A boat trip of the Zapatillas Islands

Nature
The wow factor for nature - does it show nature at its best? Doesn't need to be the wilder-beast migration or diving with hundreds of hammerheads. Rather make you pause as you realise just how awesome the natural world can be
9
Culture
How much does this experience showcase some of the better and finer things that us humans can offer? Sure, it can be ancient ruins and renaissance churches, but it can also be festivals or soaking up some of the great modern cities of the world
1
Fun factor/activity
Very simple - was it fun? This is usually linked in with doing some kind of activity - i mean, walking along some cliffs is nice, but paragliding from them, now that is fun. Its a vastly underrated factor in a truly great experience
7
Avoid the crowds
Big tour groups and being surrounded by loud fellow tourists can sap the life out of even the greatest of travel experiences. This score is to reflect just how much you can avoid this. But. . . The score also takes into account if the crowds actually add to the experience, such as with a party town or a bustling food market
7
World famous
How world famous is the experience?
3
unique
How hard is it to have a similar experience in other places round the world?
7
Overall Score
The highest score of nature or culture, + fun factor, + avoid the crowds, + the highest score of world famous or unique. Then turned into a score out of 100. More details at the bottom of the page
75 *What the scores mean and where do they come from
continent
North America
country
Panama
Length of time
1 day or less
Rough cost
Obviously people have different tastes, so this will depend on those tastes, but this is a rough idea of price of the whole experience based on 2 people able to split the accommodation costs and excluding travel there and back
$ 60
Time of year visited
April
Primary Tags
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RANKING
How this travel experience ranks compared to all the other experiences on this site
76th/334 This travel experience's ranking compared to all the other experiences on this site
Top 30% SUMMARY RATING: Superb

Summary

When staying in the super chilled and glorious set of islands of Bocas del Toro, you’ll definitely want to head off on a boat trip.  When you do, you’ll likely see some dolphins as you head from Bocas Town; stop in a series of places on Bastimentos Island to see some sloths and mangroves, grab lunch with sharks coming up to the stilts of the restaurants to pick on scraps and generally enjoy the beauty of the island chain.  But the highlight is the Zapatilla Islands themselves – stunning bright white sand beaches that seem to fully surround the tiny islands.  As close to island paradise as it gets

highlights

#1 The white sand beaches of Zapatilla Island - closest thing to a beach paradise you can get

#2 Stopping for lunch in one of the isolated spots on Bastimentos Island

#3 Catching a glimpse of some of the famous local sloths up in the trees on both the main island and scattered around in the surrounding islands

#4 Seeing the dolphins coming up to say hi as you jump from one island to the next

#5 Catching the perfect spot on the west end of Zapatilla Island, where the two current collide and throw you around into the soft sand

Travel Tips

  • West of the island – make sure you head to the far west of the main island which has the most gorgeous white sand spit stretching out into the sea and also where two sets of waves meet – super fun to jump around in
  • Arranging the boat – you can arrange with anyone in town or through the place you’re staying. As always, its worth pushing to try and get a smaller number of people on the boat, but to be fair we didn’t see any boats with more than 8 people on them
  • The boat ride – can get a bit bumpy and quite unpredictable, so just be prepared
  • Bocas del Toro – a really gorgeous place to stay and chill out.  The Bocas Town itself has a great backpacker vibe, but the northern beaches are such a relaxing place to stay with plenty of hotels right on the water front, surrounded by jungle and with sloths and hummingbirds all around you.  See World class beaches in Bocas del Toro for more tips

Experiences nearby

The below map shows experiences nearby with a colour that reflect the Overall Score of those experiences

Score Detail

Background - how many times have you asked someone what a travel experience was like and the response was "amazing" or "awesome"?  That response is nice to know, but it makes it hard to differentiate that experience compared to others.  That is exactly what these scores are trying to do - differentiate the experience by giving a score out of 10 based on 6 categories and then giving an overall experience score

This overall experience score is calculated by:  take the highest of the "Culture" or "Nature" score (1-10) + "Fun factor" (1-10) + "Avoiding the crowds" (1-10) + highest of the "Unique" or "World Famous score" (1-10).  Then convert into a score out of 100

Extra detail - the logic being that I find all of the 6 individual scores important, but I don't want to mark an experience down just because it doesn't cover both "Culture" and "Nature", or because it isn't both "World Famous" and "Unique".  Take the examples of Safari in The Serengeti and walking through Rome - they both appeal at opposite ends of the nature / culture spectrum, and you can have a fantastic time without needing to appeal to both sides.  So, their overall scores aren't penalized for their lack of one or the other, and I've done the same for "World Famous" vs "Unique".  But . . . I do think that the "Fun factor" of an experience is important, irrelevant of other factors, and so is "Avoiding the Crowds" (or where there are crowds that add to the experience).  So, both of these scores are standalone