You know us. We like nice hotels. And if they’re hotels with private pool suites, so much the better!
So the first question on our minds after deciding to go was: What are the best places to stay in Bocas del Toro?
Good question too.
Because search for “best hotels in Bocas del Toro” or “Bocas del Toro luxury hotels” – and you’ll be hard-pressed to find much.
Apart from reviews on TripAdvisor or hotel booking sites, there’s little in the way of articles or reviews in travel magazines or newspapers.
That’s because Bocas is (mostly) still off-the-grid.
Best hotels in Bocas del Toro
There are a few 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.
Contents: Where to stay in Bocas del Toro?
3 Best hotels in Bocas del Toro (Where we stayed)
4 More top places to stay in Bocas del Toro
Best time to visit Bocas del Toro
Why visit Bocas del Toro?
Of course, you know about the Panama Canal – traversing the canal is one of the most famous things to do in Panama.
Bocas del Toro, an archipelago of small islands off the north coast of Panama on the Caribbean side, is much less well-known.
Most accommodations in Bocas del Toro are small eco-resorts or guesthouses.
Think: No air conditioning. Rainwater for drinking. Solar panels for power (candle-light dining!).
Now, while there are still plenty of cheap hotels, Bocas has graduated from the backpacker phase of tourism development to boutique inns and B&B’s, some located on private or semi-private islands.
But true luxury hotels with five-star modern amenities simply haven’t found their way there yet.
The exception is Viceroy, which plans to open a luxury Viceroy Bocas del Toro resort with 42 overwater villas in 2024.
And the new Nayara Bocas del Toro, which we’ll get to in a jiff (#5 below).
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’d read come-hither stories of Bocas del Toro and its natural beauty.
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 with beautiful beaches if escapism and going barefoot trumps marble bathrooms, butlers and 24-hour room service.
We were hooked – and had to visit Bocas del Toro!
Best Bocas del Toro hotels we chose
Let’s start with the Bocas del Toro hotels we stayed at.
We did our research and booked the following places to stay in Bocas del Toro.
While on Bocas, we peeked into other inns, and we’re satisfied that these are indeed three of the best hotels in Bocas del Toro. (They’re really not “hotels” though, more like lodges or inns.)
Each of these Bocas del Toro accommodation options is completely different, offering different vacation experiences.
1) Casa Cayuco
This remote eco-adventure lodge has clean and comfortable cabins and private rooms.
Home-cooked meals are healthy and super delicious.
Guaranteed: You’ll be craving seconds of their fresh-baked chocolate coconut cake and other desserts!
And if you can’t stand the thought of being totally disconnected from the outside world, don’t worry. The free Wi-Fi is good and strong.
Go stand-up paddleboarding, visit a local Panamanian village, snorkel with sea turtles and spot the monkeys that often visit the resort.
Also don’t miss seeing “star fire” bioluminescence at night. You’ll be invited to go out in a boat to experience this.
Casa Cayuco appeals to adventure-loving couples, families and small groups seeking the perfect place to destress.
It includes meals in the rates – which is a good thing, since it’s quite far away from civilization.
For Bocas del Toro all-inclusive resorts offering lots of adventurous activities, Casa Cayuco is a great pick.
Isla Bastimentos (one of the main islands), a 45-minute, high-speed boat ride from Bocas town.
Read our full review of Casa Cayuco
Casa Cayuco: Check rates and dates
2) Punta Caracol Aqua Lodge
Bed down in a cute, two-story wood cabin built over the water.
For an overwater experience, you don’t have to travel all the way to the South Pacific to stay in one of Bora Bora’s overwater bungalows or one of the huts over the water in Fiji.
There are Bocas del Toro overwater bungalows.
And Punta Caracol Acqua Lodge (also spelled Punta Caracol Aqua Lodge) has nine of them.
Five of the nine bungalows are Punta Caracol Suites. (We stayed in one of these.) They have a king-size four-poster bed in an upper loft.
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.
The best part about staying here is that you can snorkel to your heart’s content over a coral reef right from your overwater bungalow.
Also enjoy paddling about the mangroves in a kayak and getting lost in a book while swinging in the hammock on your deck.
A boat excursion to Starfish Beach is also included in the rates.
Punta Caracol Acqua Lodge is catnip for water-loving couples and families.
Isla Colon, a 20-minute boat ride from Bocas town.
Read our full review of Punta Caracol Acqua Lodge
Punta Caracol Acqua Lodge: Check rates and dates
3) Island Plantation Resort
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.
Practise your sun salutations on Island Plantation’s hillside yoga platform, walk the beach and splash about in the outdoor swimming pool.
And forget about the outside world (one of the best things to do in Bocas del Toro).
Couples who love beachy boutique inns will be drawn to the Island Plantation Resort.
On Bluff Beach on Isla Colon, a 20- to 30-minute drive from Bocas town.
See our full review of the Island Plantation Resort
Island Plantation Resort: Check rates and dates
More best places to stay in Bocas del Toro
Here are four more places to stay in Bocas that also look excellent.
4) La Loma Jungle Lodge
Tucked away in the tropical rainforest of Isla Bastimentos, La Loma Jungle Lodge is an award-winning eco-lodge with hand-crafted bungalows.
Wonderfully secluded, the only way to get there is by boat.
Tours of the onsite cacao farm, jungle hikes and trips to nearby Red Frog Beach are all included in your stay.
After a large renovation, La Loma reopened in early 2021 with new digs.
You’ll now find several new indoor/outdoor bungalows and a new main lodge plus onsite restaurant.
La Loma: Check rates and dates
5) Nayara Bocas del Toro
Nayara Bocas del Toro (also called Bocas Bali) is one of the newest accommodations in Bocas del Toro.
It opened in September, 2021, it didn’t complete its “overwater beach” until the spring of 2022.
Say what? An overwater beach?
Yep. Hotelier Dan Behm (a former tech exec) who built the resort calls it the world’s first “elevated beach.”
Nayara occupies Frangipani Island, a private island.
But the island doesn’t have a white sand beach. Or any natural beach, for that matter.
Create a man-made beach on a concrete platform that perches on pylons over the water, then cover it with sand. Sprinkle lounge chairs around – and a beach bar, of course!
Final touch: Add quartz-tiled stairs leading down from the elevated beach platform into the 30-foot-deep sea waters.
Shaped like a butterfly, the beach is about 90 feet long and 20 feet wide. Very cool!
You can also swim in the resort’s 70-foot-long freshwater pool by its clubhouse.
As for the accommodations, Nayara Bocas del Toro has 16 Balinese-style overwater villas.
At 1,100 sq. ft. in size, these are true overwater villas in Bocas del Toro.
They come with air conditioning (a blessing for sleeping at night), king-size beds, Wi-Fi, mini-fridge stocked with wine and beer, coffee maker and 24-hour room service.
Some overwater villas even have private saltwater pools as well.
Or go for one of the bamboo treehouses, with views over the treetop canopy and Javanese hand-hammered copper bathtubs.
The resort is adults-only and rates are all-inclusive. Unlimited premium liquors and wines are included in the rates too.
What’s excluded: Gratuities, 10% government tax, massages and excursions like scuba diving and ATVing.
If you’re looking for luxury hotels in Bocas del Toro, Nayara Bocas del Toro is as close as you’re going to get. (And from all accounts and reviews, it looks pretty spiffy!)
Nayara Bocas del Toro: Check rates and dates
6) Tranquilo Bay Eco-Adventure Lodge
This all-inclusive jungle lodge on Isla Bastimentos has nine comfortable air-conditioned cabanas. They come with covered private balconies furnished with hammocks and Adirondack chairs.
A 63-foot observation tower in the forest canopy offers terrific views – and is ideal for bird-watching and spotting wildlife.
There’s no beach, but you can swim from Tranquilo Bay’s little pier.
With over 230 bird species onsite (550 species when you include daily excursions to nearby bird-rich locales), Tranquilo Bay is a top pick for birders keen on a birding adventure.
Tranquilo Bay: Check rates and dates
7) Azul Paradise Over-the-Water Resort
The Azul Resort has two hotels in Bocas del Toro.
Azul Paradise is located in Bocas town, and the Azul Over-the-Water Resort (or Azul Beach Resort) is on Isla Bastimentos.
The Isla Bastimentos resort has beachfront bungalows on a beautiful white sand beach, as well as bungalows over the water.
Some have two bedrooms and come with kitchens, so they’re ideal for families.
All the bungalows have private outdoor showers. And the over-the-water bungalows have glass panels in the floor so you can gaze at the marine life below you.
At night, the air conditioning is turned on to help keep you cool while sleeping. And there’s a flatscreen TV should you feel the need for it.
Azul Over-the-Water Resort: Check rates and dates.
A nice combination for a seven-night vacation would be to split your stay between two of the lodges or hotels in Bocas del Toro covered here in this post.
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. The rainy season is May through to December. It rains the most in May, July and August.
For good weather, the months of January to March are the best time to visit Bocas del Toro. These are the driest months.
September and October is also pleasant (a mini dry season within the rainy season).
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 exactly?
Located in the Caribbean Sea in Panama’s province of Bocas del Toro, the archipelago of Bocas del Toro islands is tucked up close to the Costa Rica border.
See this link to Google Maps for the location of Bocas del Toro.
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.
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 bus or public bus from Costa Rica.
Or you can take a night bus from Panama City.
The travel time is about 11 to 12 hours total for both options.
Transfer from Bocas airport to your resort:
The better Bocas del Toro hotels offer a private airport shuttle.
They’ll pick you up from the airport and transfer you to your hotel, either by water taxi (or land transfer, if you’re staying on Isla Colon).
Where to stay in Panama City?
You’ll likely stay in Panama City before or after visiting the Bocas islands.
We loved the 5-star Global Hotel Panama. It’s close to Casco Viejo, Panama City’s old quarter, and it’s very easy on the wallet too!
See our review of the Global Hotel Panama.
That’s a wrap for the top hotels and resorts in Bocas del Toro!
Have you been? Which do you think is the best hotel in Bocas del Toro?
You can let us know in the Comments below.
Our top travel tips and resources
Here are our favorite travel resources:
Hotels: Booking.com is great for scoring a “wow” hotel – or at least a decent one. (We especially like their flexible cancellation policy!)
Vacation homes, condos and rentals: We prefer and use Vrbo (Vacation Rentals by Owner).
Tours: For the best local food, walking and other guided tours plus skip-the-line tickets to attractions, check out GetYourGuide and Viator.
Car rental: Renting a car is often one of the best ways to explore off the beaten path. Discover Cars searches car rental companies so you get the best rates.
Travel insurance: World Nomads travel insurance has been designed by travelers for travelers, with coverage for more than 150 activities, as well as emergency medical, lost luggage, trip cancellation and more.
Vaccines and meds: We follow CDC travel guidelines to see what medications and vaccines are needed for trips. You can get vaccines at your pharmacy, travel medical clinic or doctor’s office.
Travel gear: See our travel shop to find the best luggage, accessories and other travel gear. (We suggest these comfy travel sandals for city walking, the beach and kicking about.)
Need more help planning your trip? Check out our travel tips and resources guide for airline booking tips, ways to save money, how to find great hotels and other crazy useful trip planning info.
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Photo credits: 9, 11, 13 © Janice and George Mucalov, SandInMySuitcase | 3, 5 Island Plantation | 4 Casa Cayuco | Remaining images courtesy the respective Bocas del Toro resorts
About the authors
Luxury travel journalists and SATW, NATJA and TMAC “Best Travel Blog” award winners, Janice and George Mucalov are the publishers of Sand In My Suitcase. Between them, they’ve traveled to all 7 continents. See About.
Find destination guides, global food-and-wine stories, luxury hotel reviews, articles on cultural explorations and soft adventure trips, cruise reviews, insanely useful travel tips and more!
Wednesday 13th of September 2017
Each of these properties looks like it has a special charm!
Janice and George
Wednesday 13th of September 2017
Yes, each different, depending on the experience you want :-).