Bocas del Toro and Isla Colon
Bocas del Toro is an archipelago, made up of nine principal islands, just off the northeast coast of Panama in the Caribbean Sea. The region offers excellent snorkeling and scuba diving around offshore coral reefs and many of the islands offer pristine and uncrowded white sand beaches.
Isla Colon, or Colon Island, is the most developed, and the largest, of the Bocas del Toro islands, although “developed” is all relative. The accommodations here range from simple three to five room bed and breakfasts to beachfront lodges of under twenty rooms. The living is easy on Isla Colon. Chickens still scurry along the unpaved streets, but intrepid visitors will find an occasional ATM machine and even wireless Internet access. The sights on Isla Colon include the graceful, 19th century Spanish Colonial architecture and the Bastimentos International Marine Park on nearby Bastimentos Island. The surfing here is world-famous as is the snorkeling and diving on the coral reef, just offshore.
One of the most scenic and popular attractions in Bocas del Toro is The Bastimentos International Marine Park, which occupies 13,226 hectares of Bastimentos Island and the surrounding marine area. The park boasts the largest Mangrove swamp in Panama as well as a large protected coral reef. The interior of the island features a large freshwater lake, a popular nesting place for several species of sea turtles. The park is also home to many species of amphibians and reptiles and is renowned for its excellent bird watching.
Ecotourism in Bocas del Toro
The Bocas del Toro province is fiercely committed to preserving its natural beauty and diverse plant and wildlife. Once overshadowed by more popular ecotourism destinations, such as Costa Rica and Belize, Bocas del Toro is seeing more and more visitors interested in experiencing its unspoiled beaches and coral reefs and seeing the myriad of plant life, wildlife, and birds who call the islands home. Marine life is abundant here also, and bottlenose dolphins often greet swimmers and snorkelers just offshore.
Visiting Bocas del Toro
Bocas del Toro is about a 400 km drive from Panama City along the Interamerican Highway. At Almirante, on the coast, visitors can take an hour marine taxi across to Bocas. Alternatively, commuter flights connect Panama City and Bocas via twice-daily non-stop service. The flight takes about one hour.
Accommodations on the islands are generally simple and natural. No concrete highrise hotels here. The emphasis is on nature and living in harmony with the land. Food is generally homemade, but plentiful and nightlife is relaxed and generally consists of watching the sunset and enjoying a hearty meal.
Bocas del Toro is not for everyone. Resort-lovers will no doubt be bored by its quiet nightlife and no frills hotels. However, if you are searching for something different, something that offers natural beauty, a serene and graceful lifestyle, and sensational watersports and wildlife, somewhere that offers good value for your dollar, Bocas might just be the place for you.