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Bocas del Toro

If you have three days to enjoy an unforgettable getaway you might believe that such a time limit would make it an impossible dream. After all, three days is usually never enough time to find the most beautiful spot, settle in, relax, and be ready to head home when those three days are up.

However, if you ask visitors to the province in Panama known as Bocas del Toro, most would tell you that this is the ideal spot to recharge, relax, and restore yourself in as little as three days time.

The reason for this is simply that Bocas del Toro, which is the "Caribbean West" area of Panama, is a place that looks exactly like a picture postcard of paradise. Pristine white sand beaches, brilliant blue sea waters, and small islands that seem as if they were made by the hand of a talented designer rather than nature all add up to instant relaxation.


Visiting Bocas del Toro

The name of the area translates to "mouth of the bull", but such an unappealing name does not do the area any real justice. Formed by the mainland, a lagoon, nine small islands and a bay, Bocas del Toro includes the city of Bocas Town (on Isla Colon), Almirante, and Changuinola. The archipelago contains 68 different islands, and all of them are open for exploring, bird watching, swimming, or just enjoying as you sit on the sand and soak in the sun.

Naturally, this province has the same amount of land preservation at work as the rest of Panama, and Bocas del Toro has two national parks - La Amistad International Park and Isla Bastimentos National Marine Park. However, cultivation is a key industry in this area too and there are so many banana plantations that they are referred to as "oro verde" or green gold.

From the Past

Originally part of Costa Rica, Bocas del Toro first became part of the Chiriqui province in the 1800s, and by 1903 it was its own province. Things have changed a bit over time, and in 1970, it took the form that it holds today after being combined with other provinces. However, a 1997 change created the Ngobe Bugle Comarca (that of the indigenous peoples) and the province, as we know it today was solidified.

Travel is greatly encouraged in this area and there are many fine accommodations available. As might be obvious, the largest number of accommodations will be on the primary island of Isla Colon. However, Isla Bastimentos also provides a wide array of hotels and classic "B&Bs" as well as some plantations and resorts.

What to Do

As already explained, this is a spot ideally suited to enjoying a lot of your time at the beaches, but if you have more than a few days, you can really explore the area. The top activities include snorkeling, scuba, surfing, and diving. There are options for sailboat rentals and some fishing, and many travelers find it especially appealing to visit one of the native villages that is open to travelers.

The area is still home to several communities of the Ngobe Bugle people, and the communities of San Cristobal, Popa 2, and Quebrada Sal tend to be the best starting points for a visit. Travelers must remember that the natives tend to be relatively poor and live on the proceeds of agriculture and fishing. They welcome travelers warmly and may have some truly beautiful handicrafts to sell.

This is a "must do" activity if you find yourself in Bocas del Toro, but of course the national parks often beckon just as much as the white sands and beautiful sea waters. It is the Caribbean Sea that many travelers will enjoy, but also the "Bahia de Almirante" is available too.

Something to keep in mind is that many activities are not all that "organized" in Bocas del Toro. For example, bird watching is an obvious past time, and yet there are not that many resources for guided bird tours. However, it is easy enough to watch for a long list of tropical and native birds from water or land based positions. Rare birds are often found in Swan Cay, and the jungle and forest settings of Popa Island are popular for those in search of other rare and native species. (BocasDelToro, 2014)

So, if you find yourself with only a limited amount of time, or if you are lucky enough to have days and days available, you must consider a visit to the Bocas del Toro province. You can lay in the sand and enjoy the peace and tranquility or you can head out for a long list of activities in some of the most beautiful settings imaginable.

  Adventures Panama pioneers adventure travel in Panama city and the country. It offers  soft adventure travel packages that include whitewater rafting, kayaking, mountain biking, hiking, camping, snorkeling, cultural inmersions on rainforest tribes, Panama vacation, Guna Yala, Panama City Panama, and more to turn your vacations in Panamain to unforgettable  memories.