Bocas del Toro

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On the Caribbean coast near the Costa Rican border is perhaps Panama's most scenic and typically tropical archipelago, centred around the town of Bocas del Toro. It's an area on the up, unravaged by large-scale tourism but certainly accessible, and stunningly beautiful. That said, this is the jungle proper, and if you don't like things that crawl and jump and fly, this may not be the place for you.

I spent two nights at the Red Frog Resort, a short boat trip away from the town of Bocas del Toro, after an internal flight from Panama City. The resort was relatively new, consisting partly of "jungle huts" and also of timeshare villas, all quite spread out in the Panamanian jungle. Faulty internet and phone in my jungle hut meant an upgrade to a three bedroom villa!

Bocas del Toro

Bocas del Toro town juts out over the Caribbean on stilts, and is like a modern-day Pirates of the Caribbean movie set.

The town square with the town hall at one end, full of traders, hawkers and people playing music. The square itself is called Parque Simón Bolivár.

Bocas del Toro town square

Coconut Hostel

One of the many picturesque if slightly ramshackle hostels that stud the central area of Bocas town. Here, the Panamaian flag flies above Coconut Hostel. I also passed through Selina hostel, having met the owner on my boat back from Red Frog Resort.

One of the piratey streets in central Bocas, this one has the very un-piratey name of Calle 1a.

Street in Bocas del Toro

Fruit seller

A small fruit seller's shop in central Bocas, with battered bananas at various stages of ripening.

Bocas is the sort of place where people have old boats and decaying cars in their garden, this was one of the more interesting such houses.

Old house

Houses on stilts

Cute yellow houses on stilts at the shoreline of Bocas town.

Our boat transfer went past some quite pretty beaches on the way to Red Frog Resort.

Beach in Bocas

Red Frog resort beach

Red Frog Beach is the typical Caribbean idyll, as seen here from the Punta Lava café.

Another of Red Frog Resort's several beaches.

Red Frog resort beach

Pool at the jungle huts

The jungle huts were arranged around a small shared pool, at which I appeared to be the only guest.

My own jungle hut, which while perfectly comfortable, had no working phone or internet. The broken phone was a problem, as the resort is quite spread out and the expectation is that you call for a golf cart to take you to the beach, or reception. I was otherwise stranded, or walking twenty minutes, not ideal at a supposed resort hotel.

My jungle hut

View of the Caribbean

A view of the sparkling Caribbean Sea from the jungle huts pool.

Loungers on Red Frog Beach down at the Punta Lava café. There was another establishment along the beach, but Punta Lava was good enough for me, so I stuck with that.

Sun loungers on the beach

Timeshare villas at Bocas del Toro

Over to the villas now, most of which had their own pool and views north over the Caribbean. It doesn't get much better than this.

After a complaint to reception (having marched down there), I was upgraded from a jungle hut to a three bedroom villa, not bad at all. This is the master bedroom, which had its own lounge, in addition to the main lounge downstairs.

My villa master bedroom

My private pool

Although it rained much of the day, it didn't stop me using my own private pool!

Leafcutter ants scurry about their business. Bocas del Toro was easily the most jungley place I'd been, sitting in my pool I could watch thousands of ants rapidly marching past.

Leafcutter ants


It was a menagerie of creepy crawlies, giant grasshoppers would sit around on my villa terraces, ants all over the place and giant moths and bats would flutter around at dusk. This beast was a good five inches long.

Another view of the Caribbean Sea from Red Frog Beach.

The Caribbean Sea

Old canoes

Old canoes garnish the mangrove forest by the marina pier.

My transport glides across the bay to Isla Bastimentos, to ferry me back to Isla Colón and Bocas town.

Transport back to Bocas

Nature Air coming in

Bocas airport is not a large affair, but it is international with flights going at least as far as San José in Costa Rica. Which was exactly the route I took, after walking to the airport from Selina hostel where the boat had dropped me off.

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Copyright © Ross Wattie 2017