Bocas Del Toro – An Overview of These Unique Caribbean Islands

By The Bocas Del Toro Archipelago consists of nine islands, 52 keys and some 200 tiny islets. The largest and most developed island is Colón Island or Isla Colon, where the capital of the province Bocas Town, is located. The total population of the archipelago is around 9000 people – roughly half live in the Bocas Town.

The islands surrounding Isla Colon are evolving rapidly from a backpackers’ destination into a resort area, so you better get to Bocas soon if you want to see what it is like before the influence of the outside world changes it forever. You can enjoy the white-sand beaches and surf on the Caribbean side, boat trips on the sheltered lagoon side and there are opportunities for swimming, snorkeling, diving and sunbathing across all the islands.

You can get to Bocas Del Toro easily. There are inexpensive flights from Panama City, David or Changuinola  or San Jose, Costa Rica to the Bocas Del Toro airport.

In bocas you are as likely to hear English spoken as you are Spanish. The Afro-Caribbean residents of the islands are mainly from English-speaking islands of Jamaica, San Andrés, and Providencia. They originally came to Bocas Del Toro to work on the banana plantations that prospered in the  Archipelago a century ago.

The wildness of the undeveloped Caribbean is still found in Bocas Del Toro. The islands of the Archipelago are rich with wildlife. The first marine reserve in Panama was created here in 1988 – the Bastimentos Island National Marine Park. It has some stunning underwater scenery made up of coral reefs that are only few minutes by boat from the main island of Isla Colon. To the north of Isla Colon is Swan Cay, a bird sanctuary with a variety of local and migratory species. Four species of endangered sea turtles still visit the waters around the Archipelago and the come ashore in great numbers to lay their eggs. If you are in the area during Turtle season you can actually go out to the beaches at night and see these wonderful creatures come out of the sea and lay their eggs.

The areas biggest inconvenience is the rain. The islands are part of a rain forest after all. The rainy season is the months of December through July. All though it rains off and on all year and is fairly unpredictable. Normally the rain showers happen quickly and are gone as fast as they came.

Long-term residents complain Bocas isn’t what it used to be, but the changes have been for the better (economy wise not necessarily eco wise). Accommodations are still available for backpackers and surfers for fifteen dollars a night and a meal can be had for a few dollars. In addition to the budget accommodations more luxurious hotels and private homes turned into guest houses are popping up around the islands.

If you decide to visit Bocas Del Toro check out Bahia Del Sol on Isla Colon. It is a guesthouse located outside of Bocas Town in a Panamanian village called Saigon.

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