Ten Spectacular Things to Do in Bocas del Toro

things to do in Bocas del Toro, Panama

Looking for beaches and affordable Caribbean beauty? Pack a bag and head to Bocas.

The Archipelago of Bocas del Toro, which consists of 6 islands and scores of tiny islets, is rapidly becoming one of Central America’s hottest beach destinations. And with good reason, if you ask us. Bocas del Toro is one of the most beautiful places we have ever visited.

This tropical paradise, located in northern Panama near the Costa Rican border, offers a wealth of sandy beaches. And so much more.  Golden sun, azure waves, verdant jungles, and breath taking views await. Anyone with the slightest interest in exploring island beauty will find a thousand and one things to do in Bocas del Toro.

Or, you can choose to do nothing at all!

During our three weeks in Bocas del Toro we fell in love with the islands, and the relaxed Caribbean vibe that permeates every inch of them. It’s pretty hard not to, really. If you want to learn how to scuba dive, if you are into fishing, snorkeling, surfing, or just laying out on the beach enjoying “island life” vibes, chances are you will love Bocas del Toro too.

We put together a list of things to do in Bocas del Toro to help you visit without spending a ton of money. We urge you to explore the island on your own as well, and let us know if we missed anything you think everyone should check out!

To learn how to keep costs down during your visit, and to find out about the best hostels in Bocas del Toro, check out our guide on how to travel on a budget in Bocas del Toro, Panama

Things to do in Bocas del Toro, Panama

Visit Gorgeous Little Isla Zapatillas

Things to do in Bocas del Toro

One of the more attractive beach destinations in Bocas del Toro, this tiny island is a Caribbean paradise. Calm waters on one side of the island make for some great coastal snorkeling, while the sands on the other side of the island are a great place to relax and have a picnic. Simply put, visiting this gorgeous little island should be on top of your list of things to do in Bocas del Toro.

Many tour companies in Bocas Town will take you here in conjunction with a snorkeling trip or some dolphin watching, but we recommend hiring a boat for the day for about $20 per person and heading straight to Zapatillas. This way you avoid scaring the poor dolphins, which are chased by the tour company boats to give tourists a small glimpse of fin and tail. Plus you have the whole day to enjoy this splendid island.

Bring your own food and drink as there are no restaurants or shops on the island!

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Chill out on Starfish Beach

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This beach is on the western end of the Island, just a short and beautiful 15 minute walk from the Bocas del Drago bus stop, and is a great little getaway from the concrete of Bocas Town.

True to its name, on most days the water is calm and filled with starfish. You can buy some food on the spot, or pack your own lunch to enjoy. Bring a snorkel as the calm waters make for great swimming, and you can even spot mantas if you are lucky!

The shuttle bus from Bocas Town is $5.00 return but can be pretty slow and overly crowded. If you have several people going a better option is to negotiate a good return rate with a taxi driver.

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Get Limber with Yoga at Bocas Yoga

If you have ever done yoga or even just wanted to try it you can’t miss taking a class at Bocas Yoga. Instructor and owner Laura Kay guides you through what we found to be one of the best yoga class we have ever taken. Laura’s style is laid back, informal, fun and uplifting. She concentrates on back strength and alignment and has a way of making everyone feel comfortable no matter what level you are at.

The classes are a steal at only $5!

Rent a Bike and Cycle to Paki’s Point and Punta Bluff

Bocas del Toro, Panama

Renting bicycles and cruising around the main island of Bocas del Toro was one of our favorite things to do.

It takes about a hour to bike from Bocas Town to Punta Bluff, and the ride itself is worth every minute. Make sure to stop at Paki’s Point, the half way mark of this trip, to hang at a cool bar/restaurant.  You kick back with a beer, or rent a board and try the surf.

After taking a break keep cycling north along the coast to Punta Bluff.  This scenic spot sports tall powerful waves that only the most adventurous of surfers would attempt to ride. Beware of the rip tides here, swimming is NOT safe or recommended.

Chow Down on Veggie Food at Leaf Eaters Cafe

Leaf Eater's Cafe, Bocas Del Toro, Panama

Vegetarians, vegans, and meat eaters alike will all find something on the menu at Leaf Eaters Cafe they can fall in love with at this family run spot.

This rustic cafe offers a small, yet delicious, daily menu which always includes at least one veggie burger. Try the Hippie Bowl when you go, it’s packed full of brown rice and veggies and is tossed with a lemon tahini sauce. Yum!

This is certainly the spot for vegans in Bocas del Toro.

Snorkel the Reefs of Bocas del Toro

Snorkeling in Bocas del Toro
Sea Turtle” by Alan Graf is licensed under CC BY 2.0

You can’t visit Bocas and not go snorkeling!

Bocas Town is rife with companies that will take you out into the clear waters of the archipelago for a day or half a day to visit numerous reefs and marine life spots. The average price for these ranges from $20 – $35 per person. Some include food and beverages while others are nothing more than transportation. Ask around and haggle for the best price you can find.

If you have your own gear you can also hire a local boatman to take you out and around.

Hop on a Boat to Red Frog Beach

Bocas del Toro, Panama

This long strip of magnificent beach is located on Isla Bastimentos which is just a short boat ride from Bocas Town.

The tranquil Red Frog lays on the edge of a thick tropical forest and has soft sand, clear warm water, and a couple of bars.

The boat ride will cost you $7.00 for a round trip and admission to the island is $3.00.

Get PADI Certification for $250!

Few places in the world offer cheaper PADI Scuba Diving certification than some of the companies based in Bocas del Toro. For the aspiring diver this is simply a deal that is not to be missed.

The average course lasts three and a half days and includes 6 dives. If you are unsure of your desire to dive you can take a $60 introduction class that includes a shallow water dive and then a deep water dive. If you feel like you’d like to continue towards full certification the price of the introduction is deducted from the over all cost. Win Win!

 

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Get Involved in Sea Turtle Conservation in Bocas del Toro

Visit the Sea Turtle Nesting Booth located on the northwest corner of the park in Bocas Town to sign up for a tour of the Bluff Beach Municipal Reserve. See approximately 250 leatherback turtle nests, 100 hawksbill nests and 1-5 green turtle nests. The guided tours are given at night and start at Playa Bluff Beach at 9:00 pm and end around 11:00 pm and are only $15.00. Transportation to Playa Bluff is not included.

Quench Your Thirst at Bocas Brewery

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Bocas Brewery is right outside of Bocas Town and serves up cold delicious brews on tap.

Just what the doctor ordered if you have been on the road for awhile and are craving a freshly brewed beverage. Order up a plate of empanadas and wash them down with the yummy Pale Ale or the Ginger beer and kick back on their sea side patio.

Life rarely gets better then that!

There you have it guys, our guide of things to do in Bocas del Toro without blowing your budget. Please let us know if you think we missed something! As always, safe travels and we hope to see you on the road!

Bocas del Toro, Panama

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13 thoughts on “Ten Spectacular Things to Do in Bocas del Toro

  1. Great post. A lot of people come to Bocas and never make it off of the mail Island. Biking is such a big thing in Bocas and its just really cool to have one to roll around on while you are there. My favorite place to eat was the chicken man who’s right across the road from Iguana. We did some other cool stuff in Bocas you can check out here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=65vUlYAA-gw if you want.

    Thanks for the info!

    1. JUBRIL! I’m going to Panama in May. Saw this blog post on pinterest. I scroll down and the first comment I see is from you; my buddy from RMHS! Hilarious!!! I’ve bookmarked this post but I can’t wait to check out your youtube video as well.

      Jordan

    2. Ha! Another friendly-fan– just booked Bocas for next summer and was bookmarking tips and activities and here you are! I’ll be bugging you on Facebook before my departure!

  2. I liked the atmosphere of Bocas del Toro, even though we were only there one day. I unfortunately had a cycling accident going down a rock and sand path on our way to Bluff beach, in which I broke my big toe and got pretty scratched up on both legs, both hands and one arm!! The pain (bleeding cuts, ripped toenail, bruises etc) prevented me from really enjoying the beach once we got there (I kept biking as we were so close by then!) and was a huge inconvenience through the next three weeks of traveling around Central America!

    Beautiful place still though, just make sure your bike actually has brakes 😉

  3. Hi! i just want to share with you my great trip to Bocas del Toro and Panama! hope you enjoy it as much as we do. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5jSHZOcrp9M

  4. Good info. Very helpful. Thanks for sharing. Where did you go (which company) for the $250 PADI certification, and is it Open Water?

  5. Think an update is needed on Starfish Beach. Seeing it listed as the prettiest beach on multiple websites we made it our first stop. The beach looks as spectacular as the pictures show. However, what you don’t see is the sand is mixed with millions of shards of fiberglass sloughing off from all the boats that pull up directly onto the beach. I immediately got what felt like tiny pieces of glass in my feet. Then after playing in the surf me and my three boys got bathing suits full of shards, it felt like we had dozens of glass slivers stuck to our butts. It was TERRIBLE and we cut our jaunt short. The only one of our crew that had a pleasant experience was my husband who took a nap on a towel and stayed there. The kids made up swear to not ever take them back. It was a disappointing start. We had much better luck at beaches where boats couldn’t pull up on the sand.

    1. Hi Jasmin, that is incredibly sad news. Yet another reason why responsible travel is so important. This kind of thing could easily be avoided if certain restrictions were in place and the beaches were protected and treated with respect. Thank you for the update for our future readers, and I hope the rest of your time in Bocas is much much better.

  6. Nice post! Where to rent a boat in bocas town or Bastimento island for $20 per person? Would love to explore the islands and snorkel around with friends by roaming around on a private boat. Thanks for sharing!

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