How to get to Bocas del Toro islands in Panama

Bastimento Isla Zapatilla National Park, Bocas del Toro, Panama

Ready to treat yourself to a Caribbean island vacation?

The place to go without the crowds is the Bocas del Toro archipelago of Panama in the southern Caribbean. Called the “Living Islands”, Bocas del Toro has over 95% of the coral species found in the Caribbean Sea. This is thanks to the fact that Bocas del Toro in Panama is outside the Caribbean’s “Hurricane Zone” and away from big cities and their pollution.

While Colon Island is the largest and most developed island, and the capital of the province, there are nine islands, 52 keys and 200 islets here to discover and explore.

Popa Island, Bocas del Toro, Panama

If you want to experience being on your own private tropical island, you need to stay at Hotel Laguna Azul on blissful Popa Island. Built over two beautiful, clear blue lagoons, surrounded by mangrove forest and coral reefs, Hotel Laguna Azul is away from all of the other hotels in Bocas del Toro. Even though it is remote, the six-suite luxury eco-hotel does not sacrifice comfort and service. Guests have a personal concierge, spacious well-appointed suites, all-inclusive gourmet meals prepared by a professional chef, a spa, and complimentary Wi-Fi.

Hotel Laguna Azul, Bocas del Toro, Panama

The area around Popa Island offers some of the best snorkeling in Bocas del Toro, and beautiful beaches are an easy 15-minute boat ride away.

Bocas del Toro in Panama is easy to get to from North America and Europe via Panama City or you can combine your vacation with a trip to Costa Rica. To get to Hotel Laguna Azul, your first destination will be Colon Island. From there, the hotel will pick you up by private boat for the 35-minute ride to Popa Island.

Map of Bocas del Toro, Panama

HOW TO GET TO BOCAS DEL TORO IN PANAMA

airplaneBY AIR

Air Panama flies from Panama City to Bocas del Toro Isla Colón International Airport (BOC) from Tocumen International Airport (PTY) and also from Marcos A. Gelabert Airport / Albrook National Airport (PAC). The flight is 50 minutes. Panama City’s Tocumen International Airport receives flights from all over North America, Europe and South America.

Nature Air flies from San José, Costa Rica to Bocas del Toro Isla Colón International Airport from Juan Santamaria International Airport (SJO). Flight time is one hour.

carBY CAR

If you are in Costa Rica and have your own vehicle, you can drive most of the way to Bocas del Toro in Panama. Take Route 32 to Limon on the Caribbean Coast and keep going to the Costa Rica border at Sixaola. If you do not have permission from the Costa Rica National Registry to take your vehicle to Panama, the vehicle must remain in one of the parking lots adjacent to the border. If you have permission, you will drive to the port town of Almirante where you must leave your vehicle in a parking area and continue your journey to Colon Island by boat.

busBY BUS

From San José, Costa Rica, you can go by bus to the Costa Rican border town of Sixaola; buses depart from the Caribe Bus Station in downtown San Jose. This leg of the journey takes approximately six hours.

Once you arrive in Sixaola, you must get an exit stamp from Costa Rica, and then cross the border on foot over a bridge to the Panamanian town of Guabito. There, you will need to get your passport stamped to enter Panama. Keep in mind that you must show a valid exit ticket for Panama; if you don’t have one, purchase a return bus ticket to Costa Rica. Border office hours in Costa Rica are 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.; the Panamanian office hours are the same, but Panama is one hour ahead of Costa Rica.

In Guabito you can hire a taxi to take you to the port town of Almirante (1 hour) for about $5 per person, if you’re sharing the ride; or about $20 for one to two persons. Or, you can take a bus to Changuinola (a bit more than $1), and from there another bus to Almirante.

Boat taxi from Almirante to Bocas del Toro Panama

In Almirante, you need to take a taxi ($1) to the docks, and a water taxi (about $5 per person) for 30 minutes to Bocas del Toro town on Colon Island.

From Panama City, Panama, you can take an overnight bus to Almirante (10-11 hours), and then a water taxi from Almirante to Bocas del Toro. Buses in Panama City depart from Albrook Bus Terminal.

Article by Shannon Farley

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