Bocas del Toro, Panama, is an archipelago that lies just south of the Costa Rican border. Even today, it is quite isolated and may have remained a dot on the map had world-class waves not been discovered. Although it is mainly in the Caribbean Sea, its coral reefs produce big, heart-pounding surf.
Like the Pied Piper, the wave riders’ tune soon brought divers, sailors, and backpackers from around the world. Now, a weathered sign welcomes visitors in a multitude of different languages.
Panama is experiencing a heightened economic growth, yet the country is still developing. “Bocas,” as the locals refer to it, may be the epitome of that statement.
It is a boom town struggling for its true identity. Sales of high end condos compete with indigenous people selling trinkets. Sail boats and yachts fill the numerous slips while local children paddle by in dugout canoes. Gone is the rice and beans diet of the region, replaced by ethnic food restaurants from around the world.
Bocas del Toro’s flora and fauna are vanishing. With foreign investment and expats from around the world, its goal is to be yet another vacation destination for the rich and famous. Being just a one-hour flight from Panama City, it is easily accessible from the country’s capital and the Panama Canal. That fact alone makes its goal of being a holiday mecca well with in its grasp. Our flight was full of tourists and investors, all looking for enjoyment and opportunity.
The jungle is an unwitting accomplice; its inescapable beauty and its insistence to reclaim what it has lost creates an ongoing battle. The heat, the humidity, and the insects are here to stay, always on the periphery as a reminder that they are waiting to take back what is theirs. As I pen this, the Eden still exists. Deserted beaches and jungle trails beckon to be enjoyed and explored.
In a region filled with mystery and intrigue, Bocas del Toro is the answer for you to relax and enjoy all the Panama has to offer.
Lured like many before, we were attracted to the region for the surf. The warm blue Caribbean is nothing if not a Waterman’s dream. Unfortunately, the big waves were not breaking. But we did have a couple of days that ranged from 3-5 feet. The warm water and uncrowded ocean made the cuts and abrasions from the sharp coral worth it. For a few dollars, a water taxi will drop you off outside the break, then pick you back up in a couple of hours.
Scuba diving is also available. There is a dearth of operators willing to bargain for your business. If you are not comfortable with scuba, snorkeling gear is available almost everywhere and a very reasonable price. It is not necessary to explore deep below the surface, as the tropical fish of the region are often in the shallow waters.