Just a Pack | May 6th, 2018 | 7 Comments

Bocas del Toro on a backpacking budget

Backpacking Bocas del Toro on a Budget

Yes, it’s still possible to visit Bocas del Toro on a backpacking budget.

Bocas del Toro is beautiful…and surprisingly budget friendly!

An emerald jewel atop the blue sea, the Bocas del Toro archipelago is a verdant collection of tropical islands and islets in Panama. Sitting upon azure and turquoise (and in certain places crystal clear) waters, the islands are surrounded by ancient coral reefs and robust marine life.

Active travelers will find Bocas extremely appealing. There are a hundred and one things to do in Bocas del Toro other than relaxing on a pristine beach. Snorkeling, diving, fishing, surfing, bird watching, hiking, and biking are all within easy distance from the capital and main tourist hub Bocas Town on Isla Colón (Colon Island).

Sounds wonderful, right? A proper little piece of paradise, really.

And the best thing is…Bocas del Toro is still extremely budget and backpacker friendly!

backpacking central america, bocas tel toro

Backpacking Bocas del Toro on a Budget

We spent a total of four (blissful) weeks living on Isla Colon in Bocas Town. Our expected daily budget was $40.00 USD per person during our stay.

No, that’s not super cheap by certain Central American backpacking standards, it’s still a very affordable sum for most budget travelers. We do feel that super thrifty travelers can spend as little as $20.00 to $25.00 per day, especially if they are really frugal with their money. This entails cutting out adult beverages, living in a hostel dorm/camping, cooking your own meals, and not partying (unless someone else is picking up the tab!)

Of course this minimum daily budget for Bocas del Toro budget does NOT include activities like boat trips, but we will discuss that below.

Down below you will find a breakdown of prices we encountered in Bocas del Toro, Panama. Hopefully these price lists will give you a decent idea of what you can expect to pay when visiting of backpacking Bocas del Toro, and help you plan and budget your visit accordingly.

Note – Panama uses the US Dollar so there is no conversion rate.

bocas del toro panama backpacking

Bocas Del Toro on a Backpacking Budget

Bocas del Toro Accommodation Price Guide

Best Hostel in Bocas del Toro Panama: Selina Hostel
Photo Credit: Selina Hostels

Best Hotel in Bocas del Toro – Selina Hostels

Selina Hostel is the highest rated hostel in Bocas Town and it’s easy to see why. The boutique hostel is centrally located near popular bars and restaurants, they have a waterfront deck, a restaurant & bar, and a fully equipped shared kitchen. They offer services like bike and quad rentals, and dive trips, surf lessons, and island tours.

Guests can choose from private rooms and dorm beds, and breakfast is included. Click here to book or read their reviews.

best hotel in bocas del toro

Best Budget Hotel in Bocas del Toro – Barrbra B&B

If you’re looking for the best mid-range hotel in Bocas del Toro, look no further.

Barrbra B&B is a cozy two-story hotel built directly on the sea just a 15 minute walk from Bocas Town. The small hotel offers rooms with either private or shared bathrooms and has a communal living room, dining room, kitchen, and terrace for guests. Barrbra B&B is the perfect place to relax but the friendly hosts are always happy to arrange activities like cycling, surfing, or snorkeling.

So if you want to avoid staying in a hostel and prefer a relaxed mid-range hotel check out Barrbra B&B. Click here to book or read their reviews.

Estimated Prices on Hotels and Hostels in Bocas del Toro

  • Private Room for Two People Starting at $25.00 – $33.00 a night
  • Single Rooms Starting at $15.00
  • Dorm Bed Starting at $12.00

  • Apt Rental Per Month – Ranging from $400 to $700 for a one bedroom fully equipped with A/C, wi-fi, hot water, and kitchen. Prices vary according to location and season.

Find Great Rates on the Best Hotels in Bocas del Toro with Booking.com!


Eating out in Bocas del Toro

  • Lunch at Leaf Eaters Cafe – Veggie burger, Hippie Bowl or Veggie Tacos – $6.00 – $7.00
  • Lunch Special at El Pirata Restaurant – Plate of baked quarter chicken or whole fried fish with rice, beans, plantains, salad and soda. $5.00

  • Lunch or Dinner at Taco Surf – Two tacos, rice, beans, and chips for $8.00
  • Dinner at Olga’s Restaurant – Rice, beans, and plantains – $4.00. Chicken fried rice $6.00

Price of Groceries in Bocas del Toro

  • 1/2 lb Potatoes – $1.20
  • 1/2 lb Onions – $0.40
  • 1/2 lb Carrots – $0.40
  • Head of Garlic – $0.25
  • 3/4 lb Squash – $1.00
  • 1/2 lb Cucumber – $0.25
  • Baguette – $1.50 from a gourmet store or 2 for $0.90 from the local bakery
  • Large Mango – $1.00
  • 1 lb Bag of Lentils – $0.80
  • 1/4 lb Bell Peppers – $0.35
  • 1/2 lb Tomatoes – $0.65
  • Snickers Bar – $0.85
  • Bag of Spaghetti – $0.95

  • 10 Pack of Hot Dogs – $3.00
  • 150 g Corn Flakes – $2.50
  • 7.25 oz Box of Mac & Cheese – $1.30
  • 2 lbs Brown Rice – $1.65
  • 8 oz Can Refried Beans – $1.35
  • 2 lb White Rice – $1.25
  • Small Bottle Soy Sauce – $0.75
  • 450 grams Pancake Mix – $2.25
  • 1 Dozen Eggs – $2.45
  • 250 ml Olive Oil – $3.25
  • Small Tube of Toothpaste – $1.35
  • 1 Bar Dove Soap – $1.35


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Price of Drinks Bocas del Toro

  • Small Bottle Gatorade – $1.00
  • Liter of Peach Juice – $1.50
  • 1 Liter Bacardi Rum – $10.00
  • 2 Gallons Water at the Grocery Store – $2.00

  • 1/2 Gallon of Water at the Refill Center – $0.25
  • 6 Pack Local Beer – $4.50
  • Bottle of Chilean Wine – $6.25
  • Glass of IPA at Bocas Brewery – $4.00

things to do in bocas del toro

Price of Activities Bocas Del Toro

  • Yoga Class at Bocas Yoga – $5.00
  • Board Diving, Dolphin and Sloth Watching and Transportation to Zapatillas Island – $35.00 (price negotiated down from $50.00 and excludes the lunch and drinks that are usually included)
  • Bike Rental – Half day: $5.00, Full Day: $7.00

  • Shuttle to Bocas del Drago and Starfish Beach – $5.00 RT per person
  • Boat to Red Frog Beach – $7.00 RT per person
  • Red Frog Beach Entry Fee – $3.00 per person
  • Boat to Carenero Island Beach – $2.00 per person each way
  • Sea Turtle Conservation Tour – $15.00 per person, plus transportation

Price of Transport Bocas del Toro

  • Bus from Puerto Viejo, Costa Rica to the Sixaola on the Border of Panama – $7.00
  • Taxi from the Border to Alirante, Panama – $5.00 per person

  • Boat to Bocas del Toro – $4.00 per person

Other Costs, Bocas del Toro

  • Panama Entry Fee – $3.00 per person (make sure you have proof of out bound travel when entering Panama from Costa Rica)

  • Costa Rica Exit Fee – $7.00 per person

Bocas del Toro, Panama

Expenses for activities you might want to partake in should not be factored into your daily budget. This becomes overly complicated. An easier way of going about things is to calculate your minimum daily cost and then set aside all left over funds you care to spend into an “activities” pool.

Thus on a day when we went snorkeling at Isla Zapatillas, took a taxi to Playa Starfish, a boat to Red Frog Beach, or had a few extra drinks in the evening we did not consider ourselves over budget even though we spent more than $35.00 USD, we just subtracted it out of the “activities” pool.


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You need to remember to set aside some money for things like buses and border crossings if you are backpacking down Central America and plan on being on the move often. That aside the above formula should be a great place to start when  budgeting the trip of your dreams.

Also, be sure to check out our Top Ten Bocas del Toro list for the best of what Bocas del Toro has to offer!


Disclaimer – We have included a few handy little affiliate links in case any of our readers want to book accommodations. We receive a small commission for any sales made, without any additional cost to you, our dear reader.

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7 thoughts on “Bocas del Toro, Panama on a Backpacking Budget

  1. It’s very easy to go from Panama City to Bocas. Take the nightbus for 20 bucks from Allbrook and from Almirante, the mainland, take a boat ferry to Bocas for 5$

  2. Wow that title bought back some memories. Was there in 2003 when they were selling off 1/2 acre beachfront plots for $2000 dollars. Remember getting a $20 return boat ride away to some bird sanctuary island, just us and the boat man. Cool place at the time, stayed in the hotel near to the jetty. sure it’s change now though.

    1. We’ve just left the islands and managed to live on 30/35 USD for 2 people. Stay at Colectivo de Saigon where you can rent a pre set up tent for 15USD, it comes with mattress, pillows, sheets (can be reserved on air bnb but we just showed up as it’s low season) The kitchen is very well equipped and free water provided. We cooked big portions for dinner and took the leftovers for lunch. Free bikes are also provided at this hostel. Cheap day trip examples include to starfish beach 5USD per person round trip, to the neighbouring island where you can hike around the whole island 2USD per person or take the free bikes to explore locally. Hope this helps low budget travellers

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