What better way to adopt the Panamanian catchphrase, tranquillo, than by lounging by the beach, watching the sun bounce off the blue Bocas water and enjoying a ice cold Balboa.
Bocas may be known for it’s water sports, like scuba diving and surfing, but it is also home to a large number of gorgeous beaches perfect for swimming, barbecues, day drinking and being lulled to sleep by the sound of gentle waves surging on the surf. This thin strip of islands has an intoxicating laid-back, good times beach vibe that will convince any traveler to change their plans and immerse themselves in the joys of island living.
But as you walk down the main strip of Bocas town, one thing is glaringly missing. You may have your morning coffee and jump off of the coffee shop’s deck into the Caribbean, but if you are craving for long stretches of sand in an idyllic paradise type setting than that requires a little bit of a trek. So you may ask: what are the best beaches in Bocas del Toro?
Red Frog Beach
This beach has adopted it’s name from the strawberry poison-dart frogs that can be seen along the surf. If you do spot one, then make sure you take a closer look and snap a couple of pictures – don’t worry they aren’t poisonous. The beach is located on the north end of Isla Bastimentos with a perfect surf break nearby and a long, mostly desolate, stretch of sandy beach. Travelers need to take a water taxi from the main island to get to the beach. If the water is not calm that taxi drivers will drop individuals off at the other end of the island, requiring beach goers to hike a couple of kilometers to reach the main beach. Even if you have to hike, it is all worth it once you arrive at your final destination.
One of the furthest islands from Bocas town, Cayos Zapatillas truly is a paradise, boasting white sand beaches and perfectly turquoise and blue water. It is located in the middle of a protected marine park and turtles have been known to come ashore during the months of spring when it’s time for them to nest. Unfortunately, they only way to get to Zapatillas is by boat, usually through a tour company. Numerous tour operators stand on the main strip in Bocas, right beside the water taxi dock, shouting out their tour options. Make sure to shop around and find an option that will also stop by Dolphin Bay, to watch playful dolphins swim around the boat.
Located 15 minutes by taxi ride from Bocas Town, Playa Bluff has 7 kilometers of beautiful golden sand and some of Panama’s strongest beach breaks for surfing in Bocas del Toro. The road to the beach is a tough one and individuals are recommended to either walk or take a taxi. Playa Bluff is also one of the most known locations where three different types of turtles: the Leatherback, Hawksbill and Green turtle, leave their eggs during the spring months. The beach also is home to the Playa Bluff Lounge and Hotel where beach bums can hide their sun burnt faces while enjoying a bite to eat and an afternoon cocktail.
Boca del Drago
Arguably one of the most famous beaches in Bocas, Boca del Drago is known for it colony of starfish that rest lazily right underneath the water and close to shore. Those looking for an adventure can rent a bike ($7-10 per day) and bike the 18 kilometers to Boca del Drago (Starfish Beach) or take a colectivo (bus) that will pick you up at Central Park for $2.50 USD each way. The beach itself is rather narrow, but most people come to touch and take pictures of the starfish.
Playa Punta Carenero
Right in front of Isla Colon (where Bocas town is located) is Isla Carenero, famous for Aqua Lounge, a hostel and crazy party bar every Wednesday and Saturday. Carenero also has a beach that is known as a good place to snorkel and surf. Bibi’s on the Beach, a restaurant located steps from the sand, is a great place to rent a surfboard and enjoy a fresh seafood lunch or dinner with a happy hour cocktail after a long gruesome day of beach lounging. *Word of caution* Playa Punta Carenero is know for sand flies, in Spanish they are called chitras. A friend of mine went surfing on the beach and came back with her legs covered in red bites, that later got infected. Be extremely weary on the beach, especially if you are going in and out of the water and bring extra bug spray!
Did I miss anything? Please let me know what your favorite beach was and if I missed an important Bocas beach in the comment section below!
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