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.

Enjoying a cold Balboa while walking along Red Frog Beach
Enjoying a cold Balboa while walking along Red Frog Beach

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

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. 

Cayo Zapatillas - pure paradise

Cayos Zapatillas

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.

 

Playa Bluff

Playa Bluff

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. 

Look at the starfish!

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. 

The view from Bibi's on the Beach

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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The Beautiful Beaches of Bocas del Toro, Panama

7 Comments

    1. Starfish Beach is one of my favorite beaches of all time! I was just there in May and I couldn’t believe how much more crowded it was from my first visit, 3 years earlier! The starfish are still everywhere, but the boat loads of tourists coming in make the thin beach not as appealing. My favorite thing to do is walk from where the collectivos drop you off and pick an isolated spot on the way to star fish beach. Super beautiful, sometimes a starfish, but not very many people!

      1. I do agree. It’s a really nice walk and it’s extremely peaceful. But I would still recommend people to check out Starfish beach and then maybe walk back to the main area with some stops along the way!

        1. Oh yes, definitely don’t miss starfish beach! I meant more along the lines of, once you have seen it (or been many times) and are more interested in a peaceful beach day-the spots along the walk there are great!

    1. i love these recommendations. I’m planning on staying here for 5 days with my husband in June and this post is getting me more and more excited! I know you lived there so this might not pertain but I was wondering if you had any recommendations on a good hotel or house to stay at while we’re there.

      1. If you are looking for something a little more romantic then I would avoid the hostels and maybe go for a B&B or a hotel, the Hotel Bocas del Toro looks good but it isn’t on Isla Colon so you would have to factor in the 1 / 2 USD dollars (each way) to Bocas town. There are so many options, if you are doing in low season then maybe just not plan and walk around downtown to see what suits you! Everything is so close by! Let me know how you like it!!

    1. […] On my 16th birthday, my father introduced me to the world of scuba diving. It was in 2003 that I not only got my PADI Open Water certification but I spent one week on a liveaboard in the Great Barrier Reef. The rest, as they say, is history. I fell in love with the underwater world and I haven’t looked back. Since that fateful year, I’ve dived in the Dominican Republic, Canada, Cuba, Brazil, Greece and officially did my Divemaster internship for three months in the beautiful island town of Bocas del Toro, Panama. […]

    1. […] On my 16th birthday, my father introduced me to the world of scuba diving. It was in 2003 that I not only got my PADI Open Water certification but I spent one week on a liveaboard in the Great Barrier Reef. The rest, as they say, is history. I fell in love with the underwater world and I haven’t looked back. Since that fateful year, I’ve dived in the Dominican Republic, Canada, Cuba, Brazil, Greece and officially did my Divemaster internship for three months in the beautiful island town of Bocas del Toro, Panama. […]

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