Floating peacefully off Panama’s northern coastline in the turquoise waters of the Caribbean Sea is beautiful Bocas del Toro. This region is one of Central America’s most popular tourist and backpacker destinations and is famed for its beaches and water sports. It offers scuba diving, surfing, sailing, and kayaking, to name but a few! But […]
Floating peacefully off Panama’s northern coastline in the turquoise waters of the Caribbean Sea is beautiful Bocas del Toro. This region is one of Central America’s most popular tourist and backpacker destinations and is famed for its beaches and water sports. It offers scuba diving, surfing, sailing, and kayaking, to name but a few!
But what else is there to do in Bocas del Toro besides enjoying the tranquil beaches and water sports? There are a ton of things to do in this gorgeous Panamanian province. Below we list our top recommendations for your vacation in Bocas del Toro.
There are two main parks to visit in the Bocas del Toro Province: La Amistad International Park (a UNESCO World Heritage Site) and Isla Bastimentos National Marine Park. Two other natural highlights of the region include the annual migration of sea turtles and a botanical garden close to Bocas Town.
Hiking La Amistad International Park
The vast expanse of La Amistad stretches into both Costa Rica and Panama and is the largest natural reserve in the region. The park is home to a plethora of flora and fauna, including all six species of neo-tropical wildcat. Scientists are constantly discovering new species here.
While the area remains largely unexplored, there are plenty of opportunities to hike in order to experience first-hand this awe-inspiring rainforest. A guided tour will help you spot the incredible wildlife but is also necessary to ensure you stay safe and on the designated trails.
Exploring Isla Bastimentos National Marine Park
Isla Bastimentos National Marine Park, on the other hand, spans across the beaches, cays, coral reefs, and mangrove forests throughout the Bocas del Toro archipelago. The islands are stunningly beautiful and many lay completely untouched by humans, as they are protected by the reserve.
At Keteka, we offer an island-hopping tour to visit these natural hidden gems including Dolphin Cay, Coral Cay, and Isla Zapatilla. The islands are surrounded by a colorful coral reef and exotic marine wildlife. Take the chance to finally relax in solitude on the white sandy beaches or snorkel in the crystal-clear waters.
Observe Sea Turtles
If you’re visiting at the right time of year, there is also the chance to observe sea turtles or even volunteer with conservation programs! There are four species of turtles which come to nest on Bocas beaches: hawksbill, leatherhead, green and loggerhead. The nesting season is generally from March to September and the hatching season is from May to November, but it varies for each species.
The best time to observe sea turtles is during June and July at Bluff Beach on Isla Colón and numerous secluded beaches on Isla Bastimentos. There are many volunteer programs available which assist with conservation efforts and minimize the disruptive nature of tourism during this time.
Walk in Finca Los Monos Botanical Garden
Finally, don’t miss Finca Los Monos Botanical Garden, which can be found on the main Isla Colon, near the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute. Take a guided tour through the lush landscape to learn about the variety of plant species and also spot the wildlife it attracts. This privately-funded tropical garden also works with students in the local community to improve education, environmental awareness, and sustainability.
Indigenous Groups of Bocas del Toro
Panama has a rich cultural history, especially with its indigenous communities. Native groups make up around 13% of Panama’s total population and each group has its own autonomous government and regions. While in Panama, it’s worth taking the time to visit these indigenous communities and learn about their traditional ways of life.
There are two main tribes in the Bocas del Toro region:
Experience Native Traditions
The Ngobe and Naso people run their own community tours for travelers to experience their culture, dances, meals, and artwork. What’s more, the indigenous Ngabe farmers produce chocolate. On their chocolate tours, you can learn about the whole process, from cacao cultivation to chocolate production, with a delicious sampling at the end.
One of Boca’s best-kept secrets is its chocolate. The region produces fantastic cacao and by taking a tour with the Ngabe, you help support their local villages and livelihoods.
Go on a Cave Tour
Bat cave tours are also an option on Isla Bastimentos. Tour guides take you on a short hike to the caves and for some, you’ll need to take a boat through the mangrove. In the caves, you’ll be able to spot bats as well as impressive stalactites and stalagmites. Don’t worry about getting lost either, there is only one way in and out and guides are experienced.
Go Zip Lining
Lastly, if you run out of things to do on the ground and in the sea, why not see the tropical rainforest from a completely new perspective by getting right up into the canopy on a zip line!
Zip lining tours are available on Isla Bastimentos and also include tree rappelling and suspension bridges for you to walk among the trees! You’ll get a chance to see animals up-close such as sloths and monkeys and also enjoy a spectacular bird’s-eye view of the forest.
Bocas del Toro has so much to offer: gorgeous scenery, welcoming native communities, and a variety of outdoor activities. Enjoy your trip to the fullest and try some of the activities above. You’re sure to walk away with an experience you will remember for the rest of your life!