It's hard to imagine nicer beaches than Bocas del Toro, Panama. Fine white sand and clear turquoise waters offered seemingly to only you as there's just a handful of other beach goers around; a tranquil and seductive paradise.
One amazing thing about traveling is meeting other travelers who have been where you want to go or where you are going next. You get expert advice plus it makes you even more excited to eventually make your way there!
This is exactly how I felt about visiting Bocas del Toro, Panama.
Tales of tropical islands, exotic wildlife, calming ocean waves, and unpopulated beaches to explore by bike or boat preceded this little Caribbean town.
While traveling south through Central America, I wasn’t sure if I was going to be able to make it to Panama. I preferred "slow travel", spending a week or so in one town or city instead of just a few nights - I could barely rip myself away from Lake Atitlan, Guatemala after a month there!
I am so thankful I was able to make it to Bocas del Toro because the beaches here are perhaps the best I have ever seen in my life.
From Puerto Viejo, Costa Rica I set off for the border and made my way to Bocas del Toro. The charm of the town is immediately recognizable with its's colorful houses prompt up on stilts above the water.
Even though it rained here and there as the tropics are known for, I spent practically all day, every day blissfully enjoying a different beach.
Guide to Exploring the Beaches of Bocas del Toro, Panama
Bocas del Toro is a collection of a few islands in the Caribbean coast of northeastern Panama including;
- Isla Colon - The main island of Bocas del Toro with the main town, aptly called Bocas Town.
- Isla Carenero - The closest island to Isla Colon. It's quite small you can hike around the island in about an hour.
- Isla Bastimento - The second largest, and second most popular island to stay on.
- San Cristobal -
- Isla Solarte - Located just west of Isla Bastimento, is home to some of Bocas del Toro's best snorkel and dive spots.
...and several more islands.
From the mainland you will take a boat to main town, Bocas Town, on Isla Colon. Once in Bocas Town, you can take another boat taxi to one of the other islands.
We decided to stay to stay on Isla Colon and use it as a base, which I'm so happy about since my two favorite beaches were on Isla Colon!
The second largest and second most popular island is Isla Bastimento. It’s a quick 5-minute boat taxi ride from the main Isla Colon.
Playa Bluff on Isla Colon, Bocas del Toro
Playa Bluff is a beach roughly 6 miles (10 km) away from Bocas town on Isla Colon.
To get there, you only need to follow the coastline, therefore I highly recommend renting bikes and riding to Playa Bluff since it’s flat on the coast.
It’s mostly a paved road, however the second half is rocky and requires some effort. This bit of challenge makes for great exercise to and from the beach. Once you arrive at the beach, you’ll notice it’s pretty empty and vast.
Playa Bluff is the largest beach on the main island of Isla Colon.
There were only 4 other people on it when we arrived, and only a handful more showed up during the day.
TRAVELER'S TIP: On the way back from the beach, stop at Skully’s for a drink and to play a beachfront game. They've got showers, so you can rinse off too!
Playa Bocas del Drago on Isla Colon, Bocas del Toro
Bocas del Drago beach is on the north west side of Isla Colon, you cannot get here by bicycle. We asked, we tried. Don't do it.
We took a bus, which was more like a collectivo or a van ride-share type. It was about a 45 minute drive to Bocas del Drago. As we were driving it was evident that you cannot bike here! The roads are bumpy and difficult to peddle, but also lots of hills.
We went to Bocas del Drago beach to spend the day at Playa Estrella or as it’s more commonly known, Starfish Beach. When the bus dropped us off we immediately walked in the direction of Starfish beach.
Playa Estrella / Starfish Beach on Isla Colon, Bocas del Toro
I had heard so much about this beach before arriving in Bocas del Toro and was thrilled to get to see it for myself.
Starfish beach, and the walk here from Bocas del Drago beach is one of the most beautiful beach walks I have every seen! That’s saying a lot since I’ve spent lots of time in Hawaii, Greece, Croatia, Spain, the South of France, Mexico, Florida and many more beach destinations!
Its roughly a 30-45 minute walk left (south) of Bocas del Drago beach.
It’s named after the starfish that live here. I saw about a dozen starfish, but I’ve been told that once you could see hundreds here! When I did a quick Google search of Startfish beach and saw pictures of people touching the starfish it’s no wonder they’re leaving!
Red Frog Beach on Isla Bastimentos, Bocas del Toro
Located on Isla Bastimentos near Red Frog Beach Resort, arguably the most spectacular resorts in Panama. Each villa is luxuriously equipped and surrounded by jungle, fruit trees and one of the best beaches in Panama.
It's about a 15 minute boat ride to Isla Bastimentos. When you land, you must pay the national park to go through to the other side of the island to spend the day on the beach. It's well worth it!
You walk through jungle, with opportunity to see animals like caymans, goats, and the red dart frog in which the beach is named after.
There are many really delicious places to grab lunch on this beach so you don't have to do any planning!
And for a only few bucks you can rent lounge chairs under umbrellas for the day.
Cayos Zapatillas, Bocas del Toro
No mention of beaches of Bocas del Toro can be complete without discussing the pristine beaches of Cayos Zapatillas (Zapatillas Cayes).
These are a collection of two islands roughly a 1 hour boat ride from Isla Colon. It remains as a day trip since there is no accommodations on the island. I highly recommend visiting Cayos Zapatillas, with it’s white sand beaches and crystal clear turquoise waters that disappear into the horizon.
Carenero Beach on Isla Carenero, Bocas del Toro
Playa Carenero is located on Isla Carenero, just a 5-10 minute boat taxi ride away, making it extremely accessible. The small stretch of white sand beach sits next to luch green jungle and is known for an delicious assortment of food! I didn’t get a chance to go here, but it comes highly recommended.
Paki Point on Isla Colon, Bocas del Toro
On the way to Playa Bluff you'll pass by Paki Point. This is such a great place to stop for a few beers or lunch in the sun. Since Tiger Tails surf break is in view, it's a great place to get out and surf or to watch the action!
Costa Azul Beach on Isla Colon, Bocas del Toro
Also on Isla Colon, you can take a quick walk or bike ride from Bocas town and head to Costa Azul beach. At only 3.5 km away from the center of town, it will take you only 15 minutes to walk there but you’ll feel miles away from “city life”.
TRAVELER'S TIP: Rent bikes early (or even the night before) and head to Costa Azul beach, continue on to Playa Bluff to spend the better part of the day. As you're heading back towards town, stop at Paki Point beach for beers and lunch. Then stop again at Skully's to finish off the afternoon!
Are you dying to enjoy the blissful beaches of Bocas del Toro, Panama?
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