The Bocas del Toro Archipelago lies off the northwestern coast of Panama in the Caribbean sea and hardly anyone has heard of it. Hence its pristine beauty, limited development and lack of visitors. It’s very near the border with Costa Rica so it can be easily combined as a two centre holiday. There are six islands and almost 200 tiny uninhabited islets many of which are covered in dense jungle with white sand beaches straight out of the film Castaway. When we flew in and saw the scattering of reef fringed islands below I gasped with excitement as its just oh so perfect. We had to take a boat to get to our hotel – the Punta Caracol Acqua Lodge
– and despite the slight cloud cover the waters were still tantalizingly translucent aquamarine.
Because of the lack of large scale development to date, the islands have retained their local flavour and relaxed atmosphere. The population is a mix of Ngöbe-Buglé and Teribe Indians, Afro-Caribbeans, and a growing expat and retiree community.
The main town of Bocas is on Isla Colon and this is where you find the majority of restaurants, shops and nightlife. I wouldn’t recommend staying here though as its very backpackery. There aren’t a great many quality lodging options but this is precisely its charm. We have however found three which pass the Latin Odyssey test.
We recommend the Punta Caracol Acqua Lodge, Tranquility Bay, and Eclipse De Mar.