What can I say about Bocas del Toro. I love it. It was my home for three months where I enjoyed everything that it had to offer and I would go back in a heart-beat.
The allure of Bocas, perfectly explained by Lonely Planet, is simply slowing down and soaking up the Caribbean vibes. The island has a friendly and relaxed atmosphere that rubs off on visitors; in fact it has a reputation for sucking in the travelers who often change their plans once stepping foot on the island. It really is an easy place to get stuck in.
But before you get stuck in Bocas, let’s break down the ways to get to this enchanting archipelago. You can either fly or take the bus to travel Bocas del Toro, and the option you choose mainly depends on the time and budget.
There are two routes into Bocas del Toro Province, one through Chiriqui, the other from the Caribbean coast of Costa Rica and the bus travels both of these routes.
If coming from Panama there are number of bus that depart from different areas within Panama such as David, Boquete and Panama City. The bus from Panama City to Almirante takes around 10 to 11 hours and you will be traveling on an uber-comfortable air-conditioned night bus. Buses depart in the evening and tickets can be purchased at Albrook Bus Terminal, located right beside Albrook Mall. At Almirante, traveler’s will take a water-taxi to the island. The boat ride takes about 30 minutes and they depart every 30 minutes until 6 p.m. The overall cost of the trip would be approximately USD$40 dollars – USD$30 for the bus / USD$6 for the water taxi.
An alternative is taking the bus from David (3.5 – 4.5 hours, $8) to Almirante. The buses to Almirante only depart two locations, Panama City and David. If you are visiting any other location in Panama, like Boquete, you need to first travel to David/Panama City to catch a bus.
If traveling from Costa Rica, travelers can take a bus from San Jose to Sixaoloa (at the border) or take the bus to Changuinola (19 km from Almirante). From Changuinola travelers can take a bus ($2) or a taxi ($15) to Almirante. There is also a private shuttle available from San Jose to Bocas del Toro called Costa Rica Just 4 U and other shuttle services for individuals in other parts of Costa Rica.
If you have the budget, I would highly recommend flying to Bocas del Toro as it saves a lot of time and headache. Flights run daily from Panama City (45 minutes) and San Jose (1 hour) in Costa Rica.
AirPanama has daily flights from Alboork Airport to Bocas del Toro. Flights depart daily around 6:30 a.m., 6:45 a.m., 3:30 p.m. and 4:15 p.m. On Sundays AirPanama also offers an 8 a.m. flight. During certain times of the year, flights get completely booked, so make sure to book in advance. In some instances, AirPanama also offers flights to Bocas straight from Tocumen Airport. Flights are around USD$100 – $200 / one way.
Flights from San Jose to Bocas del Toro are offered through NatureAir on Tuesdays, Thursday and Saturdays (these days are subject to change, contact NatureAir for more info) and depart at 9:00 am for around USD$188 / one way.
No matter how you get there, I hope you enjoy all that Bocas has to offer!