Getting Oriented

The Bocas del Toro Archipelago scatters across a shallow lowland gulf. Tourism centers on Bocas del Toro town, which occupies a spit of land on the southern tip of Isla Colón, the westernmost island. Many visitors arrive and depart from the tiny airport here. Water taxis and a ferry ply the waters between the town and the mainland port of Almirante, from which roads lead southeast to Chiriquí and the rest of Panama and west to banana farms and the Costa Rican border. East of Isla Colón lie several other islands with communities and isolated hotels—Islas Carenero and Bastimentos are the most popular—and by day, private boats and water taxis travel regularly between the islands.

The eastern half of Isla Bastimentos is a wild and beautiful area that is partially protected within Parque Nacional Marino Isla Bastimentos, as are the two idyllic isles of Cayos Zapatillas to the southeast.

The Western Archipelago. The Western Archipelago is all about lazy days on the beach, cruising the coastline, wandering the streets, and coffees or cocktails at roadside bakeries or tin-roof shacks.

Isla Bastimentos. Cutting through the glassy waters, with Bocas Town in your wake, the “road” to Isla Bastimentos leads to picture-perfect beaches and mangrove tunnels where howler monkeys, exotic birds, and sea crabs clamber through the thick brush. Over-the-water bungalows and hillside cabanas are the perfect place to unplug, while shallow reefs beckon to an afternoon of snorkeling, surfing, or kayaking just offshore.

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