You know us. We like five-star hotels :-). So the first question on our minds after deciding to go:
What are the best places to stay in Bocas del Toro?
Good question too. Because search for “Bocas del Toro luxury hotels” – and you’ll be hard-pressed to find much. That’s because Bocas is (mostly) still off-the-grid.
There are a couple of traditional hotel-style places to stay in Bocas del Toro.
But we wanted something boutiquey and secluded, so we had to dig a bit. You’ll understand why if you know a little about Bocas.
Why visit Bocas del Toro?
Bocas del Toro is an archipelago of small islands off the north coast of Panama on the Caribbean side.
Most accommodations are small eco-resorts or guesthouses. No air conditioning. Rainwater for drinking. Solar power (candle-light dining!).
Now, Bocas has graduated from the backpacker phase of tourism development to boutique inns and B&B’s. But the five-star hotels simply haven’t found their way there yet (though Viceroy plans to open a luxury resort with 42 overwater villas in 2020).
So finding the best places to stay in Bocas del Toro was a bit of a challenge for us.
Still, we wanted to visit Bocas!
We were booked on a small-ship adventure “UnCruise” from Costa Rica which would end in Panama.
And we’d read come-hither stories of Bocas del Toro.
How the islands were a bit of an obsession for British novelist Graham Greene, who finally reached them on his third attempt.
How they’re a salt-water paradise if escapism and going barefoot trumps marble bathrooms and butlers…
We were hooked – and had to visit Bocas del Toro…
3 Best places to stay in Bocas del Toro
We did our research – and booked three of the best places to stay in Bocas del Toro. (While on Bocas, we also peeked into other inns, and we’re satisfied the following are indeed three of the top Bocas del Toro hotels; though they’re not really “hotels” – more lodges or inns.)
Each Bocas del Toro accommodation option is completely different, offering different vacation experiences.
Tip: A nice combination for a seven-night holiday would be to split your stay between two of these resorts.
1. Punta Caracol Aqua Lodge
Stay: Bed down in one of nine cute, two-storey wood cabins built over the water. (Multi-generational families like the 1,000 sq. ft. “Master Suite” bungalow, with over 600 sq. ft. of additional deck space; it has a king bed up and four twin beds down.)
Play: Snorkel to your heart’s content right from your overwater bungalow. Paddle about the mangroves in a kayak. Get lost in a book while swinging in the hammock on your deck.
Appeals to: Water-loving couples and families.
Location: Isla Colon, a 20-minute boat ride from Bocas town.
2. Casa Cayuco Eco-Adventure Lodge
Stay: This remote eco-adventure lodge has clean and comfortable cabins. Home-cooked meals are healthy and super delicious; you’ll be craving seconds of their fresh-baked chocolate coconut cake and other desserts! (Casa Cayuco includes meals in the rates.)
Play: Go stand-up paddleboarding, visit a local Panamian village, snorkel with sea turtles, spot the monkeys that often visit the resort and see “star fire” bioluminescence at night.
Appeals to: Adventure-loving couples, families and small groups.
Location: Isla Bastimentos, a 45-minute, high-speed boat ride from Bocas town.
3. Island Plantation Resort
Stay: Charming Bali-style digs, a garden pool, romantic restaurant and a beautiful beach all make this one of the most stylish places to stay on Bocas.
Play: Practise your sun salutations on Island Plantation’s hillside yoga platform, walk the beach, splash in the pool. And forget about the outside world – one of the best things to do in Bocas del Toro.
Appeals to: Couples who love beachy boutique inns.
Location: On Isla Colon, a 20- to 30-minute drive from Bocas town.
Weather in Bocas del Toro, Panama
The islands are close to the equator, so the weather in Bocas del Toro is hot year-round. Expect rain, sometimes a little, sometimes a lot. It rains the most in May, July and August.
For good weather, the best time to visit Bocas del Toro are the months of:
- January to March
- September to November
We visited in late January, and found it hot, humid and tropical. Great weather for an escape from the dreary North American winter!
Where is Bocas del Toro? Map please!
On the Caribbean side off Panama’s coast, the Bocas islands are tucked up close to the Costa Rica border.
How to get to Bocas del Toro
Part of the appeal of the islands is that they’re remote and not trampled with tourists. This, of course, means they’re a bit of a challenge to get to.
Flying to Bocas del Toro from Panama City:
The quickest, easiest and most comfortable way is to fly from Panama City to Bocas del Toro.
Flights are on Air Panama, a regional Panama airline. It’s a one-hour flight from Panama City to Isla Colon, the main island in the Bocas del Toro archipelago. On Isla Colon, the Bocas del Toro airport consists mainly of an airstrip and shack (which serves as an “airport” arrivals and departure building); the airport is located just outside funky Bocas town.
This is how we traveled to Bocas del Toro.
(Until recently, you could also fly to Bocas del Toro from Costa Rica. Nature Air was the airline that serviced Bocas from Costa Rica’s capital city of San Jose. Sadly, due to a tragic accident, that airline has shut down.)
Shuttle or bus to Bocas del Toro:
When planning how to get to Bocas del Toro, it’s also possible to take an air-conditioned shuttle or public bus from Costa Rica, or a night bus from Panama City – about 11 to 12 hours total travel time for both options.
Transfer from Bocas airport to your resort:
The better Bocas del Toro hotels will pick you up from the airport and transfer you to your hotel, either by boat (or land transfer, if you’re staying on Isla Colon).
All photos are © Janice and George Mucalov, SandInMySuitcase (except where noted)
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Check out our Islands.com magazine story
Interested in our magazine story on these three best places to stay in Bocas del Toro? Read “Where to Stay in Bocas del Toro,” published in Islands.com magazine (July 6, 2017).
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We’re Janice and George Mucalov, professional award-winning travel writers, sharing tales of luxury travel with a twist of adventure.