Bocas del Toro City Guide
OVERVIEW: Bocas del Toro is an island archipelago in the Caribbean Sea located off the northeast coast of Panama. The capital, known as Bocas Town, is a popular tourist resort and scuba diving destination. As in many Caribbean coastal towns in Central America, Bocas del Toro has a significant black population...not that that matters.
WEATHER: Tropical rainforest climate (20-30 °C). Humidity is high.
SAFETY: Bocas del Toro is safe. Stories about getting robbed on Wizard Beach by machete-wielding Rastas are overblown. The only time you'll be hassled by a local is when they ask you to purchase their weed.
MUST DO: Scuba dive and snorkel. Bocas has some great aquatic life. If you're not certified, it's only about $10 for a good 2 hours of snorkelling at any PADI certified dive shop...provided you have your own mask and snorkel. Otherwise it's $20.
RENT AN APARTMENT IN BOCAS DEL TORO: You could swing a deal to rent in Bocas del Toro at a hostel for about $250. Possibly free if you want to work for them, I'm not sure. Ask a local diver at the dive shop about his/her living situation to get a better idea. Many likely live on a nearby island like Bastimentos or even the terrible shit hole of a town called Almirante for cheaper rent.
HOSTEL DORM BED/NIGHT $10.00
NIGHTLIFE IN BOCAS DEL TORO: 6/10
Are there bars in Bocas del Toro? Yes. Are they full of locals? No. German and Scandinavian tourists is what you'll find. Bocas town is expensive, so many Panamanians who work on the island probably don't live there. That's not to say you can't pick up a waitress working the nightshift, but she's got a better chance of being from Pittsburg than Panama.
I recommend: Aqua Lounge. For those who have been to Bocas, this will come as no surprise. Located about a two minute water taxi ride from Bocas town, the Aqua Lounge is where tourists come to have sex with one another. This exchange is facilitated by the fact that the Aqua Lounge rents rooms too...perfect! It's the most popular spot on the island. I think it's a fucking disaster. Watch the video in the above link and be the judge!
BOTTLE OF BEER: $2.50
CHANCE OF HOOKING-UP IN BOCAS DEL TORO: 8/10
Really, really easy! Typical backpacker-type strategy is the ticket. Be loud and aggressive. Make sure people really notice you. You'll find someone willing to take you down.
***ONLINE DATING: Latin American Cupid allows you to talk with girls and set up dates before you arrive in the country. For this reason, I recommend it.
ARE GIRLS HOT IN BOCAS DEL TORO?: 6/10.
A score of ghastly dreadlocked hippies. There are hot tourists too, don't get me wrong. Attractive domestic tourists come from the mainland too, so that helps bump the average up slightly. The town truly doesn't have enough residents to pass any kind of meaningful judgement on attractiveness, although I did see a couple pretty fine black girls biking around the neighbourhood. However, approach them I did not.
If you want to make the most of your time in Panama, you will need to speak some Spanish. Rocket Spanish is the best resource for learning Spanish quickly and easily.
GROCERIES: Milk (1L)= $1.30 Loaf of Bread= $1.60 Eggs= $2.25 Water (1.5L)= $1.50 Cigarettes= $4.50
JOB OPPORTUNITIES: Hostel work-for-rent!
TAXI: Water taxi to Bocas from Almirante is about $7. Water taxis to surrounding islands are $1-3. Best way to get around Bocas Town is to walk, or bike if you want to hit some secluded beaches just outside the centre.
NOTES: Not for me. Bocas del Toro is expensive and has been completely taken over by tourists. I'm sure it was much better a few years ago. Only good for surfing and scuba as far as I'm concerned. There is a bit of a party scene amongst backpackers though, so you'll be able to get it wet. For that, I'll grant it a 6/10.
OVERALL RATING: 6/10
Want More Information About Latin America? Check Out My City Guides
*More city guides from Panama here!