Slow Island Life in Bocas del Toro

Life is slow in the colorful Bocas del Toro, an island chain on the Panama’s Caribbean coast. Bocas Town, located on the main island Isla Colón, is a great base to explore the neighbouring islands by water taxi. With its many restaurants and cafes you will never end up hungry or thirsty, however tropical vegetation, beautiful beaches and wildlife are the real reasons why people come here. 

Wild beaches at Boca del Toro
Wild tropical beaches are truly impressive and are only a short water taxi away from Bocas Town.

How to get to Bocas del Toro

The easiest way to get to Boca del Toro from Panama City

The easiest way to get to Boca del Toro from Panama City is by air. There are daily flights going from Albrook International Airport  operated by Air Panama and it takes bout 45 minutes. Just make sure you go to the correct airport when leaving for Bocas del Toro. Chances are that it is not the same place where you arrived when you came to Panama – Tocumen Airport.

There are two airports near Panama City. Tocumen International Airport (Aeropuerto Internacional de Tocumen, PTY) is the main Panama’s airport located about 20 kilometers (12 miles) from the city center. Albrook Airport (also known as  Marcos A. Gelabert Airport, PAC) is located just outside the city and serves mainly regional destinations.

The cheapest way to get to Bocas del Toro

If you want to save some money there is an alternative way to get to Bocas del Toro from Panama City, but it will take much longer than flying. It includes a combination of bus and boat ride.

First, you have to hop on a bus from Panama City to Almirante. The buses leave from Albrook Bus Terminal and the journey lasts about 10-11 hours. We recommend that you take an overnight bus. There is also an option to depart in the morning, but then there is no guarantee that you will arrive in time to catch the last boat to Bocas del Toro and you will have to spend the night in Almirante. In addition, 10 hour trip can get quite tedious during the day, even if the buses are comfortable. Once you disembark in Almirante, take a taxi from the bus station to the boat docks (it should cost about $1). From there you have to grab a boat ride to Bocas Town which should take you another 30 minutes. The boats normally run from 6am to 6pm with 30 minute intervals.

Welcome to Bocas del Toro
Welcome to Bocas del Toro
Ferry to Bocas Town

Ferries are used mostly for cars and bringing supplies to the island. However, most tourists arrive to Bocas del Toro by speedboat taxis. Interesting fact: The ferry in the photo “Palanga” was previously used in Lithuania, a small country in Europe. The ferry was originally named after a small resort town Palanga, however it was not renamed after it arrived in Panama.

Houses on the water in Bocas Town

Houses and restaurants sit peacefully on the water. Bars are not the real reason why people come here, but they surely make a nice place to cool off after a long day in the sun. And some even have the areas where you can dip into the water with a drink.

Speedboat trip to Isla Colón

A marine taxi trip to Bocas Town is an attraction in itself. The speedboats have seen better days, but with several powerful engines they really do fly over the water.

Locals are not in a rush to be somewhere

The water taxi boats may be fast, but locals are not always in the rush to be somewhere.

Caribbean style house in Bocas del Toro

Caribbean style house in Bocas del Toro, Bocas Town. A typical feature – West Indian inspired carved balconies with large balconies. We normally don’t spend a lot of time hanging around hotels, but it was a nice place to hang out when we caught a tropical downpour.

Snorkeling and diving at Bocas del Toro

Snorkeling and diving are among popular activities on Bocas del Toro. Sergeant major fish are no piranhas, but they sure do get excited when they sense food in the water.

Dolphins in Bocas del Toro

Dolphins are a common sight when sailing in the peaceful Caribbean waters. In Bocas del  Toro there are many boat tour companies offering excursions, however we went with the catamaran operated by a Spanish expat instead of the speedboat. I’d say slow day with dolphins and several snorkeling stops is more Caribbean style than crushing through agenda with a speedboat.

Starfish Beach at Bocas Town

There is no mystery where the Starfish Beach got its name. 

Crabs are everywhere at Bocas Town
Fiddler, or left-clawed, crabs in Boca del Toro

Fiddler, or left-clawed, crabs are everywhere at Bocas del Toro. As you walk along the beach, thousands of them start running away making the ground move around you.

Sloths in Boca del Toro

Sloths are also taking it easy on the Caribbean Islands, but due to lush vegetation they are not that easy to spot. Luckily, they are not exactly running away from you.


Always on a look out for a new place to visit and exciting food to try. Loves exploring Asia, snorkeling, mountain roads and hoppy ales. Hates crowded beaches, bland food and wet shoes.