Sunday, March 2, 2014

Top 10 Things To Do in Bocas Del Toro

I spent 6 weeks in Bocas Del Toro this year and wanted to write a post of my favourite things we did there. Since we had quite a bit of time there, I think that this list will help you when deciding what to do. Please let me know if you have any questions!


I put this one first because we decided on going to Bocas due to the fact that my boyfriend wanted to find good waves. Whether you are a beginner, a pro or somewhere in between, you should really be surfing in Bocas. For beginners, you should definitely sign up for a surf lesson at one of the local spots. I would recommend Taco Surf (and they also have amazing tacos), Pukalani Hostel or Grand Kahuna Hostel. All these spots offer great beginner lessons and board rentals. If you are a beginner, you shouldn't venture out on your own... there are dangerous rips in the ocean, shallow reefs and sharp sea urchins to watch out for. It is best to hire an instructor. For the more advanced surfers, check out this post that my boyfriend help me write on the best spots. (blog post not finished yet)

Zapatillas Island
Zapatillas Island is one of those places that looks like you are in a postcard. It has crystal clear water, gorgeous white sand and beautiful fish for snorkelling. It is an uninhabited island so no accommodation, no stores and no restaurants. You need to bring everything you need for the day with you, especially sunscreen. We took a full day boat trip there for $30 that included a brief stop at 'Dolphin Bay', a stop at a little seafood restaurant for lunch and a quick snorkelling stop. This gave us about 2.5 hours on Zapatillas. This definitely wasn't enough time. I would recommend getting a group together and hiring a boat for the day to take you there and stay there. Pack a lunch, bring plenty of water and ensure your camera has lots of battery left! It is about 30 minutes from Bocas by boat. (closer to Bastimentos)

Cruiser Bike around the Island
One of my favourite parts of our trip was how much biking we got to do. The views were amazing, the roads were mostly flat and I felt as if I was burning off some of those Pina Coladas. You can rent the bikes in Bocas Town for $7 a day or $40 a week. We were there for awhile so we decided on the weekly rate. This way we could get to beaches early for surfing (6:30am) and head into town later for dinner with no time limit. The road from Bocas Town (where you rent the bikes) to Bluff Beach takes about 45 minutes. I will go into more detail on a blog post about this trip here: (blog post not done yet)

Starfish Beach
Starfish Beach is a photographers dream. Clear water, gorgeous beach and lots of colourful starfish dotting the shallow water. You can get there from Bocas Town many different ways: Bike (best workout), Bus (cheapest option), Taxi (fastest option), or water taxi (more scenic option). The beach has tons of little seafood restaurants lining the sand with delicious fish, lobster and crab. Beers are $1.50 and meals are around $12-$20. You can also treat yourself and rent out a beach chair to lounge on for $5 a day. I have a more details blog post about it here: Starfish Beach

Red Frog Beach
You can probably tell by now that one of my favourite things to do is hang out on beautiful beaches. Red Frog is a great beach to do just that. It is on Bastimentos Island which is just a $5 water taxi from Bocas Town and then there is a $3 entry fee since it is a National Park. There is a beach restaurant located here that serves lunch and cocktails all day which can be a nice break from the scorching sun. A great lunch option is the 'fish of the day' that comes with coconut rice and salad ($12). There is also another bar located on the beach by the 'Tent Lodge' that has drinks and a small bbq for quick lunches. Keep an eye out for the tiny Red Frogs that live in the jungle on this island.

Oreba Chocolate Farm Tour
One of the days we didn't spend at the beach, was spent at the Oreba Chocolate Farm. You sign up for the tour in Bocas Town ($25 & includes lunch + chocolate). You have to take a 25 min water taxi to the main land to the town of Almirante and then they pick you up from there. The entire thing runs about 5 hours. (8am-1pm or 12pm to 5pm). The best part is that the tour is run by an indigenous tribe who keep the profits to help in their community. You will see how cacao plants are grown, processed and turned into the chocolate we enjoy everyday. (they supply to several large companies including Lindt). More details here: Chocolate Farm Blog Post.

Walk around Carnero Island
Carnero Island is located right next to Bocas Town. You could literally swim there if you really wanted to... but the water taxi is $1 per person so I don't suggest it. The island is really really small, you can walk around it in about 1-2 hours. We only did this once and we were attacked by little sand flies called 'Chitras'. It is a really beautiful island but make sure you bring LOTS of bug repellant with you (coconut oil works the best since they drown in it). For cheap eats, try the hostel Grand Kahuna or for a awesome seafood meal, check out Bibi's on the Beach. There is great beginner surfing here if you feel like taking a lesson.

Jungle Hike to Wizard Beach
The hike to Wizard Beach will definitely ruin your new running shoes. The 30 min hike is wet, muddy and sometimes challenging. Your best bet is to take a water taxi to Bastimentos Island (Old Bank dock - $3) then walk up the hill to a little cafe appropriately named "Up on the Hill". This is an adorable cafe that is also a small chocolate farm with a cafe that offers breakfast goodies and amazing coffee and hot chocolate. After your delicious breaky, you can follow the path over the hill to Wizard Beach. They have had some muggings along this path (teenagers looking for phones, cameras and cash) so it's best to leave the SLR and iphones at home. We walked this path several times and NEVER had any trouble. When you get to Wizard Beach it is beautiful and secluded! It is such a messy hike that not many people do it. Nathan had some amazing surf days here as well. There are no stores or bars so bring your own lunch. On the way home, you can take the path that goes directly back to Old Bank but make sure to stop in at the little hut along the path. A Rasta man serves up Jack Fruit Smoothies for $4 and they are AMAZING. Keep walking into Old Bank and take the water taxi back to Bocas from here. More details coming in a blog post soon!

Kayak/Snorkel/Stand-Up Paddleboard
A few things that I really enjoyed were playing in the ocean on boards, kayaks and snorkelling of course. You can rent kayaks and stand-up paddleboards at a few different places around Bocas Town and the other islands. A few hotels and hostels rent them for free so ask around. We had a free kayak rental at Tio Tom's hostel and we took it out to Hospital Point for the afternoon. There was great snorkelling there and only a few other people. We also found good snorkelling at Starfish Beach and the boat trip to Zapatilla Island.

Happy Hour Tour in Bocas Town
The best part of Bocas Del Toro (ok, I know I've said that a lot) is the drink prices.... beers are $1.50 and cocktails $2-4. But, it get's even better at happy hour. Since we were in town for 6 weeks, we hit a lot of different spots and found some favs. The first was the hostel pictured above called Casa Verde. They have hammocks lining the dock, live music and an amazing sunset view. The next was Hotel Bocas Del Toro which was a bit higher end but the drink prices were a steal from 4-6pm. Beers $1 and cocktails $2.50. This includes the most amazing passionfruit daiquiri you could ever imagine. I also liked the rooftop view from Dave's Wave (run by Canadian Dave) and the atmosphere on the boat-turned-into-bar called Riptide. I will do a full blog post on happy hour in Bocas really soon!

Other stuff
Things that we didn't do but you can do! :)
- Tour of the Bat Caves (I was a little too scared to go into a dark cave)
- Scuba Diving
- Sailing (you can sail to the San Blas islands from here too)
- Horseback riding
- Costa Rica is close by so that is an option for a weekend trip too

Full iPhone Flickr album is here: 


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  2. Welcome to Bocas. We’re south of the hurricane belt. Enjoy your life….. Enjoy Bocas del Toro! Welcome to an unforgettable vacation.

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