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BOCAS DEL TORO
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Bocas del Toro (Spanish pronunciation: [ˈbokaz ðel ˈtoɾo]; meaning “Mouths of the Bull”) is a province of Panama. Its area is 4,643.9 square kilometers, comprising the mainland and nine main islands. The province consists of the Bocas del Toro Archipelago, Bahía Almirante (Almirante Bay), Chiriquí Lagoon, and adjacent mainland. The capital is the city of Bocas del Toro (or Bocas Town) on Isla Colón (Colón Island). Other major cities or towns include Almirante and Changuinola. The province has a population of 125,461 as of 2010.
Christopher Columbus and his crew first visited the area in 1502. Bocas del Toro borders the Caribbean Sea to the north, Limón Province of Costa Rica to the west, Chiriquí Province to the south, and Ngöbe-Buglé Comarca to the east. The Río Sixaola forms part of the border with Costa Rica. An old railroad bridge spans the river between Guabito and Sixaola, Costa Rica. The bridge is a border crossing used by tourists going between destinations in Bocas del Toro and Costa Rica.
The province contains two national parks, Isla Bastimentos National Marine Park and La Amistad International Park.The Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute operates a research station on Colón Island just northwest of Bocas Town. There are many banana plantations in Bocas del Toro, often called the oro verde, or green gold of Central America.
Choose between these 7 exiting destinations in the San José area
PANAMA BOCAS DEL TORO AREA MAP
WHERE TO GO & WHAT TO DO
You are about to learn about 7 of the most important and exiting places in Bocas del Toro Panama.
1. DOWNTOWN BOCAS DEL TORO
PROVINCE OF BOCAS DEL TORO
Capital: Bocas del Toro/ Country: Panamá/ Districts: 4/ Historic Events: 1843 (national territory) 1903 (province)/ Area: 4.643,9 Km2/ Population (2018) total; 170.320 residents Density; 27,02 residents/Km2/ Coordinates: 9°20′26″N 82°14′26″O
Bocas del Toro is a province of Panama, and its’ capital is the same-named city of Bocas del Toro. It has an area of 4.5843,9 km², a population of 170,320 residents (2018) y its limits: to the north the Caribbean sea, to the south the province of Chiriqui, to the east and southeast with the Ngabe-Bugle region, to the west and northeast with the province of Limon in Costa Rica, and to the southwest with the province of Puntarenas in Costa Rica. The province includes the island of Escudo de Veraguas that is found in the Mosquitos gulf, separated from the rest by the península Valiente.
Possible origins of the name
It often happens that many names in the Republic of Panama have an unknown history and, unfortunately, their true origin has been lost in time. In spite of that, among the locals there are several stories that deserve to be known. There are those who vehemently affirm that the last “cacique” (an indigenous tribe of the region) who had a strong character and was a tireless fighter, was known as “Boka Toro”.
Others are sure that during his fourth and final trip the Admiral Cristóbal Colón, who spent most of his time bedridden due to poor vision and possible rheumatic fever, sailed with his two Caravels towards a wide circular water inlet, the bay of “Carabaro”, named after the natives, today renamed in his honor as Bahia Almirante (Admiral Bay).
Fourth trip of Cristobal Colon in the Caribbean Sea
On October 6, 1502, as he was sailing with his crew from the Caribbean Sea to Carenero Island to make repairs to the hull on one of his ships due to heavy storms unleashed along the coast and stocking up of provisions on the neighboring island of Bastimentos, Columbus spotted a rock, which looked like a “bull lying with its mouth open”. This could explain some names of the Caribbean islands Bastimentos and Carenero, whose names mean “supplies” and “careening”, respectively. A variant of the above indicates that, when entering the sea to the mainland, the immense waves which pound the cliffs on Bastimentos Island (which are of volcanic origin) resemble the sound of a bull bellowing with great force.
2. ISLA BASTIMENTOS
This is one of the biggest islands inside of the archipelago – here you can find the quiet village of Old Bank, the indigenous community of Quebrada de Sal and the National Marine Park “Isla Bastimentos”. This is also the home of the Red Frog Beach Complex and many paradise-like beaches. Old Bank is a small village with few inhabitants, the majority of which are descendants of the Antillean workers who came to grow bananas. It can be reached from the mainland by paying $5 for a 10 minute boat ride. The locals speak a unique dialect called Guari-Guari, which is based on English with a patois accent and mixed with Spanish and indigenous dialects. There are several impressive eco-lodges within the forest and among the mangroves. If you are looking for exquisite gastronomic offerings, ecological trails, snorkeling, and a pool with hills and forest landscapes visible from the water on a farm of more than 4 hectares, you can find them in Bahia Honda.
QUEBRADA DE SAL
This location is more distant, and can be reached by taking a boat trip through the mangroves. It is one of the best ways to see the unique territories of the Isla Bastimentos National Marine Park. You can see sloths, howler monkeys, tropical birds, frogs, caimans and tropical bats among many other species. Some of the best beaches of the archipelago are located on Isla Bastimentos, but almost all of these are exposed to the tide – be careful about riptides if you decide to bathe. It is also impossible to get there directly by boat in certain months of the year.
The nearest beach to Old Bank and Bocas Town is Wizard Beach. Wizard Beach is a long beach, it is located about 45 minutes from Old Bank on foot on a path that begins at the end of the village and crosses the island. From Playa Wizard you can hire a boatman (when the waves aren’t too big) to take you to Polo Beach, where there is an amazing coral reef perfect for snorkelling and diving. This is a site of ecological importance for the leatherback turtles who arrive to deposit their eggs between the months of February and August.
PLAYA RED FROG
Playa Red Frog is easily accessible- take a boat to the Red Frog marina and after paying your $ 3 entrance per person, walk about 15 minutes on a well-maintained path. The Red Frog complex offers Bungalows, a hostel, a tent hotel, a canopy zipline tour, and several restaurants.
3- ISLA BOCATORITOS
4. ISLA CARENERO
This is the closest island to Bocas Town. Just a few minutes by boat from the mainland, Isla Carenero is easy to reach and relatively small. You can walk the entire coast in about an hour. Most of the hotels are on the beach or held above the water using a system of stilts. You will find several restaurants serving seafood specialties- a truly unique experience to dine right on the water! There are many activities that can be done during a visit to Isla Carenero – the best waves for beginners surfing are here, along with one of the best overall waves in the region of Bocas del Toro. The Point of Carenero is one of the longest lefts in Bocas del Toro and forms perfect tubes when conditions are ideal. Participating in Stand Up Paddle (SUP) is an unforgettable option to see the coral reefs around Carenero.
5. ISLA COLON
This is the most populated island in the Bocas del Toro archipelago and the capital of the Province of Bocas del Toro. Most hotels, restaurants, bars, tour operators, and businesses are based in Bocas Town on Isla Colon, with the Bocas del Toro International Airport also located here – just outside of Bocas Town. Isla Colon is the starting point for visitors who wish to explore the other islands of Bocas del Toro.
Found on the southern tip of Isla Colon, Bocas Town is the capital and main commercial center of the Bocas del Toro Islands. Although Bocas Town is the living zone of the area, it is a comfortable size and easy to navigate. Most hotels, restaurants, bars and other businesses are between 1st, 2nd and 3rd streets. In the center of the town is the Simón Bolívar Park where food and crafts are sold. A taxi ride costs less than $1 to almost anywhere in the center, but the best mode of transportation is by bicycle. Walking through Bocas Town and exploring craft sales is a great outing. The Bri-Bri fair is an excellent option for Panamanian crafts and Bocatoreñas. Guna fairs are at the end of the main street (3rd street) in front of Hotel Las Brisas – here the artisans sell molas (colorful fabrics), local handicrafts and handmade jewelry. There are many bars and quality restaurants in Bocas Town, serving a wonderful variety of food options. Restaurants and bars are open on the water with happy hour from evening to nightfall. In the evenings, Bocas Town is active with reggae bars, martini bars and even sushi bars, often offering deep-house music by live DJs, and epic full moon parties once a month.
Isla Colon has some of the most beautiful beaches of the Bocas del Toro archipelago. The quieter beaches for swimming are found in: Estrella Beach, Sandfly Beach and Big Creek Beach.
This is one of the most beautiful beaches in Bocas, but you have to be careful if you want to swim – the waves tend to be very strong, and the rip tides can be dangerous. It is better to swim when the water has almost no waves.
Playa Estrella, Isla Colon
You can get to Bocas del Drago and Playa Estrella for $5 on the bus that leaves in front of Simón Bolívar Park in Bocas Town starting at 10 am. Bocas del Drago is also a good option for snorkeling, you can also walk to Playa Estrella or take a boat to Isla Pájaro. Playa Estrella is among the most popular and specular beaches and is the only beach apart from the Zapatillas Cays where it is not dangerous to bathe when there are waves.
Isla Pájaro, Isla Colon
Isla Pájaro is a small rocky island at the northern end of Isla Colon. On Isla Pájaro you will find terns, frigates and seagulls, while small birds fly among the treetops. It is the only place in Panama where you can see the Rabijunco Piquirojo bird, famous for the long feathers of its tail dancing in the wind behind them when they glide around the island.
6. ISLA SOLARTE
This island is located to the south of Bastimentos Island and was known as Nancy’s Cay for centuries when pirates, merchants and settlers came to the area. The extreme west of Isla Solarte is known as Hospital Point because it was the former site of the main hospital in the area. This hospital was built by the United Fruit Company in 1900. It was also the headquarters of the Colombian Conservative Party troops during the War of a Thousand Days- the forces of the Colombian Liberal Party attacked here in 1901 and 1902. Isla Solarte has one of the best spots for diving or snorkeling on the archipelago. The wall at Punto Hospital offers divers a wealth of amazing sights: from seagrass and coral lettuce in the shallow parts to the deeper wall that descends to 10 to 18 meters creating a home for lobsters, eels, lionfish, trumpetfish among the corals and sponges. To the east both sides of the island are surrounded by mangroves where juvenile marine life hides from barracudas and other predators. Another popular site for divers is called the Coral Gardens on the south of the island
7. POPA LOMA PARTIDA ISLA TIGRES CAYO DE AGUA