World class beaches in Bocas del Toro

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
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
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
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
World famous
How world famous is the experience?
How hard is it to have a similar experience in other places round the world?
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
67 *What the scores mean and where do they come from
North America
Length of time
3-4 days
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
$ 250
Time of year visited
Primary Tags
Click on any of the tags to see all travel experiences with the same tag
How this travel experience ranks compared to all the other experiences on this site
152nd/372 This travel experience's ranking compared to all the other experiences on this site
Top 40% SUMMARY RATING: Superb


Bocas del Toro is a gorgeous piece of island paradise – some of the most beautiful beaches in the world with the Zapatillas Islands; laid back hotels all the way along the long coastline of the main island; a great Caribbean small party backpacker vibe in Bocas del Torro Town; and a range of wildlife including humming birds, sloths, dolphins and sharks.  Beautiful place to relax for a few days (so much so that we extended to a week!)

Highlight of Panama


#1 The white sand beaches of Zapatilla Island - a true mini paradise

#2 Chilling out on some of the northern beaches - in particular cycling up to the northern point and stopping at the secluded beaches and bars along the way

#3 Further(!) chilling out in some of the beach front hotels hidden in the jungle along the northern beaches - often with hummingbirds and sloths around to keep you company

#4 Enjoying the backpacker style Bocas Town with all of its bars, restaurants and hotels on stilts right by the water line

#5 Stopping off in some of the small water front restaurants along Bastimentos Island as you take a boat trip around these beautiful islands for the day

#6 Walking along some of the desolate beaches spread all around the main island

Travel Tips

  • Stay outside of Bocas Town – Bocas Town is great for the Caribbean beach village / backpacker vibe and has that added cool angle of having so many places on stilts on the edge of water that you can work your way through.  It’s also a great spot for being able to head off on boat trips to the surrounding islands.  But I’d probably recommending staying in one of the places further to the north just so you can get that full relaxed feeling
  • The highlight of our time in Bocas del Toro was the boat trip to the Zapatilla Islands – you can arrange with anyone in town or through the place you’re staying.  Its an all day trip where you’ll probably 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 nearby (there were some super cool sharks that came right under the restaurant where we ate) and ultimately spending a few hours in the mini paradise of the Zapatilla Islands.  See here for my tips – A boat trip of the Zapatillas Islands
  • The boat ride – 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.  Just to be warned – it can get a bit bumpy when on the boat
  • Beautiful spot on Zapatilla Island – make sure you head to the far west of the 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
  • Accommodation – we stayed at Bluff Beach Retreat on the north east shoreline of the main island.  Super relaxed spot where you can see the hummingbirds, the sloths, nice restaurants nearby and right on the beach.  Would recommend
  • Bike ride – if staying around Bluff Beach, hire some bikes and cycle up to the far north of the island.  Great fun to cycle through the jungle and you’ll often find yourself stopping to chill out in some of the secluded beaches.  Plus, there’s a beach bar towards the end of the beach which is a real Robinson Crusoe style piece of paradise

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