Bocas del Toro, an archipelago in a bay named Chiriqui, is a Panama Caribbean heaven. The bay has an array of coral reefs, mangroves, lush trees and white sands with abundant marine life. Bocas has vital nesting beaches for Green, Leatherback, Hawksbill and Loggerhead Marine turtles. Poison dart frogs have also made Bocas del Toro islands their habitat; each island has their color of frogs. There’s a mix of indigenous and Antillean cultures bestowing Bocas del Toro with diverse ethnic food and music. Accommodations in Bocas del Toro fit all budgets, but big resorts with high prices are absent. Many hotels, restaurants, and water taxis are found the walking distance from Bocas Town airstrip. Those who access by land from Costa Rica are suggested to take a water taxi from Changuinola to get here.
Bocas Town is on an Island named Colon, in regards to Christopher Columbus’s 1502 landing. Colonial houses lining the coast and open streets manifest this rural town’s Caribbean charm. People leave Bocas Town smiling with memories of reggae and the taste of rice and beans cooked in coconut milk. Boca del Drago, on the far side of Colon Island, flaunts a stunning beach with clear water sprinkled by starfish. Bluff Beach, a surfing and sunbathing spot north of Bocas Town, has turtles nesting over golden sands. Some surfers warn of Bluff Beach waves breaking near coral close to shore, so surf with care. Swan Cay, a small islet Off Colon Island’s northern shores, is a bird nesting area with more coral reefs.
Home to a Marine Park with praised beaches and cays sharing Chiriqui Bay. The Zapatillas Cays, mangroves and a significant portion of Bastimentos Island make up Bastimentos Marine Park. Red Frog Beach, the most sought after Bocas del Toro beach, is beset by small red poison dart frogs and green flora. Crawl Cay, famous for snorkeling and dining near thatch-roofed huts over piers in the water, is southeast of Bastimentos Island.
Zapatillia keys, located in the Parque Nacional Marino Isla Bastimentos. Established in 1988 to protect coral reefs and mangrove swamps. The park covers 51 sq miles or 132 sq. km, including the Isla Bastimentos, surrounding waters, and keys. There are two Zapatillia keys, named for the Zapatilla fruit. The twin islands rest atop a coral plateau, and nurse sharks call the coral around Zapatilla home.
What makes Zapatilla famous? The beaches, the water, and the coral reef. This is an ideal place to take a stroll on the beach or go snorkeling. The islands can only be reached by using a water taxi from the other major islands. First, arrival on the island you won’t believe your eyes. It’s fun walking along the beach seeing the breathtaking views of the island and hearing the birds in the treetops. The highlight is being able to swim in the marvelous water. It is the perfect temperature and so transparent allowing perfect visibility of the coral reef.
Diving and snorkeling through coral reefs like those near Hospital Point and eating fresh fish in town are obvious reasons for being at Bocas del Toro. Bocas Town traffic is scarce making scooters and mountain bikes an excellent means to explore. On foot, hikers will find wildlife on trails along beaches, lagoons, jungles, and mangroves.
Before leaving Bocas del Toro highly recommended going to these three different locations. The first location is an area where you can see dolphins. It’s so much fun watching the pods of dolphins jumping out of the water right by the boat! Then continue to Cayo Zapatilla, the most beautiful beach. After Cayo Zapatilla travels to Cayo Crawl where there is snorkeling. It’s amazing to see all the fish and coral, indeed an incredible ecosystem.
A highlight of visiting Bocas is Playa Estrella, Starfish Beach. The water is so clear you can swim and see the starfish on the ocean floor many feet below. Also, interesting is how varied the colors of the starfish are. Everything from a bright red to a pale tan. If you decide to go to this beach just remember not to touch or pick up the starfish as you could hurt them.