International travel to Costa Rica has resumed! Find out more ➼

Bocas del Toro, Panama

A series of islands with the coolest vibe!
bocas del toro
bocas del toro

Grab a free copy of our Costa Rica guide

The Bocas del Toro Vibe

Bocas del Toro is a total Central America tropical paradise. The area consists of several small islands with the main island being Isla Colon. Most people stay on Isla Colon for convenience, but the other islands are great if you want a relaxed vibe away from all the action.

This area is known for its vibrant culture, stunning beaches, lush rainforests, and amazing surfing.

It is estimated that 95% of the economy in Bocas del Toro comes from tourism.

The water is crystal clear and filled with beautiful starfish.
There’s definitely a backpacker vibe here, but honestly, I think you could find something for everyone.

We absolutely fell in love with Bocas del Toro and recommend it to everyone we meet, so please visit! I promise you’ll be obsessed.

Now on to the rest of the Bocas del Toro, Panama travel guide!

bocas del toro
bocas del toro
bocas del toro
bocas del toro

Bocas del Toro Transportation

Getting to Bocas

The best way to get to Bocas del Toro is by taking the Mepe bus from San Jose, Cahuita, or Puerto Viejo. We wrote all about our experience taking the bus and how to do it in our complete guide for crossing the border from Costa Rica into Panama.

Although the Mepe bus is definitely the cheapest option, it can be a bit of a stressful journey. The bus ride is about six hours long (from San Jose) with only one stop. You then have to do the whole border crossing on your own and then find a taxi to take you to where a boat can take you to Bocas.

Tip: A private shuttle to the border is always a great option. Find out more here.


Getting Around in Bocas

While in Bocas del Toro you will depend mostly on the boats. The local water taxis will be happy to take you between islands.

However, it can be pricey after a while to be hopping between islands all the time.

To get a water taxi, just head to the docks in Bocas Town or ask your hotel to arrange a water taxi for you. 

Bocas del Toro Map

The Bocas del Toro Province consists of several different islands. Here is a map of the islands so you can get a slightly better idea of how things are situated. Hover over each location on the map for more information.

Things to Do in Bocas del Toro

Go kayaking: The waters around Isla Colon (the main area in Bocas) are calm enough to kayak in.

We rented kayaks from our hotel, but if your hotel does not have kayaks just ask at the front desk. I’m sure they can direct you to a good place to rent one.

We paid $10 for a few hours.

The water is so incredibly clear that you can see huge starfish just chilling on the ground.

Go snorkeling: Because the water is so clear you can just jump in and swim around to see starfish and amazing fishies.

Take a day tour: The highlight of any trip to Bocas del Toro is definitely taking a day tour. Our favorite tour is the one that goes to Dolphin Bay, Zapatilla Island, Sloth Island, and has a stop for snorkeling.

 There are plenty of shops in downtown Isa Colon that run tours but, also ask at your hotel. Sometimes the hotels partner with local companies and you can get a discount.

Go daytime bar hopping: I’ve never enjoyed bar hopping as much as I did in Bocas del Toro.

We went with a tour (which was amazing, but I don’t think it’s running anymore). However, if you are feeling crazy you can check out the Filthy Friday tour.

Or, you can easily create your own tour. Definitely go to Aqua Lounge, Bibi’s, Boca’s Brewery and The Blue Coconut. Oh and don’t forget to wear your bathing suit!

Go partying: The nightlife scene in Bocas del Toro is on point. Isla Colon is the perfect place to bar/club hop at night.

Rent an e-bike: Bocas Bikes has e-bikes for rent for $40 for a full day (9am-6pm). They are a super great company and will help you out so that everything is adjusted properly.

They can also give you tips on where to go, but I say definitely head to Playa Bluff.

Enjoy the beaches: If you would like to spend a day of natural beauty on a nice white sand beach, Zapitillo is always the best, but Red Frog Beach on Isla Bestimentos and Starfish Beach are also great hang out spots. 

bocas del toro
bocas del toro
bocas del toro
bocas del toro

Bocas del Toro Hotels

When visiting Bocas del Toro we suggest picking a hotel based on where you want to stay. As I mentioned before, Isla Colon is the most popular place to stay because it is the main island. We have also stayed on Isla Carenero as well as at Red Frog Beach.

Isla Carenero was not the nicest island but we actually liked it a lot. Plus it is only $5 from here to get to Isla Colon by boat.

Red Frog Beach is nice if you want to just stay put in one place. The beaches are nice but if you want to get to Isla Colon the boat costs $8 per person. This can add up fast.

High-End Hotels

La Loma Jungle LodgeA really unique jungle lodge with a chocolate farm attached. This lodge is all-inclusive. 

Eclypse de Mar Aqua LodgeThis place does have more mid-range hotels, but if you want a real luxury experience, stay at one of the overwater bungalows here. 

Mid-Range Hotels

Villa F&BModern rooms with an ocean view located on Isla Solerta. There is a restaurant, bar, and pool on the property.

Bocas CondosApartments located in downtown Isla Colon. The apartments are simple but have a full kitchen, air conditioning, and a small patio.

Stay BocasSimple but modern rooms in downtown Isla Colon. Air conditioning and breakfast are included.

Budget Hotels

Bambuda LodgeSuper nice hostel with a pool and water slide into the ocean. This place is located on Isla Solarte. 

Hostel MamallenaA really fun hostel with a nice dock for jumping in the water. Located on Isla Colon.

Bocas del Toro Restaurants


Azul Restaurant: I’m not exaggerating when I say this is one of the best meals I have ever eaten in my entire life. For $20 you get a six-course tasting menu. You can choose the vegetarian menu or regular menu.

The menu changes almost nightly so technically you could go here every night of your trip. Go on the first night and I’m sure you’ll go back.

Oh and we suggest making a reservation because as word spreads this place is starting to fill up fast!

Leaf Eaters Cafe: Vegetarian and vegan food heaven. Seriously amazing! This is our go-to lunch spot.

Skully’s: A delicious beachfront restaurant that always feels like a party. 

The Firefly Restaurant: A delicious restaurant with a variety of menu options. Everything here is very fresh and thoughtfully prepared. A great dinner date spot.


Cafe del Mar: Perfect place for your morning coffee or a nice sandwich lunch. I love the vibe here.

Falafel Bocas: Wonderful relaxed falafel and shwarma place. A great lunch or dinner spot.  

Ciao Pizza: Super delicious wood fire pizza. They have great toppings like artichoke hearts and sundried tomatoes. 

Articles About Bocas del Toro

You Might Also Enjoy Visiting…

puerto viejo

Puerto Viejo is a popular backpacker destination near the Panama border. There are tons of nice beaches around here. 


Cahuita is a nice beach town that is home to one of our favorite national parks. It is a great spot to see tons of wildlife!

Santa Teresa is a popular town with backpackers and surfers. There are tons of fun restaurants and beach bars here. 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *