Bocas Town (Isla Colon), Panama

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Brandonwatson

Help rewrite the guidebook by sharing a backpackers introduction to Bocas Town (Isla Colon). Click here to share your description. If selected, a byline will appear with a link to your website or BF profile.

What to See

Cayos Zapatilla

This beach absolutely blew me away
by Drdang about 6 years ago
This beach absolutely blew me away

Cayos Zapatilla is part of the Bastimentos National Marine Park and consists of two uninhabited islands. Palm trees abound, and there's a coral reef that makes for great snorkeling. The island caretaker even helped us to open a coconut to drink. Look for him in the ranger station at one end of the trail that goes through the island. He's informative and can tell you about the 100-lb hawksbill sea turtles that nest there. We paid $15 (group of 12) for a tour that included the park, a lunch stop at Coral Cay, and Laguna de Los Delfines; and an additional entrance fee to the park ($10/foreigner, $5/student). Bring food, water, and insect repellent. It's beautiful there!!!

Isla De Los Pajaros

Definitely Include Bird Island in Your Custom Boat Tours
by Hacked By of youtube.com/fırlamaadam about 6 years ago
Definitely Include Bird Island in Your Custom Boat Tours

Located just off Isla Colon, about 1-2 miles from Boca del Drago, is one of the most spectacular sights in Bocas. This small islet rises up to 180 feet at its highest point and is lush with vegetation. The protected islet is the exclusive nesting site of the Red-billed Tropicbird and only one of three nesting sites of the Brown Booby. As you approach the island, you'll see birds swirling overhead. Pretty spectacular. You cannot disembark onto the island, though snorkeling is permitted. The island is not too far from Starfish Beach. You could take a boat from Boca del Drago or from Bocas Town.

Playa De Las Estrellas

30 mins from Bocas Town; Worth the Trip
by Hacked By of youtube.com/fırlamaadam about 6 years ago
30 mins from Bocas Town; Worth the Trip

To get to Playa de las Estrelles, take the bus ($5 RT) from Bocas Town. The bus stop is at the central plaza and comes at 7am and then every 2 hrs after 10am. You'll be dropped off in Boca del Drago. From there, you can take a boat ($3 RT) or do the 30-minute walk to Star Beach. The water is calm, warm, and clear. There is probably better snorkeling in Boca del Drago, though, where there is coral not too far from the beach. Bring insect repellent and cash. You can order lunch on the beach ($5 for fried fish w/ patacones). Remember to be back in Boca del Drago by 6:30pm, when the last bus leaves for Bocas Town. Awesome day!!!

What to Do

Biking

Biking In Bocas, Playa Del Drago
by Anon about 6 years ago

While on Isla Colon, the main island, I was able to rent a bicycle downtown from one of the street venders for the entire day for a few American dollars, or Balboas. (same currency, different name) I took the bike along the main drag dirt road that bordered the Island, and up a few side streets that took me across the width of the entire island. The trail took me through the lush forest, where beautiful floral and animal life was at an abundance. I arrived at a fairly secluded beach on the opposite side of the island, away from the hubub of tourism, where I spent the entire afternoon floating in the buoyant, turquoise water. The entire bike trip there and back took me about four hours

Island Hopping

Island Tour - Zapatilla
by Thuan about 5 years ago

For $15-20, you can go on a boat tour to dolphin bay, sloth island, snorkling, and Zapatilla island. Apparently there is a $5 entrance fee for Zapatilla island. Zapatilla is a small beautiful island with clear water and white sand. Warning: dangerous falling coconuts and strong current. A cheap place to book a tour is off the main street. I can't remember company name but it's a small blue house.

Skip the Boat Tour Hawkers and Go with a Sailor
by Mattfromtexas about 7 years ago
Skip the Boat Tour Hawkers and Go with a Sailor

The moment you set foot in Bocas Town you will be swarmed by locals trying to get you to go on an "island tour". These tours include snorkeling, dolphin watching, deserted beach combing, and maybe some fishing. My advice is to pay a little bit more and go with the sailboat tour. A German guy in town named Marcel will take you out. Instead of cramming into a tiny motorboat, you will be lounging on the trampoline-like hammocks between the hulls of a catamaran while Marcel tells crazy stories of 'Wild Bill', women, and other sailor stories. You also go to places that are further off the beaten path as sailboats don't care about burning gas. See more here http://bocassailing.com/.

Where to Stay

General

Bocas Hostels - Updated
by Cameronjdaniel about 4 years ago

There are now quite a few options for hostels and budget accommodation on Isla Colon, though some are more suited to travellers interested in diving or surfing as they offer discounts for these activities. Coconut Hostel, which is on 2nd street, right behind the central park, offers cheap clean rooms in a beautiful building with a great shared kitchen. For those looking for a thriftier option, they allow tents to be set-up on a balcony/rooftop terrace for cheaper than the rooms. The owner is super friendly and helpful about other things to do in the area, and actually has a sister hostel between Bocas and David that looked as though it would be well-worth checking out.

Hotel Cristina
by Thuan about 5 years ago

After failing to find a place at Casa Verde, we got a street kid to help us nagivate a place to stay. We stayed at Hotel Cristina, which is central on the main street (Calle 3). We paid $33 for a single private with A/C and hot/cold water. Overall, the hotel is safe and reliable since the maid cleaned our room daily and didn't take anything.

Bocas Hostels
by Kluft about 6 years ago
Bocas Hostels

There are three main hostels in Bocas Town. The first is the most party oriented: Aqua lounge ($11). It is across the water way but is the only hostel right on the water (see pic). The trip is 1$ per person each crossing. Dorms are cheap but loud if party going on. www.bocasaqualounge.info/ The other two are Gran Kahuna($10 dorm) and Hostel Heike(10$ dorm). Both are on the main road in Bocas town and both offer reasonably laid back cheap alternatives. http://www.hostelheike.com/ http://www.grankahunabocas.com/

What to Eat

Restaurants

Cheapest and Best Restaurant in Town - Chitre Restaurant
by Kluft about 6 years ago
Cheapest and Best Restaurant in Town - Chitre Restaurant

Bocas Del Toro can provide a strain on the backpackers budget. Luckily there is a cheap alternative right on the middle of main street. It is on the side opposite of the water front and is very small but has delicious home cooked traditional food. See the picture for the restaurant front.

Where to Party

Dancing / Discos / Clubs

Epic party at Aqua Lounge
by Hacked By of youtube.com/fırlamaadam about 7 years ago
Epic party at Aqua Lounge

If you stay on Isla Colon, the largest of the islands, you will hear about the mythical Aqua Lounge, a hostel/bar on not-too-far-away Carineros. Jump off the 10-foot diving board from the roof of the bar into the Caribbean through a carved-out deck. People lose their tops, some jump naked, others get pushed off. It is nothing short of madness. Plus, drinks are only a dolla.

Drinking / Bars / Happy Hours

Live Music, Good Vibe at La Mama Loca
by Hacked By of youtube.com/fırlamaadam about 6 years ago

This outdoor restaurant and bar is located at Casa Verde on the south end of Calle 3 just past the Palma Royale. They have dolla beers and a live band on Sundays. Not sure about the rest of the week. Loved the vibe here.

Getting Around

Air

Air Panama
by Thuan about 5 years ago

The quickest way to get from Panama City to Bocas is through Air Panama. It has 2 flights daily, 6:30AM and 4:00PM. The flight is a little less than 1 hr. One-way ticket is $80USD. www.flyairpanama.com

Boat

Buy Your Bocas-Almirante Ticket at Hostel Heike
by Hacked By of youtube.com/fırlamaadam about 6 years ago

Hostel Heiki sells Bocas-Almirante tickets for $4. Local boat operators normally charge $5. It's only a dolla but, hey, might as well.

Bus

How to Get From Boquete to Bocas Del Toro
by Kluft about 2017 years ago
How to Get From Boquete to Bocas Del Toro

Take a chicken bus from Boquete to David. They leave every 30 minutes and depart from the opposite side of the square than arrivals (riverside)(3$). Hostels should be able to direct you to them. From David find a bus that says Almirante on the front ($7). From bus terminal in Almirante take taxi to taxi boat ($1). Then take boat to Bocas Town, leave every 30 minutes for $5 per person. Total trip 5-6 hrs.

General Advice

Local Remedies

Coconuts cure all
by Kristin of palmartentlodge.com about 6 years ago

For the biting chitras baby oil definitely works well but the best local option is coconut oil--especially the kinds that are infused with herbs like citronella that you can buy from places like Super Gourmet, Island Interiors, Cosmic Crab or Shop Up On The Hill. Or you can snag a big refilled gin bottle of pure coco oil for about $4 from the tiny store on the right between Casa Verde and Ultimo Refugio. For a hangover (every morning in Bocas?) a nice cool Pipa Fria works wonders. You can get the cold, green coconuts for 50 cents from street vendors and vegetable stands in town or try your luck getting one down from the tree yourself :)

Do what the locals do, use baby oil
by Hacked By of youtube.com/fırlamaadam about 6 years ago

The locals here don't get bitten because they use baby oil, which catches and drowns sand flies before they bite. It works! Just remember to use more sunscreen because the baby oil causes your skin to absorb more sunlight, which may or may not be what you want.