Bocas del Toro National Park is a group of islands just off the Caribbean East Coast of Costa Rica, one hour away from San Jose by air and approximately two hours by road and 30 minutes by boat from Puerto Viejo, Limon area.
This spectacular archipelago consists of 9 islands, 52 keys and more than 200 small islets. The town of Bocas del Toro on Colon Island is the main hub for travel throughout the islands. Visitors arrive either by a short flight from San Jose with Nature Air or by road ( two hours by road from Puerto Viejo passing the border Costa Rica – Panama at Sixola/Guabito border crossing, followed by a 30 minute water transfer from the town of Almirante on the mainland.
Weather in Bocas del Toro
Bocas del Toro has a tropical climate with high humidity levels. The average year-round temperature is 27°c/82°f.
In Bocas del Toro, the dry season extends from February to May and from August to October. Rainy months include July, November and December. December, January and beginning of February are the best months for surfers due to high surf swell which means passing storms.
However, for several years, climate conditions have been irregular and unpredictable. It is hard to make precise weather predictions.
For more information about the weather in Bocas del Toro, please click here:
Bocas Town is the centre of most activities and is home to many hotels, restaurants, shops and tour companies. You can also find bohemian accommodation at Carenero and Bastimentos Islands, located just a short water taxi ride from Colon, the main island.
In Bocas del Toro you can stay in anything from luxurious hotels, jungle eco-lodges and cozy bed and breakfasts to hostels and budget accommodations. Then, from your home-base you can go on sail around the island chain, zipline through the rain forest canopy, scuba dive in beautiful tropical coral reefs, learn to surf, or take on many other adventures. You will be able to explore deserted beaches, coral reefs teeming with sea critters, swim with manatees, or even see one of the last remaining monarchies on the American continent. Bocas del Toro is simply amazing.
What to see in Bocas del Toro archipelago
The islands of Colon and Bastimentos offer great surfing and swimming beaches including Paunch and Bluff beaches on Colon Island and Wizard, Red Frog, Polo and other beaches on Bastimentos.
Bastimentos also contains the first national park that was created in Panama, the Bastimentos Marine Park.
A wide variety of daily tours operate from all main islands. Add to this mix a large number of great restaurants/bars offering a wide range of cuisines from Chinese to Italian to local Panamanian fare. Bocas Town also has an active nightlife as well as many festivals and celebrations throughout the year.
Border Crossing and Other Helpful Info
Keep in mind if you are crossing the border from Costa Rica there is a one hour time difference. It is one hour later in Panama. So if you cross the border at 1:00pm, it is 2:00pm in Panama. It is best to cross the border by 5:00pm at the latest in order to ensure customs office will still be open.
When entering Panama from Costa Rica, if you do not have a proof of a departure ticket from the country, you will be required to buy a bus ticket at the border. It is the same when you enter Costa Rica from Panama.
FYI: Banks in Panama will not exchange any currency (Euros, Colones, etc). For U.S. currency (what they use in Panama). There is one ATM in Bocas Town, Located at Banco Nacional on 4th Street. Most businesses do not accept credit cards in Bocas.
Bocas del Toro Optional excursions
Playa Bluff: Situated about 8kms north of the town of Isla Colon, Playa Bluff is marked by miles of pristine beach and incredible crashing waves.
Crawl Cay: Crawl Cay, at the southern end of Bastimento Island, is conveniently situated only minutes from Tierra Verde. It is a vivid and picturesque seaside rest stop, surrounded by lush mangroves. Stop here for relaxing cocktail between tours, or grab your sunscreen and your favorite book and camp out for the day.
Hospital Point: Once the medical center for the United Fruit Company, Hospital Point is now a privately owned and operated tourist attraction.
Red Frog beach: See these fascinating red frogs indigenous to this beach especially. These tiny but breathtakingly beautiful creatures can often be seen chirping on various trails to and from the beach or situated between the flora in their natural habitat. Don’t forget to bring your camera. It will make for a terrific photographic experience.
Zapatilla Cay: An hour long boat ride from Tierra Verde through the Bastimiento Marine Park takes you to Zapatilla Cay, Panama’s first marine park established in the Bastimiento National Park. This national conservation area honors the abundant marine and coastal ecosystems, which include wetlands, mangroves, coral beaches and more than 200 species of tropical fish.
Bocas del Drago: Situated on the far side of Isla Colon, Bocas del Drago is well-known for its intimate beach spots situated along crystal turquoise waters. Graced by a local restaurant serving the most delicious local versions of the catch of the day, Bocas del Drago is one of the nicer spots on the main island. You can also rent a bike or take the public transportation from Isla Colon’s center to get there.
Swans Cay (Bird Island): Situated of the northern part of Isla Colon, this island serves as a special refuge for a cornucopia of bird species, some of which cannot be seen anywhere else in the world.
Some of the best and most diverse scuba in all of Central America can be found in Bocas. You can expect to find different types of corals, hundreds of species of marine life, caves, shipwrecks and reef all within one hour of Tierra Verde Hotel.
Surf Breaks in Bocas del Toro
Carenero: Carenero, where Tierra Verde Hotel is located is known as one of the best surf spots in Bocas del Toro. With a left-hand reef and bottom point break waves that break for about 100 yards along the edge of the reef, you’ll feel the beauty of the bigger-the-swell-the-better-the-waves surfology and connect a perfect barrel. It’s been said that Carenero’s waves resemble some spots in Fiji. The wave is very powerful and caters to an amazing barrel section which can last several seconds, so better hold on to your cojones.
Punch: A reef bottom right/left break which can get really good hosting three different peaks with different take off zones.
Dumpers: A reef bottom left-hander with a steep drop and tube, Dumpers rides may not be as long as Punch or Carenero, but its amazingly large tube section might just lure you to try it anyway.
SilverBack: A right-hand big wave reef bottom, Silver Back breaks out in the middle of the ocean. The break is located about 35 minutes from Tierra Verde, from where waves in the 20 ft face range have been spotted.–