Cruising through the narrow canals on the RĂo Changuinola, your motor boat passes by simple wooden canoes powered by a man with a single oar. The river banks are completely overgrown with a lush tropical forest, home to brightly colored birds that squawk and chatter as you pass. The bank is lined with decrepit houses on wooden stilts where barely clothed children play in the muddy water: you wonder if youâ€™ve somehow gone back in time to a simpler era when kids did not need Game Boys to be happy. As the backdrop opens up into BahĂa de Almirante, misty islands materialize not far off in the distance. Youâ€™ve reached the amazing archipelago of Bocas del Toro.
Located in the northeastern corner of Panama, Bocas del Toro (loosely translated as â€śthe Bullâ€™s Mouthsâ€ť) features a wide variety of activities for all tourist types. You can surf some of the most explosive waves on the Caribbean, snorkel over magnificent coral reefs, explore a picturesque tropical reserve, or lounge on pristine white beaches.
Perhaps one of the most spectacular features of Bocas del Toro is not just the journey to reach this paradise, but how you get around while there. Boats are the main source of transportation: visitors have to use water taxis to go island hopping and arrive at some of the areaâ€™s more exclusive beaches. The two most popular destinations within Bocas del Toro are Isla ColĂłn and Isla Bastimentos. Isla ColĂłn is by far the most developed of the islands, offering a wide selection of accommodation and restaurants. The small town of Bocas exudes a vibrant Caribbean feel and is the perfect location from which to explore the surrounding islands.
Popular beaches such as Big Creek and Playa Paunch produce waves that will thrill surfers of all levels. Isla Bastimentos is the next island over and a mere 10 minutes ride by water taxi. The island has no roads but does have a network of concrete pathways. Exploring Bastimentos on foot is a unique way to get a feel for the islandâ€™s character as you walk up and down small hills and in between wooden houses and locally owned family businesses. Parque Nacional Marino Isla Bastimentos, on the eastern side of the island, is a nature reserve which protects various mangroves, coral reefs and several endangered species: it is a spectacular spot for nature lovers. Bocas del Toro is one of the greatest treasures in Panama, with its plush natural beauty and distinctive cultural vibes. The only way to truly appreciate its flavorful environment is to see it for yourself.