. Even after we rested a little, he made us a “welcome smoothie” filled with fresh fruits from around the island. It was a perfect introduction to our stay in Bocas and a welcome refresher after a hot day. Tomaso always went out of his way to make sure we had a worry free and amazing stay.
Location: Sun Havens Apartments and Suites, Calle 6a y Avenida Norte, Bocas del Toro, Panama
Budget breakdown: Bocas del Toro
All costs are quoted for two people and in the local currency (USD). See below for the average daily spend per person including currency conversion to AUD. We always try to find and negotiate the best prices to share with our readers. If you know of a better deal, tell us about it in the comments below.
Accommodation: Sun Havens Apartments and Suites offers multiple room choices for different group sizes. For the full list of accommodations and current prices, please refer to Apartments and Suites.
Food: We purchased groceries and bottled water from local supermarkets. For a couple of meals, we ate out at local restaurants and bakeries, and we had one nicer meal with friends we made on our tour. ($86.41 USD)
Activities: Bocas del Toro Tour ($60 USD).
Transport: Water taxi to Bocas Town from the mainland ($10 USD). Bike Rental ($9 USD). Roundtrip shuttle to Bocas del Drago ($10 USD).
Average daily spend: $29.24 USD each ($39.05 AUD as of July 20, 2016) excluding accommodation.
Adoration 4 Adventure were complimentary guests of Sun Havens Apartments and Suites. Our opinions are our own and will always remain unbiased in order to provide the best recommendations to our readers.
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