I spent nearly one month in Bocas del Toro exploring all that the popular island archipelago in Panama had to offer. I dived in the crystal blue water, I indulged in the flavors of the Caribbean, and I slept high up in the canopies of the jungle. Whether you’re a surfer or a backpacker or are planning a romantic getaway, Bocas has something for everyone.
Here are a few of my favorite things in Bocas del Toro!
Grab a Bite at Bocas Blended Bus
Just off the main drag on Isla Colon is my favorite foodie spot on the island, Bocas Blended. Bocas Blended is an old refurbished Thomas school bus that now operates as a full café. Grab a seat at the bar for healthy wraps, smoothies, and salads. Don’t miss the Hawaiian fish wrap or the mojito lemonade.
Sleep in a Treehouse at La Loma Jungle Lodge
Located on Isla Bastimentos is one of the most spectacular properties I’ve experienced in all of my travels, La Loma Jungle Lodge. After arriving by boat and a short walk through a cacao plantation, you are greeted by the chirps and squawks of the jungle.
Spend the night in one of four canopy dwelling lodges and awaken to an incredible panoramic ocean view (and maybe even some monkeys). The delicious food served at La Loma, which is grown locally and organically, also attracts the attention of foodies around the world.
Surf the Break
Bocas del Toro is well-known as a great surf destination.
Take a surf lesson as a beginner, take a boat out to the break or, if you’re an experienced surfer, get barreled at Bluffs.
(Even if you don’t surf, be sure to soak up some sun at one of the many beaches!)
Learn to Scuba at La Buga
I had always wanted to get my PADI scuba certification after diving in the Great Barrier Reef and in the Red Sea in Jordan. At La Buga, you can get your certification or even try a night dive! Not only is Bocas one of the least expensive places in the world to dive, it also offers one of the most exciting underwater experiences.
I encountered a shipwreck, bright and beautiful brittle starfish, a nurse shark and even a seahorse! I got my Open Water Diving Certification in just three days with La Buga and highly recommend them.
Dine Under the Stars at The Firefly
Tucked behind Old Bank on Isla Bastimentos is The Firefly – a true gastronomic gem. String lights stitch together palm trees with the starlit night sky while waves crash upon the shore.
As if the setting wasn’t already like something out of a dream, the food is also incredibly mouth watering. I had an unforgettable meal of passion fruit calamari with mint and coconut and a traditional Caribbean “Painkiller” cocktail- made with dark rum, coconut milk, pineapple, orange and finished with freshly ground nutmeg.
Cacao Plantation Eco-Tour Tour
I went on Habla Ya’s Oreba Chocolate Tour and spent the day learning about the production of cacao in Bocas. We got to hike through the cacao plantation, sample the cacao fruit, roast the cacao seeds and (the best part) sample the final product. We also had the opportunity to buy some chocolate and raw cacao to directly support the indigenous farmers that helped produce it.
Go “Glamping” at Palmar Tent Lodge
Palmar Tent Lodge offers accommodation for all budgets; from dorm-style tents to private safari-style tents. Located just a few steps from Red Frog Beach, Palmar takes “beachfront” to a whole new level. There are an array of offerings, from beach yoga to surf lessons to stone oven pizza making. There’s also a beautiful Great House with board games and a full bar.
Explore the Bat Caves
The bat caves on Isla Bastimentos are a fun and exciting day trip. On a real-life “Disney Jungle Cruise” to the caves, we even saw a few sloths high up in the jungle canopies. We went with Milton, a local guide dedicated to the conservation of the caves who guided us in waist deep water through the pitch-black bat-infested caves. Be sure to visit the caves responsibly and book a tour with Milton.
Check out my complete guide to Bocas del Toro for more tips on what to expect, where to stay and what to do!
Kiersten Rich is the bikini-obsessed World-Traveler & former Cubicle-Dweller of travel and lifestyle blog, The Blonde Abroad. She began traveling the world after leaving her career in corporate finance to explore local culture, try new foods, experience international festivals and volunteer in developing countries. See what’s in store next for The Blonde Abroad on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.