Three things come to mind when thinking about our time in Bocas del Toro: amazing empty beaches, tropical rain, and mud… a lot of mud! As we will see, these three things are closely related 🙂
After the luxuriant green in Boquete we were ready for the Caribbean side of Panama, so we hopped into another minivan and set our target to Bocas del Toro. Bocas is an archipelago, so we hitched a water taxi at Almirante and headed out to Colon, the archipelago’s largest island. This is usually a pretty relaxed 30 minute ride, but halfway through it started pouring rain, making the rest of the trip pretty bumpy and wet. We were soaked when we arrived, but you have to do just like the locals and put on a smile: after all, it’s a warm rain and you are in paradise!
Taxis are slightly different here!
Bocas Town is nothing to write home about, but the rest of Colon island is beautiful
Renting an ATV was fun! We totally recommend it
Verne looked like a kid with a new toy, riding the ATV!
One of the many desert and idyllic beaches we found in Bocas Del Toro. This one is ‘Playa Bluff’
Verne appreciating the beauty of the calm sea (but he kept his helmet on, just in case)
The water was incredibly clear! In some places you don’t even need your snorkel to see fishes
Can you imagine going to school in the middle of the jungle? Well, that’s exactly what happens here
How cool is it, when the only footsteps on the beach are yours?
Jules trying to fly with the ATV!
Verne petting the friendly horses we met along the way
It’s not easy to access these beaches, and that explains how they are so desert and well preserved. This one is on the northern tip of the island
Jules doing “shore snorkeling”. There were many small fishes that insisted on sucking Jules fingers!
We’ve been trying to spot sea turtles since the beginning of this trip, without any luck so far… This one unfortunately was already in the menu of these vultures
Along the way there are so many beautiful hidden beaches that it becomes difficult to choose where to stop!
View of the ‘Blue Lagoon’ in the northern part of the island
In our defense this was the only time that we got stuck! And we managed to take it out with “minimum” difficulty!
This was the beginning of the trail to Christian’s beach… Seemed pretty innocent
Jules barefoot and with mud up to her ankles… It would get much worse, and the mud would go up to her knees
Don’t ask how Verne managed to get mud up to his elbows!
There are (at least) three howler monkeys in this picture. Can you spot them?
These ruins were once one of the houses of the former dictator Manuel Noriega. You can’t see it in the picture, but it had an amazing view of the sea!
It might be difficult to believe, but this was the airstrip that gave access to Noriega’s house. Nowadays vegetation has grown all around, and was barely wide enough for our ATV
“sittin’ on the dock of the bay…”
Wherever you look there’s a hint of paradise. This was our view while we were enjoying a couple of local beers
Coastline on our way back to Bocas Town
The islands are close together, so it’s common to see people canoeing between them
Blue, blue, blue… Beautiful blue all over!
Pier in Bastimentos Island
Universal greetings upon arrival to Bastimentos Island. You feel immediately welcome!
And here we go again, with mud all over!
This was the first beach we arrived on our way to Red Frog. As you can see, it is another slice of paradise!
Our clothes hanger for the afternoon
I’m wondering if we can call this street art.. After all, it was in the “road” to Red Frog Beach!
Finally, Red Frog Beach! With a lot more people than the others we visited, but still a beautiful beach
Despite its name, this strawberry poison-dart frog is not poisonous to humans (or so we hope!)
Bocas Town, the island’s main town, is a succession of hostels and restaurants, so there’s not a lot to do. A cool way to get out of town is to rent an ATV and head out to the jungle, searching for empty beaches, sloths and howler monkeys. So the next morning we started our way up to the Northern part of the island. This part of the island is gorgeous, and the beauty of the empty beaches took us back to Galapagos. The only thing missing were the cheeky sea lions!
The guy that rented us the ATV told us of tales of Christian’s beach, an idilic place only accessible after a rough ATV trail and a trek through the jungle. But he told us that there was no way we would make it through the trek on flip-flops: challenge accepted! In retrospect, it was a pretty dumb idea: it had rained a lot the day before, so we spent a couple of hours walking barefoot in knee-deep mud. Worst part was that we got lost on the final stretch of the hike and didn’t find the beach!
The next day we decided to visit Bastimentos, a smaller and less developed island in the archipelago, and check out Red Frog Beach. There’s two ways to get there: you can hire a boat to take you there directly, or catch a water taxi to the Bastimentos town and hike through the island to get to Red Frog. We never shy away from saving a few bucks and we have the memory span of a cockroach, so we went for option #2. No need to add a lot of detail here, suffice to say that once we finally dipped into the sea, there were brown bubbles around us from all the mud 🙂 But the hike is beautiful and you get to pass by a couple of incredible beaches (watch out for the ocean through, the rip currents are really tricky).
Bocas del Toro wrapped our trip around Panama, and we are really glad that we changed our plans to spend more time in this incredible country. Our next destination will give us our first taste of Costa Rica’s ‘pura vida’. Puerto Viejo, here we come!
Jules & Verne *