Bocas del Toro – City Guide for Nomads and Expats

Updated in 2022.

Bocas del Toro is an island archipelago on the Caribbean side of Panama near the border with Costa Rica.

A welcome getaway from the concrete jungle of Panama City.

The capital, known as Bocas Town, is a popular tourist resort and Scuba Diving destination. Bocas is one of the largest towns on the Caribbean coast of Panama. The city of Colon, Panama’s other Caribbean city of note, is on the other side of the country some 500 km away.

As in many Caribbean coastal towns in Central America, Bocas del Toro has a very diverse population. Bocas cultural is a mix of Spanish, indigenous, Jamaican, and African cultural influences. Most of the people you’re likely to meet here will be tourists from the United States, Europe or elsewhere in Latin America.

There is quite a bit party scene so if you’re looking to have fun, this isn’t the worst place to do so.

POPULATION: 15,000

 

WEATHER

Tropical rainforest climate (20-30 °C). Humidity is high.

 

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.

 

IS BOCAS DEL TORO SAFE?

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. Be sure to stay on the main streets in Bocas town at night. 


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RENT AN APARTMENT IN BOCAS DEL TORO

You could swing a deal to rent an apartment 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 excuse of a town called Almirante for cheaper rent.

 

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 good too. 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 disaster, honestly. Watch the video in the above link and be the judge!

 

LEARNING SPANISH IN BOCAS DEL TORO

If you want to meet women in Latin America, you will need to know a bit of Spanish. PickUp Spanish is an entertaining and informative course that teaches Latin American Spanish in a way that is geared toward meeting and dating latinas!


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HOW TO GET TO BOCAS DEL TORO

There are daily flights to Panama City.

David is a 4 hour drive, Boquete is a 4 hour drive, and San Jose, Costa Rica is a 6 hour drive away.

 

WHERE TO STAY IN BOCAS DEL TORO

In Bocas Town, the best place for young people to stay is going to be the Selina. From the Selina they organize lots of tours and have good parties several nights a week. The Selina has good wifi and even a coworking space to get things done.

 

COST OF LIVING IN BOCAS DEL TORO

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.

HOSTEL DORM BED/NIGHT

$10.00

GROCERIES

Milk (1L)= $2.50   Loaf of Bread= $2.50   Eggs= $2.75   Water (1.5L)= $1.50   Cigarettes= $5.00

BOTTLE OF BEER

$2.50

 

JOB OPPORTUNITIES

Hostel work-for-rent!

 

FINAL THOUGHTS

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. For that, I’ll grant it a 6/10. 


OVERALL RATING: 6/10


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